Skip to main content

The Legendary El Presidente Shooting Drill

The Legendary El Presidente Shooting Drill
Jeff Cooper is credited with having created the "El Presidente" shooting drill when charged with training the security detail for a South American president. It was Cooper's belief that the drill was not a tactical exercise, but rather one that gauged an developed dexterity.

The universe of handguns owners and shooters is vast, and there is a very good chance that many of you have never heard of "El Presidente", or if you've heard of it...don't know what it is. Trust me—you should get to know El Presidente.

The late Jeff Cooper is considered the dean of modern handgunning, and popularized the idea that, "Hey, maybe we should hold onto the gun with two hands." He started Gunsite (the American Pistol Institute), which for many years was the preeminent private firearms training facility in the country, if not the world. Maybe it still is, but I don't want to get involved in that argument.

Prior to starting Gunsite, Cooper was a Marine who served in the Pacific in World War II. He saw a little action, and after the war did a little work for the OSS/CIA in the same area. About fifty years or so ago Cooper was hired to train the bodyguards of the president of a Latin American country. He developed a shooting drill he named "El Presidente" to not just help train those bodyguards but measure their skill level.

The El Presidente drill requires three silhouette targets set in a line, with three yards between the targets. The shooter starts ten yards uprange from them, facing AWAY from the targets, his (or her) hands above his shoulders in a "surrender" position.


At the start signal (this is a timed drill), the shooter turns toward the targets, draws his weapon from concealment, and shoots each target twice. The shooter then performs a reload (spare magazines/speedloaders also concealed) and re-engages each target with two rounds.


While relatively simple, the El Presidente requires every skill you need if you are to be considered competent with a handgun when it comes to self-defense—the draw and a reload, both from concealment, movement (the turn), and engagement of multiple targets. Cooper considered par on this drill a perfect score in ten seconds, back when most everyone shooting it was using .45 ACP 1911s.

https://files.osgnetworks.tv/9/files/2012/08/HGelprez_080212B.jpg
Here's a look at the current USPSA classifier stage diagram of the El Presidente shooting drill.

The El Presidente is still with us. It (in slightly modified form) is still used as one of the classifiers used to test skill in the USPSA. The modern USPSA version has moved the targets closer (only three feet apart instead of three yards) and removed the concealment requirement, but no matter which version you choose to try you'll still need to master the basics of weapon manipulation.

I was recently at a new product rollout for a MAJOR ammunition manufacturer, and as part of their dog and pony show they had a well know firearms trainer put on a little demo. Since we were gunwriters, we presumably knew what we were doing, so he wasn't training us but rather showing us how he did his training. Like most firearms trainers he has convinced himself his opinions should carry the weight of gospel, and while I did learn a few things from him, I was disappointed and frankly surprised to hear him refer to the El Presidente as irrelevant.

Many trainers don't like competition shooting (for a number of reasons both right and wrong—but mostly wrong—that I don't have the space to go into here), but I think this trainer was suffering from an inability to separate his opinion of competition guns and gear from the drill itself.


Even if this trainer was ignorant of the circumstances surrounding Jeff Cooper's invention of the El Prez half a century ago, one look at the drill, and the skills that are required to master it, should prove its worth. No drill which helps you practice sight alignment and trigger control is worthless, and the El Presidente does much more than that. It was designed before there was such a thing as a "race gun", and, to be honest, will test your gear as much as it does you. You can shoot it with a tricked-out competition gun, a box-stock Glock, even a revolver. The last time I shot the El Presidente I was using my carry gun, which at the time was a SIG P226. While the drill is commonly used with USPSA cardboard silhouette targets, there's no reason you can't use any type of target you want if your goal is just to improve your skills.

The only way to become competent at shooting and weapon manipulation is practice, and that practice should include drills (live fire as well as dry fire). Sure, there are hundreds of drills out there which will help you train and attain and maintain proficiency with a weapon, but the El Presidente was the first modern "combat" drill, and it is still useful and relevant today.

 
 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Dealing with Subcompacts

Dealing with Subcompacts

Jim and Rich cover the benefits and the challenges presented by very small pistols.

Ruger Security 9 Compact

Ruger Security 9 Compact

This handgun lives up to what Ruger wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball's Headache

The Hardball's Headache pistol drill is very similar to the El Presidente drill with a higher level of difficulty due to two added twists.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a two-tone aluminum-framed model in 9mm (model # 6758). This review by James Tarr will focus on the 9mm.Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review 1911

Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review

James Tarr - May 01, 2019

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a...

The Smith & Wesson Model 13 revolver was a combat classic back in the day.Smith & Wesson Model 13 Revolver Revolvers

Smith & Wesson Model 13 Revolver

Payton Miller - July 31, 2020

The Smith & Wesson Model 13 revolver was a combat classic back in the day.

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols.10 Cheap Guns Under $250 Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

See More Trending Articles

More Training

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

An ordinary smartphone with slow-motion capability will reveal flaws in your draw stroke you didn't even know you had.Improve Your Draw Stroke Through Slow-Motion Video Training

Improve Your Draw Stroke Through Slow-Motion Video

Richard Nance - September 17, 2018

An ordinary smartphone with slow-motion capability will reveal flaws in your draw stroke you...

This is a simpler, more compact version of the Box Drill.Handgun Training: The Box Drill Training

Handgun Training: The Box Drill

J. Scott Rupp - February 11, 2019

This is a simpler, more compact version of the Box Drill.

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or from a particular gun to reacquaint themselves with the trigger. Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill Training

Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill

Eve Flanigan - July 19, 2018

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or...

See More Training

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now