The El Cerrito Rifle Qual — Cali Dreaming By: Travis Pike


El Cerrito is Spanish for “The Little Hill.” It’s not exactly a small town, but it is a small town for the bay area of California. Why are we talking about a random city in Cali? Because it’s Tap Rack Tuesday, of course! Today we are tackling the El Cerrito rifle qualification course, aka the El Cerrito rifle qual.

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I’ve covered a variety of different police and military quals, and I’ll give El Cerrito credit. The guide to their quals is easy to read and easy to follow. That may seem like an odd compliment, but when you’ve stared at dozens of confusing and poorly explained PDFs, you appreciate a simple one-page explanation. With that compliment paid, let’s dive into the El Cerrito rifle qual.

What do you need for the El Cerrito rifle qual?

You need a rifle, or a PCC if you so choose. You also need a handgun with three rounds of ammunition. For the rifle, you will need 37 rounds, in total. The qual doesn’t state the number of magazines needed, so it can be shot with one, but you’ll need to reload it between stages. I would suggest a sling for the El Cerrito qual. It makes life easier.

You also need a target. The qual uses the BT-5 El Dorado DA Target with a very well-defined kill zone in the head and chest. As always, you’ll need your eyes, ears, and a shot timer to get the most out of this rifle qualification.

Range Gear for El Cerrito rifle qual
You’ll need a little gear for this qual.


Scoring is very easy with the El Dorado target. Shots into the red and grey or spinal column count as two points. Any shot outside of these zones counts as one point. Headshots not in the red zone and shots that miss the body count as zero points. You can score a total of 80 points, and passing is any score above 56 points.

It’s quick and simple. You can use your own targets, but try to use something that requires proper shot placement. For instance, a 3×5 card can be placed on your target to represent the red zone. Be smart and creative, and you’ll make the training challenging and fair.

Blasting Through the El Cerrito Rifle Qual

The distances required for the El Cerrito drills are as far as 50 yards and as close as three yards. You will start at the 3-yard line and slowly work your way backward. Your first magazine should be loaded with four rounds, with one round in the chamber. Your handgun should be holstered and loaded as well.

Now, let’s start shooting.

Stage 1:  3 Yards — 3 Rounds

At three yards, you are in bad breath distance and not somewhere you’d like to be, so be ready to move. Start in the low ready. With your timer ready, hit the go button. At the beep, fire a failure drill on the target—two shots to the chest and a well-aimed shot to the head.

You have three seconds to land your shots.

Travis Pike shoots the El Cerrito Qual
At three yards you are plenty close and have no excuses to not be fast.

Stage 2: 5 yards — 5 Rounds

Okay, this is one of the more interesting stages of the El Cerrito rifle qual. Start in the low ready; when your timer beeps, fire a double tap into the target. A double tap is two rounds fired rapidly, and if you’ve been keeping count, your rifle is now empty.

Hopefully, you brought a sling. Drop the rifle and transition to your pistol, and fire a failure drill with the handgun. You do have a generous 10 seconds to make this happen.

transition rifle to handgun
Be prepared to transition to your handgun. Your sling will help with the transition.

Stage 3: 7 Yards — 5 Rounds

At seven yards, make sure you’ve tossed your second mag in or reloaded with at least five rounds. Start in the low ready and fire a double tap. Scan and assess, and then fire a failure drill on the target. You can do this with perfect hits with the 15 seconds the El Cerrito qual provides you.

Stage 4: 10 Yards — 4 Rounds

At ten yards, you need at least four rounds in your gun. At the beep, fire three rounds to the body in five seconds. There is an additional headshot that’s listed as ‘on command.’ If you have a partner, then great. If not, you have plenty of time to fit that headshot into your five seconds.

Stage 5: 15 Yards — 4 Rounds

Alright, we’ve made it to the 15-yard line. It’s a new yard line, but the drill inspires Deja Vue. Fire three shots to the body and a headshot on command. You’ll still be hitting those shots within five seconds.

Stage 6: 15 to 10 Yards — 3 Rounds

Get ready to move, boys and girls. For this stage of the El Cerrito rifle qual, you will move from the 15-yard line to the 10-yard line. While moving, you need to land three shots to the body in eight seconds. Move slowly, and make your shots count.

Stage 7: 10 to 15 Yards — 3 Rounds

This is the same as the drill above, but backward. From the low ready, move rearward while firing three rounds to the body in eight seconds. Move slowly and lift your feet. Move like a boxer and shoot as you move.

Stage 8: 20 Yards — 4 Rounds

At 20 yards, you are finally getting into the strength of a long gun. Start in the standing, low ready. At the beep, fire a double tap from the standing. Now, transition to kneeling and fire a second double tap. You have 10 seconds, so you have no excuses.

Stage 9: 25 Yards — 4 Rounds

Now you, as a shooter, get an opportunity to think through your decisions. This stage of the El Cerrito rifle qual allows you to pick the position you want to shoot in. Start in the standing, low ready, and fire four rounds. You have 15 seconds and can choose between a standing, kneeling, or prone position.

shooting position, kneeling
At 25 yards you can choose between the prone, kneeling, or standing positions.

Stage 10: 50 Yards — 5 Rounds

Keep your thinking cap on. This stage pulls you back to 50 yards and once again you get to choose between standing, kneeling, and prone position. You have 20 seconds to figure it out and fire five rounds into the target.

My Thoughts?

This is a fairly robust shooting qualification. It incorporates movement in two directions and allows the shooter to choose the position. It has some strict accuracy requirements as well.

The big downside is the long par times. It doesn’t feel super challenging to accomplish any of these stages. If you cut off 25-40% of these times, you are challenged to move and shoot fast. Additionally, I’d implement shooting around cover into the training, which offers various challenges as well.

It’s still a fairly fun qualification. What do you think? Will you add the El Cerrito rifle qual to your training regime?