I am LE and I have a decent baseline of competency with a pistol. What would you say a good basic competency with a rifle would look like?

This question was asked of me recently and I felt it would be a good time to do a series on it because I am sure many people have this question. In addition to that, recently there has been a little bit of talk about every “instructor” having their own standards. So, lets dive in.



noun: competency

  1. the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

Being able to do something successfully or efficiently with a rifle is defined by the mission, use, or role of the user. For the majority, this is as simple as getting a zero and get a hit on a critter a few times a year. First let me lay out the difference between a hunter and a harvester. If you are sitting in a blind over watching a food plot based on a bunch of research from trail cams you are a harvester. You are not hunting. Hunters on the other hand, are on their feet. They are tracking, learning patterns, and truly making it man vs critter. Some of you will not like my definitions but after many years of combat experience, I have learned the difference between hunting man and ambushing him. Anyway, a Hunter will need to be able to rapidly estimate range, account for environmental effects, then conduct his/her shot process from a less than optimal shooting position to get the hit. This would be a baseline for the average hunter. A harvester on the other hand, has a built position and time to determine environmental effects. He will have a rough range estimate that will just need to be refined once the critter arrives.

For our LE or Military audience, things get a bit more detailed. With an effective range of 0-500 yards, more tasks come into play. When you add the possibility of multiple targets, armor and that pesky fact that our “critters” are shooting back success becomes much harder to achieve. For those users, I have latched on to a few drills that have been proven over the years to show basic skill levels. I will toss a bone to my Sensei, Kyle Defoor here. We talked almost ten years ago, and it turned into a viral post for him. I have added to that a bit over the years, but his rule remains solid. Kyle said 4 inches at 25 with a pistol and 4 MOA with your rifle. What I added was the 4 inches for 50 and below for your rifle and 4 MOA out to distance. This makes a good accuracy standard, but it has rules. The look like this

Grouped at 100, Not Zeroed

0-25 4-inch 1 sec or less splits standing (US Army zeroing ONLY 4 MOA for zeroing prone)

25-50 4 inch 2-3 second splits standing

50-100 4 MOA standing or Kneeling

100-199- 4MOA Standing supported

200-250- 4MOA Kneeling supported

250-500 4MOA Prone    

Now, this is MAX group size, or minimum competency. If you can’t do this, cold, on demand, you need to attend a base level class such as Appleseed before doing other classes. Seriously, you are wasting peoples time going to higher level classes if you can’t meet this.

The range at which you last meet those standards is YOUR effective range. As in, if you can’t hold 4 MOA at 150, your effective range is 100. I am not sorry if that hurts your feelings. If you are shooting to a 4 MOA standard, you will be able to get hits on a 20-inch target at 500 yards. This is known as the Rifleman’s Quarter Mile.

Part two of this series will go into drills to use to measure your skills.


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