How do you know you're good???


February 23, 2009, 05:42 AM
I know this is a subjective question and may draw extreme responses, but within reason, how do YOU judge if you're good with a handgun? Is there a generally accepted standard for viewing someone as a good shooter (outside the big gunfight - yes I know it only counts in the big one...)

When people see a person bench press 300 lbs; he's STRONG

When a gar goes 0-60 in 3 seconds; it's FAST

See what I'm getting at?

I read all the magazine articles that seem to judge the accuracy of a handgun by its groups at 25 yards. The author typically gets 2" groups at 25 yds. I'm okay but rarely practice bast 15 yds and at that distance I can group 2-3" with 5 rounds in about 4-5 seconds. Am I good? Personally I think maybe average or below. No way I could blast 2" at 25 yds.

I don't need a pat on the back or a pick-me-up. I guess I'm just wanting to compare myself to others to measure my progress and set reasonable goals.

I know this could get ugly so please no preaching or bragging about not being good unless you 1-hole 10 shots at 100 yds. Just want to know how you judge yourselves in this area so I can determine if I'm fair to myself.

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February 23, 2009, 08:07 AM
If you gauge youself against the guys who go to the range every day, you may be dissappointed.

You can be good at target shooting or scoring combat hits. It depends on the standard YOU set. Those who shoot from benchrests differ from those who work on combat, draw and fire type drills.

A benchrest guy gets angry at 2 inch groups, while a combat guy may be quite pleased with a four inch grouping...

February 23, 2009, 08:13 AM
The author typically gets 2" groups at 25 yds. Dont forget this is usually from a bench rest. If your standing at 15 yards and can put 5 shots in a 2-3" groups in 5 seconds then your pretty good. There are better and there are A LOT worse. No way I could blast 2" at 25 yds.
you could if you took your time. which people from gun mags probably do.

Double Naught Spy
February 23, 2009, 08:34 AM
Regardless of how good you think you are, you can always be better. I figure I need to be good enough, cold, to be able to overcome whatever advantages (intent, opportunity, ability, timing, preparation, weaponry, cover) my opposition has. The problems there are that I don't know what sorts of advantages I will have to I probably need to practice some more.

Hungry Seagull
February 23, 2009, 08:47 AM
I am just about the shakiest handgun in the whole South. I dont care about being good, just on target is good enough. Sight on and empty it.

That is one reason I likey shotty.

Practice until you tire, practice some more. Practice, practice and practice.

Kind of Blued
February 23, 2009, 08:47 AM
I'd say you're pretty good when you can shoot several guns off hand and notice that some guns are more accurate than others.

The concept of an "accurate gun" is simply a gun which reduces the mechanical aspect of inconsistency. Once your skill approaches or surpasses a gun's mechanical consistency and accuracy, you're pretty good, depending on who made the gun of course. :)

Practice until you tire, practice some more.

I've found that this doesn't do much in the world of shooting (especially off-hand). At a certain point of fatigue, one's body becomes incapable of acting exactly as one's brain tells it to. At this point, in my opinion, one is making noise, launching projectiles, etc, but not necessarily becoming a better shooter.

Hungry Seagull
February 23, 2009, 09:04 AM
I realize that sir regarding the tired bit and practicing some more.

I am trying to illustrate with bad words the importance of regularly shooting the weapon.

February 23, 2009, 09:36 AM
there are many different standards.

i just see myself as never being able to get good with a handgun. once i stopped worrying, my shooting got better. :)

February 23, 2009, 09:50 AM
As far as handgun accuracy, the benchmark I typically see for good, but not outstanding, shooting is honest and consistent 3" 5-shot 25 yard groups, shot standing unsupported. With a DA revolver, the shooter ought to be able to do this DA mode, not just SA. Bonus points for doing it 1-handed or weak handed, and double bonus points for doing it 1-handed and weak handed. Excellent shooting would be consistent 2-2.5" groups, and superb shooting would be consistently under 2".

As far as combat action, I'd probably use the IDPA qualifier or a simple El Prez drill as a benchmark. I'm no expert, but IMO, a good shooter ought to be able to shoot an El Prez in under 10 seconds. The par times I've seen for A-class and Master El Prez is 6.0 and 5.3 seconds, respectively. That's with all shots in the A-zone.

