Compass Dril

A foundation exercise

The Compass Drill is designed to be a “balancing act” exercise intended to even out how your body and brain interface with the pistol in both the right and left hand. This is an exercise I introduce to newer shooters as soon as they grasp the essentials of safely handling and functioning the gun. By working ambidextrous drills like this early on in the training experience, new shooters tend to avoid the learned fearful bias against one-hand and support-hand shooting.

This drill requires a newer shooter to mentally shift gears between tasks to ensure correct grip structure, trigger finger discipline, and muzzle awareness are established before he or she presents on target and begins to shoot. For more experienced shooters who tend to lean heavily on two-handed, dominant-side-only practice, the Compass Drill provides a number of detail-oriented explorations of ambidextrous work with their pistols.

Focus and emphasis are placed on variations of grip position and pressures to achieve maximum stability, variations on the interface with the slide lever and magazine release, and experience in what it looks and feels like to become cross-dominant at different “compass points” within the drill.

This drill can be used for practice, for precision, or for speed and score based on the shooter’s experience level, and it makes for an excellent warm-up exercise at the range.

Set Up: The Compass Drill

With a magazine of 4 rounds, make ready and holster.


Draw, establish your dominant-side-standard, two-handed grip and fire 1 round.


Release your support hand and bring it to your heart, fire 1 round, dominant hand only.


The inverse of North (aka southpaw), pass the pistol to your support hand and establish a reverse grip, fire 1 round.


Release your new support hand and bring it to your heart, fire 1 round, non-dominant hand only.


Perform a slide lock reload from your non-dominant hand, pass back to dominant hand, and holster.

About the Author

Tatiana Whitlock is a firearms instructor, hunter, and outdoors enthusiast residing in the majestic state of Maine. She works with men, women, and youth to establish a real-world foundation of firearm skills, safety, and situational awareness.

A lifelong interest in martial arts resulted in the inevitable introduction to firearms as a means of self defense and home protection. As a mother of two, Whitlock takes the safety of her family seriously and knows that in a worst-case scenario the first responder on the scene is herself. The training she offers is intended to bring participants’ mindsets out of the square range and into the context of daily life. She is an NRA BPI, RSO, and Refuse to Be a Victim instructor in addition to being a featured host and instructor on “Trigger Time TV” airing on the Pursuits Channel.

Whitlock is also an account strategist with San Diego marketing agency Fidelitas Development, director of training at Howell’s Indoor Range and shooting academy in Gray, Maine, and the director of training for the national women’s shooting league, A Girl & A Gun. She is a contributing author for numerous industry publications and the NRA Women’s Network and co-host of Civilian Carry Radio.

Text by Tatiana Whitlock and Illustrations by Charles “Chip” Lasky

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