Shooting Drills for Fundamentals and Self-Defense

Shooting Drills for Fundamentals and Self-Defense

Shooting Drills for Fundamentals and Self-Defense

To know and apply handgun shooting fundamentals and to employ a handgun effectively in a defensive situation, you must be able to access your handgun properly and make accurate hits before the attacker injures or kills you. So you must practice the skills you probably would use in a life-or-death situation before it occurs. Some of the important skills are drawing the handgun, precisely hitting both body and head targets, moving, using the Flash Sight Picture Technique of front sight only focus, cover, reloading and clearing a malfunction. The following 5 drills will help you practice your skills and be better prepared to handle deadly-force encounters. The Mozambique, El Presidente, and Bill Drills are three classic drills that have been used successfully by many people over many years. The 5-Shot Touch Group and 44 Concealed Carry Drills are mine and should also be helpful for your practice.

Drill #1: MOZAMBIQUE DRILL (1974)

2 Center Mass Shots  – Assess – 1 Shot to Head.

Jeff Cooper (“Father of the Modern Technique of Handgun Shooting”) developed this classic drill after hearing of his student’s experience in Mozambique. His friend was involved in fighting around the airport there and was confronted by a terrorist carrying an AK47. The terrorist was walking toward him at about 10 paces away and his friend used his BHP 9mm to place two hits centermass, one on each side of the terrorist’s breastbone. He expected his adversary to drop, but nothing happened, and the man continued to close. So then he tried a head shot, but he was stressed and hit the terrorist between the collar bones and severed his spinal cord, stopping the fight. Cooper recognized the effects of a bullet striking the human body and how it depends greatly on which organ is struck during penetration. He recognized that a bullet striking the brain kills the assailant almost without exception. He popularized the term “Mozambique Drill” based on his technique of shooting two rounds to the center of the torso, followed by a pause and assessment of the situation, and then a more carefully aimed shot to the head, specifically, in the “fatal triangle” formed between the eyes and the base of the nose, where the head shot is required to enter. Any other head shot has a generally higher chance of being non-debilitating because of striking thicker cranial bones or the teeth. Under nearly any condition, engaging an assailant with the Mozambique Drill should offer a high probability that one’s assailant will be stopped permanently, providing a major-caliber pistol is used and the subject is not wearing body armor, according to Cooper.

Cooper said “However, simply chanting ‘two in the body, one in the head’ oversimplifies matters, since it takes considerably longer to be absolutely sure of a head shot than it does to be quite sure of two shots in the thorax. The problem for the shooter is to change his pace, going just as fast as he can with his first pair, then, pausing to observe results or lack thereof, he must slow down and shoot precisely the head shot. This is not easy to do. The beginner tends to fire all three shots at the same speed, which is either too slow for the body shots or too fast for the head shot. This change of pace calls for concentration and coordination which can only be developed through practice.” Some disagree with this pausing to observe results, saying that the shooter should place two shots to the chest area, then automatically and immediately shoot the head shot. Stopping to evaluate against a bad guy could use precious life-saving time for you to stop the threat. I think Cooper meant the pause to be very short and for the shooter to slow down to ensure a head shot hit.

Reset Point Advantage TIP

With this drill and others to follow, you must make quick and accurate follow-up shots. On any self-cocking handgun, when you fire a shot and release the trigger, the trigger begins to go back to its starting position in anticipation of firing the next shot. The trigger first passes to a point where it resets itself (you can usually subtly hear and feel the sear click if you focus) and then on to the end of whatever trigger cycle you have. If you completely release the trigger after the shot, as beginning shooters usually do, you have to start your trigger press all over again for the subsequent shot. Recognize that it is important to maintain contact between your trigger finger and the gun’s trigger throughout the entire firing sequence. There is a reset point advantage if the shooter (1) keeps the trigger pressed back as the gun fires (PIN the trigger) and then (2) follow (RIDE) the recoil down with the trigger finger never leaving the trigger, then (3) allowing the finger to move a little forward to just reach the gun’s reset point, and then (4) fire the follow-up shot immediately. This follow-through fundamental allows a much more smooth movement allowing quicker follow-up shots with little wasted effort, time, and energy. Hope this helps you. I am still practicing it.

Mozambique Stages:

Range: 3 yards to start (progress to 5, 7, and 10 yards after success)
Target: 1 IPSC or IDPA target (I may use a 9″ paper plate for body target and 4″x 5″ index card for head)
Start position: Facing target; hands at sides; handgun concealed in holster
Rounds fired: 3 rounds to target (2 body shots and then 1 head shot)

Goal: Complete drill accurately with time not a major factor on head shot; draw and rapid fire 2 body shots and 1 head shot slow fire in 4 seconds. Any string with less than all 3 hits in designated areas is a fail.