IMO, a very good all around shooter would be able to do all these things respectively well.

February 23, 2009, 09:57 AM
Does your range or club have any competitions? I just shot speed steel at my club yesterday. Finished in the top 1/2. I'm not great. Too old and trifocals. I am safe. I do know how to draw and get on target. I do not miss very often. I'm fast enough to be competitive in my age group. I have a lot of fun.

I shoot paper for practice quite often. I shoot off hand at 25 yds a lot. Most of my guns will hit inside a 6" circle at that distance with me at the controls. I play a mental game. On a good day I give myself a nickel for every shot in the circle, and deduct a dollar for every shot outside. On a bad day I give myself 20 cents for in and deduct a dollar for out. Goal is to come out ahead of myself.

If I'm shooting closer, I just make the target smaller. When I started shooting pistols I thought a 6" circle at 15 yds was a challenge.

As far as practice, any practice of bad fundamentals is bad. Get a lesson or two. I find that shorter sessions more often yields better results. For me shooting 200 rounds is a very short session. I like to mix two or three mags of .22 into every 10 mags of center fire. My goal is to get the same sight picture at discharge with the .22 and the 9mm or .45.

There are good videos and books, but working with a pro is the best way to get better.

February 23, 2009, 11:02 AM
When a gar goes 0-60 in 3 seconds; it's FAST

That IS one fast fish...

Here is how you know you are really good.... or really bad...

Someone else puts up a youtube video of you.

February 23, 2009, 11:09 AM
COMPETITION --- Bullseye , IPSC , IDPA , 3 Gun Action , Bowling Pin , Skeet , Trap , etc. etc.

If you REALLY want to know how good you are try to shoot in competition.

I can shoot baskets all day long , just me and the backboard ---- a LOT different then playing a basketball game.

February 23, 2009, 11:10 AM
My bullets go about where I want them to (reasonable "combat" accuracy), fairly rapidly, at a reasonable distance (inside 15-20 yards, 25 yards MAX), even while shooting on the move (a steady shuffle.)

Are there better shooters than me? Yup. Probably a lot.

Am I better than the majority of so-called "gun owners"? Yes. These people rarely put in the time to practice. That's what we as enthusiasts do; put in the time, because it's fun to us. And that's what makes us better shooters.

Now, when the S hits the F, how will I do? Don't know. All the skills in the world on a static range or IDPA match don't guarantee a win in real life. Best we can do is to be prepared.

Hungry Seagull
February 23, 2009, 11:21 AM
Competition is appealing to me but I am not going to kid myself. Im dead last.

Now back in my day competition means first to top of mountain wins with the engines we had in our day. Or perhaps walking away from the one next to you off a light.

Im happy to be within a few inches of center mass. That is good enough for me. Does that make me so bad?

February 23, 2009, 11:30 AM
Who cares about being good? I have a gun, I practice and other than that, I could care less about other people's opinions of my skill or lack thereof.

The OP question reminds of "who is the fastest gun" attitudes common to western novels.

February 23, 2009, 11:31 AM
I don't need a pat on the back or a pick-me-up.

Don't worry :rolleyes:

I'm okay but rarely practice bast 15 yds and at that distance I can group 2-3" with 5 rounds in about 4-5 seconds. Am I good? Personally I think maybe average or below. No way I could blast 2" at 25 yds.

You didn't ask for any shooting advice, but I meant to comment on this, too. Hopefully, this'll be taken as the helpful advice it was meant to be.

On a recent thread (link below), I suggested the shooter understand the difference between combat action type shooting and target shooting, and practice accordingly. I think I'd offer the same advice to you.

As described, your shooting, IMO, isn't a particularly good example of either type of shooting. Too slow for combat action, and not particularly accurate target shooting.

If you're shooting combat action style, use a paper silhouette target, bring it in to 7 yards, give up some accuracy while trying to get 5 COM hits in under 2 seconds. Or draw, 5 COM hits in under 3 seconds.

