Low skilled people continue to whine about standards drills as not being realistic, tactically relevant, or being a “circus trick.” What they’re really doing is attempting to conceal lack of skill, either their own or others. Rather than blame a lack of fundamental skill for a poor result, it’s easier to blame the evaluation for the poor showing. The fact that such a test is known in advance only serves to make it easier.

The classic El Presidente drill is routinely cited as an example. When Jeff Cooper first released it he stated it was a “nerve exercise, not a tactical simulation.” It is a simple course for evaluating useful, fundamental skills; nothing else. It’s the sort of thing to set up every so often to measure basic skills. Shoot it once or twice, get a sense if fundamentals are improving (or at least being maintained), and shelve it for later. When used at a competitive event, it’s shot once and usually cold. Skilled shooters don’t perform “El Presidente drills” and repeat this endlessly. In fact, doing so is indicative of a novice wasting ammo because he doesn’t know how to actually train for improved skill.

Claiming to be ready for an uncontrolled, unknown, and unknowable situation in the real world, yet failing on a controlled, known-in-advance test with established and reasonable performance metrics demonstrates a delusional mindset. Note, “failing” does NOT mean losing a match. A match-winning score is not required, just a competent performance.

The El Presidente’s suggested ten second par time with centered hits is a speed-of-life evaluation of fundamental shooting skills. To pull it off, you’ll need the ability to get center chest hits on multiple targets while shooting ten shots in about five seconds, present from a holster to properly-placed shot in about two seconds, and reload in about three. This is a level of performance even ardent anti-competition instructors suggest is useful. It certainly falls within the capabilities recommended by Tom Givens and used by his 60+ (and counting) students during their successful defensive firearm use.

It’s not a “fail” if a few shots are off center or the elapsed time varies by a second or so. It is a fail if shots consistently miss center chest (or the entire silhouette…) or the par time is grossly missed. It’s even worse if the shooter consistently fails to demonstrate progress towards reaching this minimal performance, especially when the poor results are accompanied by excuses because the test isn’t “realistic” or similar whining drivel.

A drill like this is similar to taking a physical fitness test, serving as a simple assessment of current capability. Pull ups, push ups, 2-3 mile run, etc. are also not realistic tactical assessments but testing on them periodically indicates physical wellness. Strong, fit people that don’t like running or high rep endurance exercises have no problem scoring well on – or at least can easily pass – a PT test with minimal preparation, even if the test isn’t “realistic.” Reasonably-skilled pistol shooters, including those only interested in defensive use, have no problem making par on El Presidente.

True, this can become a “circus trick.”

Jake Di Vita 3.02 El Presidente

Nick Saiti 0.51 Reload

However, no competition shooter, even those running drills like this as a circus trick, does so to prepare for a match or anything else. This myth stems from low-level shooters being oblivious to how competitive shooters actually train. A stunt performed as such is done so only for amusement or to show off.

Of course, it is impossible to be capable of performing such a “circus trick” without a high level of fundamental capability. There would be nothing to show off if essential skills/abilities weren’t well developed. Ever see a circus strong man that was weak? A trapeze artist that was unathletic? An uncoordinated juggler? Anyone good enough to perform a circus trick had to first develop a high level of fundamental capability. And that high level of fundamental capability carries over to anywhere such capability is useful.

Travis Tomasie El Presidente demo

Forward to 2:54. Even in slow motion, he is performing this in about nine seconds. It is incredibly stupid to suggest that a skilled competitor using Production equipment that can beat this suggested par result while moving at less than half his normal speed would somehow be incapable of performing well with street or issue gear just like you carry.

Fat, weak people decry standard PT tests for the same reason poor shooters decry standard shooting drills. Both kinds of standards reveal truths they don’t want to acknowledge.