The three dangers hidden inside the most common Shooting Tests and Evaluation Shooting Standards

Here We Go, here is the article i’ve wrote regarding what in my opinion is an important point, something that everyone who carry a firearm for defense should know .

I had thought of doing it in PDF format but I decided to publish it as a simple post, to allow non-English speakers to copy and paste to make easier the use of “Google Translate”.

Remember also that English is not my native language, I tried to do my best.

The three dangers hidden inside the most common Shooting Tests and Evaluation Shooting Standards.



Recently I have seen that in social media there is again the trend to talk about shooting assessment tests, shooting standards and data that should serve to define the technical skills and the level of preparation that a subject has or should have in the use of firearms.

The tests for the maintenance and evaluation of standards are an absolutely common practice in the various Government Agencies, in the LE or MIL Units up to the SOF Special Units.

In the civilian market, the practice of carrying out shooting assessments by specific Tests to evaluate one’s abilities is poorly applied and is usually taken more as a “fun thing” than as a fundamental indicator of the actual state of our preparation.

As this is entirely optional, the civilians are not required to carry out any shooting assessment of their technical level, nor to maintain any standards of efficiency, even if they carry a firearm for defense.

When we talk about shooting TESTS or shooting STANDARD we are talking about exercises and defined actions in which some elements are examined as evaluation parameters, the exercises are then translated into numbers and then subsequently into data.

Up to here, everything is fine and the evaluation process would seem to be correct provided, however, that the correct elements and evaluation parameters are taken into consideration and above all related to the application field of interest. Indeed it would make no sense to evaluate, for example, the ability of a doctor according to tests that have parameters with which the abilities of an airline pilot are assessed.

Before analyzing what the errors are, however, we must define the conditions to which anyone carrying a firearm in the real context for work or defense is subject.

When we talk about the REACTION and the REACTIVE CAPACITY of a subject, we must understand what we are talking about.

The reactive capacity consists of two main elements:

Cognitive ability (75%) and mechanical ability (25% )

The Reactive Cognitive Capacity : is the ability of our brain to acquire as much information as possible from the environmental/sensory interaction, analyze them and rationalize them in the most compressed time possible and then SEND THE ORDERS to perform the most appropriate and effective actions at that given moment in that micro context in response to a that specific threat or danger .

The Reactive Mechanical Capacity : is the physical and biomechanical capacity that a subject has in carrying out sequences of defined actions subordinated to a decision-making process.

Having defined all this, we can move on to understand what are the 3 critical mistakes that make the current assessment tests in the field of firearms shooting poorly effective

( especially if we talk about “Defensive handgun” ).

DANGER 1 – The scarce relevance of the discriminating sequence with respect to the application


Usually in the application field of training with firearms, when it comes to carrying out a technical evaluation of the performance of a subject, a single main element is taken as a discriminant: THE TARGET.

Two fundamental parameters are then inevitably linked to this: TIME, understood as the execution time of the exercise or the action and the EFFECTIVENESS of the performance, understood as the accuracy of the shooting referred to the target.

This sequence consisting of a single element (the TARGET) and two parameters (TIME – ACCURACY) and it is perfect if referred to a specific and well-defined context/environment, that is: THE SHOOTING RANGE, as such, is therefore suitable and useful for any evaluation technique that concerns any performance linked to that type of context, such as SPORT SHOOTING.

It is precisely in the application of sports disciplines with firearms that the best performances are obtained in terms of the ratio between Speed and Effectiveness/Accuracy on the target.

A Competitive Shooter who undergoes assessment tests that respond to that sequence is therefore perfectly within the area of relevance of his assessment with respect to its application.

Instead if we take a subject from Law Enforcement , Military or a Civilian who carries a firearm every day for defense, and we submit them to evaluation tests, which always respond to the same sequence: TARGET – TIME – ACCURACY (such as 99% of those currently applied), their relevance to the application will be absolutely marginal and will not exceed 25% reliability, regardless of the result of the tests or the trials sustained.

This is due to the fact that the sequence of elements and parameters considered as discriminating for the evaluation of the

candidate/subject represents only one of the two fundamental aspects, which is the MECHANICAL execution

( Mechanical Reactivity ) and NOT the overall Reactive Capacity which is 75% made up of the cognitive sphere.

Not only, we should consider that the Mechanical Reactivity is subordinated to the Cognitive Reactivity in an essential way.

So we can say that the first critical error is represented by the sequence of elements and evaluation parameters which are only partially relevant to the application field in case of a subject of LE, Military, or in case of a Civilian who carrying a firearm for defense every day.

DANGER 2 – The omission of the two main reactive input


Most of the Evaluation Exercises/Tests related to defensive pistol shooting, come from sport shooting and therefore they have the Shooting Range as application environment and TARGET – TIME – ACCURACY as a discriminating sequence.

The majority of these tests are therefore based solely on the mechanics of the shooting and on the physical, technical and biomechanical capacity of the shooter, completely eluding his cognitive sphere.

The 100% of the tests in which the TIME parameter is present are based solely on auditory reactive input, which is only one of the 3 main input, minimizing the cognitive one and the visual ones.

To better understand what we are talking about, it is sufficient to relate the discriminating sequence and environment in which the evaluation takes place ( shooting range ) , with the conditions of the application to which anyone carrying a firearm in the real context responds.

All targets, regardless of the type of exercise or TEST, are always pre-known, thus excluding the ability to discriminate the threat / target, which is fundamental in the real context.

All the exercises that include a timer to measure the execution time of the Drill, are based solely on a reaction to a predefined, preconceived and prolonged auditory input (about 0.20 hundredths of a second).

The second error is therefore given by the fact that the two other main reactive input the visual and the cognitive are basically always omitted, considering that normally we acquire the environment 70% by our eyes ( during day light ) and considering that the cognitive reaction input ( cognitive associations ) is the main key of our reaction when we are involved or we need to face a LTS ( Life Threatening Situation ) in real context .

DANGER 3 – The mechanical speed up and the regression of Cognitive Reactivity


The third error related to the marksmanship tests (especially those with Pistol) consists of two aspects, the type of exercises that are carried out and the conditions in which we carry them out.

Since these are exercises that always involve the same actions, always the same execution, being therefore known and replicable in every detail, they can generate memory and therefore be implemented through simple repetition.

Let me explain better, if we take for example exercises such as the Bill Drill, El Presidente, 222 Drill or any other exercise in which we have a predetermined sequence of shots, a predetermined target/s, a predefined distance, a predefined reactive input (auditory input generated by the beep

of the timer ), we can say that the more times we repeat the exercises, the better the result will be, because we will carry out the drill faster and more accurately, what I usually call a Mechanical SPEED UP.

However, more times we will do it and the greater the detachment we will have with the reality that one day we might find ourselves facing.

This is indicated by simple logic and common sense, in the real context the variables are infinite and there is no action or condition equal to another.

In the real context, what will make the difference will mainly be the ability of our brain to carry out complex cognitive processes during a critical phase and an extremely high level of stress.

It is precisely here that the second part of the error originates.

If we talk about subjects who carry a firearm in the real context, the psychophysical conditions in which they carry out the TEST are essential and cannot be ordinary conditions (white condition) in which there is any alteration of some of the main parameters such as: heart rate, breathing cycle, cognitive overload to name a few.

We must also keep in mind that the shooting range being a controlled environment is an environment with very low

sensory/cognitive interaction, it does not produce variables in real time and therefore does not create conditions of immediate cognitive response, which are the basis of any critical event in which we will be involved in the real context.


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