When shooting for groups, use an appropriate bullseye type target, and take aimed unrushed deliberate shots. Do not "blast" away 1 shot per second if you can do better by slowing down.

Claude Clay
February 23, 2009, 12:31 PM
Training—one way to practice:

3 IDPA targets[t], 8" paper plates[pp], tape, timer and your concealed rig

adjust to fit your physical shooting conditions:
set one at 11 o’clock at 3 paces[l], another at noon at 5 paces[m] and the 3rd at 1 o’clock at 7 paces[r]

pp lt low (belly area), pp mt center mass

from the timer draw and point shoot lt pp, depending on your speed this may be done one handed or two
transition to mt as gun is coming up to snapshot (two handed) the pp and continue to a pointed 3rd shot on the rt for a head or heart shot.

Mix up the t’s and the pp’s locations so you don’t imprint. After you can get 3 shots all on target-or close enuf to count- add follow-up shots to the training. Keep it fresh, keep it moving, change t & pp locations; do not develop patterns. After you are comfortable with doing this alone, practicing with others (remember safety at all times) will advance you faster.
As to what is good? no set answer but- from holstered to 3 good hits in 2 seconds likely means you will survive an encounter. Perhaps taking some damage, but alive. The closer you can get to 1.5 seconds makes you about as good as good gets. To be more gooder get time down to 1.25.
Playing with friends allows for them to [with your back turned] arrange the t’s and tape a pictures of a gun on one and a cell phone on another. At the buzzer you have to turn and engage in order of most to least danger. Lots of variations—lots of ‘fun’

This is a snapshot of one training exercise and what proceeds it isn’t mentioned. in part learning:
to draw; don’t try to be fast: smooth is fast
to point shoot
speed reloads; counting rounds

indy 500 racers started out with the same drivers permit you did.
Practice, desire and innate skill separate them from the masses
Practice and train to your abilities and do not think yourself better than reality shows you to be.
This will keep you away from the peter principle. Thus minimizing your frustration while increasing your likelihood of survival.

February 23, 2009, 12:37 PM
Watched a guy shoot a 50 5X at 50 yds at a bullseye match last summer.

He was good.

February 23, 2009, 12:43 PM
How do you know you're good???
when pro trainers tell you you are, howevre no matter how good i am, i think i am or anyone else thinks i am for that matter i can always improve, and that is the case with everyone. i am not a proud man as most people say, i do not brag, and i don't boast that is how you get into trouble in my opinion.

i tell people i train and shoot 20,000rds a year, and they say why so much, and i reply, because 19,999rds of that is misses. :)

February 23, 2009, 12:49 PM
Look at my signature line and you will know how good I am !!

February 23, 2009, 01:41 PM
"Good" means different things to different people.

Using your example, I have a friend that can shoot some of the tightest groups I have ever personally witnessed: cloverleafs at 15 yards, under 2" at 25 yards with just about any pistol you put into his hands - but it takes him forever to make each shot.

I do SD/combat shooting, and at these ranges, I can always get off a first and second shot before he can fire one. While I can't cloverleaf my shots, they all are grouped inside the 'alpha' circle of an IDPA target.

So "good" means different things to different people.

February 23, 2009, 08:36 PM
The only way to tell how good you are is to compete. Shooting at the range doesn't tell you much, because it's too easy to remember the good stuff and forget your goofs. Only the good targets go on the 'fridg door!

Pick a sport and work on your weak points for two years. Shoot as many matches as you can. Did you win any trophies?

Quick and dirty:
Can you qualify as IDPA Expert? If so, you're good, but not great.

February 23, 2009, 08:45 PM
No Matter how good you are, There is always Someone Better!

February 23, 2009, 09:34 PM
Can you qualify as IDPA Expert? If so, you're good, but not great. Compared to...? I would think IDPA Expert or USPSA B class is well beyond great in comparison to the masses?

February 23, 2009, 11:28 PM
My son & I shoot in a USPSA league.

At the range, I outshoot him at 25yds. Sometimes by a lot.

In our league he wins the trophy in limited 10 "every time" and usually outshoots all but two or three in any class.

