Get Back to Basics: El Presidente Shooting Drill

Setting up the three targets is simple.  One meter between each one.  Shooter stands 10 meters from the center target.

This week, we are diving into Friday with a classic pistol drill, the notorious El Presidente. Usually attributed to Jeff Cooper as the creator, this is one you need to master if you want to hang with the cool kids.

The set up is simple. Three threat targets are placed one meter apart (I wish I had double checked that before the video portion of this column), 10 meters from the shooter. The shooter faces up range. On the buzzer, the shooter turns to engage each target with two rounds; then releases the mag, reloads, and engages each target with two rounds once more. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Why is this a staple of pistol training? One good reason, it is a pretty decent test of many skills. You must acquire targets, draw from concealment, and reload. There is much to evaluate for the price of only 12 rounds.

Plus, it does not require a lot of real estate.  Meaning that almost any shooting area will work.  And the standard par time is 10 seconds, which is not as easy as it looks when you are wet behind the ears.

Concealed Carry

My usual winter concealed carry setup. Springfield XD-E, Crossbreed Holster, SIG Sauer V-Crown ammunition.

If you are a competitive shooter, it goes without saying you need to do this drill. It is a standard for both USPSA and IDPA, and I am sure other organizations.

What about the rest of you though? Does this drill still make sense for the tactical crowd with their double-stack duty guns?

Probably not so much. The El Prez was dreamed up when an eight-round 1911 was the gold standard of combat handguns, and it shows.

If you carry a modern, full-sized striker gun it doesn’t make sense to expend one-third of your 17-round magazine and reload to a new one.  Changing horses in midstream, so to speak, when the threat is still standing in front of you is a good way to get shot. You guys in California and New York with limited capacity mags can ignore that last bit.

Action Target’s new paper models were used for the El Prez drill.

One place El Prez still makes sense, at least for me, is with my concealed carry gun. I am currently carrying a Springfield Armory XD-E, which puts me in single stackland. While there is a low chance of needing to take out three perps in succession, it’s a solid drill for all the aforementioned reasons.

And the added bonus of trying to hit that 10-second mark from concealment gives the drill new life.

If you are heading to the range this weekend, don’t forget the pro timer. If nothing else, a cold run of El Prez should reveal your weaknesses while also giving you an opportunity to fix em.

El Prez isn’t just for pistols. Rifles work too.

Buy on XD-E on GunsAmerica.
Pick up a new target from Action Target.
Check out SIG’s V-Crown Ammo.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Hutch December 31, 2017, 6:30 pm

    What was the knife you have? That went so fast I couldn’t catch it.

  • Tatt2Jack December 30, 2017, 5:46 pm

    In IDPA the reload is from Slide Lock which adds to the time. The Shooter NEEDS to watch when the gun leaves the holster, as they turn, and not break the 180°, which is really easy to do.

  • Steve wojtak December 29, 2017, 5:48 pm

    Instead of a real pistol, you can use the new CO2 pellet or B.B. guns with the blowback action. You can practice in the back yard or even in the house.

    • zenmonger December 30, 2017, 4:13 pm

      You’ll put your eye out with that thing.

  • Bobs yer uncle December 29, 2017, 1:05 pm

    How hard could that be? harder than it looks, in my case my Glock mags don’t just drop away, they need to be pulled out unless fully loaded and something I would never have thought about. Not the kind of thing you want to find out as the s— is hitting the fan, so to speak

    • Steve wojtak December 29, 2017, 5:46 pm

      The old mags don’t drop but the new ones with the square notch at the top of the mag usually do.

    • Wil Drider December 29, 2017, 11:34 pm

      You need to get better Glock Mags. Some mags with the rounded notch at the top rear bulge just enough to bind under ammo/spring pressure. These mags are still good as a single backup mag or range time. I have not had that problem with Glock mags with the square cut notch at the top rear. Mags could also bind on the mag catch. I’ve seen one that a empty mag was binding in the grip. This should be sent back to Glock to be fixed. For info purposes: A mag wrapped with a single layer of very fine wet/dry sand paper was inserted/removed about 10 times fixed it (remove or keep the mag release depressed fully).

      • Bobs yer uncle December 31, 2017, 11:22 pm

        I got this gun in 1984, 2 of the magazines are originals and 2 are Glock brand products, loaded the mags are a really tight fit. I’ll try and see if Glock will warrant the mags but I think they are considered consumables. 2 of the six mags are defective or for another Glock 9mm.

  • SunDown December 29, 2017, 12:08 pm

    Ho Ho Holy second helping of turkey and mashed taters…Im with ya.

  • Allen Alexander December 29, 2017, 9:57 am

    Judging from the picture of Clay with his rifle, Santa is going to have to bring (or loan) Clay a new vbelt for Christmas. I know, I have heard it before Clay, it all turns to dck, but we all know better. Good shooting, just have to raz you about the gut, loose it while you are still young. When you pass sixty like me, everything in life is harder.

  • UncleNat December 29, 2017, 9:36 am

    Nice shooting–appreciate your work. I always learn something.

  • Jason Rivard December 29, 2017, 6:21 am

    Its fun with a revolver too…that 10 seconds becomes quite the feat, unless your Jerry M.

  • Roger J December 29, 2017, 6:14 am

    I did this at Gunsite a few years ago. The targets they use look like camo so you don’t have a clear center mass target aim point. Sixty is a perfect score in 10 seconds. Minus 5 for each second over 10 and +5 for each second under 10. Forty was considered a decent score.

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