The Box Fed Shotgun El Presidente Drill — Take It To The Limit

There has been a sharp rise in the availability of shotguns that feed from box magazines. Some love them, some hate them, but either way, they are here to stay. With the sudden rise in popularity, I’ve been thinking about the different avenues, manual of arms, and training methodology to utilize box mag fed shotguns. One of the first ideas I had was to adopt the classic El Presidente drill to make a box mag fed El Pres. 

The El Presidente Drill and Its Origins 

The El Pres, or El Presidente Drill, comes from Colonel Jeff Cooper. Cooper pioneered firearms training with a focus on the defensive pistol. He helped popularize modern shooting styles, which evolved and changed over time. The El Presidente Drill first saw the light of day in a 1979 issue of American Handgunner magazine. 

The drill calls for three targets set up a yard apart or so. The shooter starts with his back turned to the targets with a holstered handgun loaded with six rounds. On the go signal, the shooter turns, engages with two rounds to the A zone of each target. The shooter then reloads and fires two more rounds into each target. The par time is ten seconds. 

12 gauge box magazines
Not a whole lot of drills for this kind of twelve gauge.

It’s an old classic, and it’s a fun little drill. It’s also very adaptable and easy to adjust to a variety of weapons. It seemed like a natural fit for the shotguns using box mags and shotguns in general.

It’s also one of my favorite shotgun drills. It’s simple but effective. Load your shotgun with six rounds. Fire two into each target. Now do three emergency port reloads, firing one final round into each target. 

It’s a great drill but doesn’t address the box-fed shotgun. Justified Defensive Concepts did the shotgun El Pres well before me, but their El Pres drill is focused around the standard, tube-fed shotgun. With a little adaptation and modification, the drill is perfect for my task. 

Adapting It To Box Fed Shotguns 

First, reloading a box mag fed shotgun is much quicker and easier to do than reloading a standard shotgun. The Justified Defensive Concepts El pres really works your ability to reload. That’s less of a concern with a magazine-fed shotgun but still a big part of the drill. 

Sentry box fed shotgun with extra magazine
Load ’em up and fire em off.

Second, hitting a man-sized torso target, even just the A-zone, is fairly easy with a shotgun. That’s why they are an outstanding choice for close-range fighting. I wanted the drill to be challenging inside of shotgun range, so I wanted a much smaller target. 

Third, shotguns use a variety of ammo types. I see this shotgun El Presidente Drill being the most realistic with buckshot, but buckshot can be pricy. It needs to be adaptable to the much cheaper and more common sporting birdshot loads. 

Finally, what is the time limit? Well, the time can be adaptable, but I stuck with Cooper’s 10 seconds as the baseline. Why mess with perfection? 

My Box Mag El Pres 

On the logistics front, this drill doesn’t require much. You’ll need your preferred mag fed shotgun. It can be a 590M, an 870DM, the VR 80, or in my case, the Sentry 12 from Ironhorse Firearms. You’ll need two magazines and a way to carry an extra magazine. Make sure you bring six rounds of ammo per run. 

shooting el presidente drill with Sentry box fed magazine
Blasting away with this drill is fun and a challenge

For targets, I decided on a common, dang near-universal shotgun target, the classic clay pigeon. Six of them will be necessary for each run of the drill. Clay pigeons are small and a bit more challenging than an A Zone. Plus, I can place the clay pigeons at unpredictable locations, and it changes the drill entirely. 

You’ll need at least ten yards, preferably fifteen. Don’t forget your shot timer and your eyes and ears

el presidente drill with box fed shotgun, required gear
The logistics are pretty light.

Set up your clay pigeons on the berm any way you want. I kept it simple for my first run and simply made two rows of three with a yard or so between each. For the next few runs, I mixed thins up. I made two triangles, a rectangle and a big circle. The clay pigeons are cheap and make it easy to keep the drill dynamic and challenging. 

Start with your back to the targets. At the timer, turn and fire three rounds, one per clay pigeon. When the gun runs empty, reload and fire the final three at the remaining clay pigeons. Do it all in under ten seconds.

Scattergun Skills 

The drill can be tricky and even 10 seconds feels tight with the small targets. I went the pump gun route, and obviously, a semi-auto offers faster follow-up shots and likely less felt recoil. This drill has you transitioning between six different small targets, and if you are zeroed in or you don’t know how your gun patterns, you’ll miss. 

clay pigeon arrangement for el presidente drill with box fed shotgun
This is a simple arrangement, and the clays can be arranged anyway you want.

It’s a drill that mixes speed and accuracy with tons of transitions and leans into what shotguns work best at. Shotguns with buckshot offer you fight-stopping power that excels for quick and easy transitions between multiple targets. Plus, you have to reload, and reloading with box mag shotguns is still a vital skill to have. 

Especially since they are only rifle-like to a point, there isn’t a universal manual of arms for these guns. Some mags drop free, and some don’t. Some magazines rock into place. Others slap right in. Mag releases are different for most guns, and it’s a learning experience. 

box fed shotgun mag drop
Let the bodies hit the floor.

With this version of the El Pres, you’ll be forced to learn under time constraints with a little extra stress. You’ll receive a little stress inoculation along the way and find yourself getting faster and more competent with your box mag fed shotgun.

Running Hot 

There we are, better trained and ready to employ your likely unique scattergun. I can’t say if box mag shotguns will ever go further than they have now. They certainly have weaknesses, but they also present a number of advantages, especially those moving from the rifle to the shotgun. Like any firearm, they require plenty of training to be proficient, but unlike most firearms, there isn’t a lot of dedicated training or drill for them. Hopefully, we’ve given you at least one. 

If you want more, or have ideas, post them below, and we’ll see about making this a regular series.