The Top 5 Training Drills to Improve Your Shooting


By Travis Pike

Firearms drills are an absolute blast. They sharpen your skills, give you a challenge 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 really. 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 a clear vital area 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 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 to test yourself. They shake up a normal range trip and can help you hone those skills to a razor’s edge. On the plus side they just so happen to be fun and challenging. Put a few into the training rotation and let us know how they flow.

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


  1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    bring a life size foto of what’s her name.

  2. avatar possum destroyer of arachnids says:

    Good read can’t wait t hio load up and go play. It’s articles like this that elicit me to go shooting. Need more ammo, lol

    1. avatar IN Dave says:

      I agree. I like articles like this and hope that more come from it.

  3. avatar Mr. Right says:

    Lucky Gunner’s shoot better series is a nice compilation of drills.

  4. avatar Dude says:

    Nice article.
    It’s weird to mix metric and imperial units like that.
    “targets should be placed one meter from each other”
    “You start ten yards from the targets”

  5. avatar strych9 says:

    Try doing most of this at most indoor ranges and you’ll quickly be asked to leave. That’s a huge problem with a lot of the training out there and part of why much if it is as expensive as it is; because you’re a captive audience, captive to the ranges that will allow you to draw from a holster and/or shoot fast.

    Is that 1-5x drill unsafe? No, but a lot of ranges cap you to one round per second. Popping off 15 in five seconds will get you at least a warning. Doing it again will get you removed.

    1. avatar Greg says:

      Plenty of public land screw indoor ranges. And clubs with bs safety rules.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        That’s what I do but not everyone has that luxury. When I was in Ohio most people didn’t have that kind of option unless they knew someone with private land that was safe to shoot on.

        1. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

          Not an option in most of Pennsylvania either. And the outdoor club ranges also frown on a lot of this. Especially if anyone shows up to sight in their deer rifle.

      2. avatar G. W. says:

        We have two ranges on public land and cannot practice anywhere else on public land.

    2. avatar possum destroyer of arachnids says:

      This I seen. Pellet pistol, and he’d set up targets inside of his trailer house( yeah I kno ), had his own shootem up. The guy was pretty good, somersault, gunm coming out of the holstered while rolling, up in two hand kneeling, KAPOW, rarely did he have to apologize for another broken lamp to “the wife. I think he said he was an Army Special Forces Ninja spc double deep E69 type , but he couldn’t talk much about it.

      1. avatar possum destroyerm of worlds says:

        Pellet pistols go KAPOW? , When your playing ninjas and injuns they do., , , , Suppresors

  6. avatar LasVegasBret says:

    Some of these are NOT suitable training for self defense.

    The standard response to multiple adversaries is 1 (one) round to each, MOVE, reassess, and re-engage if necessary.

    Training to shoot multiple rounds in multiple adversaries is a self-defense no-no.

    1. avatar IN Dave says:

      I am not sure if that was the point of the article. The words “self defense” only occur twice and both times used in the context of practicing “skills” that can be helpful in self defense, not for self defense education. Much like a quarterback practices throwing “skills” by throwing to a hanging tire, this does not mean he is doing so in the off chance that a rimless tire is going to show up to be his receiver.

      1. avatar LasVegasBret says:

        Not an equivalent comparison. It would be more like your quarterback practicing double-pumping. Not a habit you want to ingrain.

        1. avatar IN Dave says:

          Fair enough, we will use your example of double pumping. Correct that is not something you want to ingrain to the point that you always use but the “skill” of double pumping is also known as a pump fake. It is used in the highest level of play. I would speculate that a team does not make it to a super bowl without their quarterback pump faking at least one time during that season. I have seen Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Rothlisberger, and Wilson all use a pump fake during their super bowl seasons. Hell the NFL even has a ranking of the best pump fakers. To think that this is something that they do out on the field and never practice, well let’s just say I wouldn’t bet their salaries on it. Once again these are drills for skill development. You use them in between self defense classes that way you are not the guy that takes 6 seconds to be able to transition from a chest shot to a head shot or from adversary to adversary. Self defense situations are never the same and most of the good classes teach you to analyze the situation and implement (or don’t implement) the skills you have developed. Knowing you can transition from target area to target area quickly does not mean You have to every time. In fact developing those skills give the confidence of knowing that it can be done and reassesing the situation will be done more often.

