Recently, I started asking around for some input. One of the recurring topics that you guys latched onto was the concept of standards. To be honest, I’m all about objective performance measurements for accuracy, speed, and other elements. As part of a broader goal, I want to make that a recurring element of our community.

I’d like to get your help, though.

You see, there are a lot of places out there with their own standards of performance. I received a few in the Facebook group, but I know there are many out there.

So here is the question: What are your favorite performance standards?

Ideas to get you started

To get the juices flowing, let’s look at some of the examples you guys shard with me.

Ash Hess

Ash Hess, a competitive shooter one of the primary authors of Army TC 3-22.9, put out an article over at Primary and Secondary detailing his baselines at different distances.

• 0-25 4-inch 1 sec or less splits standing (US Army zeroing ONLY 4 MOA for zeroing prone)
• 25-50 4 inch 2-3 second splits standing
• 50-100 4 MOA standing or Kneeling
• 100-199- 4MOA Standing supported
• 200-250- 4MOA Kneeling supported
• 250-500 4MOA Prone   

Now, this is MAX group size, or minimum competency. If you can’t do this, cold, on demand, you need to attend a base level class such as Appleseed before doing other classes. Seriously, you are wasting peoples time going to higher level classes if you can’t meet this

So that’s one option. I honestly can’t say how well I stack up to that one right now because I haven’t tested it at speed and at those distances.

AMTAC Shooting

Another interesting standard came from the American Tactical Shooting Instruction LLC site.

This one has the perspective on the “whole person” concept and dips into the author’s experience with the Sniper Adventure Challenge Race. These standards are much less focused on shooting accuracy than they are on physical capabilities. For example, you’ll find rucking, pullups, bushcrafting, and some shooting standards.

Though he doesn’t go as as publishing what the actual standards are.

This approach interests me primarily because it goes beyond shooting skills alone.

Over to You

Let me know your thoughts.

What kind of standards have you come across? How do you measure your own performance?

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's 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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The MarksmanToddColorado PeteSunshine_ShooterMark C Recent comment authors

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Personally I don’t think I’m necessarily a ‘bad’ shot but there’s no way I’d live up to the ‘Ash Hess’ minimal standard as described above, especially at distance. I’m a hobbyist at best so I’m never going to be kicking in doors or taking shots at threats over 100 yards away. Actually, a worst case scenario for me (God forbid) would likely involve living room or front lawn distances. I think for the average person it’s more of a ‘need’ standard versus a ‘want’ standard conversation.


At 48 years old, I am about to retire from the Army after 30+ years of service. The ‘standards’ that I have been exposed to have been the Army qualification standards. Until I shot up to 500 yards in a civilian course in 2018, I had never shot at a distance greater than the 300m target in the Army qualification process.

Another ‘first’ for me in 2018 was shooting in a two day Project Appleseed event. Knowing that the Army only taught me to qualify over the years, I left any false ideas of the Army having made me a trained killer at home and went into the Project Appleseed event with an open mind. I can honestly say that Project Appleseed taught me more in two days about basic rifle marksmanship than the inadequate Army program did over 30 years. I like the program so much, its message and what it is trying to do for the country that I have become a volunteer in the organization.

So, my current ‘standard’ is the Appleseed qualification. I’m looking forward to taking more classes and learning more as I get into retirement and have more free time.

Colorado Pete
Colorado Pete

For general purpose rifle work (as in hunting big game), Jeff Cooper had three standard exercises that test multiple fundamental skills, from pure marksmanship, to speed, to assuming position/breaking position/moving/assuming position again.

The Snapshot
The Rifle Bounce
Rifle Ten

Along with a bunch of pistol/shotgun courses.

Course descriptions found here:

Along with a wealth of other info on all types of shooting and related things. Excellent site. The site owner is an old-school Jeff Cooper student and NJ ex-patriate like myself.

The above tests give you a real-world wringing out that you can apply to real-world usage.


I clover leafed my first three rounds at 100 yards for the first time with a .308 and some ammo I got in a trade from a metro sniper, Hornady ELD M-Tac to be exact, a few months ago. He was also the instructor teaching the precision rifle course I had taken. Having a suppressor took 25% of the recoil out and this was shooting prone. I didn’t know I could do that.

I would wager I’ll never be able to do that in field conditions…and I’ll never take that 12 pound rifle in the field.

Something that all the training taught me was go with what works and recognize what’s actually needed. I thought all my shots had to be in a single hole and thats just wrong…and less lethal.

I’m not saying theres anything wrong with standards, especially if you’re trying to qualify for something (a position or job or competition), but for killing stuff, at least in my area of the States, 400 yards is about it. For combat, good luck justifying 400 yard shots.

I suppose what I’m trying to say with all this is, sometimes good is good enough and standards are a good thing to keep in mind, but the application of the skills that the standards enforce are where I’m at now, personally.

