F.A.S.T. Explained

1-Jul-13 – 12:33 by ToddG

There’s a discussion over at M4Carbine.net about the F.A.S.T. drill and it seemed like a good idea to address a few points.

The first is the use of the F.A.S.T. as a practice drill as opposed to a test. Personally, I think the F.A.S.T. is a lousy drill to practice. It has too many disparate skills (low% draw, reload, high% splits) to get serious focus on any one thing enough to improve it efficiently.  For example, if the thing keeping you from getting the score you want is missed head shots, practice drawing to a low% target more often. Don’t waste time and ammo by going through the rest of the F.A.S.T. over and over again. If you’ve got 100 rounds you could either do fifty 2-shot draws or sixteen F.A.S.T.s … which one is going to help  you get better at the low% draw?

Second is the common comment about the order in which the targets are engaged. Some people really dislike the idea of shooting the “head” before shooting the “body.” If it bothers you, turn the target upside down. The test isn’t about hitting the head before the body. The test measures your ability to draw to a low% shot (particularly if you have a double action first shot, which is what I was carrying when I developed the F.A.S.T. in 2003), make a followup on that low% shot which requires more discipline and control than a blind split on a big wide open target, then perform a slidelock reload, then fire a string of full speed shots at a high% target which, among other things, checks to see if you reacquired your grip properly after the reload. It’s not a “head” and a “body,” it’s a low% target and a high% target. (though the fact that most people, myself included, do refer to them as head & body might justify the criticism, in all fairness)

The F.A.S.T. was developed to be a very quick, simple way to evaluate a shooter’s fundamentals. It only takes six shots, about ten seconds, and gives me as an instructor a chance to see a student’s draw, grip, visual control, trigger manipulation, reload, and recoil management. It also lets me monitor their ability to draw, handle, and reholster the gun safely. Obviously I’m biased, but I think it does a good job at evaluating those things. There are a ton of other skills it doesn’t even address — one handed shooting, stoppage clearances, low-light, etc. — and it’s never been intended as the sole arbiter of someone’s shooting ability, fighting ability, credit score, or high school popularity.

So if you want a better F.A.S.T. score, don’t shoot the F.A.S.T. over and over again. Work on the skills that make up the test. And if you don’t like the F.A.S.T., don’t shoot it. I promise not to take it personally.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


  1. 13 Responses to “F.A.S.T. Explained”

  2. Good point. I’ve yet to integrate reloads into my practice, but on my runs with “Changing gears” type drills, I’m doing better drawing to high% targets than drawing on a low% target(not surprising I guess). Definitely a good idea to practice drawing to the low% targets. I can only get better with practice lol

    By John on Jul 1, 2013

  3. If you don’t like the head-body thing, turn the target sideways.

    By Motor-T on Jul 1, 2013

  4. I tried it. It kicked my sit-me-down. I have no cause to criticize. I have work to do.

    By walkin' trails on Jul 2, 2013

  5. M4 forum link is dead.

    By Chuck Haggard on Jul 4, 2013

  6. Chuck — Looks like Paul Hotaling and Grant Timberlake (the two guys who run M4C) continue to delete any thread having to do with me, my classes, or now even a drill I came up with. Oh, well. There are still eleven million other forums where people are allowed to discuss shooting drills without that kind of censorship.

    By ToddG on Jul 4, 2013

  7. I quit reading M4C about two years ago. Nothing but a bunch of elitist pricks. If you weren’t military and running LMT or Colts, you were a useless wannabe. God help you if you wanted advice on tuning a Bushmaster.

    By chiefjaybob on Jul 4, 2013

  8. If you can’t pass the test, get the test thrown out. It’s not fair, it wasn’t written correct, it’s a “Gamer” drill…people just look for any excuse except to look at themselves-maybe you just need to better… FAST is a test the requires you to be good at the skills that are generally very hard.

    By Matt on Jul 4, 2013

  9. chiefjaybob — I think M4C continues to be a great source of information and a forum populated with many of the most respected experts in the industry. It’s just unfortunate that the two fellows running the place let their personal opinions dictate what (or who) does and doesn’t get discussed there. Talk about someone they don’t like, or post an AAR that praises (or heaven forbid, fails to praise) the people they select, and you’re quietly deleted.

    Matt — Thanks. I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. It’s a skill test. No more, no less.

    By ToddG on Jul 4, 2013

  10. FAST is definitely a skill test and it can also be used to illustrate other things.

    Yesterday I ran a FAST with the M&P40 getting a clean 5.91. OK–So I grabbed an identically configured M&P9 and shot it again, this time running a clean 5.28 and much tighter group.

    Definitely showed a clear difference between 9 mm and .40 when shooting identically configured handguns.

    By DocGKR on Jul 4, 2013

  11. So what I’m taking away from that is: Dr. Gary Roberts claims 9mm vastly superior to .40 in every conceivable way.

    Fair enough. 😎

    By ToddG on Jul 4, 2013

  12. Except barrier penetration and permanent wound cavity size…of course modern barrier blind 9 mm is close enough that I am not too worried about it.

    By DocGKR on Jul 4, 2013

  13. A little late to this one but I was on the M4C thread that sadly was deleted. A point that Surf made and I agreed with was that the folks who have shot insane FAST scores, shot it a lot. INSANE. That’s not denying that breaking down the components and drilling them is smart and more efficient – at least to the point of a very high % of “clean” on each component. Then, many reps of shooting the full FAST; which ties all those components together in a specific sequence, is comparable to any other athletic feat which requires several different skills to be combined into a routine. The champs will run that routine over and over and over.

    By JHC on Jul 11, 2013

  14. JHC — I’ve probably shot the F.A.S.T. more than anyone (and by a good margin), and my scores can’t touch some of those “insane” results.

    One reason why a lot of first time F.A.S.T. shooters struggle is because the sequence is complicated enough that they have to think about it while they shoot. In large part I think that’s why no one — until Vogel — earned a coin on his first attempt (and even Vogel had shot the drill before, but probably not recently because he verified the shooting order and such before his run).

    Once you get the sequence down to the point where you don’t need to spend an iota of thought on it, the benefit of shooting the F.A.S.T. over and over again is diminished in my experience.

    Of course, one advantage of shooting the F.A.S.T. often is that you get a lot of F.A.S.T. scores. Some of them will be good and some will be bad. Shoot it enough and you’ll pull out a few that are extraordinary for your current skill level. My rule has always been that only the first three attempts in a day count at all, but if you shoot it three times a day three days a week for a year that’s a lot of opportunities to go wild and hope everything hits.

    Of my “official” runs, my personal best is a 3.89… again, huge percentage away from what Vogel & Stoeger did during their internet shoot-off and far from what Sevigny did when he set the official record. But even though that’s my personal best it’s not what I would tell someone my “F.A.S.T. score” is, because it’s not something I can turn in on demand cold in front of people.

    I obviously cannot speak for the guys turning in the hyper-speed scores but I think it’s worth pointing out that they’re all national championship shooters. These aren’t guys who shoot the F.A.S.T. well because they’ve made the F.A.S.T. the center of their practice. They’re guys who shoot the F.A.S.T. well because they’re world-class shooters.

    By ToddG on Jul 11, 2013

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