If you’re a concealed carrier or looking to become one, you’ve likely heard that firearms training can be a significant deciding factor in winning the fight or becoming a victim.
The real question: how do you train effectively and efficiently? There are plenty of schools out there to give you an edge, and I suggest anyone carrying a gun gets some hands-on training.
One of the major issues is what to do after you've mastered that training? How can you keep your skills sharp? Another question is what can you do to prepare yourself for more advanced training?
Well, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we’ve assembled a wide variety of different shooting drills carried over from my time as a Marine, as a concealed carry instructor, as well as my time training in the civilian world. We’re going to cover how to shoot these drills safely and effectively – leaving you a better trained and more competent shooter.
Chapter 1: How to Train Safely
Safety is always the most critical concern when it comes to anything involving firearms. If you've ever done any firearms training, military training, police training, or even shot at a public range, you’ve seen just how serious the gun community takes gun safety. Throughout this guide, safety will always be front and center and paramount to our training.
One of the first civilian firearms instructors was named Jeff Cooper, and he had 4 Firearms safety rules that every shooter should know and understand:
- All guns are always loaded
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
These rules are burned into the brains of long-time shooters and should always be on your mind. Following these rules will create safe shooting habits and will quickly become second nature.
How to Clear Your Weapon
It is critical that the safety rules are memorized and practicing them when handling firearms is the most important habit to have. The second most important is the ability to clear a weapon. Clearing a gun means completely unloading it. A cleared firearm should be treated the same as a loaded firearm.
In the context of these drills, knowing how to clear a gun is critical because dry fire practice is a crucial portion of learning the drills our guide contains. Dry fire is when you practice with your firearm without ammo. Consider it a rehearsal for what you will be doing on the range.
You need an empty gun to dry fire, so it's critical you understand how to clear your weapon. You need to clear your weapon systematically. Handguns come in two varieties, revolver and automatic.
You clear each type slightly differently. Let’s start with the revolver.
With a revolver, you need to open the cylinder and observe if the gun is loaded or not. This is pretty easy to do, and quite apparent to the eye. If the weapon is loaded, reach forward of the cylinder and press the ejector rod rearward.
This action will remove the rounds out of the cylinder, and once the cylinder is empty, the revolver is now clear.
With a semi-automatic handgun, the process is a little more involved. The first step is to remove the gun's magazine. Once the magazine is removed, take it and set it to the side. Now grip the rear of the slide and pull backward. Once the slide reaches its rearward apex, you want to lock the slide to the rear.
As you pull the slide back, a round may eject. Allow it to fall and collect it later. Not all guns have the means to lock the slide to the rear, but the majority do. If you cannot lock the slide to the rear that’s okay, you can still clear the weapon safely by holding the slide rearward.
With the slide locked to the rear, or held rearward, visually inspect the chamber to ensure it is clear of brass. After that, you can release the slide and allow it to close completely. Your weapon is now clear.
Why is Dry Fire so Critical?
Dry fire is critical for many reasons, especially when it comes to concealed carry drills. Before any drill, you should dry fire it several times. This practice ensures you know the drill inside and out and can execute it safely.
The dry fire portions of drills aren’t just for safety, but to reinforce the basics of the drills. They are just as important as the live fire portion. Dry fire allows you to enhance the training mantra of the exercise without expending ammunition. This saves you a considerable amount of money and time. Dry firing can be done at home for free.
Before dry firing, you need to clear your weapon and store the ammunition in a separate area. If you are working reload drills, you need to double check to ensure the magazines you are using are empty.
Dry fire is a technique used to hone your methods, and can and should be used for these drills, as well as general marksmanship, reloading drills, drawing, and nearly everything outside of recoil mitigation and practical accuracy.
In the context of these drills, when you dry fire an exercise you start slow and ensure you learn and understand the drill, as well as what is expected of you. You slowly add speed as you add proficiency, and always remember the old maxim, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Knowing Your Limitations
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast, and slow is also safe. As you train and practice these drills dry, you want to go slow to build good habits from the get-go. Going slow allows you to exercise proper sight picture, grip, trigger pull, draw, and more.
Practicing dry can be, well dry, and boring, but it is necessary. I advise finding some of your favorite music and treating it the same as you do working out. Get in the zone, remove distractions and even put headphones in.
Practice, practice, practice. Go slow, and as you add speed, you’ll learn exactly how fast you can competently go. You never want to push the gas to the floor without being ready for it. If you do, you risk hurting yourself or another. You should dry fire practice these drills to the point where they are close to boring.
You want to know them inside and out. If possible, replicate the drill as accurately as possible at wherever you’re practicing. This includes the use of real targets at the right distances you’ll be firing at.