I just wish I could get my pistol game tighter at anything past 15 yards. I can’t hit a 1/2 size IPSIC (12×18’ish) at 50 to save my life. With a rifle, even irons, I can nail that square head all day in any position. I’m ranting, it’s been along one. ::Message lost in transmission::

Sunshine Shooter

It sounds like you have a rifle standard, it’s just not unrealistically strict like most tend to be. Something along the lines of “Paper plate @ 200 yards consistently”


Good point. I’m not real good at simplifying things to that degree. I think that’s decent shooting for a hasty shot using a tree for support. I could do better or worse…how much feeling is left in my toes in January?!

Ok ne thing that I have always enjoyed is seeing where I find myself to others standards. Sometimes it real good. Others, not so much.

Sunshine Shooter

I enjoy standards for the same reason. It usually ends in “well, at least I know what I need to work on”.

Colorado Pete
Colorado Pete

OK…but from what position? And under what time pressure? How many times out of ten?

Group size in minutes (a true angular measure of ability) per each position is one measurement. This tells you how far away you can consistently hit a given size target.

Another is speed to first hit, starting from standing ready (port-arms, or low ready) to assuming position and firing (ideally) a first-round hit, with the target dimension commensurate to the real-life intended target, at multiple distances.

For example, using a paper plate: The TIME for each of the following: standing ready to a standing hit at 100; standing ready to sitting at 200; standing ready to prone at 300 and at 400. These impart meaningful results that can be translated to real-world situations in hunting or combat.

Target size, range, and time limits are for you to figure out to suit your intended purposes and goals.

Colorado Pete
Colorado Pete

If the host doesn’t mind me plugging my book here, try this for pistol shooting:

Colorado Pete
Colorado Pete

You are perfectly qualified to write about your own experiences to this point…


I don’t have any official standards or recognized courses of fire/ qualifications per se, but I do have some unofficial drills pistol drills I run during my for fun range sessions that help me see where I am at. Keeping a mag inside a 3”x “5 index card at 7 yards, a mag inside a 6” paper plate at 15 yards, and a mag inside a 12” paper plate at 20 yards plus. I also log each trip in my range journal so I know what I did, how I did, and what I want to work on.

Sadly , I don’t have a set standard for rifle outside of staying within 2 MOA from the bench at 100 yards yet. I have a collection of drills and training materials from classes collecting dust I need to implement. Plus I need to hit a local carbine match or two to shake some rust off. Goals for the back half of 2019 maybe.

I have a number of other printout drills I run from that help get me outside my comfort zone. But I still don’t have a shot timer to keep me honest. Apps have been finicky and I know a timer would help, but it’s a big buy and there always seems to be something else I’d prefer to get more. I need just make that purchase happen so I can better track myself and push myself outside of a match environment.

I also just picked up Karl Rehn’s Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training. Going to dive into that and try to implement some of it moving forward. I’ve taken a number of rifle and pistol classes with him over the years and can vouch for his and KR Training’s staff expertise. Karl has grand master/master status in multiple disciplines and has trained with and hosted a highlight list of folks from Massad Ayoob to Ben Stoeger to Tom Givens. They present fact based and realistic training for civilians, so I’m looking forward to getting some actionable info.


A timer is, in my opinion, an *extremely* important tool for training especially pistol skills. I would highly recommend you bump up the priority of a timer on your shopping list. It will open up a whole new world of shooting for you, compared to just doing accuracy oriented shooting.

Regrettably, I have been able to do an extremely limited amount of shooting this year. I also have not developed a very robust set of standards for myself. On the pistol side, I use mainly IDPA competitions and my performance on the classifier to gauge my skill level. On the rifle side, the only thing I can be said to be working towards a standard is with an IDPA target at 100 meters, starting from a muzzle averted ready position, a single hit on the -0 or -1 zone as fast as possible. I’ve been using 3 seconds as a time limit, but I’ve noticed that is really very generous. I’ll be cutting that down to 2.5 or 2 seconds flat in the future.


There are so many different modes of shooting that I think a layered, or multi-faceted set of standards is necessary. Real shooting covers a range of distances, precision requirements, elapsed time of the target being exposed, whether the target is still or moving, gun handling, and some of the little things that come into play, like distance estimation and compensation, states of readiness, what happens after the target is hit, etc… Those things vary probably from person to person, based on application, terrain, and equipment.

Most existing standards are variations on marksmanship and time, and omit other important variables due to practicality. I have never gotten past this point either. How do you standardize a mover?

The Ash Hess standards seem doable for me with the exception of 4 MOA unsupported standing, which is a pretty severe standard. For me, with normal gear, that would be more like an ultimate goal. The Cooper standards are still pretty valid. Appleseed’s Rifleman standard is too easy. Our department sniper qual was cold bore in a 3″ target, a four shot MOA group, and five shots in five minutes from any unsupported position, running 100 yards (total round trip) between each shot, with 4/5 shots inside the 8 ring, no shots off the body of a B29 target (the reduced version of the B27 silhouette). That was a moderately difficult course of fire. It was based on the WA state official course, but that one is longer and easier, using the full size B27.

My grouping standards by position for 10-shot groups are roughly (right off the top of my head) as follows:
1.5 MOA unsupported prone with sling
2.5 MOA unsupported sitting
4 MOA kneeling
6 MOA unsupported standing.

I would fall a little short of those at present, especially with standing.

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