Back in August 2023 I shot the New Jersey carry permit shooting test (aka the “Civilian Carry Assessment and Range Evaluation”, or CCARE), and documented it with video and in this blog post.
The test was complicated and poorly designed, including many skills that were essentially irrelevant to concealed carry, with time limits that were inconsistent in difficulty level from one string to the next.
In September 2023, New Jersey revised the shooting test (click here for the official document) to a much simpler process that only tests 4 skills:
- Demonstrate the safe handling of weapon.
- Demonstrate proper loading and unloading techniques.
- Demonstrate the techniques of a proper concealed carry draw.
- Demonstrate the techniques of good marksmanship.
It uses the FBI Q target. Revolver shooters have to fire double action for all 50 shots of the test. Semiautos are to be fired “in the manner in which the individual weapon functions normally and are to be decocked, if applicable, when changing positions or hands”. (This should have included “when holstering or reloading” but the general idea is that every string would start with the DA/SA style gun decocked, in the holster, with a live round chambered, as it would be carried.)
To pass, 40 of the 50 shots must hit inside the bottle, and the participant must demonstrate safe handling, including safe loading, unloading, drawing and reholstering.
The test is 10 strings of 5 rounds each. For each string, from a secured and concealed holster position, draw and fire 5 rounds (untimed). Holster a safe (decocked if applicable) weapon.
2 strings of 5 are shot from 3 yards, then 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards.
My video of the 3 and 5 yard strings
Video of me shooting the 7 and 10 yard strings
Video of the 15 yard string and final target
For the videos, I used my box stock Taurus G3 drawn from a JM Custom Kydex holster carried in the appendix position. When I did the videos, I wasn’t thinking about New Jersey’s 10 round mag limit, and loaded the Taurus mags to “more than 10”. Because each string was untimed, I chose to let the gun run dry mid string and do reloads as needed to complete the strings, to add some additional training value to the exercise. Done properly with NJ-approved 10 round mags, the reloads would occur at the end of every other string, or each time the target distance changed.
As with most of my videos, what you see is a completely cold run. No dry or live warm up. Wade and I were out at the range doing maintenance. We took a break, I grabbed a box of 9mm practice ammo, 2 mags, the G3, a KR Training logo shirt, a holster and a Q target and handed the phone to Wade to record my runs. He’s the one giving me start commands in the videos.
Because the test was untimed, I just shot at the pace I felt allowed me to keep my shots in a 6-8″ circle. I could have shot it at B-8 bullseye speed (slower) to show off and shoot a smaller group. But the goal of the videos and my evaluation of the updated qual was to shoot it like a more typical carry permit holder would. My observation of people running the Texas carry permit test is that basically everyone shoots faster than the time limits, except for (maybe) the “1 shot in 2 seconds at 3 yards” string. Most have not internalized the concept of adjusting shooting speed as target distance changes, so they shoot the “5 shots in 10-15 seconds” strings at 3, 7 and 15 at pretty much the same speed (getting progressively worse hits as the distance increases. So that’s sort of what I did for the 7, 10 and 15 yard strings – shot at roughly the same pace each time. That resulted in one round from the 15 yard line not hitting inside the bottle, ruining my perfect score.
Comparing this test to the Texas LTC qualification
In 2018, I modified the Texas LTC qualification to include more skills (drawing from concealment & movement) and suggested using an IDPA target instead of the too-large and anatomically-wrong B-27.
The history of why the B-27 exists and why it’s awful is here
In our book Strategies and Standards for Defensive Pistol Skills, John Daub and I write about Minimum Competency and qualification standards. The updated New Jersey test is very simple in design, and defines a very reasonable minimum performance standard, answering the question “what skills and abilities should someone have to be competent enough to safely carry a pistol concealed in public and use is effectively for self defense?”
Capabilities, competence and rights are different things. Many in this country have the right to vote, but would not be able to pass the 10 question citizenship test drawn from this pool of 100 questions. Similarly, one can have the right to carry and still not meet practical minimum standards. Our discussion of minimum standards is intended to aid gun owners and trainers in identifying a baseline that benefits those that aspire to it, not in defining a minimum that would be used to restrict the rights of those not yet at that performance level.
The FBI Q target offers a smaller scoring area than the B-27, but larger than the 0-ring of the IDPA target. It’s narrow bottle is slightly better, as a defensive target, than the A/C zone of a USPSA target or 0 and -1 zone of an IDPA target. The 80% hits to pass standard is the same one used for FBI agents, who also have to draw from concealment, in a more complex test with timed strings.
The Texas test is strings at 3, 7 and 15 yards, of varying lengths (1, 2, 3 or 5 rounds), but doesn’t include drawing from concealment. From an instructor perspective, the test is complicated to run. The trainer has to change par times frequently, and remember how many times they have run the 1 and 2 shot strings.
This sounds easy but when your brain cells are busy watching a firing line and making sure everyone is ready before starting the next string, it’s easy to lose your place and get into Dirty Harry mode, asking yourself “did they fire 5 strings or only 4?”.
5 shot strings evaluate the shooter’s consistent grip on the pistol, recoil recovery and concentration. The test includes 10 concealment draws and 4 reloads, all untimed. Removing the time pressure makes the test safer to run, as the primary safety concern related to drawing from concealment is risk of negligent discharge caused by the shooter going too fast. The NRA takes a similar approach in their CCW course, with an untimed shooting test using a similar scoring area that includes drawing from concealment, slide lock reloads and one handed shooting.
Including the skill of drawing from concealment in the shooting test also raises the standard for instructors, who will have to teach that skill (and be certified to teach it). This could potentially make the NRA CCW instructor certification, not the NRA Basic Pistol certification (for example), the minimum standard for instructors in New Jersey. While I’m sure it’s an unpopular view with 2nd amendment absolutists (and instructors who aren’t certified beyond the NRA Basic Pistol minimum level), carry permit students would get better training from instructors capable of meeting that higher standard (and passing the NJ test at 90% or higher level, or better yet, passing the full FBI agent shooting test at the 90% level.)
I’ve been using untimed, points-only tests in several classes recently, as a bridge between teaching the skills and testing the skills under time pressure, and I think this approach has great value — particularly as a guide to practice for those limited to indoor-range-only practice, where a shooting timer’s buzzer may be a distraction to others in adjacent lanes, or not heard over the gunfire from other shooters. It aligns with a basic training philosophy:
- Understand correct technique
- Perform correct technique with no time pressure
- Perform correct technique within acceptable minimum time standards
- Perform correct technique within time standards indicating automaticity
This article discusses what those time standards are for automaticity.
It’s a good test
The new New Jersey qualification course is a good one, possibly better than the Texas LTC test, because it uses a better target and requires drawing from concealment. As a simple, easy to remember course of fire, it makes better use of 50 rounds of ammunition than the typical gun owner’s “shoot with no plan until the ammo I brought is gone” practice regimen. Given the strongly anti-gun policies of New Jersey’s state government, the test is a nice surprise – better than Hawaii’s updated test or the earlier New Jersey requirements.
My suggestion to readers is to give the NJ test a try next time to get to the range. If you are a higher skill level shooter, leave the timer off, but push to get acceptable hits as fast as your sights and the gun allow. Removing the timer will help you focus on process, rather than outcome, which is useful in skill development, particularly in calling shots…even when you make the occasional bad shot.