Firearm AdviceThe X8: A Thinking Man’s Drill

The X8: A Thinking Man’s Drill


In the Maximum Life Expectancy carbine training classes offered by Grant LaVelle, Chief Instructor both here at GunSpot and Maximum Life Expectancy, there is a unique take on the Figure 8 Drill that challenges the shooter’s skills and brain power.

X8 Firearms Training Drill
Grant LaVelle’s X8 Drill is a twist on the Figure 8 shooting drill. It makes the shooter use all of his skills — including thinking under pressure.

Grant calls this Drill the X8 Drill, and it’s a drill that combines physicality with skill-building. Also, it can be used as a repetitive exercise instead of something done to train simply for speed. All of this means that if you don’t have a shot timer, this is still a drill you can do.

Needed Tools

To start, you need a carbine, four paper targets and something you can use as a simulated doorway. In fact, this is a drill that can also be run with your pistol.

IPSC targets for X8 shooting drill
Organize two sets of IPSC-sized paper targets at a close quarter’s distance with the heights staggered. We used one target stand and stapled two targets to each stand.

For our set-up, we had two target stands and we stapled two cardboard IPSC targets to each, staggered on each side with one higher than the other. We stacked two sets of barrels a few feet apart to create our faux doorway. Then, we placed the target stands a few feet apart from each other and put the fake doorway a few feet away from the stands.

set up to run X8 drill
The X8 drill practices traveling between a threshold and engaging targets coupled with some difficult target transitions and shooting on the move.

The distances in which you set up the fake doorway and the targets can make the drill easier or more difficult. For example, the farther the targets are apart, the more complex the transitions will be. Additionally, the farther the doorway is from the targets, the harder it will be to remain accurate while on the move. We advise you to start with them close together, like you would find if you were in the interior of a home.

The Drill

Here is how the X8 Drill will actually work. The shooter will start on the opposite side of the doorway from the targets. From there, the shooter will walk between the fake doorway, creating a Figure 8.

Figure 8 portion of the X8 Drill
In the X8 Drill, the shooter moves in a Figure 8 pattern around the obstacles that simulate a doorway. Always keep moving and never stop in the sequence.

He will pass between the barrels, then on the outside, back through the inside, outside, back through the inside, etc. Now, as you pass through the “doorway,” you will naturally alternate which targets you start viewing first. For instance, if you are on the particular path of Figure 8 where you see the right set of targets first by being on the left side of the doorway, you will engage that side before moving to the blind side.

X Marks the Spot

Here is where it can get perhaps a bit confusing, and this is where you will really challenge your brain. Technically, in an actual room-clearing situation, you would shoot both targets on the side you see first. But to make the X8 Drill more difficult and to practice complicated weapon transitions while on the move, Grant mixes it up.

X pattern of shooting
Shoot the top target on the first side. Then transition to the opposite side, shooting the bottom target first followed by the upper target. Transition back to the first side and shoot the low target.

So, you will shoot the top target on the first side. From there, you will perform a significant transition to the opposite side, shooting the bottom target, then a minor transition to the upper target on that side, then transition back to the first side and shoot the low target.

x8 Drill demonstration
The above diagram shows the order in which the targets should be shot depending on the “entry” through the door.

This course of fire will effectively create an X pattern. Each time you come through the doorway on another side, you will practice the X in the same order, but flipped since you will be entering from the opposite side of the door. I ran the drill with Grant, and I can tell you that it does take concentration to shoot this sequence while keeping your legs moving at all times. It is the same concept as patting your head and rubbing your belly simultaneously.

Getting a Rep

As the shooter passes through, he will fire one shot each on the four targets in the correct X pattern. Grant likes to run the X8 Drill over and over until the magazine is empty, meaning you should be able to run it about seven times in total if you are running a 30-round mag.

This drill is not usually run with a shot timer, although it could be. It’s mainly about getting a bunch of quality reps in. When you break down this drill, it’s working many skills at once. For example, you will work on basic things like trigger control, recoil control, working the safety, accounting for height over bore and target transitions. More challenging skills it will work on are being able to shoot accurately while on the move, clearing the fatal funnel and thinking as you shoot.

movement during x8 drill
As you pass through the faux doorway, it’s important to remember to keep your feet moving. A moving target is harder to hit.

As an average shooter who ran this drill with Grant, I can tell you it is deceiving how hard this drill is to complete. Constantly moving your feet, thinking about the targets, the height over bore, and engaging the safety can really be a challenge. And you do all this while not neglecting the basics.


The X8 Drill is a course of fire combined with two other drills to make for a drill that will challenge a shooter. The perfect thing about this drill is that you can run it at your own pace over and over as you build confidence and speed. It will make you exhausted, that is for sure. I can almost guarantee that even though you are just walking around the barrels, you will be panting by the time you empty your magazine.

engaging targets in X8 shooting drill
The X8 Drill will flip each time you pass through the doorway depending on if you are coming in from the left or right side of the threshold.

Take your time on this drill, practice the fundamentals, and train your brain and body to never stop moving as you enter through doorways. It can be a natural thing for you to want to stop in the doorway and engage the targets. You will instinctively want to plant your feet and shoot when you engage a threat. In a real engagement, however, that can almost certainly equal an untimely end.

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