Over time, I find shooting at the same old targets to get a little bit boring. I wanted to find something that would hold my interest and at the same time give me some sort of gauge as to how my skills were coming along. Sure, I could keep shooting at those old bulls eye targets trying to get higher scores, but let’s face it, I don’t compete (just yet) and my interest in firearms is more on the defensive side of the house as opposed to the target shooting side. With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to compare my skills to the professionals . . .
Could I, for example, pass the shooting qualification for (insert your favorite law enforcement or shooting organization)? Can I truly shoot like a Navy SEAL (sorry, had to slip that one in)? I’m going to do a series of articles over the next weeks and months where I’m scour the interwebs as well as talk to some of the folks I know in the business to bring you some of the qualification criteria of your favorite (and not so favorite) “operators.”
First up, let’s start with the granddaddy of the U.S. Federal police forces – the Federal Bureau of Investigation better known as the FBI. Truth be told, the FBI recently (last year) changed the course of fire of its qualification to better reflect the reality that most gunfights take place at close quarters. The original qualification standard that had been in place for nearly three decades had candidates shoot from as far as 25 yards out with 56% of all rounds fired being done so from 15 yards or more. The new qualification standard has 67% of the shots fired from 7 yards or less. We’ll look at the new qualification standard in a separate post. For those who want to see how they would have compared to the “old school” standard, let’s get to it.
Before running out and picking up a boatload of Q targets, you might want to consider the QIT-99. This is a modified version of the standard Q and is the one used in the new FBI qualification standard. It has a smaller hit area, but also features an outline of the original Q size.
One thing to bear in mind about these qualification standards is that they are often built around the service weapon in use by the agency creating the qualification. The FBI’s qualification standard was built around the SIG SAUER P229 pistol in its Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) incarnation. The qualification standard instructs the shooter to decock during some of the shooting strings. If you want to really challenge yourself, you can run with a DA/SA gun and see how you would do with the different trigger pull weights. However, you don’t need a DA/SA to test for the standard because the FBI switched to .40 GLOCK handguns for most agents and 9mm GLOCKs to those who had problems managing the .40 in 1997. Today, agents qualify with striker fired pistols in .40 or 9mm. That said, there is nothing wrong with a DA/SA gun nor for that matter with a 1911, the gun favored by the FBI’s vaunted Hostage Rescue Team and some of their SWAT units.
Scoring: Shooters receive 2 points for every round that lands inside the Q bottle. Shots that break the outline of the bottle count. The course of fire is 50 rounds and candidates must shoot 85% or better to qualify. Instructors must shoot 90% or better. 85% is actually 42.5 rounds, which makes no sense to me, so let’s call a qualifying score 43 hits. Instructor qualification is 45 hits. There is no disqualification or penalty for hitting outside the bottle or for missing the target entirely.
Stage 1: 18 rounds, 25 yards, 75 seconds
Equipment Needs: a shooting mat and a barricade tall enough to stand behind.
The first stage will incorporate several different shooting positions.
Shooters start with gun holstered, hands at sides. On the beep, draw from the holster and fall into a prone position (a mat would be a nice thing to have at this point). Shoot six rounds from the prone position. Decock if you have a DA/SA gun. Next, duck behind the barricade in a strong side kneeling position and fire 3 rounds. Stand up (still behind the barricade) and fire six rounds in the strong side standing position (barricaded). Complete the stage by firing three rounds in the weak side kneeling (barricaded) position.
While it doesn’t sound like all that much, 75 seconds is an eon. Take your time getting your sight picture dialed in when shooting from prone. If you are not used to shooting a pistol while prone, you may not like this position very much, but bear in mind that this is the most stable shooting position and a good place to pick up 12 points by landing all six shots in the bottle. One thing to bear in mind; there are no 18 round magazines for the FBI’s standard issue .40 GLOCKs, so it is expected that the shooter will need to do a reload at some point during the stage. You may want to set things up so the reload takes place during the transition from strong side kneeling to strong side standing, thus making use of the transition time.
Stage 2: 10 rounds, 15 yards (but start at the 25), 2 rounds in 6 seconds; then 4 strings of 2 rounds in 3 seconds each
The second stage also begins at the 25 yard line, but you won’t be shooting this far out. At the beep, move to the 15 yard line, then draw and engage the target with 2 rounds. You should be able to accomplish this in 4 seconds. Decock. Next, hold the gun at low ready and at the beep, raise it and fire two more rounds decocking at the end of each two round string. Par time for this action is 3 seconds. Repeat three times more to get to the total round count of 10.
The hardest part of this stage is the initial 10 yard dash, draw, and engagement for those first two rounds. It’s not really all that difficult for a competent shooter and the four strings from low ready are an easy way to put points on the board.
Stage 3: 12 rounds, 7 yards (bust start at the15 yard line), 15 seconds
Starts at the 15 yard line. At the beep, move to the seven yard line, draw, and fire 12 rounds. One wrinkle that’s been tossed in is that the 12 round string must include a reload somewhere in the string. You can choose where you want to do it. I’d recommend it near the beginning of the string – perhaps after the second or third round That way, you can concentrate solely on your shot placement of the other nine or ten rounds.
Stage 4: 10 rounds, 5 yards (but start at the 7 yard line), 15 seconds
Start at the 7 yard line. At the beep, move to the 5 yard line, draw your weapon with your strong hand only, fire five shots, drop the magazine and reload. Then pass the gun to your non-dominant hand and fire five shots (one handed). Safely return the gun to the strong hand, holster, and you’re done.
Frankly, this is the only stage where time was a factor for me. Firing five rounds, reloading, passing the gun to the non-dominant hand, then firing five more rounds takes a bit of practice to get it done in under the 15 second limit.
Aside from the slight time budget issues I initially had with Stage 4, I found this to be a fairly easy qualification standard to pass. The Q target is huge. The valid target area is 26″ high and 12″ wide for most of the bottle. Unless you have serious motor control problems, you should be able to land a sizable majority of your rounds within the hit zone. Furthermore, there is no penalty for missing the target and the allowed time is pretty generous. Frankly, if you make your living with a gun, you better be able to pass this standard.
All that said, a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, this is an out of date standard included purely for its historical value. Current FBI agents must qualify using the new FBI standard (which I’ll cover in an upcoming post). Secondly, many, possibly the vast majority of FBI agents will never have to draw their guns for anything but passing qualification standards. Sure, there will always be exceptions, but the fact is, the regular FBI troops are not expected to be “shooters” so the standard tests basic competence and not much else.
Give it a try and see if you have what it takes to be FBI material.