I place in the upper 1/3 in production class and sometimes lower .

I'm 62, he's 36. He's disatisfied with his shooting. So am I.

We'll both be back next weekend to find that Ooone more thing we can do to improve.

Measure your Accuracy, Speed and Flexibity against what YOU want to achieve.

The Wiry Irishman
February 24, 2009, 12:07 AM
All I know is that I'm not as good as I'd like to be. From what I've observed of people that can shoot as well as I'd like to, if I keep up my present practice level (about 500 rounds a week, about 2/5 of it rimfire) I'll be where I want to be when I'm in my mid thirties. I also know that I'll enjoy every bit of practice that it takes me to get there.

February 24, 2009, 11:03 AM
Ankeny, I agree that IDPA Expert or USPSA B class is well beyond great in comparison to the masses, but the masses are just average. Lots of people make Expert, but never rise to the level of Master or Grand Master. Most shooters stay in Marksman and Sharpshooter.

I squadded with Mas Ayoob at an IDPA match when he was shooting a TR .44 Spl wheelgun and I was shooting a tricked-out CZ75B SA. I'm an Expert and he's a Master (actually he was the first 5-gun IDPA Master) and even though I had a significant advantage in equipment, he kicked my butt.

I'm a good shooter. Mas is a great shooter.

Double Naught Spy
February 24, 2009, 12:40 PM
but the masses are just average.

No, the masses pretty well suck. I base this on seeing CHL qualification shooters who manage to pass their Texas CHL test, but who manage to shoot the entire target in the process along with the floor, the holder, etc.

The masses don't practice. The masses are not inherently skilled. Generally speaking, if the masses pass their CHL test, they are happy.

I would sincerely hope that everyone on this board is better than the average if the masses are what is considered the average.

February 24, 2009, 02:22 PM
Good is a moving target . . .

Good at shooting a motionless round paper target, vs. shooting at a moving target while moving, too?

Good at standing on a nice sunny range with the sun and wind at your back, or good moving through a shooting house in dim light with BG's in dark corners equally armed with paintball guns/simunitions?

Good enough?

If you think you're good, it's time to step up to where you are embarrassed again, or you aren't trying to be good, you're just basking in some newbie's undeserved adulation.

You're good when you realize you can always be better.

February 24, 2009, 02:28 PM
You're good when you realize you can always be better.

+1. best i've read yet.

February 24, 2009, 10:53 PM
I'm gonna be that stereotypical thread jerk who points out peoples typographical mistakes because he has nothing better to do.

When a gar goes 0-60 in 3 seconds; it's FAST

There.... i did it.

Sorry O.P.

February 24, 2009, 11:33 PM
the standard varies -- as has been mentioned. For me, at the range, I shoot well enough that i don't pay for drinks at the end of the night :D
In a SD application -- well enough to end a threat
Hunting -- I can easily shoot minute of moose :D

B yond
February 25, 2009, 12:21 AM
There are different definitions of "good."

My definition of "good" for defensive purposes is a combination of combat accuracy (minute of bad guy) and speed.

When I'm shooting a rifle for accuracy, then "good" means small group at big distance. Time isn't even a factor.

When I'm shooting clays with my boomstick, "good" just means in the same ballpark as the competition.

February 25, 2009, 12:34 AM
I was number 14 in the pistol Pres 100 one year. I was happy with that.

February 25, 2009, 03:59 AM
Short of an actual gunfight, the way to measure your competence is competition.

For comparison purposes I would probably recommend IDPA.

You don't have to be a Grand Master to know whether you are good or not. Competitive scores running the course tactically instead of as a gamer.

It ain't bad or wrong being a gamer, in fact it can be a lot of fun. but use the match for your purposes.

I have found that generally those that have real combat experience rarely come in first. We generally placed high, but shoot the course with a different perspective and purpose.

I also recommend taking some of the better tactical classes. Not just one or two either. You must get to the crux of the problem. You will know when you arrive. Other folks will tell you, without you asking.

If you are still worrying about your competence you ain't there. And if you know you are the best ever, you missed the mark too. It is a perishable skill, it must be maintained honed and adapt to many different situations. It is about a "tool box" of skills, abilities and experience, available for the varying and multiple situations you may find yourself in.