Take your time, and as Dirty Harry Callahan once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Chapter 2: How to Start with Drills – The Basics for Beginners
Before we jump into our first few drills, we need to start with a few fundamentals. If you've had firearms training before, you likely already know a number of these fundamentals. If not, this is the time and place. Think of the following as mini drills. They need to be dry fired and slowly done until they can be safely done with live fire.
A Proper Draw
One of the most important words in the title of this guide is “concealed”. Concealed carry means the gun is hidden in some way, so as you train and practice you should train from concealment. Train like you'd carry, minus the ammo during the dry firing. With that in mind, we are going to break down the proper draw in steps.
Walk through these steps slowly, until you can do it with your eyes closed, then a little faster, then a little more, etc.
Step 1 – The “Get Ready”
The first step is a big one, and you’ll be doing a lot all at once. To start the drill, establish a ‘threat,’ I like to hang a target up, and that acts as my threat. Upon the presence of a threat, your eyes should focus on it, and establish your body into a quick shooting position, while doing this one hand is traveling to your gun and the other is typically getting ready to defeat your cover garment by pulling it away or upward.
Step 2 – Grab It
As your cover garment is defeated, and your hand reaches your gun, you need to establish a proper firing grip. Not a half-assed one because it gets a lot harder to get a good grip once the weapon is drawn.
Step 3 – Pull It
Now you want to pull upwards on your gun until it clears the top of your holster. Your off-hand should move to be centered on your chest.
Step 4 – Rotate it
Now rotate the gun forward by driving your elbow downwards, now it's pointing at the target.
Step 5 – Extend it
Push the gun forward, toward the target. Your support hand should reach and form a firing grip with the gun simultaneously. You are now in the position to fire.
Reloading your Gun
The chance of you having to reload your firearm is very low, and most gunfights are won with none to very few rounds fired. This being said, anomalies exist and unanticipated things do happen. You may run out of ammo, your mag may malfunction, or you may accidentally hit your magazine release and drop your mag. You need to be proficient in how to reload your firearm quickly in case things happen.
The Speed Reload, also known as the emergency reload, is what happens when your gun runs dry and your slide locks to the rear. Here are the steps to reloading an empty gun:
Step 1 – Bring it in “The Box”
Reloading a gun all takes place in “the box”. “The box” is an imaginary one that’s right in front of your face. The first thing you need to do is drop the elbow and simultaneously rotate your wrist, so your palm is facing you. Your gun should be in front of your face at this point.
Step 2 – Drop That Mag
Now move your thumb to the magazine release and press it – your magazine should drop out of the bottom of your gun. Let the magazine hit the ground.
Step 3 – Shove it Home
With the gun in hand, shove the magazine into the well with some pressing force. You want to make sure it's fully in place. As soon as the magazine is in place, your support hand should move upwards to the slide.
Next, your firing hand should rotate the gun back toward the target. Your support hand should pull the slide rearward, which will release it from your slide lock position.
Re-engage to end the technique.
The tactical reload is the reload you'd use if you have fired a few shots, but you're unsure if the threat is over. There is a lull in the fight, and you have a moment to get to cover and reassess the situation. At this moment it's wise to top off and replace your current magazine with a fresh one.
Speed isn't the goal here, but we don't want to take out time either. The overall goal is to reload while retaining the partially depleted magazine for later use.
Step 1 – Build “The Box”
Again, we are going to build “the box” and bring the gun in with the weapon rotated and positioned in the same way you'd do a speed reload. However, you aren’t dropping the magazine yet. Retrieve your fresh magazine with your support hand and bring it to the gun.
Step 2 – Eject the Magazine
Eject the magazine and catch it with your pinky and hold it there. Slide the fresh magazine in place. Put the spare magazine back into your magazine pouch or pocket and establish a proper firing grip.
Now that you've become a little more familiar with your sidearm, how to perform a proper draw, and learned ways to efficiently reload your weapon, it's time to look at more firing techniques.
There are four firing techniques that are very basic, but essential to learn and to know. The good news is these are very simple, and if you are bored of dry firing, these techniques need minimal dry fire. These are great basic defensive shooting skills to master and know before getting into advanced drills.
Hit ‘em with a Hammer – The Hammer Pair
The Hammer Pair is a technique that’s also traditionally known as the “double tap”. The “double tap” is a bit of an innocuous term that covers two methods and is used interchangeably. Hammer pair is a clearly defined technique that’s easy to practice but can be hard to master.
The Hammer Pair is when you aim at a threat and have one sight picture, but two trigger pulls. It’s used in close quarters shooting where you need to ensure the target is put down. It’s straightforward, aim at the target, get a proper sight picture and pull the trigger twice as fast as you can.
The challenge is recoil control and putting both rounds on target. You also need to maintain a consistent grip throughout the firing process. It’s one of the few techniques that require more range time than dry fire time.
Keep it Under Control – The Controlled Pair
A Controlled Pair is another technique that often wears the “double tap” title. A controlled pair is two shots but fired more methodically.
