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Firearms drills are an absolute blast. They sharpen your skills, give you a challenge at the range and can change the way you think about shooting and self-defense. They can also be an eye-opener, and a means to evaluate your skills. So without further distraction, here are my five favorite firearms training drills.

The El Presidente

The El Presidente is a classic firearms training drill created by Jeff Cooper. The exercise utilizes three targets, a handgun, a holster, a shot timer, and an extra magazine and magazine pouch. The three targets should be man-shaped with the vital area clearly marked.

The targets should be placed one meter from each other. Load two magazines with six rounds each.

Courtesy Travis Pike

How to Shoot It

You start ten yards from the targets facing away from them. You hands are held above your head as if you are surrendering. At the go buzzer you turn, draw from concealment and engage each target twice. After shooting six rounds, your gun should be dry. Reload, and engage each target with rounds again. A perfect score is 12 shots across 3 targets all in the vital region in ten seconds is a passing score.

What it Trains

The El Presidente drill trains a wide variety of different skills. It teaches essentially every fundamental handgun combat skill out there. It trains your ability to draw from concealment, to move and shoot, as well as proper shot placement, and reloading. The drill sounds easy, but its very easy to toss a shot out of the vital zone, and even harder to hit that ten second time. It’s the best kind of stressful in my opinion.

The 1-5X Drill

The 1-5X drill was created by Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics and is designed around the tactical carbine. That being said the exercise can be done with a handgun. You’ll need a rifle, a single magazine loaded with 15 rounds, and 3 targets placed 1 meter apart.

Courtesy Travis Pike

How to Shoot It

Start five yards away from the three targets. The drill requires IPSC targets, but any man-sized targets will work. You’ll want to aim for the vital zones of a target. You can work from left to right or right to left. If you do the drill more than once mix it up a bit. Starting on the first target fire a single round, transition to target 2 and fire two rounds, transition to target 3 and fire three shots.

You aren’t done yet though. Keep the momentum going and transition back to target 2 and fire four rounds. And to finish the drill transition to target 1 and fire five shots. Try to complete this drill in under five seconds.

What it Trains

It trains rapid transitions and for you to drive your gun from target to target. It also doesn’t allow you to fall into the trap on firing one or two rounds on target and ending the drill. You get your time down you need to learn a degree of riflery skills. This includes trigger control, body positioning, and recoil and muzzle control.

Port Reload – Shotgun

The Port Reload Drill is very simple, but a very important skill to master. A shotgun’s biggest weakness is its low capacity. It’s critical any shotgun operator learns how to reload their weapon effectively. The port reload drill trains shooters to quickly and effectively load an empty shotgun with just one more round. You’ll need a shotgun, a method to hold ammo (side saddle is best), two targets, and two shots per drill.

Courtesy Travis Pike

How to Shoot

Start at 10 yards with a round in the chamber, but an overall empty shotgun. The two targets should be one meter apart. Fire one the first target and keep the bolt to the rear. Keep your shotgun pointed down range and with your non-firing hand retrieve a round of ammunition. Load the round directly through the port and close the bolt. Engage the second target. The drill should be done in about 2 seconds total with a side saddle ammo carrier.

What it Trains

Your ability to quickly reload and re-engage a target is the primary purpose of this drill. It helps build reloading into a habit, and the faster you reload the shotgun, the deadlier you will be. You’ll gain a better understanding of the shotgun’s manual of arms, as well as what makes a shotgun tick.

Courtesy Travis Pike

Mozambique or Failure Drill

The Mozambique drill is a classic drill that Jeff Cooper advocated. Mike Rousseau essentially invented the drill in an actual firefight. The exercise is all about proper shot placement and covering your butt. It’s one of those drills that ensure you get the job done when the fight starts.

The Mozambique drill is perfect for beginners and experts to learn and exercise with. You need a handgun or rifle, three rounds, one magazine, and one target. If using a handgun you need a holster.

Courtesy Travis Pike

How To Shoot It

You can start at essentially any range, although the drill is for close quarter’s use so let’s start it at 10 yards or less. The exercise begins with the gun holstered or at the low ready, loaded with at least 3 rounds. On the go signal, draw the gun and fire two rounds to the chest immediately transition and place one well-aimed shot to the head. Your goal should be to do this in under 2.5 seconds, and even under 2 seconds is possible.

Courtesy Travis Pike

What it Trains

Obviously, it’s going to train your ability to draw your firearm rapidly. On top of that, you’ll be learning about shot placement and forming an excellent set of skills for getting proper shot placement regardless of the situation. You’ll learn to transition from chest to head with confidence.

F.A.S.T. Drill

The F.A.S.T. drill which is short for Fundamentals, Accuracy, and Speed Test is one helluva hard drill to master, but when you do you’ll be a competent shooter. The Drill requires you to have one target, a 3×5 card, an 8-inch paper plate as well as a target backer.

You’ll need two magazines, one loaded with 2 rounds and one loaded with 4 rounds. You’ll also need a mag pouch, a holster, and a shot timer. If you are not using a retention holster, you must fire the drill from concealment.

