Range Trip – The NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Standards

In a blog post earlier this week, Robert discussed shooting the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting standards as suggested by Claude Werner, the “Tactical Professor,” on his excellent eponymous blog. In short, Claude suggested that not being able to shoot to a certain standard would be cause to seek out some competent instruction. If you haven’t already read Robert’s post or the original blog from Claude Werner, then you may wish to do so now, as my post will make more sense with that context in place.


This last Tuesday, I made my typical weekly trip to the range and was able to shoot the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting standards using the targets that are available for download on the Tactical Professor’s blog. Like Robert, I’m happy to report that I was able to pass all four levels. I used my Glock 19 Gen4 with Ameriglo Defoor sights with the tritium front and Freedom Munitions 9mm 124 gr. HP new manufacture ammunition. I shot the standards “cold,” which is to say that I hadn’t fired a pistol in a week and hadn’t dry fired since the weekend.

The first three levels consist of five shots into a four inch circle, four times, at 10 feet, 15 feet, and 20 feet. I wish I could repeat it on demand, but for reasons that I can’t explain, one of my best groups was the third string at 20 feet. One observation that I made at the range is that when firing two strings consecutively from the same magazine of ten rounds, my first group was consistently better than the second. This can be seen in the photos below, as I shot each target in the order that the circles were numbered, with a magazine change in the middle. The first groups fired with a full magazine are the ones on the left side of the targets.

Another observation that I made is that a 6 o’clock hold, with the ammo I have been using, is appropriate at almost all distances. This is especially evident on the Instructor Qualification target, where I held the tip of the front sight directly below the “NRA” letters, yielding a group impacting almost entirely above the letters. In the photo below right, you can see a six inch circle superimposed over my group that I drew on the target with a compass. The instructor and level four standard is placing 16/20 shots within a six inch group at 15 yards. Although one of my shots cut the line at the top of the target, I’m pleased that I was able to place all 20 shots within a six inch grouping. Like Robert, I’m perplexed as to why the target just doesn’t have a six inch circle instead of the eight inch circle that it does? No doubt the NRA has a good reason, whatever it may be.

I think this course of fire is a good evaluation of marksmanship ability that reinforces the fundamentals. Even if not performed under the observation of a certified NRA Instructor, having evidence of passing this standard with a date stamp might be useful to have in your files. Download the targets, print them out, and take them on your next trip to the range. This is an easy yet difficult marksmanship test to shoot at even the most restrictive of range environments, as no drawing, movement, or rapid fire is required.


As the above course of fire required only 80 of the 100 rounds I had brought, I took the opportunity to do a very brief bit of practice with my Sig P320c. I shot a 10 round group at 25 yards and then a few failure drills. I may have finally figured out the necessary sight picture with the gun, as I had a very respectable group on a B8 repair center at 25 yards, with only one flier just off the target on the cardboard backer and the other shots scoring an 82. The pistol definitely requires a “combat” sight picture, with POA=POI with the front sight covering the POA. I had some difficulty clearly seeing the plain black Defoor sights that are on the pistol, and I may yet invest in a different set of sights with increased visibility and contrast.


Finally, as I had recently acquired a brand new box of Federal HST for my carry ammo, I decided to shoot the Hornady Critical Duty ammunition that had been in my magazines for the past few months and subject to daily unloading and loading sequences as well as sweat, dust, and extremes of weather. I was pleased that I experienced no malfunctions, as repeated loading of a round can be detrimental to primer and overall ammunition reliability. Obviously, I rotated the particular round being chambered over the course of the past few months, but several of them were subject to far more than the recommended schedule. I wish I could find Critical Duty in 50 round boxes… I like ammunition with a visible crimp around the bullet, as it allows me to easily monitor individual rounds for bullet setback. If this paragraph doesn’t make sense, check out this post from our archives.

You should be replacing your carry ammunition on a regular schedule, whether that is every six months or at least annually. I know it’s expensive, but what’s your life worth?


As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page. If you do shoot these standards, feel free to share your results with us!

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