Pistol Basics: The B-8 Bonanza Drill

Shoot This Difficult Drill, And You'll Be A Better Shooter For It

Walther PDP B-8 Bonanza

Following my interest in the Super Test, a staple of NRA B-8-based training drills involving the pressure of a shot timer, I decided to try my hand at another, more challenging drill that focuses on the B-8 target this month. Specifically, the Justified Defensive Concepts’ B-8 Bonanza drill. Justified Defensive Concepts instructor Tim Chandler posted about this drill on FB, and I’ve wanted to give it a go since I saw it.

B-8 Bonanza Points And Scoring

Like the Super Test, this drill also has a 300-point aggregate score and involves 30 rounds of ammunition. The drill is broken down into three different portions, each with ten round strings of fire that have different par times. The B-8 Bonanza’s par times consist of 30 seconds for the first string, 20 seconds for the second string, and 10 seconds for the final string. One loses 10 seconds of time with each successive string, which really raises mental stress and pressure to perform. And here’s the real kicker: all three strings must be fired from a distance of 25 yards.

But wait, there’s more! Only impacts inside the B-8’s 8-ring (or higher) count—basically the repair center of the target. Impacts outside of the scoring area incur a penalty of -10 points. Chandler calls this “zero or hero” scoring.

A passing score is 270, similar to other 300-point aggregate drills. However, with this drill’s par time constraints and distance, that’s a hard 270 to attain. The B-8 Bonanza is shot from the ready position, so “draw to first shot” isn’t a factor against the par time. The B-8 Bonanza isn’t about a sub-second draw. Rather, it is about shooting consistently under immense pressure with very tight time margins. If you can do both, that’s pretty cool too!

Though the B-8 Bonanza is primarily intended to be shot with modern pistols using slide-mounted reflex sights, I don’t see why it also couldn’t be done with iron sights. It would definitely be a handicap, but it would also be an awesome flex to pull off.

Attempting The B-8 Bonanza With A 4.5 Inch Standard Walther PDP 

Walther PDP B-8 Bonanza
Not to outdo the other Walther PDPs I shoot, I’ve been putting this particular Walther PDP through its paces lately. I also want to see how well this cheap Holosun along with the FCD V1 PDP plate hold up.

To attempt the B-8 Bonanza drill, I picked my “backup” Walther PDP, a full-size pistol with a 4.5-inch barrel from the original 2021 production run. This particular Walther PDP has the older style slide cut (V1) that has since been replaced with the “improved” V2 cut.

I picked up this gun used, so its true round count is unknown to me. I had to source an aftermarket optics plate for it and went with a Forward Controls Design RMR plate that FCD sells for the V1 PDP cut (at a discount, no less).

The FCD is currently holding one of Holosun’s most affordable dots, the HS407A3X2. Palmetto State was routinely putting these on sale for $180 last year. The primary difference between the regular HS407/507s is that this one lacks solar cell charging panels. For the price I paid, I don’t mind it living on a backup pistol.

After a couple of hundred rounds, the mounting screws have still not budged, and the Forward Controls Design unit has yet to shake loose. Given that this is a V1 PDP, I just wanted to specifically mention that I have yet to encounter any issues with the optic becoming loose.

I’m also running the extra-large backstrap on this gun to see how it compares against the medium unit on my 5” workhorse polymer-framed PDP. So far, I am leaning towards the medium backstrap. 

Shooting The B-8 Bonanza 

I started by verifying that my dot’s zero was correct for 25 yards and the specific ammo I was using. Then, I proceeded to paste a clean B-8 to the target backer. I set the par time for 30 seconds and let it rip. Frankly, 30 seconds is actually a long time, but that didn’t matter.

I psyched myself out for the drill and finished the first string in 18.24 seconds. Not only did I leave nearly 12 whole seconds (or almost half of the allotted time) on the table, but I also dropped at least 2-3 shots. Knowing this, I knew I blew my chance for a perfect score almost immediately, but I kept driving on.

Although I was trying to get my anxiety in check, the following string of 20 seconds was much the same way. I let my anxiety get the best of me still and left almost 9 seconds on the table yet again. My second string’s total time was 11.36 seconds, and I also dropped more points.

Still trying to keep my head in the game, my third string went off the rails, too. I completed it in 6.49 seconds and dropped at least 40 or 50 points, as half of them didn’t land in the repair center. I ran this drill only once, and I was relatively cold, save for the untimed 10-shot combination warm-up and zero verification.

The B-8 Bonanza is not for the faint of heart.

Walther PDP B-8 Bonanza
My B-8 Bonanza Target In All Its Glory For Everyone To See. Please note that the score of 213 is incorrect as missed shots incur a -10 penalty. My true score is much lower and I honestly didn’t care to compute it. The “F” isn’t wrong though.

The B-8 Bonanza’s Training Wheels: The Half-Nanza and Builder-Nanza

To mitigate some of the “overhead cost” of shooting up 30 rounds for each attempt, Tim Chandler also uses a variation of the B-8 Bonanza, which he calls the “Half-Nanza.”

The Half-Nanza divides everything by two except the distance. It’s still shot at 25 yards on a B-8 target, but the round count, the par time, and scoring are halved. Even with this reduction, the shooter still has the same amount of time per shot to make par time. Chandler told me that he has been using the Half-Nanza with great success in his Justified Defensive Concepts coursework lately.

Last but not least, he has one other variation of this exercise for newer students—the Builder-Nanza. This version works exactly the same as the Half-Nanza, but it’s shot at 15 yards, with the idea of warming up newer shooters to take further shots. At 30 rounds per run, doing the full B-8 Bonanza drill requires 60% of a 50-round cartridge box, and that can tally up fairly quickly.

For the sake of this writing, I bit the bullet and attempted the full B-8 Bonanza, pass or fail. And it’s not like posting a score of “300” will solve all the other problems in my life.

The Takeaway

Chandler himself will tell you that the reason he conducts this drill in his coursework is to help teach his students effective trigger management, as he believes there are three approaches to a trigger pull: quick, careful and precise. Although I flunked the B-8 Bonanza on this attempt, I really liked this drill for several reasons. First, it’s very easy to set up and conduct. All that is needed is a B-8 repair center, a handgun, a shot timer, and 25 yards of space. Second, all shooting is done from that 25-yard distance. Even if one’s skill might be lacking, it’s still very productive to routinely shoot at this distance and take away its “far away” mysticism.

To clarify, go to a public handgun line and see how many shooters post targets that far out. It’s rare. But 25 is just a number, nothing more, nothing less.

Third and perhaps the most important reason—this isn’t an easy drill. It’s probably an intermediate to advanced drill, and acing it requires absolute mental focus alongside mastery of handgun fundamentals. However, those intermediate to advanced shooters can get a lot out of it. For example, I dropped shots and points because I allowed myself to mentally stress about the time constraints, even when there was no reason to.

I think the B-8 Bonanza is a good shooting drill that also tempers the mind, which is crucial given the importance of the mental aspect in shooting. Another way this drill is valuable to those who work it is the confidence-building it can provide. Scoring a 270 is no small feat, even with a dotted pistol that has a nice trigger.

P.E. Fitch
I am a shooter first, and a writer second. IG & Twitter: @pfitch45