5 Best Pistol Drills for the Armed Citizen

posted on September 25, 2019
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Editor's note: Ed Head serves as a Gunsite Academy instructor and currently writes the Skills Check column that appears in each issue of Shooting Illustrated magazine.

Picking the best of anything is a dangerous proposition, as everyone has their favorites. So, sticking my neck out, here’s my list of five pistol drills that combine skillful gunhandling, accuracy and speed.

El Presidente

The El Pres has become a competitive shooting standard, a drill practiced incessantly by top competitors. From the standpoint of an armed citizen, its best used sparingly as a test of your skill level, carry pistol and gear. To set it up, you’ll need three Option targets set 1 yard apart. Starting with your back to the targets at 10 yards, turn and fire two rounds on each target, perform a speed reload and fire two more shots on each target. Par time for pistols is 10 seconds.

Scored 5-2, shots within the center-scoring ring count five points and all other shots on the target count as 2 points. You earn 5 points for every second under 10 seconds and lose 5 points for every second over. If you shoot the El Pres with your carry pistol and ammunition, I think you can feel good about your skill level if your score is 45 or above.

Dot Torture

I use Dot Torture as a gut check and to test pistols I’m evaluating. Requiring 50 rounds and fired at a seemingly easy 3 yards with no time limit, Dot Torture requires total concentration, perfect sight alignment and a perfect trigger press for every one of the 50 shots. The targets are printed on a single 8.5x11-inch piece of paper and consist of circles measuring a little less than 2 inches. It’s a pass/fail drill, meaning you fail if a single shot falls outside one of the circles. You can download and print Dot Torture targets at: www.pistol-training.com.

Failure Drill (Mozambique Drill)

I think the failure drill should be part of every defensive training session. You’ll need a silhouette or Option target and your defensive pistol and ammunition. Starting at 3 yards, draw; fire two quick shots to the center of the vital zone and one shot to the center of the head. Try it again at 5 and 7 yards. The difficulty in shooting a good failure drill comes from the change in speed; the first two shots are fired quickly while the headshot is a precision shot requiring you to slow down. It’s called a failure drill because the headshot is taken if the two body shots have not stopped the attack and the bad guy remains a deadly threat.

25-Yard Single Shot

While we all like to practice shooting quickly at close range, backing off to 25 yards and firing a single, perfect hit requires precise sight alignment, trigger press and follow-through. I like to shoot this on an 8-inch steel plate with a time limit of 2.5 seconds, starting from the holster. Trust me, it sounds much easier than it is. If you can get five hits in a row, in less than 2.5 seconds each, you have my respect.

2 Plus 2

How quickly can you draw, fire two center hits, perform a reload and fire two more center hits? Do you think you can get it down to 4 seconds or less? There’s one way to find out, so set up an Option target at 5 yards and get to work. Considerably easier with your race gun (I’ve seen it done in under 2 seconds by a pro) it is quite a bit tougher if you run it from concealment with your carry pistol and ammunition. I like the 2 Plus 2, because it’s a good test of your equipment and gun-handling skills. Oh, and the reload? Yes, it’s a speed reload!

Putting these drills together makes for a strong practice session. They’re my five favorites. What are yours?


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