Handgun Testing Protocol for Concealed Carry Evaluation

Handgun Testing Protocol for Concealed Carry Evaluation

The best way to select a new handgun or to field test your newly-purchased handgun is to run it through some standard and basic handgun testing drills. If you have not bought the gun yet, rent the particular model or borrow it from a friend, or take a class where you can shoot different guns, and try the ones you like. When deciding on a handgun, it is not enough to consider just a handgun’s specifications, or if it is nice and shiny, or if it fits in your hand, or if your shooting friend believes it is the best gun since sliced bread. Especially if you are using the gun for concealed carry as your everyday carry gun or for personal protection, you must experience the gun firsthand and feel comfortable with its consistent function and performance. It really is a proficiency test for both yourself and the gun. You need to get comfortable and accurate with your concealed carry gun at different closer concealed carry distances, with various ammo your gun handles well, while shooting with one and two hands for precision, and under time pressure… safely.

You must intimately handle, operate the controls, load and unload it, rack the slide or eject the revolver cartridges, try various hollow point ammo in it, draw and shoot the handgun for your personal experience and evaluation, so you can judge it for yourself. Of course, it is best to do this BEFORE you buy the gun. Certainly, do this BEFORE you decide on your carry gun. I can’t count the number of students who have bought a gun and have not shot it or rented it for trial before purchasing it. I have heard folks say this is the carry gun for me, but have not even shot the gun yet or shot hollow points in it. They later discover that they cannot rack the slide, their fingers cannot reach the trigger, they cannot handle the recoil, their fingers are too long (or too short) for the chosen gun’s trigger, cannot grip it properly, or cannot handle the heavy weight of the gun… or the light weight and its recoil, etc. Or it jams frequently with 3 or 4 types of hollow points. Would you spend big bucks for a new car without driving it? Regardless of what your best shooting buddy, Uncle Si, or your instructor says works for them, is it for you? For one thing, it should ergonomically match your physical characteristics, such as hand size, finger length, and grip strength. But because it “feels good in your hand” is not the SOLE reason to buy and use it to protect your life. I definitely want a gun that feels good in my hand, BUT if I have to make a tradeoff between feel good and hit accurately and be reliable, I would choose the latter. Even if the gun is a little uncomfortable in my hand, if I can hit the target with the first shot and tomorrow do it again, that is my priority. Although, I do want the gun to meet all my requirements and criteria, including comfort AND accuracy AND reliability, etc.

 Test Your CC Gun by Shooting about 200 FMJ and 200 JHP Ammo in It Using a Standard Protocol

Test Your Concealed Carry Gun by Shooting about 200 FMJ and 200 JHP Ammo in It Using a Standard Handgun Testing Protocol

Given your personal characteristics, you must primarily test the gun for accuracy and reliability in realistic drills. Proficiency drills for your shooting skills are also drills for you to evaluate that particular gun. I believe that you should shoot about 200 rounds of full metal jacket ammo, a variety of quality loads at varying prices. It is important to know the type of load that can be best digested by your carry gun without any malfunctions or stoppages. More than one malfunction or stoppage is usually NOT acceptable for any load in a concealed carry gun with 400 rounds fired. Some say not even one is acceptable for 400-500 rounds fired in a carry gun. So pay attention and try various weights of bullets and cartridge types. Yes, shoot some less expensive practice or training ammo through the gun to see how it handles them. But then I believe you MUST also periodically shoot the hollow point self-defense ammo that you will carry. I know it is expensive, but you have to decide the cost-benefit payoff because your life depends on your rational choice. “Bite the bullet and do it!” So, shoot about 200 rounds of hollow point ammo through the self-defense gun. Once you narow down your many gun options, you must shoot your two or three gun finalists to help you assess accuracy and reliability and to make a final purchase or use decision. You must judge for yourself the guns accuracies and reliabilities. So fork over the cost of the ammo, so you don’t bet your life on unexpected outcomes with your personal protection gun. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that you can count on your gun. It will be reliable and accurate for you in stressful encounters. And I don’t mean discover this from just randomly punching holes in paper at the range. You should have your own standard procedure to test your gun (and your own proficiencies) up front. Do you have one?