The controlled pair is two trigger pulls and two sight pictures. The shooter fires once, gains a flash or rapid-sight picture, and then fires again. It’s slower but more controlled, and easier to use over longer ranges.
Single Hand Engagement
Shooting a gun with one hand is a challenge, but is a situation you may find yourself in. Your hand may be injured, holding a child, or grappling with someone. You need to know how to engage a target with just your strong hand competently.
There are different techniques and schools of thought, but the one I recommend is to push the weapon straight out, lock my elbow, and cant the gun roughly 45 degrees towards my body. This creates a stable platform and allows you to establish proper sight alignment. To me, this position makes recoil and muzzle flip easier to recover from.
Weak Hand engagement is another single hand technique that’s even harder to master. Most people lack dexterity with their weak hand and this makes all the fundamentals of shooting even more difficult. I suggest the same canted method of target engagement.
What about the other hand? Regardless of which hand you are shooting with, you’ll have a second hand; what do you do with it? When it comes to shooting with one hand, I just let it hang loose. In a realistic situation, God only knows where my spare hand will be or what it will be doing, so I don't focus on where I’m placing it.
With single hand engagement, you need a healthy amount of range time to master and excel. These skills are challenging, and they take ammo and range time to master.
Chapter 3: Defeating Garments: Drawing Your Weapon Quickly and Safely from Concealment
Before getting into the more advanced drills, let’s cover the important topic of drawing your weapon from concealment.
When carrying strongside or appendix carry you are going to be forced to defeat a cover garment of some kind. The two most common will be a shirt or jacket. Defeating your cover garment is one of the big keys to successfully drawing your handgun.
An improper defeat of your cover garment can leave your gun and your cover garment tangled up and you in danger. This creates a dangerous situation for you and leaves you open to attack. Practicing clearing your cover is critical. It’s important you change as the seasons change. As T-Shirt weather becomes jacket whether it’s critical to transition with your training.
When it comes to defeating cover garments, you need to know that every movement needs to be big and exaggerated. Too much clearance is way better than too little clearance. The movements need to be fast and you need to be aware of where your gun is pointing the entire time. You need to avoid flagging yourself and creating a potential flaw. Be aware of where your arms and hands are at all times.
There are two types of cover garments: open front and closed front. Open front garments can be open button-down shirts, jackets, and vests. Shirts, sweaters, and zippered up jackets are considered closed front cover garments.
With a shirt draped over your handgun, the goal is to get the shirt, sweater, or buttoned-up jacket up and above the gun. To do so, your non-dominant hand should come across your body and grip your closed front garment in front of the gun and concealed carry holster.
From here, the non-dominant hand will rip the shirt up as high as your chest, if possible. This ensures that your handgun will clear the garment. From there move to a standard draw, keeping the shirt up until the gun is clear from the holster. Now, your hand should meet the gun and you go into a normal draw.
With an opened garment, I like “the sweep”. I bring my hand to my body and “sweep” the open garment rearward. I “sweep” it rearward until I reach my gun. I then draw my firearm as I normally would.
Just remember: like anything, you want to start slow and apply speed as you master the technique. Also, work through your failures. I used to fail a lot, and I’d stop practice and start over. That’s not the right way to train. If you mess it up, train through the flaw and fix it on the fly. Messing it up is invaluable training because you may goof it up when bullets are flying and knowing how to correct yourself and keep going is a fantastic skill to have.
Drawing from the Shoulder Holster
The shoulder holster is one of my favorite positions for carrying in the winter. I can layer and stay warm while carrying a gun of substantial size. Layers of cold weather fighting material can hassle you when it comes to drawing your weapon. A shoulder rig positions it in a nice and easy place to draw from. It’s also extremely comfortable when seated all day long or when road tripping; it’s easy to reach and comfortable to carry. It does require a cover garment, one that should be left open to facilitate a quick draw.
Step 1 – Garment Defeat
Your shoulder holster positions the gun under your support arm. Because of this, you can use your support hand to come up and pull the cover garment open, exposing your weapon.
Step 2 – Body Cross & Retention Defeat
At the same time, your firing hand should be crossing your body and gripping your gun. If you have a retention device, your thumb can defeat it as you get a firm firing grip. Pull the weapon being sure you are not flagging yourself as you do so.
Step 3 – Weapon Grab
As soon as the gun leaves the holster, your support hand can release the cover garment. As the firearm rotates to face the target, your support hand grips the weapon.
Step 4 – Firing Position & Engagement
Obtain a good firing position and prepare to defend yourself. This would be a great time to practice some of the previous, elementary firing drills we've already discussed.