1. At the start signal, draw from concealment and rapidly fire two rounds at body center mass target, briefly pause to assess threats, and then one shot at head target, between eyes and top of upper lip OR on head target.

2.  There should be 3 hits on the appropriate center mass and head targets for success.

3.  Move from 3 yards to 5, 7, and 10 yards as success is met at each level.

Drill #2: EL PRESIDENTE DRILL (1977)

Back to 3 Targets – Turn & Shoot Each Target Twice – Reload – Shoot Each Twice Again.

Cooper also invented this classic drill while training the protection squad for the president of a South American country. The drill uses three targets. The shooter starts by facing away from the targets. On the signal to start, the shooter turns and shoots each target twice, then performs a reload, and shoots each target twice again. The shooter’s performance is scored by taking account of both the number of hits and the time taken to achieve those hits. This drill is a good opportunity to practice the various types of reloads. You can practice your combat/slide lock reload with your empty mag falling to the ground or you can practice your administrative or tactical reload with retention where you put your partially-spent mag in your pocket and load your gun to its full capacity. Practicing this helps with your dexterity and motor skills.

El Presidente Stages:

Range: 10 yards (variation = 7 yards)
Target: 3 IPSC or IDPA targets spaced 1yard apart from each other shoulder to shoulder
Start position: Back to targets; hands above shoulders (“surrender position”); handgun concealed
Rounds fired: 12

Goal: Complete drill in 10 seconds with all A-Zone hits. Any string with less than 12 A-Zone hits is a fail. 

Note: For all timed drills, free shot-timer Apps for smart phones are available, e.g. SureFire Shot Timer for iPhone, IPSC Shot Timer for Android, or you can buy hardware like the Pocket Pro or CED7000 timers.

1. At the start signal, turn, then draw from concealment and fire two rounds at each of the three targets.

2. Perform a reload, then fire two rounds at each target again.

3. There should be four hits on each target for a total of twelve hits.

Drill #3: BILL DRILL (Bill Wilson)

Face Target – Fire 6 shots quickly – Only A Zone Hits Count.

The target for the drill may be a standard International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) target or an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) target. Only hits in the “A” Zone count (Down 0 Zone in IDPA) for this drill. The “A” Zone on an IPSC target measures 6 x 11 inches. The center body ring (Down 0) on an IDPA target is about a 9″ circle, with the head ring (Down 0) being about 6 x 6 inches. So you can make an IPSC or IDPA target “A” Zone (Down 0) target yourself. I use a 9″ paper plate for the body target and 4″x 5″ index card for the head target. You can also use a regular white sheet of paper and measure 6 x 11 or the other dimensions and then cut that target out and staple it to a cardboard backing.

This seemingly simple drill teaches you to develop a smooth trigger pull because if you jerk your trigger you are  not going to get all 6 shots on the target. It teaches you how to manage recoil and also how to track your sights.

Practice this drill often because in a real life encounter, where deadly force is justified, you probably will be doing this drill, i.e. drawing your gun fast and firing multiple shots quickly. If you can fire quick and accurate shots in practice, then hopefully you can do it when it really counts.

Bill Drill Stages:

Range: 7 yards
Target: 1 IPSC or IDPA target or 1 target clearly marked with A Zone and/or Down 0 Zones
Start position: Facing target; hands at sides; handgun concealed
Rounds fired: 6

Goal: Draw and fire 6 shots as quickly as possible while getting all 6 shots in the A Zone or Down 0 Zones target. Complete the drill in under 8 seconds with all A-Zone hits. Any string with less than 6 A-Zone hits is a fail.

TIP: Start off slowly taking your time for the first few times to get all 6 hits in the A Zone. Then challenge yourself by setting your goal at 7 seconds or better and/or changing distances. 

1. At the start signal, draw from concealment and fire 6 rounds quickly at the target.

2. Try to get all 6 shots in the A Zone or Down 0 Zone.

Drill #4: COL BEN’S 44 DRILL

Face Target – Fire 4 shots in 4 Seconds – Only Index Card Hits Count.

The target for the drill is a standard 4″ x 5″ index card. Only hits on the card count for this drill. This simple drill teaches you to develop a smooth trigger pull, how to manage recoil, how to follow your sights, and how to use the Flash Sight Picture (FSP) Technique (look at target, bring gun to eye level and then Front Sight ONLY Focus– see my 10-29-12 article about this technique.) IMPORTANT: Do NOT use the FSP Technique in an actual deadly-force encounter BEFORE you regularly practice it and become proficient with it, or you might get yourself killed. Practice this drill often because in a real life encounter you probably will be doing this. If you can fire quick and accurate shots in practice, then hopefully you can do it when it really counts.

