Comparative Standards: Explanation

Sep 10, 2018

For some time, I’ve watched others in the industry attempt to create standards of performance – qualifications and the like – as well as try to compare various guns for the edification of readers/viewers.

I’ve gone along with it. Inside the outfit, before there was a state-mandated course, I saw things from the ridiculous to worse. Some confused qualification for training – trying to make the case that it’s “better than nothing.” And there was no practice at all.

That’s not what the consumer pays for.

For court, I prefer standards: individual performance in front of a documenting instructor, showing that you know how to do certain things. For comparison of different guns, I’ve seized upon one course of fire or another – with mixed results.

Add to that concern, the proliferation of new gun owners who actually carry their guns – and shoot them. That can create issues of time, location and costs. As more manufacturers move to package ammo in ‘non-standard’ boxes (20 or 25 rounds), I considered the idea of a short comparative standards course.

Basically, it’s a matter of striving to accomplish each string in three seconds or less (even if you can’t), selecting a target and staying with it (to make a relevant comparison), to find where the shooter is having issues and enable practice that can be later checked by running the same course again.

The concept is simple: Each string is timed – and penalties noted, with each time recorded to be compared against every other like string in the database. Total time for the 20 round course is recorded with time added for penalties, .5 second for every point down. There are draws to single hits, single hits from low ready, shooting one handed with each hand, a reload stage, a failure drill and a single to the head. Eight rounds are consumed at fifteen yards and further; another pair is consumed at ten yards making half of the score shot at thirty-plus feet.

It is a test, after all.

The Comparative Standards, and the reference for each string, follows:

25 yards, singles from holster – each timed. The average of the strings in the stage is calculated and any penalties recorded before the next step.

15 yards, single from holster; two singles from guard/low ready – times for each recorded. Taken from the previous Arizona Daytime Qualification. “Low ready” is defined thus: the gun aimed in where the target stand meets the ground, finger at register. Record any penalties.

10 yards, pair from the holster – record the time. Taken from the Wizard Drill, where the standard is 2.5 seconds. Record any penalties.

7 yards, failure drill. Record any penalties as well as the time.

5 yards – From holster, dominant hand only; from low ready, non-dominant hand only; from holster, draw to a single – slide lock reload – fire another single hit; from holster, one shot to head box. Record the time for each string and record any penalties.

That’s it.

Comparative Standards Scoring

Stage distance, procedure



25 yards


Singles x 5


average (for information)


15 yards


Single, holster


Single, guard x2


10 yards




7 yards


Failure drill


5 yards


Pair, Dom. Hand Only


Pair, weak hand, guard




1 head


Total (with penalties)


Ace analyst-instructor and all-around good guy, Claude Werner, took to the Comparative Standards with vigor. He used his targets, available for printing from his blog site (URLs at the end of this feature.) His comments appear below.

“ . . . I scored it IDPAish; hit the circle = -0, hit the white paper outside the circle = -1, hit the silhouette outside the paper = -3.“

In general, I like it as a variety of skills and good use of a box of anti-personnel ammo at ammo change. Many people like to shoot up their carry ammo periodically. When they do, shooting the old box and a box of new would represent a good comparison but still only 40 rounds.

“It's heavily weighted, as is, to longer ranges. My suggestion would be as follows: Take 3 strings out of 25 yards, move reload string to 7 yards, add a Failure drill to 5 yards. (This would put 35% of rounds fired at 10 + yards, as opposed to 50% with the original.)

“Those suggestions represent my opinion in a couple of areas. 1) we don't teach our clients (smaller target engagements) enough, and 2) one of most missed shots is after a stoppage clearance, such as a reload. I like to give folks the maximum opportunity to yank the trigger then as a teaching point.”

Action Target's version of TQ-15 I used. The scoring is far more generous than with Claude Werner's targets, available for printing from his blog. Action Target image.

His write-ups on the process are in this Tactical Professor blog posts, below:

He makes good points. Claude’s targets are smaller than the Action Target “TQ-15” analog that I used, so my times tend to be shorter. As Claude has, I’ve fired the course with a range of guns – the S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ, Nighthawk Custom T3 Stainless 45 ACP, a Gen3 Glock 19 with new sights, the new Springfield Armory XD-S Mod.2 9mm and more.

The first gun used in the Comparative Standards was the S&W M&P380 Shield with Hornady American Gunner ammo.

I reported on the comparison, for example, of the FN 509 Tactical and the Glock 19X here. I’ll be reporting the results of the FN 509 Tactical “slick” – no optic – versus the same gun with an optic in that same news service.

Conclusions? For one, remain with the same targets – whichever you choose to use. If you have to change, note that and check the dimensions of each. That helps you make decisions. As a benchmark, shooting it cold when you change out carry ammo will show you where you need work. Set your practice accordingly. If you’re not accustomed to shooting courses like this, use the Tactical Professor version moving the bulk of rounds fired closer while moving the reload back.

From 380 to 45 ACP: Nighthawk Custom's T3 Stainless was fired using Simply Rugged Leather and Hornady Critical Defense ammo.

I think it may be a decent way to (1) check skills, (2) compare guns/ammo/mode of carry, (3) make effective use of duty ammo when changing out and (4) direct your practice. We’ll continue our efforts and keep you posted.

- - Rich Grassi