Combat pistol shooting

Combat pistol shooting

Combat pistol shooting is a modern martial art that focuses on the use of the handgun as a defensive weapon for self defense, or for military and police use.[1] Like most martial arts, combat pistol shooting is practiced both for defense and for sport.

Many of the action shooting disciplines are based on combat pistol techniques, and take the form of simulations of defensive or combat situations.



Combat pistol shooting, as separate from target shooting, began to evolve in the early 1900s. William E. Fairbairn and later Rex Applegate enumerated many of the early combat pistol practices developed during their training of Office of Strategic Services and British Commando troops in World War II.[2] These techniques live on in modern point shooting techniques.[2] Jeff Cooper was instrumental in establishing both a combat pistol based sport, International Practical Shooting Confederation, and a combat pistol training school, Gunsite.[3][4] Cooper's methodology has become known as "The Modern Technique". The methods promoted by Applegate and Cooper differ in many respects, and to this day there are arguments between supporters of the different methodologies.[2]

Combat pistol drills

El Presidente

One combat pistol drill is the El Presidente drill, developed by Jeff Cooper in the 1970s and published in the January/February 1979 issue of American Handgunner magazine.[5] This is used as a benchmark to gauge a shooter's skills, as it tests the draw and reload, and requires good transitions and follow-through.[6] The El Presidente drill is set up as follows:

  • Three silhouette targets are placed 1 meter apart in a line 10 meters from the shooter
  • The shooter starts with six rounds in a holstered handgun, and a spare magazine or speedloader with another six rounds
  • The shooter begins facing directly away from the targets, often with hands clasped in front or over the head.
  • Upon the starting signal, the shooter turns and draws, fires two shots at each target, reloads, then fires two more shots at each target.

Scoring varies; the simplest method uses hit/miss scoring, with a time penalty (often 10 seconds) for each miss. El Presidentes scored under the IPSC Comstock system take the total number of points on the targets (possible 60 points) and divide that by the time taken to complete the drill. This generates a number called "hit factor" which is a numerical representation of how many points the shooter placed on target per second during the drill. Example: shooting 55 points in 5.5 seconds would give the shooter a 10.0 hit factor. Originally a time of 10 seconds with a stock handgun, and all the points on target, was considered good. Today shooters using modern IPSC raceguns with muzzle brakes and red dot sights are close to breaking the three second barrier, and even shooters using production guns with no muzzle brakes or optical sights routinely break the five second mark.[6]

The Dozier Drill

This drill was invented by Jeff Cooper after the kidnap of Brigadier General James L. Dozier by Italian Red Brigade terrorists. The terrorists had entered General Dozier's apartment by posing as plumbers. As many as eight completed the gang and four or perhaps five entered the apartment. One of the terrorists removed a submachinegun from his bag of tools while another terrorist read a political statement to General Dozier. At that time, US military personnel were prohibited by Italian law from carrying firearms within their areas of accommodation, which were within the local community and not on US bases. General Dozier was unarmed and unable to defend himself. In response to this incident, Jeff Cooper designed the "Dozier drill".[7]

The range is set with five metal silhouette targets which are hinged at their base (called 'Pepper Poppers') so as to fall backwards when struck. A second participant stands well to one side and is tasked with retrieving a pistol and a magazine from a toolbag, which he must assemble and ready for action. This action mimics the terrorist who retrieved his submachine gun from his toolbag and provides a datum against which the shooter must compare his performance. On the signal, the shooter must draw his pistol and engage the five targets, representing the five terrorists, before the participant representing the terrorist retrieves his pistol and readies it for use.[7]

Malfunction clearing drills

When engaged in combat shooting, sometimes cartridges do not feed into the chamber properly. These jams must be cleared quickly so that firing can be resumed. There are variations of malfunction drills, including the two most often required in competition: the Tap, Rack & Fire, the and magazine strip, rack, rack, rack, new magazine insertion, rack, and fire.[1]

See also


  • Ayoob, Massad (2007). The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery. Gun Digest Books. ISBN 9780896895256. 
  • Lesce, Tony (1990). Police Products Handbook. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 9780136847397. 
  • Pfarrer, Chuck (2004). Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal. Random House. pp. 324–327. ISBN 9780891418634. 
  • Patrick Sweeney (2006). The Gun Digest Book Of The 1911: A Complete Look At The Use, Care & Repair of the 1911 Pistol. Gun Digest. ISBN 0896892697. </ref


  1. ^ a b Pharrer (2004) pp. 324–327
  2. ^ a b c Ayoob(2007) pp.90-91
  3. ^ Ayoob(2007) p.67
  4. ^ Cooper, Jeff. Principles of Personal Defense. Paladin Press. ISBN 978-0873644976. 
  5. ^ Cooper, Jeff (1979). "El Presidente". American Handgunner 24 (1): 22. 
  6. ^ a b Sweeney(2006)p.78
  7. ^ a b Ordorica, Ray (1996). Handguns '97. Iola: Krause Publications. ISBN 9780873491846. 

External links

  • USPSA, United States Practical Shooting Association
  • IDPA International Defensive Pistol Association
  • IPSC Classifier CM 99-11, El Presidente, setup and scoring sheet
  • Rob Leatham discusses IPSC El Presidente times and strategy

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