In my last post in the “Shoot Like the Pros” series, I covered the old FBI Qualification course of fire that every agent had to complete annually with an 85% or better score. It was a decent test of skills at various distances and even included a couple of situations where the agent needed to reload and get back into the fight. The problem is that it did not represent the kind of gunfights that FBI agents actually saw. Study after study has shown that most gunfights happen up close. It is rare to have a situation where an agent needs to fire his/her pistol at 25 yards. Instead, they need to be able to deploy and use their gun in close quarters, so a new standard was developed and implemented in 2013 . . .
The target used for the new FBI Qualification course of fire is the QIT-99. This is modified version of the old “Q” target and has the bottom part of the bottle lopped off. It certainly provides a bit more challenge than the old target did.
Scoring: Shooters receive 1 point for every round that lands inside the Q bottle. Shots that break the outline of the bottle count. The course of fire is 60 rounds and agents must shoot 80% (48 hits) or better to qualify. Instructors need 90% (54 hits). This incidentally is a lower passing grade for agents than what was required on the old standard. There is no disqualification or penalty for hitting outside the bottle or for missing the target entirely. One new twist is that for all stages, the agent must draw from concealment.
Stage 1: 12 rounds, 3 yards , three strings, two of 3 seconds apiece and one of 8 seconds
For all stages, shooters start with gun holstered in concealment (under jacket, etc), hands at sides. At the beep, draw and fire three rounds strong side hand only in 3 seconds. Repeat this string of fire a second time. Finally, draw and and fire three rounds strong hand only, pass the gun to the support hand and fire three rounds support hand only. Complete the entire exercise in 8 seconds.
All subsequent stages are shot two handed.
Stage 2: 12 rounds, 5 yards, four strings of 3 rounds in 3 seconds each
At the beep, draw and fire three rounds in three seconds. Holster and repeat this drill three more times to make a total of 12 rounds. Reload your pistol as necessary between strings to ensure that you have enough ammo to complete each string. This stage does not test reload speed, so that should not be done on the clock.
Stage 3: 16 rounds, 7 yards, two strings of 4 rounds in 4 seconds each followed by a string of 8 rounds in 8 seconds
At the beep, draw and fire 4 rounds in 4 seconds. Repeat this string once more for a total of 8 rounds. Next, set up the gun so that there is one round in the chamber and the magazine is loaded with three rounds. Have a spare magazine with at least four rounds loaded. Draw and fire four rounds which should take your gun to slide lock. Reload (don’t forget that the replacement magazine needs to be drawn from concealment as well) and fire four more rounds. Total allowed time is 8 seconds.
Up to this point, the emphasis has been on being Quick Draw McGraw. As long as you can clear your holster in a reasonable amount of time, you should have no real problem nailing these first three stages. Frankly, at some point, Stage 2 in particular seems like a waste of ammo. If you can draw and shoot in 3 seconds at least twice, do you really need to demonstrate it twice more? Especially since you’ll be shooting for speed again during Stage 3 even further back. I would probably also eliminate the 4 rounds in 4 seconds part of Stage 3 and just have the candidates do the four rounds – reload – 4 rounds drill twice.
Stage 4: 10 rounds, 15 yards, two strings of 3 rounds in 6 seconds each followed by a string of 4 rounds in 8 seconds
At the beep, draw and fire 3 rounds in 6 seconds. Repeat this string once more for a total of 6 rounds. Finally, draw and fire 4 rounds in 8 seconds.
Stage 5: 10 rounds, 25 yards, two strings of 5 rounds in 15 seconds each
Equipment Needs: a barricade tall enough to stand behind.
Start beside the barricade. On the beep, move behind the barricade, draw and fire three rounds from behind the barricade. Kneel and fire two more rounds from behind the barricade. Complete the entire string in 15 seconds. Repeat this string a second time for a total of 10 rounds.
In my opinion, this is the only stage that presents any real challenge. Both times I ran this drill, it was only during Stage 5 that I missed the target at all. What is disappointing is that you could miss every single shot at 25 yards and presuming you hit with the rest of your rounds, you would still garner a passing score. Heck, you could even have two more misses and still make the 80% cutoff.
I didn’t have any of the QIT-99 targets on hand, but did figure out that I could convert a standard Q target to QIT by drawing a line cutting off the bottom fifth of the target. As long as my rounds stayed above the line, they were good.
On my second run through (above), I managed to score 96%, but I’m still annoyed that I missed the silhouette twice. Those could both have hit an innocent bystander. Both misses happened at 25 yards, so I know what I need to work on. One small piece of advice would be to shoot the 25 yard stage first. Once you get 50+ rounds on paper from the earlier stages, it gets a bit hard to tell if you missed the target completely or sent a round through an existing hole. If it seems my round count comes up short at 3 yards, I’m pretty confident I didn’t pull a round off the target. At 25 yards, I could very well have missed the target completely.
Once nice thing about this new standard (versus the old one) is that a slightly modified version of it can be done even at a square range (provided they’ll let you draw from a holster). There is no moving into position in this new standard nor is there a requirement to shoot from the prone position. The requirement for drawing from concealment for each string also adds an element of difficulty.
I’m not sure how happy I am with the significant reduction of movement in the new standard. With the exception of Stage 5 where you need to duck behind cover before firing, all of the other stages are shot standing stock still. As we’ve discussed time and again, one of the best techniques for surviving a gunfight is to be a moving target (or even better a target behind hard cover). Secondly, the emphasis in this version seems to be on rapid draw and engagement. How often are FBI agents getting into quick draw contests with perps? From the design of this standard, it would seem to suggest a lot. Third, there is only one string in one stage where the agent needs to work a reload. The old standard had two stages requiring a reload. Fourth, there is no provision for malfunction clearing. Granted, the FBI uses Glock pistols and we all know that Glocks never have malfunctions, but there’s always a chance an agent might someday have to use a pistol that is not a Glock and since we also know that every other manufacturer’s pistols have frequent malfunctions, you’d think it might be a good idea to test this.
The other thing that concerns me is that both this standard and the old one treated every hit within the lines of the bottle as equally good. Furthermore, as long as your break the line, the hit counts. We know from experience and evidence that marginal hits are not nearly as effective as solid center mass ones. Furthermore, the fact that no penalties are assessed for missing the target completely is just wrong. A miss on the silhouette in qualification translates to a round that misses the target in real life and ends up somewhere else – possibly in an innocent bystander. Police or Citizen, you are (or should be) responsible for every round that leaves your gun and qualifications like this don’t enforce that dictum.
To contrast the FBI’s standards, I’m in the process of preparing to take the Sig Sauer Master Pistol Instructor Class. To certify, I’ll be required to shoot Sig Sauer’s pistol qualification drill at a higher level of proficiency than was required when I took the Semiautomatic Pistol Instructor course. I’ve been asked not to publish the standard and I’ll honor that request, but I will tell you that Sig’s criteria are a good bit more stringent than the FBI’s. The Sig target has two valid hit zones – an eight inch circle center mass and a four inch one in the face. Shots that fall outside of those hit zones don’t count. Shots that touch the line on the hit zone don’t count. A shot needs to be cleanly in one of the hit zones to count. On top of this, even one shot that falls outside of the silhouette (or misses the target completely) is an automatic disqualification and it doesn’t matter how well you shot the rest of the course of fire – it won’t count.
In the end, I see the FBI qualification course as better than nothing and in some ways better than it was before. Depending on your gun handling skills, it may be tougher than it used to be, but I feel that it either omits or significantly reduces some important training elements.
Give it a shot and see if you have what it takes to be an FBI agent under the new standard.