Mozambique Drill: Still Relevant, or Old Shooting News?

Odds are you’re familiar with the Mozambique Drill. It’s a drill, typically seen as a handgun-specific drill, that involves firing two shots at center mass and one to the head box. As time has passed, a lot of other drills have come along that seem more relevant or useful, and as a result, the Mozambique Drill isn’t relied upon as much as it once was. What’s the difference between the Mozambique Drill and the Failure Drill? Is the Mozambique Drill still useful, or is it well past its expiration date? We think it still has its uses, and we’re going to explain why you should occasionally include it in your live fire practice.

mozambique drill target
The drill can be broken down rather simply: two shots to center mass, one to the head box. (Photo credit: GunMag Warehouse)

What Is the Mozambique Drill?

The drill has its roots in the late 1960s era when the Mozambican War of Independence took place. It was a brutal war and the American military and mercenary presence there found themselves facing Moro warriors who took opioids to make themselves tougher in battle. This approach worked because they didn’t notice the pain nearly as much as they might otherwise, among other things. As a result, there were a lot of issues with shots fired having little to no effect, at least not fast enough to stop the Moro from injuring or killing the soldier or mercenary before finally slowing down.

One such combat moment took place when a mercenary named Mike Rousseau was involved in a firefight in an airport. Rousseau, who had a Browning Hi-Power, found himself facing an adversary armed with an AK-47. He fired two quick shots at the rifle-wielding man’s chest, and nothing happened. Not only did the injured man keep standing but he held onto his rifle and kept coming. Rousseau had already lowered his handgun, but upon seeing the lack of results from shots fired, he raised the gun again. The third shot impacted his attacker in the neck rather than the head, which was certainly effective. According to Rousseau, he’d been aiming for a headshot.

Eventually, Rousseau met the late Col. Jeff Cooper and relayed his experience. The men ended up deciding it made a good shooting drill, and Cooper is credited with calling it the Mozambique Drill, named after the location at which it originally occurred.

shooting the kimber amethyst
Handgun drills are a fantastic way to hone your defensive shooting skills. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Mozambique Drill vs. Failure Drill

You may have heard of the Failure Drill, or maybe Failure to Stop Drill, and wondered how they differ from the Mozambique Drill. In reality, there’s no difference. A SWAT officer with the LAPD visited Gunsite Academy back in 1980 and thought the Mozambique Drill would come in handy for law enforcement training, but he wanted to change the name. Cooper gave his blessing and it became the Failure Drill. Ever so often you’ll also hear someone refer to it as the Body Armor Drill or Drug Drill, referring to the fact that the drill takes into account potential armor or a drug-crazed attacker who is unlikely to be stopped by center mass hits alone. Whatever the name, the drill remains the same.

smith and wesson revolver
Much like revolvers, the Mozambique Drill has been around for a while, but it’s still relevant to modern training. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Is the Mozambique Drill still relevant?

A question that comes up rather often is whether the drill remains relevant even though it’s been around for more than half a century. The short answer is yes, and the longer answer involves exactly why it still matters.

The Mozambique Drill can be done from the holster or low ready. The shooter must rapidly fire two shots at the target’s center mass, which is typically approximately an eight-inch space, then transition upward for the single head shot. Successful drills don’t only involve shots on paper, they involve more precise hits…fast. For example, a head shot that’s technically part of the head but is actually way off to one side isn’t going to be seen as ideal. Effective head shots are made in a specific zone in a narrow space that includes the bridge of the nose. What this drill does is teaches speed and accuracy on target along with smooth transitions.

When you’re experiencing an adrenaline dump, it can be a great deal more challenging to make precision hits. Center mass shots are going to be far easier to land on a moving, unpredictable target than a head shot. Making those two first shots center mass is smart tactically, and following up with a head shot to neutralize the threat is also smart. Hopefully, a threat will be affected by center-mass hits, but that isn’t always going to be the case. Having the practice time in working on multiple shots fired in different zones is a good idea for more thorough defensive training. This drill can also be done with moving targets for an added layer of difficulty.

The bottom line is that the reason this drill remains relevant is that it teaches speed and precision along with effective hits capable of stopping a threat. It can be fine-tuned or altered to suit different skill levels, such as changing the distance at which it’s done or the speed at which shots are fired. But the basics remain the same. Sometimes simple is best, and the Mozambique is a neatly straight-forward drill.

shooting drill target
The drill is typically done with standard targets, but you can do it with targets that clearly show effective zones, too. (Photo credit: Thompson Targets)

How To Make the Mozambique Drill Harder

There are quite a few ways you can make the drill a bit more challenging, such as:

  • Move from the close-up three-yard distance out to five, seven, or even 10 yards.
  • Use a shot timer to work your total time from draw stroke to head shot under three seconds.
  • Run the drill shooting one-handed with your strong-side hand.
  • Run the drill using your support hand alone.
  • Try using different firearms.
  • Change the number of shots fired to a greater number without sacrificing too much time.
  • Use a moving target.
  • Make the hits in even smaller zones.
  • Run the drill as a transition from rifle to handgun.

However you do it, it’s a good idea to make the Mozambique Drill part of your training repertoire. The skills it teaches remain relevant and likely will for quite some time. And remember, although it’s nice to be impressively fast, it’s better to be safe. Start slowly and master the basics before attempting to ramp up speed, and don’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t want to sacrifice safety or precision and it’s worth the time and effort to clean the Mozambique at incredible speeds or greater distances. This is a real-life applicable skill. Your life and the lives of your loved ones are worth the training time.

Do you do the Mozambique Drill/Failure Drill? Think it’s no longer relevant to modern-day shooters? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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