Self Defense Skills & Drills: The Mozambique / Failure Drill

Skills and Drills: The Mozambique / Failure Drill
Skills and Drills: The Mozambique / Failure Drill

U.S.A.-( Mozambique, failure drill, or failure to stop, is likely the most prevalent piece of training in the world.

Even before I first picked up a handgun at roughly age 11, I was familiar with this, despite not knowing the name. Two to the chest, one to the head! We hear this in television, film, and video games. Although we may not know the history or the concepts behind that phrase, nearly everyone in America can claim to have heard that line. There are many explanations as to where this came from. Some claim it came to be after the North Hollywood Shootout where officers were faced with armor-clad bank robbers. Others say it came from the world of espionage, where spies needed to quickly put down threats.

What most people agree on it isn’t quite so new or mysterious. Once we dive into history a little bit, the drill begins to make sense. In short, this drill comes to us from the height of the Mozambican War of Independence, hence the name. During one battle, mercenary Mike Rousseau, armed only with a Browning Hi Power, came face to face with an adversary wielding an AK rifle. Despite firing two rounds on 9mm into his opponent’s chest, the threat stayed vertical, with a firm grip on his rifle. Not one to be defeated, Mike re-engages, firing a single round toward the head. Years later, Mr. Rousseau relays the story to Colonel Jeff Cooper, who then later includes it in the Gunsite curriculum. From there it spread like wildfire across law enforcement, the military, and civilian defenders alike.

Setting Up the Mozambique / Failure Drill

For this drill, shooters will need a silhouette target with an 8-inch chest scoring zone and a head scoring zone. An IPSC, IDPA, or IALEFI-Q target are all excellent examples of this. This time I opted to use an IDPA torso for my target. Next, you’ll need a timer, your pistol, a holster, and three rounds in your magazine.

idpa torso Mozambique
IDPA Practice Targets are great options for the Mozambique drill.

Start by placing your target at seven yards. Ensure you have two rounds in your magazine and one in the chamber, then holster your pistol. There is no set par time for the Mozambique/Failure drill, so don’t worry about setting one. Starting position is typically hands relaxed at sides or above the shoulders in a “surrender” position. In short, put your hands where you want them to be.

Scoring the Mozambique / Failure Drill

Scoring is a little abnormal with the Mozambique/Failure drill. There is no par time, and there aren’t procedural scoring rings. Either you get your hits or you don’t. A round outside the chest or head rings counts as a miss, and a failure of the drill. Typically I see “passing” times hovering around 3 to 5 seconds, though that varies wildly depending on your source.

Focus on getting your hits, then slowly work on improving your times.

Firing the Drill

In the past, when shooting the Mozambique/Failure Drill, I never timed myself nor kept much track of hits and misses with a Shot Timing tool. More recently, I ran through the drill a few times with a variety of guns to see how they compare.

As is the tradition, I started with my own Hi Power, picking the gun up from the table as I lack a holster for this gun. After this, I made a few runs using my Glock 19 with a Holosun 509T red dot, along with a Smith & Wesson 640 Pro snubbie. Both the Glock and S&W were fired from appendix concealment. The latter two guns were chosen as they are my typical carry choices based upon the outfit and situation of the day. The Glock 19 is carried in a PHLster Pro Holster, and the 640 Pro in a JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster, supported by a Magpul Tejas belt.

Glock 19+509THi PowerS&W 640 Pro
Run 1 2.964.895.78
Run 22.705.085.32
Run 32.774.144.30

Unsurprisingly, my best performances come from the Glock. I’m most familiar with these, and the design as a whole is geared towards better performance. My times aren’t terrible, but nothing impressive either. Ammo droughts be damned. I don’t regularly shoot the Mozambique, but over the past few months, my times have remained consistent with my Glock 19 from the appendix. While there’s always room for improvement, consistency is a good sign.

Times are a bit slower with the 640 Pro, ensuring that I get a good double-action trigger press, along with proper sight alignment with the shorter sight radius. We can see I steadily improved with each repetition, but I doubt I’ll ever see comparable performance to the G19. There’s more work to be done here, and I’m sure I can cut off a bit more time with proper practice.

Training Tips: Mozambique / Failure Drill
Mozambique / Failure Drill Results

Final Thoughts on the Mozambique / Failure Drill

The Mozambique/Failure drill is a solid, low-round count drill, offering more than what most think. In only 9 rounds you can get three reps in, making for a decent average of performance. With this, we can test our draw to first shot, recoil control across all rounds, emotional and throttle control as we shift from the generous chest to the more restrictive head, target transitions, and more.

All of this is before we take the real-world implications into consideration. The cliché “two to the chest, one to the head” is an effective means of stopping a lethal threat who isn’t responsive to repeated rounds in the chest. More than one serious gunfighter has used this method to good effect, saving not only their lives but of those around them as well. For those wanting examples, I recommend checking out Darryl Bolke’s “Training Habits of Successful Gunfighters” lecture. The Mozambique worked wonders for his agency, even among officers who weren’t “gun guys”, leading to many successful officer-involved shootings across many years.

After shooting the Mozambique/Failure drill again, it’s going to make a return to my regularly scheduled programming. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you add it to your roster as well.