Mastering the Appendix Carry Draw
Appendix carry is an excellent means to carry a gun that is catching fire across the gun community. It’s an IWB style carry, and as the name implies, it sits over your appendix. The advantages are that it’s easy to carry a gun, easy to conceal a large weapon, and very quick to draw from.
Step 1 – Garment Grab
Drawing from the appendix position is easy. Like strongside carry, you use your hand to defeat your cover garment.
Step 2 – Garment Defeat & Weapon Grab
Gripping your shirt right over the belt buckle, you yank it upwards as your firing hand finds your gun.
Step 3 – Weapon Draw
Pull straight up and at the same time release your cover garment. Rotate your wrist and gun towards the threat, and your support hand should be racing to meet your firing hand to form an excellent stable firing position.
Getting Low with Ankle Carry
Ankle carry is a classic means to carry a gun in a very deep and concealed manner. Ankle carry is slow to access but nearly impossible to detect. Ankle carry is a great position to carry a second gun as well.
There are several ways to draw from an ankle carry holster, but I prefer Massad Ayoob’s method.
Step 1 – Garment Grab
Grab the loose material of your pants slightly above the knee with your non-firing hand
Step 2 – Garment Defeat
Lunge forward and pull the material at the same time. The lunge and pulling up should clear the holster and gun.
Step 3 – Weapon Grab & Draw
Crouch down and draw your firearm. As you stand, release your pants, and your hands should meet on the gun before your gun rises above your waist.
Step 4 – Firing Position & Engagement
Get a good firing position and prepare to engage.
Getting the Draw
As you'd imagine all of this should be practiced dry and with plenty of repetition. Learn what works and doesn't work. Never be afraid to change things up if a system or holster doesn't work for you. I have boxes of holsters that are for specific situations or didn't work for me. Practice slow and dry, and then slow during live fire. Practice so much you have dreams about it. Then, keep practicing.
Getting Ready for the Real Thing
Our next chapter is where we start our drills. The skills above are very valid and are skills you should consider practicing before working on these drills. The above skills are nearly universal when it comes to defensive shooting and form a good base for second-tier defensive shooting skills.
Chapter 4: How to Get More from Less – Dot Torture
How would you like to get a ton of training and an honest evaluation of your skills in a short amount of time with hardly any ammo needed?
If that idea appeals to you, try out Dot Torture.
Dot Torture is one of my favorite drills for maintaining, building, and evaluating skills. It requires minimal ammo, minimal time, and the target is free and can be printed on standard printer paper.
Dot Torture is the perfect drill for those on a budget of both money and time. Firearms instructor David Blinder created Dot torture. David Blinder and competition shooter and instructor Todd Green popularized the drill at Todd’s website.
The history of focusing on a small dot goes way back to John Shaw and the 1980s where his standard was for shooters to hit an NRA bull’s eye at 7 yards in under 2 seconds from the holster. It took that concept and ran with it.
It uses a specific target and is done at close range. The requirements for this drill are very minimal.
This drill incorporates a variety of skills that are critical to the defensive pistol student. These are combat proven skills that are found in the curriculum for soldiers, cops, and with defensive pistol instructors. These skills include:
- Basic Marksmanship
- Drawing and Firing
- Target Transitions
- One-Handed Engagement
- Weak Hand Engagement
- Controlled Pair training
The Dot Torture target is made up of small dots, only 2 inches in diameter. These small targets force you to slow down and exercise proper marksmanship. To pass the drill, you have to achieve 50 hits out of 50 shots fired. A single miss is a failure.
This demanding drill is one of the few out there that will deliver a fantastic level of training with a single box of ammo.
Equipment and Ammo Required
- Dot Torture Targets
- 50 Rounds of Ammunition
- Two Magazines
- Magazine Pouch
- A Handgun in Good Working Order
Let’s Start Shooting
For your first-time shooting Dot Torture, you should start at about 3 yards. 3 yards doesn’t seem like much of a challenge but wait and see. Things aren’t as easy as they look.
The drill starts easy enough and slowly gets harder. The Dot Torture target contains the written instructions in case you forget. With ten dots and eight strings of fire, it's handy just to read the target and go.
The breakdown of the drill goes like this:
Dot 1 – 5 Shots Slow Fire
The warm-up for this drill is five rounds of slow fire. Take your time and try to make one solid hole. It’s a small target but its only three yards.
Dot 2 – Draw and Fire One Shot
Repeat 5 times. Okay, so now taking advice from Chapter 2 you are going to draw and fire a single shot. There is no timer so move as fast as you safely can while exercising perfect form on the draw.
Dots 3 & 4 – Draw, Fire One Shot on 3, Transition and Fire One Shot on 4
Repeat 4 times. Here things start to get a little complicated. You draw, fire, and then transition to a secondary target. This is where target transition training comes into play.
Dot 5 – Draw, and Fire five Shots With One Hand
This is one draw and five shots total, not five draws. Firing with one hand can be humbling when a round misses the dot at three yards. It shows you how vital your support hand is and why you should train with strong hand shooting.
