December 1, 2021

Are You Ready for El Presidente?


When it came to firearms training, Jeff Cooper was quite revolutionary. He revolutionized the modern handgun technique and created or popularized various stances, guns, calibers and training techniques that are commonplace today.

Man demonstrates reload of 1911 in El Presidente drill
The El Presidente shooting drill requires a reload to ensure you are able to accomplish this efficiently under pressure.

And while some have been superseded by current techniques, drills of his like the El Presidente — pioneered back in the 1970s — are still relevant and prevalent in modern training. Today I will cover how to run the El Presidente and what skills it can help you hone.

What You’ll Need

Gear needed to run El Presidente training drill
Running the El Presidente does not require a lot of shooting gear, but you do need some common items you may already own.
  • Handgun
  • 12 rounds per run
  • Two magazines
  • Holster
  • Spare magazine pouch
  • Shot timer
  • Three targets

How the El Presidente Flows

The El Presidente is one of my personal favorite drills because it’s as hard or as easy as you want it to make it. Most shooters can pass it, but it’s an exercise you can always get better at. At its core, the El Presidente drill is a simple one. It involves three targets with a designated vital zone placed about a yard apart, seven yards away from the shooter.

Travis Pike shooting the El Presidente drill
During the El Presidente drill, the shooter will engage three targets, reload and then shoot all three targets again.

Load your chosen firearm with six rounds, and have a spare magazine on in a mag pouch also loaded with six bullets. The shooter starts with their back to the targets and their hands in the air. At the timer’s beep, the shooter turns and faces the targets, draws and engages each target with two rounds to the vital zone. The shooter then executes a reload and engages both targets with two more rounds to the vital area. You have a total of 10 seconds to complete the drill. Any shots outside of the vital zone count as a miss.

Skills Pay the Bills

The El Presidente drill should be shot from concealment to maximize realism and to exercise and build more skills. The training targets your ability to react, to draw, fire rapidly and accurately, as well as transition between targets and reload under a time constraint. In only 10 seconds and with only 12 rounds, you are exercising a wide variety of skills.

Drawing a Springfield 1911 from concealment
In this drill, the shooter starts by moving the cover garments and drawing the handgun from concealment.

The drill is one of the few that focuses on multiple target engagement, and then re-engagement. This is a skill well worth training, as is the ability to move and shoot. Necessary skills like drawing and reloading are also essential and present in the El Presidente. As far as shooting drills go, it is a master of efficiency and skill-building.

The drill is also a lot of fun. If you like a challenge, then you’ll love the El Presidente drill. Shooters new to the drill will likely pass it in just a few tries and find that the drill itself is not that difficult. However, getting a lower time with acceptable accuracy will drive shooters to keep chasing the clock.

Safety First

The El Presidente isn’t something you should run into half-cocked, especially if you are a new shooter. If you are a new shooter, then it’s best to run the drill slowly, and I mean at a walking pace. Move through every part of the drill deliberately and slowly. Speed comes in time, and rushing it will create a situation where you create unnecessary risk.

Three target shooting drill
Using three targets in this drill ensures you learn how to quickly acquire and then reacquire a sight picture under pressure.

If you find yourself looking for an even greater challenge with your CCW pistol, consider the El Guapo drill. This drill is a modification of the El Presidente with double the targets and a higher round count. Yet, the speeds are tight meaning you’ve got to bring your A-game.

Get It On

In a time where ammo is impossible to find, it’s good to have drills that require little in the way of ammo and maximize your time and training. The El Presidente can be done with a rifle as well, but I’d modify the distance to increase the challenge. Check out our video on the El Presidente drill at the top of the page and make sure you swing by the forums at the link below to share your time, ask some questions and let us know what you think.

Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!

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