Courtesy Travis Pike

How to Shoot It

The drill is done at seven yards with the handgun holstered and one in the chamber. The plate is set on the torso of the target, and the 3×5 card is placed on the head. At the start signal, you draw, and fire two rounds into the head of the target, then perform a slide lock reload with the spare magazine. Fire the 4 shots into the plate.

If you miss, you fail. Take your time with this drill and go for accuracy over speed. Speed comes with time. However, speed is how you judge your skill as a shooter. There are four rankings for this drill.

10+ seconds: Novice
less than 10 seconds: Intermediate
less than 7 seconds: Advanced
less than 5 seconds: Expert

It’s a tough drill but is a good way to learn and test skills. The target can be found here and can be printed at home.

Courtesy Travis Pike

What it Trains

Speed and accuracy, the two most important skills a self-defense shooter can have. You’ll also develop the ability to draw and get onto a relatively small target quite quickly. There is also an established time and accuracy standard which gives you realistic goals to hit.

Getting Drilled

Drills are an excellent way to build your skills and test yourself. They shake up a normal range trip and can help you hone those skills to a razor’s edge. Also, they happen to be challenging and a lot of fun, too. Put a few of these into your training rotation and let us know how they flow.


This post originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission.

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  1. All good drills.

    In todays world of limited ammunition availability.

    Do not forget that one can simulate a lot of drills dry firing.

  2. A lot of RSOs look upon drawing from a holster with great disfavor, so it is banned at many ranges. More’s the pity.

    There used to be an unsupervised range where I could practice such drills. I never had or saw or heard of an accident at that range.

    • Ralph,

      None of the indoor ranges around here allow drawing from a holster. Some of the Rod and Gun clubs do.

      I use a laser bullet to practice drawing and firing. Also, for low-light practice, and shooting from cover. Of course, with the laser, I only get one shot and then have to rack. But, it sure saves on ammo. 😉

      • Our indoor range allows you to draw from holster and concealment after you take their individual 2 hour course. It certainly makes a difference when practicing. Unfortunately practicing at the range has been put on hold. I’m glad I stocked up, but I didn’t do enough to make live fire an option.

  3. Drills like these can be done at home at first before hitting the range. Initial dryfire, footwork, body position and repetition become muscle memory. Couple of these are harder than people think especially if you want shot placement center.

    Also when practicing wear what you wear. EDC holster, shoes, shirt, junk you carry like a backpack or satchel for work. It does you no good to practice in flip-flops if you only wear those at home…unless you live in South Carolina during the summer..go ahead then. lol

    And if you are older, as in your body is beat to hell, slow up a little until the bones and muscles get a chance to recover. Stretching always helps.

    Quick edit–Think Tia Chi slow when first starting and video yourself to review what your doing. It will help.

    • This^ :0)
      Thanks Manse.
      I think practicing with an empty gun and mag just going through the motions is an awesome way to train.

  4. In my previous professional life I qualified annually with multiple firearms, including the pump shotgun.

    The shotgun Q included a port reload. The instructors loved the tacticool method they’d been taught, of bringing a loose round underneath the receiver from the left side and popping it into the open port.

    I saw that as an obvious point of failure under stress: no positive control of the loose round. Plus, less control of the muzzle since only the right hand held onto the shotgun.

    I kept my loose rounds on my right side, controlled the shotgun with my left hand on the slide, and kept positive control of the reload round as I shoved it into the port, re-established my firing grip, and closed the action.

    I was always faster than the instructors, but it wasn’t about speed for me. It was about control of both the shotgun and the loose round. You can’t be fast enough or cool enough to perform an emergency reload with a round that you dropped in the mud.

  5. But would you really shoot bad guys that way if your life was on the line? Double tap each in succession or boarding house rules where everybody gets firsts before anybody gets seconds?

    • Correct. Standard response for multiples is a single shot to each, then follow-ups on an as-needed basis.

      Given 10 adversaries, 1 to each of 10 will almost always be better than 2 to each of 5 with 5 remaining to turn she you ‘how it is…’

  6. All 5 Drills are valuable simulations and valuable maintenance of skills, but all 5 are prohibited at the indoor range I’m a member of. Our range is also restricted to center fire pistol and rimfire rifle only. No centerfire rifle/ shotguns allowed.
    The nearest outdoor range has fees for use, do prohibitive, that the fees are sheer usury. Yearly membership costs are 10X what I pay for neer unlimited access to the Indoor range. Open to Non members is restricted to 4 hours per week, at a cost that costs more than I pay for yearly membership to the Indoor Range $60 minimum for 2 hours access/$120 for the full 4 hours).
    The other outdoor range is a 2 1/2 hour drive one way. Though their membership fees are comparable to the indoor range, OTP is also restricted to 1 period of time/week. Membership to this range is currently a 5 year waiting list for membership.
    So I believe these are valuable Drills, unfortunately, none are an option to practice in my locale, unless I dry fire or airsoft at home.

  7. Great training drills to shoot bad guys who are standing still. Dry fire training is a good option when mixing it up with air soft at the cat and dog. I draw the line at the wife and kids.


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