Top Range Day Shooting Drills

Plinking at the range is fun, but it will only get you so far in your firearm training. It’s important to practice specific drills to help you grow as a shooter and improve your marksmanship skills. These shooting drills are primarily geared toward more tactical firearms, such as semi-autos. However, for the most part, these shooting drills can be adapted for other guns. 

Handgun Drills

Mozambique Drill

One of the most popular drills is the Mozambique, also referred to as the Failure to Stop drill. This is a standard defensive drill where the shooter places two shots in the chest and one in the head. Set up a torso target 7–10 yards. Drawing, or presenting from a low-ready position, fire two quick shots into the chest and one into the head. Repeat this process, focusing on safe handling and accuracy. As you improve, you can work on speeding things up and extending your distance. The Mozambique drill helps build basic defensive shooting skills and threat engagement tactics. 

Indoor target shooting range looking down range at targets
Shooting drills are a great way to elevate your training and improve your marksmanship skills.

El Presidente Drill

Developed by Col. Jeff Cooper, the El Presidente drill was a way to gauge overall shooter proficiency. Start by setting three targets one-yard apart. Standing 10 yards away, with your gun holstered and back turned, turn and draw simultaneously. Fire two rounds into the vital area of each target — left, center, right.

Reload (if needed) and fire two rounds into the vital areas going back over the targets — right, center, left. Aim to get 12 accurate hits in under 12 seconds. This also helps train you to engage multiple targets and transition between them while firing.

Box Drill

The Box drill is designed to test your ability to move and shoot. It will require a bit more space, but can be adapted for tighter locations. Set up four markers (cones, spare magazines, etc.) about 5 yards apart in a box formation. Beginning at the front-right corner, with both hands gripping the firearm, fire 5 rounds into the target while walking backward to the second marker.

Next, using your dominant hand only, walk to the marker (on the left), firing 5 rounds. Reload, and start walking forward to the cone with a two-handed grip, firing 5 rounds into the target. Finally, using only your support hand, fire 5 rounds as you walk to the first marker. This also helps build your multitasking skills while firing.

Rifle Drills

1-Reload-1 Drill

Prep by loading one magazine to full capacity, and one magazine with a single cartridge. Using any target of your choice, set it back about 15–20 yards. Start at the low- or high-ready position with the single-round mag inserted. Fire one round, complete a magazine change, and fire one round. Repeat until you can hit the target both times in 5 seconds or less. As your skill improves, you can stretch out farther, especially if you’re using an optic. 

This drill helps you build your reloading skills for faster magazine changes. It also trains you to more quickly recognize (by feel) when your firearm is empty and needs a reload. 

Military soldier shooter aiming ar assault rifle weapon at outdoor academy shooting range
You should practice engaging multiple targets.

Throttle Control Drill

The Throttle Control drill allows you to examine your speed, control, and accuracy skills using targets of varying sizes. Starting from 7–15 yards on a standard USPSA target, mark three circles: head (3 inches), chest (six inches), and torso (9 inches). On the timer’s beep, present the rifle and shoot the 9-inch circle three times, 6-inch three times, and 3-inch three times. Try to land all shots within the circles, as fast as possible. Depending on your skill level and whether you’re using an optic, you can stretch this out farther as you gain skill. 

VTAC 1 Through 5 Drill

The VTAC 1–5 drill focuses on transitioning between targets and shooting until the threat is neutralized. Set three USPSA/IPSC targets one-yard apart. Standing 5–10 yards away, start with the center target by firing 3 shots into the chest, 1 shot into the pelvis, and 1 shot into the head. Next, immediately transition to the left target and repeat. After that, transition to the right target and repeat. All shots should land within the designated areas. Ideally, you should be able to complete the exercise in under 8 seconds. 

Shotgun Drills

Close Quarters

The Close Quarters drill focuses on getting accurate hits on target quickly. Starting from a low-ready position, aim and fire five rounds into a target at 7 yards as quickly as possible. This is especially useful if you’re shooting a pump-action, as it will require you to properly work the action, while avoiding short stroking and causing a malfunction. Adding the pressure of a shot timer will help you prepare for the added pressures of competition or a self-defense scenario. It is important to practice a good balance of speed and accuracy, as both are required to stop a threat. 

selective focus of man holding and fire sub machine gun to target in gun shooting competition
An optic can help you speed things up and stretch things out.

Tactical Reload

Reloading a typical shotgun is more involved than a standard rifle or pistol, thus it demands specialized practice. Set up a target at 15 yards and begin at a low-ready position with the shotgun fully loaded with your standard shells. Aim and fire two shells, before transitioning to a slug by loading a slug round directly into the chamber and firing. If you fumble the reload, repeat the drill until it is smooth and natural. 

Another great method is to load one shell and fire. Then, practice reloading the firearm to capacity, chambering another shell, and firing again. This will give you more of a feel for the full reloading sequence. 

This shooting drill will build your shotgun reloading skills, both via the magazine tube and single feeding specialty rounds. Building the muscle memory required to do this without looking and under the adrenaline rush of a self-defense situation takes time and a lot of training. 

Malfunction Clearing

Practicing to clear a malfunction is important for all defensive firearms. When shooting with a buddy, stage a malfunction in each other’s shotgun (without the shooter watching). When the timer goes off, the shooter will have to clear the jam and engage the target. This works in conjunction with several shooting drills. A solid option to start with is firing five shells at 10 yards, aiming center mass. Pay close attention to your pattern at this range, as you can use it as a guideline to adjust for closer/farther shots.

Obviously, this drill tests your malfunction clearance skills and trains your ability to think under pressure. Pair this with other shooting drills to maximize its effectiveness. 

selective focus of man holding and fire shotgun in shooting range of gun shooting competition
Defensive shooting requires you to think under pressure. Adding a timer is a good way to up the stress.

Final Thoughts

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to useful shooting drills everyone should practice. Whether you’re a handgun, rifle, or shotgun shooter (or all three), the drills on this list will help enhance your training and improve your shooting skills. It is important to note, it’s not enough to simply perform these drills, you need to practice them well to build proper habits and marksmanship fundamentals. Take your time, focus, and work on building speed as it comes naturally. 

What are some of your favorite shooting drills to practice at the range? Why? Share your answers in the Comment section.

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