About Dan Reedy

Dan is an Air Force veteran, avid shooter, and dog dad. With a passion for teaching, he holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has trained with Darryl Bolke, Mike Pannone, Craig Douglas, among several other instructors, amassing over 400 hours of professional instruction thus far. In his spare time you’ll find him teaching handgun, shotgun, and less lethal classes.

Dan’s work has been published by Primer Peak, and The Kommando Blog, and he has been featured as a guest on Primary & Secondary.Dan Reedy headshot

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, Ammoland will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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Matt in Oklahoma

It helps your mindset of if this ain’t working do something else. Don’t get stuck on the X. You need immediate results.
It’s a very solid drill that requires very little to accomplish.

Wild Bill

Is Wannamacher going to have the gun show on schedule, this year?


Jesus Man were in a ammo crun9ch. Just put one in the head. Or like Joe says shoot the gun out of his hand, lol

Wild Bill

Most humorous! MC, brother.


agreed. why waste two rounds ?

Deplorable Bill

Combat and the street are different animals requiring different approaches/tactics. This is a really good practice drill but, on the street, it might be taken as someone looking for trouble to a left wing D.A. Case in point would be the Rittenhouse trial although he used an AR-15 and not a sidearm. There surely have been times when 2 in the chest and one in the head had to happen. Head shots are almost always lethal and should be reserved for absolute necessity on the street. I.E. A Church shooting in Texas two years ago in which the bad guy… Read more »

Wild Bill

An excellent explanation of “fire and maneuver”, and why it is not practical in the street. MC, brother.


Have you tried the LeHigh defense rounds from Underwood? 1500 fps from a 9mm and 115 grain round that leaves a square hole on a target and 4 inch permanent wound channel, should make quite an impression on an attacker.

Deplorable Bill

No Sir, I have not tried them but their caos rounds are excellent. Liberty ammo in 40 S&W I have tested. Copper hollow points are excellent. I test using pig ribs, lung, heart, shoulder and then ribs with a tee shirt covering and some water filled milk jugs behind that. When I can’t find heart and lungs I use a pig roast. My goal is a round that expends 100% of it’s energy between the tee shirt fabric diameter. Any round that over penetrates is possible cause for a lawsuit. Lightweight, very fast for caliber, bullets, work well for the… Read more »

Wild Bill

Liberty Civil Defense ammunition! Yeah, they come in twenty round boxes. I bought a bunch in each caliber before this current ammo shortage. My favorite is the .357 fired from my Winchester lever action. I get flat trajectory and more distance, but the bullet is very light and does not buck the wind well. MC, brother.


If you check out Lehigh’s site they have videos of their rounds in ballistic gel along with four layers of denim plus water jugs, and see the penetration with some of their rounds is good but over penetration isn’t a big problem.
they also make rounds of the same kind for the 350 Legend and if you find the sites where they test them for max potential, you will be amazed what they can do. Taking a stroll through bear country carrying a small rifle loaded with some of those rounds would make you feel very safe.


You guys with your “ultra high” velocity, trick bullets, have obviously never shot anything but paper with those bullets. This all goes back to the Super Vel days with light bullets and screaming velocities and failures to stop. I shoot ballistic gelatin for a living and have been doing it for a long time. I teach wound ballistics to LE and have seen a fair number of real gunshot wounds in both LE and military environments. I’m not convinced these bullets are the answer. The best thing they have going for them is a marketing budget.


If you have seen any of these bullets you would have to think about four knives being launched at close range at 1500 fps. I have seen what they do to ballistic gel with a pistol and at 35 yards with a rifle. They would instantly make an aggressor wish he had another agenda than the one including you or anyone else using loads like these.

I Haz A Question

The infamous “Mozambique” is a great way to find yourself in the crosshairs of a zealous D.A. for a murder charge. Remember, we train to stop the threat, not to kill. If our actions to stop that threat result in the death of our attacker(s) who meant us harm, so be it. But shooting to kill is, well, shooting to kill, and an adept prosecutor can use that against you in court. Shoot two rounds to center mass. Pause. If – and only if – the attacker continues to present a deadly threat, fire the third round to the head.… Read more »


I think you’re somewhat backward here. You only fire your weapon in self defense if it’s the last possible option (depending on your state’s laws). That means your life is in eminent danger. Shooting to wound or stop someone can possibly land charges.

Knute Knute

Not at all. You are both correct. One should worry about what a jury might think of one’s actions, both before and during an incident. But if the Rittenhaus trail has shown us anything at all, it’s that any overzealous prosecutor can make your life a living hell whenever he feels like it. No matter what you did or didn’t do, and no matter what choices you made. This is no longer a Country of Laws, but a country of the burrocrat’s(AKA; Swamp Creature’s) whims. Anyone out there is welcome to waste their time trying to figure out what their… Read more »

I Haz A Question

@Thompson, I hardly think two rounds to the chest is “shooting to wound”. Two JHPs to the thoracic cavity are likely to cause severe hydrostatic damage to vital organs, leading to death. But if you always operate under a mindset of “shoot to kill”, then if/when your own moment comes and you find yourself facing off against a deadly threat, your mind will tell you to kill your attacker. In that specific moment of that specific situation, the action you take may very well be the best one, and lead to your attacker’s death. But what if they don’t, and… Read more »


Rittenhouse did everything in his power to retreat. That’s probably the #1 reason he isn’t locked up.
I don’t see how that scenario is relevant to this drill.
I do see how this drill could be used to overcome body armor and therefore has a practical application.