And there is a lot more to combat than just martial arts, skills, physical preparedness, training and practice. Character, mindset, emotional make up, all come into play. There is no reset or "do over". Like life, you get one shot, it is not a drill.

I guess simply put, it's a journey. Enjoy it.

Go figure.


February 25, 2009, 05:20 AM
You will know.

If you have to ask, you have much practice time ahead of you.

Deer Hunter
February 25, 2009, 10:58 AM
NRA Smallbore: When they get over 95 on average on slowfire and around 88-95 on rapid.

(I shoot slow, timed, and rapid at the same pace when I shoot smallbore)

Free Pistol: Shooting over 530.

Air Pistol: Shooting over 560.

IPSC/USPSA: 80% on a stage or above.

February 25, 2009, 11:00 AM
^^^ i didn't know you were A class...?

Deer Hunter
February 25, 2009, 11:19 AM
Isn't this thread about "how do you know you're good?"

I would consider that very good. I am not there yet, though. I'm fairly Average. :)

February 25, 2009, 11:36 AM
i only have sight in my right eye...........i can put 4 out of 6 shots from my S&W 686 within a 3 inch circle on a 8" X 10" target at 25 feet

i'm probably OK

February 25, 2009, 11:45 AM
You're good when you realize you can always be better.

When you think you're good, you need to get out and find someone better to shake you up.
Most people suck at shooting. Just try to suck less than the people shooting at you.

This is basically a question for the Hagakure or Book of 5 Rings.

February 25, 2009, 11:49 AM
I thought I was pretty good until someone suggested the "torture dot drills" on the forum. Its a series of drills presenting from the holster and shooting at six 2 inch dots on a target. I usually stand at about 10 yards and when I first started I had a heck of a time hitting the little buggers consistently. I started taking my time and building my speed and now I've improved quite a bit.

I spend a lot of time on the range and I've competed in a couple local competitions. I know a few guys who are really good shooters, especially with rifles. MOST people are not good shots. (But don't try to tell them that!) They shoot at large targets and if they hit it at all they consider themselves pretty good. If your actually shooting GROUPS. I would consider you a good shot.

February 25, 2009, 03:59 PM
I personally only shoot pistols for self defense. For me, good is being good enough to stop an attacker at 15 yards. I practice drawing and firing as quickly as possible. If I can put 3 shots into a 2-3" group, Im happy. I figure that is enough to stop any attack, I consider that good. But like I said I only use pistol for self defense. purposes.

February 26, 2009, 07:27 PM
My standard is a little more strict. I want to be able to shoot someone who may grab my daughter and attempt to kidnap, harm her, or use her as a shield. To me that means I better be able to put my shot very precisely. Point shooting a few rounds on a human silhouette doesn't fit in my philosophy. I want to be able to not only shoot him in the head if necessary but to choose which eye. Trust me, its a high standard and a frustrating one to try to live up to. I wish I was more like you guys.

February 26, 2009, 08:45 PM
The only way to know if you are good is to go compete, shoot some bullseye, IPSC or IDPA and see where you wind up.

February 26, 2009, 08:49 PM
I've had people at the range ask me if i am in the military or how i got that good. Guess that means Im good, but Im far from the best.

February 26, 2009, 09:39 PM
A similar thread over on the Brian Enos forum:

A pretty good read. Like here, the OP was asking for some objective info. I saw relatively little of that on either thread, and some of the same sentiments were expressed there as well as here. A number of them expressed points I'd not seen here, though: Safety, good sportsmanship, and the willingness to pass their knowledge on.

February 26, 2009, 10:20 PM
Good points. They may have brought up the difference between being a good SHOT and a good SHOOTER.

February 26, 2009, 11:21 PM
My standard is a little more strict. I want to be able to shoot someone who may grab my daughter and attempt to kidnap, harm her, or use her as a shield. To me that means I better be able to put my shot very precisely. Point shooting a few rounds on a human silhouette doesn't fit in my philosophy. I want to be able to not only shoot him in the head if necessary but to choose which eye. Trust me, its a high standard and a frustrating one to try to live up to. I wish I was more like you guys.