So what handgun testing and evaluation procedure do you use for your gun? What protocol will you use to evaluate your new handgun or for a specific use? If you have one, I would sincerely like to know your protocol, so please comment. I believe a shooter must assess accuracy and reliability for each gun being considered by observing the size of the shot groups at various realistic concealed carry encounter distances, using different shooting positions, and with different ammo loads, drills, etc. Of course, you as the shooter must do your part with practicing and implementing the fundamentals of shooting, with attention to sight alignment, trigger control, movement control, breath control, proper grip, etc. Also, I believe that every gun you shoot should be thoroughly cleaned BEFORE shooting it… and AFTER every range trip. It is a pain to do this, but well worth your renewing your familiarity with the gun model and its specific features. This is in addition to the assurance you have from your hands-on maintenance of the gun, knowing its proper lubrication points, and handling it, etc. I can disassemble, lubricate, reassemble our many guns now in about an average of 4-5 minutes for each gun, after much practice. Most folks can do this in less time probably. Below is the Handgun Testing Protocol I use for my concealed carry pistols (and for other guns with some drill modifications.) My recent book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” has several self-defense drills that can help you with your proficiency and for evaluating handguns, e.g. My 5-Shot Touch Group Drill and my 44 Drill.

HANDGUN TESTING PROTOCOL (Col Ben’s 44-44 Concealed Carry Drill)

GOAL: Select the best concealed carry pistol, based on shooting it for accuracy and reliability at different distances, from basic shooting positions and concealed carry draw, using different ammo loads, while timed. ALL rounds fired must hit in the 4″ targets.

Draw and Fire in sequence 4 Consecutive 4-Shot Groups (16 rounds) in 4 Seconds into 4″ targets (circle/index card) from each of 2 shooting positions at specified concealed carry distances.

Pistol Testing Protocol-BEST- 853x768

*  To effectively evaluate & test your gun with various ammo at different distances, REPEAT Stage 1 and Stage 2 for 2 times each for a Total of 256 Total Rounds Fired for both Stages. ALL rounds must hit 4″ targets. About 200 FMJ AND 200 JHP rounds are optimal for complete handgun testing & evaluation.

NOTE: Both Stages do NOT have to be completed at the same range session, given necessary Total round count for thorough handgun testing and the Protocol challenges. Also, Stages do NOT have to be repeated at the same session with just one stage completed at a session, given your ammo supply. SAFETY FIRST!

STAGE 1:

String A – at 3 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 115 grain FMJ) rounds from a two-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String B – at 3 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 115 grain JHP) rounds from a two-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 44-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String C – at 5 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 124 grain JHP) rounds from a two-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String D – at 7 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 147 grain JHP) rounds from a two-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

TOTAL STAGE 1= 64 Rounds (This stage can be repeated (now or later) to fire another 64 rounds to add to the total rounds fired to better evaluate your gun with 128 rounds fired this Stage.)

STAGE 2:

String A – at 3 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 115 grain FMJ) rounds from a one-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String B – at 3 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 115 grain JHP) rounds from a one-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String C – at 5 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 124 grain JHP) rounds from a one-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

String D – at 7 yards – Draw & fire 4 consecutive (start with 147 grain JHP) rounds from a one-handed position at a 4″ target, then repeat the same at 3 more targets (total of 4 4-shot groups) using different ammo as specified below.

Total = 16 Rounds:

4 (115 gr FMJ) rounds + 4 (115 gr JHP) rounds + 4 (124 gr JHP) + 4 (147 gr JHP)

TOTAL STAGE 2= 64 Rounds (This stage can be repeated (now or later) to fire another 64 rounds to add to the total rounds fired to better evaluate your gun with 128 rounds fired this Stage.)

TOTAL ROUNDS FIRED- Stage 1 and Stage 2 = 128 Rounds (see Note #3 below.)