Col Ben Drill Stages:

Range: 4 yards
Target: 1 4″ x 5″ Index Card
Start position: Facing target; hands at sides; handgun concealed
Rounds fired: 4

Goal: Draw and fire 4 shots as quickly as possible while getting all 4 shots on the index card. Complete the drill in 4 seconds with all hits on the card. Any string with less than 4 index card hits is a fail.

TIP: Start off slowly taking your time for the first few times to get all 4 hits on the card at 4 yards. Or you can start at 3 yards at first with 4 hits in 5 seconds. Then challenge yourself by setting your goal at 4 seconds with 4 hits at 3 yards and then moving to 4 yards with a 4-second goal. 

1. At the start signal, draw from concealment and fire 4 rounds quickly (front sight only focus) at the target.

2. Try to get all 4 shots on the 4″ index card in 4 seconds at 4 yards. 

Drill #5: COL BEN’S 5-SHOT TOUCH GROUP DRILL

Face Target – Fire 5 shots that All Touch Each Other.

The target for the drill is a standard 9″ paper plate. Only hits that touch each other count for this drill and there must be 5 shots that touch for each string. This drill teaches you to develop a smooth trigger pull, how to manage recoil, how to shoot accurately with both the strong and the support hand, how to follow your sights, and how to use the Flash Sight Picture Technique (look at target, bring gun to eye level and then Front Sight ONLY Focus– see my 10-29-12 article about this technique.) This drill emphasizes accuracy rather than speed, since all 5 shots are not timed and are slow fired.

5-Shot Touch Group Drill Stages:

Range: 5 yards
Target: 1 9″ Paper Plate
Start position: Facing target; hands at sides; handgun concealed
Rounds fired: 5

Goal: Draw and fire (or fire from the low-ready position) 5 shots while getting all 5 shots to touch on the target or to come within 4 inches of each other (4-inch group), using a two-hand and one-hand grip or slow fire or rapid fire as specified for the stage. Complete the drill without regard to time, emphasizing accuracy. Your first shot is your starting reference point for the following 4 shots. Any string where the 5 rounds do not touch or come within a 4-inch group is a fail. You can shoot four 5-Shot groups for a total of 20 rounds fired and try to improve on each group of 5 that is fired.

1. At the start signal, draw from concealment and slow fire the first shot with two hands, aiming for center mass. Then use the first hit as a reference point for the other 4 shots that follow. Try to touch the first hit with your next shots and all the others that follow. The next 4 shots must touch the first shot fired or come within a 4″ radius of the first shot.

2. Fire two shots rapid fire at the previous bullet hole on the target using a two-hands grip.

3. Fire one shot slow fire from the low-ready position, using your strong-hand ONLY. It must touch the three shots fired earlier.

4. Fire the last shot slow fire from the low-ready position, using your support-hand ONLY. It must touch the four previous shots.

5. Try to get ALL 5 shots to touch in the center of the 9″ target at 5 yards. 

NOTE: The Low-Ready Position is the most common ready position for practical shooting. It is especially useful when facing a potential target or threat in front of you and is a fast ready position to move from to a shooting position.

5 Shot Touch Group DRILL - Hits

The above target shows 4 separate five-shot groups fired from a pistol at a distance of 15 feet.  Note that only two groups (#1 and #2 indicated by arrows) of the 4 groups meet the Drill Goal, since they are the only ones with all 5 shots touching or within 4 inches. This is a real challenge that requires considerable practice, so be patient, practice regularly, and don’t get discouraged. Your real immediate Shooting Goal, especially if you are a new shooter, is to know and apply the shooting fundamentals, rather than to initially be highly accurate and shoot fast. For any shooter this accuracy and speed come with time and practice. Aim for accuracy first, then train for speed.

When I do this drill with inexperienced students, I generally start them at a distance of 3 yards or 9 feet from the target. Then I graduate them out to 4 yards, then to 5 or 7 yards. Experienced shooters should be successful with about half of their shots touching or within a 3″ group from about 4 yards or more. For more challenges as your learning curve improves, add Stage #6 where you shoot this drill advancing on your target from a distance of 15 feet and Stage #7 shooting it retreating from your target at 4 yards.

ABOVE ALL, BE SAFE when practicing this drill (and ALL drills) and make certain you are ready for the advanced  stages!  Consider timing yourself for more of a challenge. Also, you might add speed reloads between every other 5-shot group for more of a challenge. It’s very challenging to meet the goal at this distance for most, so do not get discouraged. This is a great simple drill for a quick practice or for fun competition with friends. The shooter with the closest touching shots or smallest group in the 5-shot group after the stages is the “Winner.”