I think he hits it right on the head about what you want. Be very careful what you ask for, you may get it. His combat experience mirrors my own, although his experience is much more current.

Just read this on the Wilson Combat news letter:


As anyone who has taken one of my classes can attest I am very accuracy oriented. My classes always stress a high degree of accuracy. That is because in a gunfight accuracy will almost always suffer. There are many reasons for this not the least of which is you may very well be receiving fire from your assailant. In addition there is a high likelihood that you will be moving, your enemy may be moving, and it could be in an environment of limited visibility.

All of these factors and countless others will have a negative affect on accuracy. The hope is that if you strive for a high degree of accuracy in your training that when your accuracy suffers in a gunfight, it will still be enough to get the job done. This approach has been used with great effectiveness in Tier One special operations units for years. I am a product of that school of thought, and I have trained a great many of these soldiers with that approach uppermost in my mind.

Whenever I teach drills, I always tell my students to shoot as fast as they can, but not at the expense of a reasonable accuracy standard. One of the techniques I use frequently is to place a 25 yd pistol bullseye center target on the chest area of an IPSC or IDPA target. I then tell the students to shoot as fast as they can on each and every drill but always strive to keep the shots in the black of the bullseye. On drills such as shooting on the move this is opened up to keep your shots on the replacement center paper. This is commonly known as the ‘aim small, miss small’ approach. Part way through the first day I will peel off the bullseye and show the students the large ragged hole that inevitable results from this drill. This reinforces the teaching point that speed is fine, but accuracy is final - words that I live by.

Another question I get frequently asked is what is the acceptable mechanical or intrinsic accuracy for a service pistol or carbine. Meaning what should the weapon/ammo combination be capable of producing from a shooting device or rest that eliminates shooter error. Keep in mind I come from a surgical accuracy oriented special operations background with little margin for error. Based on this and years of experience I have concluded that a service pistol should be capable of head shots at 25 yds and a service carbine should be capable of the same at 100 yds - basically 5 inch groups. However there is a catch; I have found that under conditions of stress a shooter will only be able to shoot to within roughly 50 % of the accuracy potential of a given weapon. And that is only for the best shooters; the majority will not even be close to that. That means in order to achieve my standard of head shots (5 inch groups) at a given distance the weapon/ammo combination needs to be capable of at least 2.5 inch groups. I personally measure that accuracy standard with 10 shot groups. Many quality service pistols and carbines with good ammo will achieve this but there are many other factors involved such as sights and trigger pull characteristics. By these criteria it is not hard to see why a tuned 1911 pistol is so popular in selected spec ops units. Keep in mind that any effort to make a weapon more accurate almost always means tightening tolerances which can lead to a less than acceptable reliability standard for a combat weapon. A balance between accuracy and reliability has to be achieved. Surprisingly there are many pistols and carbines that do a good job offering an acceptable blend of both. In addition weapons of this type will require a higher degree of end user maintenance to keep them running. Don’t expect a pistol to shoot like a custom 1911 but be as forgiving about maintenance as a Glock 17; it just doesn’t happen that way.

In closing always strive to maintain a high degree of accuracy in your training sessions. It will serve you well in case you ever have to use your weapon for real. Remember the motto on the home page of this website: Speed is fine- Accuracy is final.

Larry Vickers is a retired career special operations soldier with 20-plus years of service to our country. A longtime 1st SFOD- Delta operational member, he was a key player in the small arms marksmanship expertise and weapons selection of that Unit. He brings a very unique set of skills to the market, and has a wide and varied background in the firearms industry.

Vickers Tactical

February 27, 2009, 06:51 AM
you know you good when someone can be shooting at you and you are still able to fire and hit him I really hope on one here ever have to fine out if they are good.

be safe

February 27, 2009, 03:00 PM
Who cares about being good? I have a gun, I practice and other than that, I could care less about other people's opinions of my skill or lack thereof.

The OP question reminds of "who is the fastest gun" attitudes common to western novels.

I think you are reading a lot into it that isn't there.

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