    2. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

      Actually it’s not, you shirt to eliminate one threat at a time, using accurate fire and cover to your advantage. Everything is situationally dependent but their is very little utility in leaving an opponent in the fight and moving on to the next. It is a rare situation were “everyone gets some before anyone gets seconds”. If you happen on two or more opponents at equal distance and equal presentation, with both also posing equal threats (ie have the same weapon, in the same ready condition/presentation) then by all means go for it but your goose is probably already cooked.

      1. avatar LasVegasBret says:

        The standard response to multiple is still a single shot to each. You don’t have the ammunition to be shooting multiples at first go around.

        What if there are 4 adversaries and you are carrying a 1911?

        What if they are wearing body armor?

        et cetera

        You are more than welcome to practice 2+ shots for multiple adversaries, but in the event that you encounter said scenario, you will respond accordingly, and it may lessen your odds of winning the fight.

        I train 2 to the thoracic for single adversaries, and 1 to the thoracic to each for multiples, move, reassess, re-engage if needed.

        But don’t take my word for it. Or Cooper’s. Or Lamb’s either. Theorize all the variations of a situation that you can, with your standard carry. What gives you the best odds of winning the fight in the most number of situations? Practice /that/ for your self defense tactics.

        Have a good one, and stay in condition yellow.

        1. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

          I think we might be talking past each other. You should practice to shoot and assess after each shot to see if the opponent is still a threat, and you shouldn’t become overly reliant on the shot count that a drill proscribes, ie always shooting 1 in the head and 2 in the vitals. However their is little utility in moving on to a different opponent if you have not eliminated the current one. The situations you allude to make sense with one caveat both Jeff Cooper and Kyle Lamb were highly trained individuals with extensive backgrounds in their fields(Law enforcement and military ) and some of the drills these gentlemen espouse upon such as the 5×5 drill are much more suited to their career fields . I would posit that a civilian ccw who encounters multiple opponents break contact and/or find cover regardless of the training of the opponents.

    3. avatar Him says:

      “Fraid not amigo. At the point that you utilize deadly force, you are already in no man’s land. One report, that being yours. The single round thing is a recipe for disaster. The consequences for leaving a thug alive after a force on force incident are potentially far worse than sending them on to whatever awaits the in the hereafter. Now, if you are John Wick or whoever, and one round is adequate to accomplish that, then more power to you.

  7. avatar Alexander says:

    Good info. Thank you. But is there a reason why this article is so grammatically handicapped?

  8. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    Mozambique drills are indeed challenging and gun—but if the goal is “to get the job done”, then just make the head shot. If a time limit of under two seconds is being set, then there’s really no need for the two to the body.

    They call it a “Mozambique” because mercs fighting in Africa found their drugged out enemies weren’t being stopped by body shots. They didn’t start out with two to the body one to the head. They ended up there out of necessity.

    I can’t help thinking you’re going to look really bad in court if you Mozambique someone in a DGU.

  9. avatar Will Drider says:

    Port Reload? Term not in common usage Try shotgun “Combat Reload”. Load by going under not over the receiver. Feeds but also aĺlows hand to catch a fumbled shell. Also add “Tactical Reload” into Drills.

    Don’t get so wrapped up in drills that you start dropping partial mags after X shots. Deadly stressed out bad habit.

  10. avatar Auxwood_Rebel says:

    Any drills for transitioning to a tomahawk? That’ld be cool…

  11. Dot torture is my go to drill to get back to fundamentals.

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