SAFETY is the Most Important Part of ANY Drill

Remember, SAFETY always comes first when handling and shooting a firearm. Also, recognize that most gun negligent discharges happen when drawing and re-holstering the handgun. So be very careful when you practice these drills or any drill or firearms technique. Start slow and do not rush the steps and shots. Let me repeat that… do NOT rush. At first, it is best to go slow and deliberate focusing on mastering the draw steps, techniques and fundamentals and then getting accurate target hits. Don’t get discouraged when you start to practice. Just like with anything new in life or something you really want to master, you must thoroughly know the foundations and fundamentals aspects FIRST. The basics are practiced over and over again when you begin. Then as you develop the skills, refine your techniques and basics and have genuine safety awareness, practice for speed as well as accuracy. All of these are important, but to me ACCURACY is key, with speed next, after mastering the fundamentals. It is also best to get regular practice presenting your particular handgun from your particular Concealed Carry Holster to practice draw strokes and clearing your handgun from the holster. Again, start slow and deliberate so the proper muscle memory basics can be ingrained. However for safety concerns, I recommend that initially you begin these drills starting from the Low-Ready Position with the handgun pointed to the ground at a 45 degree angle in front of you. Then carefully move to drawing from your concealed carry holster.

CAUTION: Please do NOT attempt any of these drills, tips, or suggestions unless you are an experienced shooter, regularly practice them successfully, and you meet ALL of the following criteria:

1. Knowledge of Handguns SAFETY and the NRA’s gun Safety Rules;

2. Knowledge, familiarity & respect for RANGE SAFETY Rules & Procedures;

3. Previous HANDGUNS TRAINING & EXPERIENCE;

4. Training & experience in DRAWING a loaded gun from a holster & re-holstering a loaded gun;

5. Experience in GUN HANDLING SKILLS & in the major FUNDAMENTALS of operating & using a handgun; &

6. LEGALLY able to own a handgun in your country, state and jurisdiction.

Continued Success!

NOTE: This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2015 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For information, contact Col Ben Findley, [email protected].

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  • Randy

    Excellent article, Ben, with some great drills and advice. Thank you. I’d like to try them, but here’s the problem:

    Maybe it was meant to be just a legal disclaimer, but the end of the article is a bit discouraging. I don’t consider myself to be an expert shooter, but not a newbe either. Does that mean I should not attempt any of the drills? Another bit of uncertainty arises where you write, “Please do NOT attempt any of these drills, tips, or suggestions unless
    you… regularly practice them successfully….”

    Any suggestions on how I might better understand that last part of your otherwise very helpful article?

    • Col Ben

      Thank you Randy for your nice comments and for the interesting & provocative question. I like to focus on the content of articles, but realize we must address the complex and personal circumferential matters. Please know sincerely that I did not intend to discourage or disparage you or anyone from trying the drills by my criteria at the end. Sadly, today we are a very
      litigious society and people can and do sue others at anytime for any reason and do so frequently. It is terrible for someone giving of their time, opinions, and efforts with a sincere motivation to just help folks to have to even be concerned about legal matters and actions. However, it is a fact of contemporary life, so disclaimers are prudent. Folks can hurt themselves and others by participating in any well-intentioned practice drill. Giving opinions about drills that work for oneself with a given level of experience may not be interpreted and implemented properly by others with their particular level of experience, because we all behave in a way that makes sense to ourselves. One’s understanding of their “expert” or “newbie” level may be
      entirely different than another’s. Sometimes we do not know what we don’t know, if you understand what I am trying to say. Realities and skills differ among us and some may not realize their limitations. So, there is a significant window of chance for folks to injure themselves or worse and place blame on another. A caution reminder is appropriate.

      To me “experienced” shooter means that the individual regularly practices with their handgun so that they are very familiar with it and can operate it and use it safely and properly as intended by the manufacturer… and that the 6 criteria I listed about knowing the safety & range rules, knowing how to properly draw a handgun from concealment and a holster, knowing the legal regulations and responsibilities for their unique jurisdiction and state, and having gun-handling skills
      developed from proper training and practice, etc. exist. I guess we can never have too much gun-handling training experience or practice skills for the dynamic, rather than static, environment we are in. That is why I try to attend at least one gun handling experience or training class a year. I have a lot to learn and recognize that. Continued success and safety to you!

      • Randy

        Thanks, Ben. I appreciate your response and clarification.

        • Col Ben

          Sure. Say the Ball and Dummy Drill is useful for getting rid of a flinch. So just load a magazine with a combination of live ammo and dummy ammo. When you try to fire the dummy round (thinking it’s a live round), you’ll see the muzzle dip slightly (or more). That’s the flinch, or anticipation. You will work on your concentration to make sure you don’t yank or jerk the trigger the next time a dummy round comes
          up, and as a result, you’ll be pressing the trigger better, have better follow
          through, and your groups will shrink significantly. This has helped me and hopefully you and others. Success!

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