Historical Handgun – 1/2 day class AAR August 2017

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  On August 12, 2017, I taught the 1/2 day version of the course for the first time.  6 shooters braved the August heat to shoot 8 different qualification courses of fire, from 1940 to the present day, and listen to two short lecture blocks that included vintage film (video) clips and discussion of the evolution of shooting techniques and training standards.

The course was designed to be shot with one handgun, or up to 4 different gun types (1911, double action revolver, DA/SA style semiauto, and a striker fired semiauto).  Three students brought all 4 gun types, 3 chose to shoot all the drills with a single handgun.

Drill #1 – US Army handgun qualification (1940)

The first course of fire was the U.S. Army military qualification, which was one handed group shooting at 25 and 50 yards on the military L bullseye target, and 15 repetitions of ‘one shot from ready’ at 25 yards on the military “E” target.

Student scores ranged from 42% to 86%, with 5 of the 6 meeting the 60% qualification standard, and one exceeding the 85% threshold for Expert.

Drill #2 – FBI qualification course of fire, 1945

In earlier blog posts (and this update),  I discussed this course of fire.  It’s the most physical of the 8 that we shot, requiring prone, kneeling, sitting, quick movement between shooting positions, and hip shooting (at 7 yards).

It also covered the longest distance, with 5 rounds fired from 60 yards.Student scores ranged from 46% to 88%, with 4 of the 6 failing to meet a 70% passing standard, for a class average of 59%.

Drill #3 – Practical Pistol Course B

The NRA PPC course has been around since the 1950s, and is still shot today. According to the historians at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, the Texas Rangers used the PPC course as part of their qualification standards in the early 1970’s.

The PPC course starts at 7 yards and works back to 15, 25 and 50 yards, with prone, standing and barricade work similar to the FBI 1945 course but with faster time limits.

Scores ranged from 31% to 73%, with 4 shooters falling below the 70% passing threshold, for a class average of 56%.

Drills #4 and 5 – Gunsite 250 and 350 tests

Details of the Gunsite 250 and 350 tests can be found in these excellent articles from Gunsite instructor Ed Head.  They are both 10 round drills with 1 and 2 shot strings, from 3 to 25 and 35 yards.

The biggest challenge on the previous 3 drills was getting hits beyond 25 yards. The challenge in the Gunsite drills was draw speed – a skill not really tested in any of the older tests at all.  Late shots, not misses, affected student scores the most.

Of the 6 students, only one shot passing scores on both the 250 and 350 tests, with class averages of 60% (250 test) and 54% (350 test).  Most of the points were dropped on the close range strings, where a minimum draw time of 1.5 seconds was required.

Drill #6 – 1980s FBI

There are many videos showing people shooting this course of fire.  It includes elements of the 1945 FBI course, such as moving quickly from position to position, but uses two handed aimed fire (originally taught using the Weaver stance), and more shooting from closer distances (5, 7 and 15 yards).   The video shows students running the final string, which requires moving from the 7 to the 5 yard line, firing 5 rounds strong hand only, reloading, and shooting 5 rounds support hand only, in 15 seconds.

Student scores were higher on this course of fire, ranging from 64%-82%, but none met the standard of 43 hits inside the larger bottle of the QIT-99 target.  3 of the students shot the course using DA/SA style semiautos and the Weaver stance; the other 3 shot striker fired guns using a modern isoceles stance.

Drill #7 – Local Police Department qualification course, 1990s

For the last two drills, all but one student switched to striker fired pistols (one shot a 1911 for the entire course).  We ran a version of a nearby major city’s police department qualification course of fire.  It was a mix of 3, 7 and 15 yard shooting, including strong hand only and support hand only strings, with 6 rounds fired at 25 yards, and one reload.

The combination of familiar guns, and drills testing more frequently practiced skills resulted in higher student scores:  all 6 easily met the 70% threshold for qualification, with scores ranging from 88%-99%, and a class average of 93%.

Drill #8 – Current FBI qualification course of fire

The final course of fire was the current FBI shooting test, which several students had shot before in my own and other classes.

Scores on this test were also good, ranging from 87-95%, with a class average of 91%.


The scores show what people practice and what they don’t.   Courses of fire with lots of reasonably fast shots fired on midrange targets (7-15 yards) produced good scores; courses requiring fast presentation of the pistol from a holster, and slower speed accurate shooting at 25 yards and beyond were more challenging.

None of the students in the course had much (any) experience hipshooting targets at 7 yards, but most did reasonably well with that skill, after we ran a dozen 1 and 2 round draw and hip-shoot drills.

Because the goal of those drills was to replicate the shooting test of the 1940’s and 1950’s, students were not allowed to use speedloaders for revolver reloads, and there were a lot reloads required during strings of 15, 18, 20 and 24 rounds.   The 3 students running double action revolvers did not have period-appropriate belt pouches, and were loading from loose rounds carried in pockets.  This caused them to fire more quickly than perhaps they would have, if each part of each string was a separately timed event.

Based on lessons learned from this session, I’ll be adding some additional practice time on 25 and 50 yard shooting and 7 yard draw prior to running the tests in which those skills are essential.  For revolver shooters, I’ll be recommending students serious about doing it period-accurate invest in belt pouches. I’ll also allow those that would otherwise have to load loose rounds out of pockets to use speedloaders.  Students using semiautos for the older revolver-centric courses of fire will run them using faster par times, adjusted to provide them reasonable reloading time, but less than the 15-20 seconds budgeted for loose round revolver reloading.

The next session of Historical Handgun will be Sept 16, 2017 at my A-Zone Range.  It will be a 1 day version of the course, including all 8 drills listed here, plus practice drills, historical film/video and additional lecture material on key historical figures and books.

Those that attend the 1 day session will be eligible for discounted slots in 2018 sessions of the full 2 day version of the course, which will include additional courses of fire, video, and lecture material.

Registration is open for the Sept 2017 session.