How Do Your Skills Measure Up?

Do you question whether your shooting is “good enough” for personal defense? You should. Most professional instructors, including myself, would advise you can never be “good enough” when it comes to your own protection with a firearm. To be realistic, however, most people don’t have the time, budget, or desire to commit to enough instruction and range time to become true handgun experts. Fortunately, there are many types of “qualification” tests you can take to get an idea of where you stand. Here are some of our favorite qualifications you can try out at the range to give you an idea of how your skills measure up.

Bill Wilson’s 5×5 Skills Testwilson combat logo

Bill Wilson, founder of Wilson Combat, has been in the firearms business since 1974 as a respected competitor and renowned gunsmith. Designed by Mr. Wilson, this test will give you an idea of how your overall concealed carry skills measure up. Since most ranges will not allow drawing from a holster, you can do the test from a low ready position and add 1 second of time per stage to get an estimated score.

Setup: Standard IDPA target at 10 yards. Hands at sides facing the target. With or without concealment.

There are four strings of fire, each for time:

  1. Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle.
  2. Draw and fire 5 shots SHO (strong hand only).
  3. Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle, reload from slide-lock and fire 5 more shots freestyle.
  4. Draw and fire 4 shots to the body and 1 shot to the head freestyle.

Hits to the head and center circle are A zone and count for 0 down. Count 1 point down for hits in the B zone and 3 points down for hits in the C zone. Total your points down and calculate .5 second of time for each point down. Add that penalty time to your actual time to get your “score”.

Bill Wilson’s suggested “scoring”:

Grand Master: 15 seconds or less
Master: 20 seconds or less
Expert: 25 seconds or less
Sharpshooter: 32 seconds or less
Marksman: 41 seconds or less
Novice: 50 seconds or less
Not proficient enough to carry a handgun: Over 50 seconds


FBI Qualificationfbi logo

If you are ever forced to defend yourself with your handgun, your mindset, skills and training methods may be called into question in the courtroom. One good way to prepare for this eventuality is to regularly take the FBI Qualification course of fire and have it signed and dated by a witness. What could be better in the courtroom than to explain that as a responsible permit holder you feel your regular training ritual should meet or exceed that of the nation’s top law enforcement officers.

This test should be done from concealment if possible. If not possible, shoot from low ready and add 1 second per string to account for a draw. Use a standard FBI-Q “milk bottle” target. Any hit within the bottle counts as 1 point. Total possible points = 60. Passing score = 48.

3 Yards – 12 rounds
– 3 shots in <3 seconds, strong hand only
– repeat above
– 3 rounds strong hand only, switch hands, 3 rounds weak hand only, all <8 seconds

5 Yards – 12 rounds (All shooting from this point forward is both hands)
– 3 rounds in <3 seconds
– repeat 3 more times for a total of 12 rounds fired

7 Yards – 16 rounds
– 4 rounds in <4 seconds
– Repeat
– 4 rounds, reload, then fire 4 more rounds all completed <8 seconds

15 yards – 10 rounds
– 3 rounds in <6 seconds
– Repeat
– 4 rounds in <8 seconds

25 Yards – 10 rounds
*This stage requires the use of a barricade. If your range does not permit the use of a barricade, simulate it the best you can and use a squat rather than kneeling – safety is the priority here.
– Move to cover and fire 2 rounds standing and then 3 rounds kneeling, all <15 seconds.
– Repeat


The 3M Test

If you have neither the time, money, nor patience for some of the longer qualifications, here is one that takes only nine shots and should be completed in roughly 15 seconds or less if you are proficient. This one comes to us from Rangemaster’s founder Tom Givens and tests your Marksmanship, Movement, and Manipulations.

Test Description (from Givens via the Rangemaster Newsletter)

One IDPA target (scored 5/3/0), at 5 yards. If using pass/fail scoring, only the highest value hit zone counts.

Shooter starts with handgun loaded with six live rounds (one in chamber, five in magazine) and one dummy round in the magazine. Dummy is not the top round nor the bottom round in the magazine.

Someone else should load the magazine so the shooter does not know where in the magazine the dummy round lies.

Shooter starts holstered, hands in interview stance. On signal, side step, draw, and fire until a malfunction occurs. On the malfunction, side step, fix it, and continue to fire. When the gun runs empty, side step, perform an emergency reload, and fire 3 additional shots.

The shooter must move on the draw, move on the malfunction, and move on the reload. There is a ten-point penalty for any shot that misses the target on Comstock scoring. For pass/fail scoring, any round outside the highest value zone is a failure.

This drill tests movement off the line of force, rapid presentation from concealment, accurate placement of multiple fast shots, a malfunction remedy, and an empty gun reload, all under time pressure. It only requires nine rounds, one target, and a timer or stopwatch to test/measure all of these skills.

This drill is not intended to be shot over and over, trying to get an impressive score. It is a skill check, shot totally cold, at the beginning of a practice session. If you can pass this, or score above 125 on Comstock, on demand, you are probably an adequate defensive shooter.


Headhunter’s 6×6actve response logog

This test comes from Greg Ellifritz at Active Response Training as an expansion of Gila Hayes 5×5 test to discern whether a handgun is suitable for self defense. This test takes her test a bit further and has you fire 6 shots at a 6” target at 6 yards in 6 seconds repeated 6 times from low ready or better yet, from concealment. See if you can complete the test with all hits and then try working to lower your times. Nice and simple, good luck!

Of course, the NRA has many different levels of pistol marksmanship and various courses of fire to test your ability.

NRA Pistol/Defensive Pistol Qualifications

One of our favorite sites for updated concealed carry information by state is and it has a great resource for practice drills as well

Happy shooting!