How Competent Of A Shooter Should You Be To Carry A Handgun?

As human beings, we have a natural right to bear arms for our personal defense. That natural right to use deadly force comes with both legal and moral responsibilities.


The legal threshold for the concealed or open carry of a handgun is very low in most of the nation where “shall issue” or “constitutional carry” laws are in place. In “may issue” states, the laws are designed to impede carry as much as possible. None of these laws, however, really address competence at arms.

From a moral perspective,  how competent should we be to carry a handgun, either openly or concealed? How good is “good enough?” That’s a question that a lot of people struggle with internally.

I’d make the argument that a passing score on the new FBI qualification course of fire serve as a decent proxy of adequate handgun manipulation skills and marksmanship for those of us who intend to carry a handgun (either openly or concealed).

The FBI Qualification Test

The current FBI qualification test is a timed 60-round test typically shot on a FBI-Modified QIT target. All strings are fired from the holster, as you aren’t walking around in public with a gun in your hands.

qit target

When I shot it in a recent class, we’ve only counted those scores within the upper chest and head; low hits within the dotted gray line were considered misses.


The strings of fire are as follows. You start when you hear the shot timer.

  • At 3 yards, 3 rounds, strong hand only in 3 seconds. (fired twice)
  • At 3 yards, 3 rounds strong hand only, switch hands, 3 rounds weak hand in 8 seconds. (fired once. 12 total rounds fired at 3 yards)
  • At 5 yards, 3 rounds in 3 seconds.  (fired 4 times. 12 total rounds fired at 5 yards.)
  • At 7 yards, 4 rounds in four seconds (fired twice.)
  • At 7 yards, fire 4 rounds, reload, then fire for more rounds in eight seconds (fired once. 16 total rounds fired at 7 yards)
  • At 15 yards, fire 3 rounds in 6 seconds (fired twice)
  • At 15 yards, fire four rounds in eight seconds (fired once. 10 total rounds at 15 yards)
  • At 25 yards, move one step to “cover,” (a real or imagined barricade), fire two rounds standing, kneel, and fire 3 rounds kneeling in 15 seconds. (fired twice. 10 total rounds at 25 yards)

From 5 yards and out, you shoot with both hands on the handgun.

48 hits out of 60 (80%) are required as to obtain a passing score, and shots fired after the shot timer stops are considered misses.


FBI instructors are required to make at least 54 of 60, or 90% of hits.

bob fbi

A passing score is easily obtainable if you have a reasonable amount of firearms proficiency, and every single shooter at my most recent class shot at least a passing score from concealment. Some of those shooters were very proficient experts, while others were near beginners. I shot the target above from concealment using a brand new holster and gun that I’d only picked up the day before, and my five misses all came at 25 yards.

If you can’t make the required hits in the time allotted, it suggests that you need to work on your draw and your marksmanship. You aren’t likely to fair well in a self-defense encounter if you cannot meet these relatively generous standards.

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