Dots 6 & 7 – Draw, and Fire Two Shots on 6 and Two Shots on 7
Repeat four times. Here we mix drawing, target transitions and a healthy dose of either hammer pairs or controlled pairs. Controlled pairs are the better option since we are focusing on shot placement and marksmanship fundamentals.
Dot 8 – From The Low Ready, Aim and Fire Five Shots From Weak Hand
This is a real humbler, at least for me. I stress taking my time and maximizing my shooting. This is a good reminder that hand skills need to be kept sharp in order to be able to handle a weapon in either hand.
Dot 9 & 10 – Draw, Fire One Shot on 9, Speed Reload and Fire One Shot on 10
To set this drill up, load the magazine in your gun with one round and the magazine in your pouch with two. This is my favorite part of Dot Torture and one of the drills I find helpful and challenging
Let’s Make it Harder
If you need a little more challenge to your Dot Torture training the first thing you should do is increase the distance. See how well you do with the drills and training at extended ranges. If that’s not possible, try to set a time limit to complete the exercise. In, say 5 minutes, you only have two mags, and less time if you have spares you can use to avoid reloading a lot.
Dot Torture itself is a robust challenge but adding distance and a timer will spice things up.
Chapter 5: The Mozambique Drill
When it comes to combat proven drills, the Mozambique drill may take the cake. This drill was used and invented in a combat situation. In the 1970s a mercenary named Mike Rousseau was fighting in the Mozambique war, specifically at an airport. In that fight, he was armed with only a handgun, and generally, when you are fighting in a war, a rifle is advised. At one point he came around a corner and was met with an AK-47 wielding opponent.
Rousseau was quicker on the draw and put two rounds in the chest of his opponent, but that didn’t seem to be enough. His opponent was still standing and still ready to fight. Rousseau took the third shot, aiming for the head. He unknowingly created the Mozambique drill, also known as the failure drill, or failure to stop exercise.
The story made its way to legendary firearms instructor Jeff Cooper, who named it the Mozambique drill and introduced it into his curriculum. The exercise has been part of a wide swath of syllabi, including my own when I teach drills in class. I became quite the expert with the failure to stop drill as a Marine where we trained it with both a rifle and a handgun.
The most significant benefit to a concealed carrier is going to be the practical application of shot placement. Two to the chest and one to the head target the three most vital areas of the human body.
The caliber wars are long over, and the consensus is that shot placement, and penetration is the deciding factor in a gunfight.
- Shot Placement
- Hammer Pair Practice
Two to the chest is quick and easy, but the headshot can be hard to train for. The head is a small target on a much larger moving target. Those two chest shots hopefully slow an opponent down, giving you an easier headshot. Being an ace shot in training doesn't mean you'll be an ace shot in a gunfight, but it will certainly help.
Additionally, it helps train transitions from the body to the head. Body armor isn’t typical, but it’s shown up on criminals more than once. The Sutherland Springs shooting comes immediately to mind. Two to the chest will slow an armored opponent down, and the headshot will take them out of the fight.
The two shots to the chest should be a hammer pair so that you will train the hammer pair technique extensively here.
Equipment and Ammo Required:
- Three Rounds of Ammo Per Drill
- 1 Magazine
- Gun in Good Working Order
- Silhouette Targets with Head and Chest Defined
- Optional – Magazine pouch
- Optional – Second Magazine
Shooting the Drill
The Mozambique drill is a quick and easy drill to shoot. It’s one you should repeat, and one you should start with dry fire. Slow down and learn the mechanics of the exercise. Like every drill, you start from the holster with a cover garment. Place the target 7 yards from you for both live fire and dry fire practice.
The trick is to develop a rhythm. Fire a hammer pair, and then transition to the head and fire one well-aimed shot. Start learning the rhythm in dry fire and translate it to live.
For this drill, you draw, reach full presentation, fire a hammer pair, and then transition to the head and squeeze the last shot off. Once you've dry fired the drill and feel comfortable head to the range.
Again, take it slow the first time you fire live ammo. Draw slowly. Fire your hammer pair and transition for that headshot. I like humanoid targets for this drill that show human anatomy realistically.
You want to target the brain, and the best place to shoot is often from eyebrow to eyebrow and down the nose.
Targets from Thompson Target, RE Factor Tactical, and Modern Warrior are all excellent examples of realistic targets that are perfect for this type of training.
Once you feel comfortable going slow, add speed, but remain in control at all times. With practice, an experienced shooter can shoot this drill clean in about 2 seconds from concealment. Don't hold yourself to that standard until you’ve mastered the safety aspect.
If you get to the point where you are firing the first two shots without a sight picture, you are going too fast. See the sights and then shoot the target. Accuracy comes before speed.
