Skills Check: The Hostage Presidente Drill

posted on September 17, 2018

The “El Presidente” drill is something of a competitive standard. Devised by Col. Jeff Cooper as a test of shooting skill and firearm manipulation, it has become a standard competition drill some folks practice endlessly. In classic form, it’s fired at 10 yards on three Option targets set 1 yard apart. Starting faced away from the targets, the shooter turns, presents the pistol and fires two rounds on each target, reloads and repeats firing twice at each target. There are a number of variations, including the Demi and Tactical Presidente. The Demi version is fired two, two, two, head shot, head shot, head shot with no reload. The Tactical Presidente is one shot to the first and second targets, two to the third target, then one more shot each to the first two targets, reload and repeat.

Other variations include shooting without a turn, starting from a seated position behind a table and endless variations thought up by match directors and course designers. I’m going to blame this version, the Hostage Pres, on Bob Shimizu, a friend and Gunsit Academy stalwart who has been running combat matches for many years.

To set this up you will need three 8-inch circular steel plates and three Option or other silhouette targets. The plates are arranged 1 yard apart, 10 yards from the shooter and the option targets are set up, one behind each plate. The idea is to shoot the plates and not the Option targets, as those represent the hostages.

Starting faced away from the targets, the shooter turns and presents the pistol on the start signal. It’s then fired like a Tactical Pres, one shot each on the first two plates, two on the third plate, then one more shot on each of the first two targets followed by a reload and repeat. The sequence is: One, one, two, one, one, reload, one, one, two, one, one. This version is limited to firing only 12 shots with a par time of 10 seconds for pistols and 12 seconds for revolvers. Fastest time wins.

Pretty easy, right? Well, only if you get all your hits. You see, missing one of the plates and hitting a hostage accrues a 150-second penalty—after all, your errant shot hit an innocent “hostage.”

I like this drill because it isn’t a tactical drill; it’s a shooting exercise demanding careful but quick marksmanship. Balancing speed with accuracy, this drill is the essence of the advice from gunfighters of old: Take your time, fast. While fun to shoot with your favorite range pistol, I encourage you to practice it from concealment with your daily carry gun. If that doesn’t work out for you, it’s an indication you might need more practice, additional training or should reconsider your carry choices.


Green streak ammo
Green streak ammo

First Look: Ammo, Inc. Green Streak Ammo

Performs similar to pyrotechnic tracer ammo, with fewer worries about setting the world on fire.

Review: Versacarry Insurgent Deluxe IWB/OWB Holster

A convertible holster that works for inside or outside the waistband carry.

First Look: Anderson Manufacturing AM-10 Breacher

The power of the .308 cartridge, packaged in a large-format pistol.

I Carry Spotlight: Rimfire Options

In this special "I Carry" Spotlight, we highlight rimfire options from FN, KelTec, Ruger, SIG Sauer and Smith & Wesson for practice and self-defense.

Despite Sales Decline, 2022 on Pace to See the Third-Largest Number of Guns Sold Since Records Began

The effects of the pandemic and recent social unrest are passing, but firearms sales remain very strong.

Resocializing After COVID

Research has noted a variety of mental-health consequences that have been experienced by countless individuals, families, communities and businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.