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Minimum Capable Handgun Skills Challenge

During last week’s live stream with USPSA Grand Master Josh Shaw, I broached the topic of standards that every capable citizen should aspire to. The idea here is that not everyone is able to put in the dedicated time, effort, and money to become a grand master. There is, however, a point of “good enough” for most things. That’s the goal of the minimum capable citizen series.

Josh provided two specific tests that you can perform at your local range. Community member C.J. then turned around and provided me a printable document to execute the tests.

So what are the standards? Let’s get to it.

The Target

The target for this challenge is a representation of the upper a-zones from a USPSA cardboard target. You can download it here, or click on the picture below to get the printable PDF version.

Simply print this target out on a standard piece of 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper. You’ll need at least two in order to complete the entire challenge.

You’re also going to need a shot timer, preferably one with a random start and par time feature. There are many free or inexpensive apps out there for iOS or Android users that meet this need.

Test #1: 25 Yards

Place the printed target at 25 yards. You can ignore the dotted lines for now, or even stick the target with just the blank side of the paper facing you.

Load a magazine with 10 rounds (or any combination of magazines to get a total round count of 10 shots). Your goal is simple: place all 10 shots on the piece of 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper within 20 seconds.

Set the par time for 20 seconds and a random start. You may begin from a low ready with the gun already loaded and in hand.

This should be significantly simpler than the Paper Plate Pistolero challenge, but still not easy. Most people do not train handguns at 25 yards because it is hard. Placing all 10 shots on the paper within 20 seconds is a good indication that you have pistol fundamentals down.

Test #2: 7 yards

For the second test, place a fresh target at 7 yard with the dotted lines facing you.

Load and holster your handgun in whatever holster style you prefer.

Your goal is to draw, aim, and land a single shot into the upper A-Zone (i.e. the smaller dotted box in the head) within 1.5 seconds from timer start.

How did you do?

This is not a simple challenge. Many people might be able to accomplish one test or the other, but not both. If you think this is too difficult, then it only means you need to put in more practice time with dry fire!

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Stu F
Stu F

I’d like to see a reload and basic malfunction handling (i.e. “tap, rack & bang”) in there. Too many folks practice the shooting part and not the presentation, malfunction, and post-shot fundamentals. Not sure about the 25-yd shot…it’s hard to make a case for self defense in most jurisdictions with a 25-yd separation, although I’ll grant that it does show you have good technique if you can hit it consistently!

Stu F
Stu F
Replying to  Matt

I’m not talking about quick manipulation as much as I am about functional manipulation. I’ve worked with a number of folks who can draw and hit the targets fine, but once they start trying to reload, re-holster, and/or otherwise manipulate their firearm, they get really spooky…like forgetting their muzzle control between stages, having poor management of mags and other things in their hands, etc. Those are all essential to be a “minimum capable citizen”, in my opinion. BTW, I like the idea of minimum capable citizen standards – keep up the good content!


This is a great practical challenge that encompasses all around skill! Being an old PPC participant, the 25 yd. target was where the winners were made! This included multiple reloads and position changes at some stages. I’ve also taken close range combat pistol classes where we never acquired targets farther than 15 yds. I also hunt with magnum revolvers where accuracy much further than 25 yds. is required. We all know the data and facts of close encounters with handguns. In fact this data has influenced the industry to the point of accuracy beyond 15 yards is obsolete! I would guess this is adequate for the slew of new shooters only interested in ‘self-defense’. Like so many things these days, too many people want a ‘go fast get quick results’ method and so they spend time punching holes in the ‘black’ areas of human size targets at close range and call it a day. Does everyone go CCW in a IWB holster and is that where your pistol will be when you need it? All good – any trigger time is good to a point. I’m fortunate I started formal handgun shooting when 25 yds. was the norm but I’ve also enjoyed many days shooting handguns in the southwest desert – cans, jugs, golf balls and bowling pins – whatever we had on hand and set as far as we could see them. My ‘split times’ out of a holster and hitting ‘A’ zones at 7 yds. will never raise… Read more »

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