One aspect I always enforce in my classes is keeping the gun on target after you’ve fired. The point being is to build it into muscle memory to keep your weapon on target until you are sure the threat is ended. Many people make the mistake of shooting the drill, immediately reholstering, and getting ready to fire again.
That becomes a habit and can cause hesitation in an actual combat situation if reholstering immediately becomes muscle memory. Fire the drill, keep the gun on target and ask yourself, “Is the threat eliminated?”
The Mozambique drill is a classic and one that is in so many different curriculums for a reason. It works, and it’s been proven time after time as an excellent fight stopping technique. Its simplicity is its strength.
Let’s Make it Harder
One of my favorite ways to make this drill harder isn't to add distance or time, but to toss in a reload. I like to get my students nice and comfortable with the exercise. Have them shoot three rounds over and over to the point where they are running on autopilot.
Then I mix it up on them. I load one magazine with ten rounds, and one with two rounds. Ten rounds will allow you to fire the drill three times without issue. Running the exercise three times means you have one round left for the fourth drill.
As soon as that fourth drill starts you get one round off, and the gun is empty. Transition to the reload and complete the drill. Once you fall into a pattern of firing two to the chest and one to the head, you get complacent. Tossing in a reload wakes you up and gets your mind working again.
Chapter 6: The El Presidente Drill
We mentioned Jeff Cooper in the previous drill, but we didn't say just how crucial he was in the firearms training world. His influence is one we can’t ignore, and his modern technique formed the basis for combat shooting to this day.
As a firearms trainer, he was the first to examine shooting from a practical perspective and develop techniques for security forces, police, the military, and even civilians.
Before Mr. Cooper, there was little training outside of your basic marksmanship for civilians and most police forces.
We can’t talk about the El Presidente drill without establishing that Jeff Cooper wasn’t just the creator of the exercise, but one of the most important people in the history of concealed carry firearms training.
The El Presidente is a drill he created when training bodyguards for a president in Latin America. The drill was to help measure the skill level of these men in a variety of situations. The El Presidente can be quite humbling, and eye-opening.
The El Presidente isn't designed to be realistic situational based training, and most drills aren’t.
The El Presidente is intended to teach a variety of skills in a training scenario that calls for them on the fly and puts the shooter under stress.
The El Presidente stresses a variety of skills and requires the shooter to think their way through the drill. This drill will test more than just your physical prowess as you must think quickly on your feet and adapt to consistently changing scenarios. It’s a hard one to just muscle through. You’ll train the following skills with the El Presidente:
- Precision Shot Placement
- Target Transitions
- Controlled Pair Training
On top of all that the El Presidente is often shot against a timer with strict standards. I teach to a standard, and new students are challenged to meet a 10-second par time with all the hits in the vital zone with the targets at 10 yards.
You shouldn't rush your way through the drill at first. Practice, learn and refine it before you jump into it. For both safety and proficiency’s sake, you should do a healthy amount of dry fire before going live. Make sure you draw safely without facing up range.
Equipment and Ammo Required
- A Handgun in Good Working Order
- 12 Rounds of Ammunition
- Spare Magazine
- Magazine pouch
- Three Targets
- Shot timer (There are tons of free apps on iPhone and Android)
Shooting the Drill
You need to set up three targets approximately one yard apart, and ten yards from you. The El Presidente should be shot on a target with a marked vital zone, be it the heart on an anatomy target, or the A zone on an IPSC target. Your shots all need to be inside a designated vital area.
Step 1 – Load Each Magazine & Prepare Spare Magazine
Load six rounds into each magazine, load your handgun and then place the spare magazine into your magazine pouch.
Step 2 – Turn & Draw
You start with your gun concealed and in the holster. Your back will be to the target, and your hands will be raised in the surrender position. When the timer signals go, you turn and draw your firearm.
For beginners and safety’s sake, you should draw after you turn and are facing your targets. More advanced shooters should draw while in movement, i.e. while turning to face your targets. This is why dry fire is so important when performing these drills. You learn, practice, and make safety a habit.
Step 3 – Fire 2 Rounds at Each Target
With your gun drawn, come to the full presentation and start from left to right, or right to left.
Your overall goal is to shoot two rounds into the vital zone of each target.
Step 4 – Reload & Repeat Drill in Opposite Direction
After the six shots are fired, reload, and fire two shots into each target going in the opposite direction as your first string. After the 12th shot is fired, the drill is over.
The timer creates stress, but if you miss you lose, so I place accuracy over speed. Speed will come with time, accuracy is the more important skill to build here. When shooting, take your time and fire a real controlled pair. Two shots, two sight pictures all while stressing the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Like the Mozambique drill, keep your gun pointed downrange to ensure the threat is finished. Waiting to reholster is an excellent habit to build.