_____________________________________________________________________________

POSITIONS: Shoot from 2 Shooting Positions:

  1. a) Standing Two-Handed- draw from concealed carry garment
  2. c) Standing One-Handed- draw from concealed carry garment

AMMO: Use 4 different Ammo Loads:

  1. 115 gr FMJ- 24 rounds total @ 3 distances
  2. 115 gr JHP- 24 ”          ”                “
  3. 124 gr JHP- 24 ”          ”                “
  4. 147 gr JHP- 24 ”          ”                “

TOTAL ROUNDS FIRED -all Loads Stages 1 and 2 = 128 Rounds

Gear & Accessories Required:

  1. Concealed carry handgun with at least 3 mags
  2. Concealed carry holster and concealed carry mag pouch
  3. Concealed carry belt
  4. Concealed carry garment
  5. Total of 150 Rounds of Ammo minimum (of specified loads) – double that is suggested. If Stages 1 and 2 (with 128 total rounds) are repeated for a total of 256 total rounds (using both FMJ and JHP rounds) fired to fully evaluate your gun.
  6. Shot Timer

NOTES:

1.  SAFETY First Always! Be very careful drawing and firing your pistol. Do not attempt this protocol unless you are proficient with a handgun and practice regularly. Modify it to match your abilities.

2.  Do NOT time yourself initially. Go SLOW at first. Accuracy first with all hits on each target. Speed can come later when you become more proficient and confident in handling your gun.

3.  If more shooting time is needed to evaluate each gun tested, double the number of the 4 loads (FMJ and JHP) used, so you would shoot 256 rounds total a gun (or triple the number of each load used for 384 rounds used a gun.) This can be done over a few months before making your concealed carry gun decision.

4.  For more challenge, use a 3×5 inch card for a head target and make the last shot a head shot in each of the 4 consecutive shots in each string. Also, you can shoot it with your support-hand only. My experience is that most can initially accomplish Strings A, B, and C at 3 and 5 yards in both Stages, but that it takes more time and focus to accomplish String D at 7 yards in both. All of these distances are realistic concealed carry encounter distances. Don’t rush it and be deliberate and Safe.

Continued Success and Be Safe!

Photos by Author.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • Bdpenn

    Are we testing a gun or a competition shooter?
    If your shooter can perform this drill correctly, 4 shots in 4 seconds into a 4 inches target from different positions including from a holster at 3, 5 and 7 yds then he/she doesn’t need your advice for choosing a handgun or a critical defense cartridge. Their skill level is way beyond worrying about the handgun reliability factor.
    For safety sake, donot attempt this drill if you cannot perform any of the drill steps in a relaxed session say 4 shots into a 4inch target at any of the distances in any amount of time.
    If you cannot perform standard flash sight shooting of 1 shot within 2 seconds from a low ready into a 9 inch target (intermediate shooter)at 7 yards consistently then you are not ready for the 44 drill.
    As your skill level and knowledge increases your choices of handgun and cartridge will evolve. Don’t fall for putting the cart way ahead of the horse.
    In the mean time following your research choose a modern day firearm that fits you ergonomically including fit, feel, comfort with ease of manipulating the controls and caliber that you can control.
    Include the affordability of the firearm and large quantity of ammunition required for frequent continuing practice.
    Then practice, practice, practice. If you are carrying a handgun for defense, include a defensive cartridge in your sessions to insure reliability and to become accustomed to shooting premium cartridges.
    Sometimes, some of these articles fail to identify with the appropriate audience skill level.
    I often see the results at the range. Scary, what some people try before accessing their abilities or skill level.
    Practice, be patient, be determined, recognize your abilities and above all be safe. Proficiency is always one practice session away.
    Vote wisely!!

    • Chuck38

      I’d like to suggest an additional safety precaution for semi-auto handguns, rifles and shot guns. A semi-auto has the potential to go full-auto if it is defective. It is suggested that the following procedure be followed after any guns-mithing work has been done, the gun has been disassembled partially or fully and when a new gun is purchased:

      Load the magazine with one cartridge. Rack the slide or bolt to chamber a round. if the cartridge does not fire, fire the round and check to see if the slide stays locked back or the firearm behaves as it was intended. If it doesn’t find out why before placing more than one cartridge in the magazine.

      If it cycles as intended, place JUST TWO cartridges in the magazine and fire both rounds If it cycles without going full auto, it is probably functioning correctly. Still be wary when loading the magazine to full capacity.

      An aquaintance of mine had an SKS go full-auto with a full magazine due to a broken firing pin. Luckily, no one was hurt.

  • Much more methodical than some of the youtube celebrities. Oh it fired, so it’s good.

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