A “cold” drill is the very first thing we do on the range, before any dry fire, before any live fire. In a perfect world, it also gets shot with our carry ammo if at all possible. It is the one drill that matters the most. It tells us how good we really are.
There is not a set drill or test that is best for everyone. Different skill levels, different performance goals, all mean that this is a very individual thing. There are, however, five basic criteria we are looking for in whatever drill fits our individual needs.
The drill that we choose needs not to take up much time. If your life is like mine, range time is limited. Spending 15 minutes running a test to measure my on-demand skill level is 15 minutes not spent actually improving that skill level. In an ideal world, a drill that takes 3-5 minutes to set up, shoot, score, and record is about where I try to be.
Make sure it is relevant to your world. If you are an average joe who carries a J-frame 90% of the time, you should shoot your cold drill with that J-frame and how you carry it. If you are a high speed, low drag operator that kicks doors for a living, the drill should be relevant to that world.
I am pretty much the average joe, so I choose a drill that focuses on drawing the handgun quickly and putting multiple, quick shots on a realistically sized target.
Different ranges will often impose different limitations on what we can do. A drill that requires multiple targets and movement might not be doable at public access ranges. Indoor ranges might not even allow patrons to draw from a holster. Crowded ranges can cause problems with running shot timers. Coming up with something that will work at your favorite range is something only you can do. Just make sure you shoot it the same way every time.
We have to be consistent. The drill needs to be the same. How we shoot it needs to be the same. And how we score it needs to be the same. If we deviate, even just a little bit, then that data becomes less useful for measuring and tracking performance. If we are trying to measure things and compare them to other things, we have to use consistent units of measurement. Same applies here.
There needs to be some way to score the drill. Usually, you would do this with time, accuracy, or both. Ideally, use a drill that does not have a maximum score. The scoring system needs to be flexible enough to grow with the shooter.
Putting it Together
For those that are serious about getting better at shooting, having a standardized cold drill will contribute to that effort. What you come up with is entirely up to you, just keep the criteria in mind. Go practice, track performance over time, and see what growth there is.