Make it Harder
To make the El Presidente harder you can do a few things. The first is to shrink the vital target zone. Use a smaller overall target, for example, print the Dot Torture target and cut the dots out and make those into the vital zone.
My favorite way to add difficulty is to take twelve rounds and have someone else load my magazines. I have them place an odd number of rounds in each magazine. This means you won't predict the reload and it will take you by surprise.
Chapter 7: The 5X5 Drill
As a concealed carry instructor, the 5×5 drill is one of the best drills I can suggest for testing proficiency and learning the basics of drawing and shooting. Maybe you've heard of Wilson Combat? They make some of the best 1911s on the market.
The owner of Wilson Combat, Bill Wilson, is a hardcore competitive shooter and also teaches classes at the Wilson Ranch in Texas.
Bill Wilson is heavy into firearms training and has created many different drills. The 5×5 drill is Bill’s test of pistol competency and designed to push you and your skills a bit further.
What I love as an instructor is that the drill stresses the fundamentals and stresses the shooter. Without proper fundamentals, you will fail this drill. Bill designated several grades for the drill, and the added stress of a timer will get the blood flowing.
The 5×5 drill is one that reinforces the skills you need to shoot competently as a concealed carrier and evaluates your skills. It’s a pass/fail drill that will give you a solid idea of where your weaknesses are as a shooter.
The 5×5 drill is simple and focuses on critical real-life skills that you most commonly see in a gunfight. The drill focuses on the following skills:
- Shot Placement
- Precision Shooting
- Single Hand Shooting
The drill can be done quickly and requires minimal investment into gear or skills. Its simplicity makes it appropriate for most new shooters.
Due to how simple it is there isn't much dry fire you can do, but you should at least walk through the drill. Since you are drawing and firing, make sure you take your time and exercise a proper and safe draw.
Generally, I take new shooters out and walk them through the drill one time, and then we dry fire it one time. After that, we do one rehearsal of the drill with live ammo at about half speed. After that, if the shooter is ready, we go full speed.
- A Gun in Good Working Condition
- Spare Magazine
- Magazine Pouch
- IDPA Target (Or Similar Sized)
- 25 Rounds Per Run
- Shot Timer (or applicable smartphone app)
Shooting the Drill
Step 1 – Load Magazine(s) & Set Target 10 Yards Away
Load 15 rounds into your first magazine. If your magazine cannot hold 15 rounds, load five rounds into two magazines. Set up your target 10 yards away and ready your weapon. Since we are concealed carriers, the drill will be shot from concealment to make it as realistic as possible.
Step 2 – Dry Fire Drill & Practice Reloading
Once you’ve walked through the drill, dry fire it a few times, and we can start shooting it.
The exercise is made up of four strings that will have you shooting a total of 25 rounds. You can pause between rounds to reset your magazines when necessary.
If you are using magazines that hold less than ten rounds, you’ll need to stop after every string to reload at least one of your magazines.
Step 3 – Commence Drill by Completing & Recording String Times. Compare Results
Write down the times of each string, and your cumulative time will affect your score.
The Strings are shot as follows:
- String 1 – Draw and fire five shots into the target.
- String 2 – Draw and fire five rounds with only your strong hand.
- String 3 – `Draw and fire five shots, your gun should now be empty, reload with an additional magazine and fire five rounds.
- String 4 – Draw and fire four rounds to the body and one round to the head.
That ends the drill. Bill Wilson uses the following times to evaluate shooters.
- Grand Master: 15 seconds or less
- Master: 20 seconds or less
- Expert: 25 seconds or less
- Sharpshooter: 32 seconds or less
- Marksman: 41 seconds or less
- Novice: 50 seconds or less
- Not proficient enough to carry a handgun: Over 50 seconds
If you miss, you lose. The 5×5 drill can be an eye opener, but with practice reaching expert isn't terribly difficult. You have to work for it, but nothing great has ever been easy anyway. The great thing about the drill is it’s easy to see where you need improvement since each string is scored separately. You can see where you’re having trouble and correct as needed.
Can We Make It Harder
I’d only suggest making this drill harder is if you score Grandmaster regularly and are looking for more of a challenge. If you can do that, you have our permission to proceed. Keep things simple and always shoot for a lower time or add distance while keeping the same time. The 5×5 drill is tough to make difficult due to the different ratings, but not impossible.
Chapter 8: How to Shoot Like a Movie Star – The Collateral Drill
The Collateral drill isn't necessarily a recognized drill, but is one gaining, dare I say collateral?
Puns aside, the Collateral is a fun, and challenging drill named from the movie Collateral. If you've never seen the film, Tom Cruise plays an assassin with several targets he has to hit all in one night. It’s a Michael Mann movie, so you know the gunplay is on point.
In one scene, Tom is confronted by two thugs, one of which has the drop on him. In just a few seconds he knocks his opponent’s weapon away, delivers two shots from close retention, and then performs a Mozambique drill to his second opponent.
Tom Cruise performed the stunt himself, and his firearms training came from former SAS Commandos. His training was quite intense, and you can see it in the special features of the film’s Blu Ray. Michael Mann takes his gun handling seriously, and Tom Cruise seems to throw himself into roles rather hard, so it was a match made in heaven.
The Collateral drill is a challenging drill that should only be done by those well experienced with the following skills.
- Firing from Close Retention
- Rapid Target Engagement
- Rapid Target Transitions
- Proper Shot Placement
You need to have a base in the skills above because this drill will build even further on these skills. The Collateral drill is impressive due to its difficulty and pushes your ability to react, think, and shoot. From the moment you draw your gun things are moving fast, and you are planning your next move.
The drill requires you to place 5 accurate shots in just a few seconds. From the first shot to the last, Tom Cruise took 1.39 seconds. However, the drill really should be timed from the moment he swipes his opponent's gun to the last shot. If this is the case, the exercise should be done in under three seconds from the ‘swipe’ to the final headshot.
In those short and precious seconds, you have to swipe your opponent's weapon away, draw, fire two shots to the chest of Target 1 from close retention, extend to a full presentation and hit the second target with a Mozambique.
Equipment and Ammo Required
- A Handgun in Good Working Order
- Jacket Style Cover Garment
- Two Targets
- Shot Timer (Optional)
- 5 Rounds of Ammo per Run
Shooting the Drill
The drill starts with two targets roughly 2 yards from you and a yard apart. Your gun is holstered with a jacket or opened button-up shirt.
This should conceal the weapon and allow you to sweep it open to reach your pistol.
I want to stress again this is a drill for experienced shooters, and before shooting it, practice with tons of dry fire. When I did this drill, I spent hours practicing it, walking through each step. I went slowly and only added speed after I was completely confident in myself.
Step 1 – Knock Opponent's Weapon, Garment Defeat, Weapon Draw, & Fire 2 Shots
The drill starts with the swipe of your left arm, simulating knocking your opponent's gun away. Using the momentum of your swipe, your firing hand clears your cover garment and draws your firearm. From here you fire two shots from close retention.
Step 2 – Rotate & Establish Firing Position
Rotate your body, stepping forward with your non-dominant leg to establish a good firing position. As you do this, you're coming to a full presentation.
Step 3 – Fire 2 Shots to the Chest & 1 to the Head
From here you fire two shots to the chest and a final shot to the head.
After this the drill is complete. If you can get it at about 2.5 seconds from the swipe to the final shot, you are flying. Of course, at that time you also need to be making all five hits count. This means solid, vital zone shots or nothing.
Can We Make It Harder?
I don’t think we can. It doesn't need to be harder. You could increase the distance, or make the vital zones smaller, but overall the drill is hard enough as is.
Conclusion: Drilled Out
You’ve reached the end of our guide and have seen seven of my favorite drills. Outside of the Collateral drill, these are all exercises I use myself and teach to my students. One of the essential things to understand about drills is they aren’t designed to be specific scenario-based training. They are designed to reinforce specific skills dynamically with a bit of stress thrown in.
If you ever have your back to three armed men like in the El Presidente drill, I doubt you can be fast enough to beat all three. However, the exercise will reinforce target transitions, shot placement, and controlled pairs. All three skills individually could save your life, and the drill trains those particular skills.
If you look at drills as realistic scenario training, you’ll walk away disappointed. They are a series of movements defined to reinforce skills. In many ways, they are like the Katas used in karate. They reinforce skills through repetition, and they are an exercise in programming the body.
As always safety is always paramount. Never, ever compromise safety to get a better time on a drill. Accuracy always comes before speed, and accuracy is an excellent way to measure if you are going too fast for your skill level. As an instructor, I’ve never failed someone for performance issues because my job is to fix those issues. I will fail you in a heartbeat for being consistently unsafe.
Drills are just one form of training out there. They are great, but not the end-all-be-all. Beyond drills, you should receive hands-on training from competent instructors. These instructors can do things drills never can. They can diagnose problems with your shooting, introduce you to new concepts, and move your skills forward beyond what drills can do.
On top of that never forget the fundamentals of firing a gun. Being brilliant in the basics is one of the keys to retaining your skills. This means standard accuracy training, slow fire, reinforcement of proper trigger pull, and proper sight picture. You’ll never be too good for the basics.
Utilizing drills and exercising both tactical skills and basic marksmanship will ensure your skills stay sharp. Shooting skills are perishable skills. A lot of individual skills make up your shooting skills, and each needs to be exercised regularly. This exercise can be training with an instructor, taking some time to practice the basics, and of course, blasting away with our combat-proven tactical drills.
So, get out there, hit the range, and start turning money into noise.