It has been suggested that there is no connection between results on the range and in the real world.

Skill is skill and it can be measured. A firearm is inanimate and has no idea what it is being pointed at. An ability to consistently, quickly and accurately engage combatants in a fight or an animal in the field will yield similar results on the range, provided the targets and course of fire resemble the real world problem. A person that can’t reliably hit a target on the range won’t magically obtain that ability in the woods.

Some time ago the NYPD published findings in their SOP 9 study of Police combat. 200 comparisons were made between range qualification scores and the officer’s result in a fight. A connection between them was not established. Search for this as “The Correlation Between Range Scores and Gunfight Efficacy” and “Hit Potential In Gun Fights”.

The Correlation Between Range Scores and Gunfight Efficacy. The NYPD’s 1981 edition of SOP-9 found, “An attempt was made to relate an officer’s ability to strike a target in a combat situation to his range qualification scores ended with no clear connection. After making over 200 such comparisons, no firm conclusion was reached.” [Emphasis added.]

I am not surprised this study found no correlation.

No, I am not contradicting myself. The problem is LEO, military, and other public sector qualifications are usually low level, poorly designed, and intended to be passed, or even maxed, at a low level of skill. Using most police or military qualifications as a measure of shooting skill is like using a simple arithmetic test intended for second grade children as a measure of mathematics knowledge. Even scoring 100% doesn’t mean much.

Here’s an example.

While at Camp Bullis a group of us were practicing for an upcoming NATO-designed handgun shooting competition. We were shooting the old 221 EIC course, which consists of eight fairly quick strings of fire on scored Figure 11 silhouettes. Soldiers on shooting teams from every NATO country shot this course for well over two decades. Despite having literally Olympic-level competitors attempt it, this course has never been cleaned. Out of a possible 180 points the best shooters are happy with anything over 170.

Amongst our group scores ranged from highs in the 170s for the skilled, experienced competitors to lows in the 70s-80s for the newer, less-skilled shooters. That is a 100 point difference in scores on a 180 point course, indicating a large range of skills in attendance.

Upon completion, the OIC had our group finish the day with an official US Army pistol qualification (Alternate Pistol Qualification Course) to satisfy our annual qualification requirements because the Army, stupidly, doesn’t count competition as qualification.

Everyone in attendance shot 100% range qualification on the U.S. Army APQC (Alternate Pistol Qualification Course). Not a mere “Expert” qualification, which allows a few misses, but 100%. According to the range qualification results, everyone in our group was a perfect pistol shot beyond an “Expert” rating and all equally good. Yet, as our previous scores on the more stringent course of fire indicate, there was a large range of skills. This range qualification is so poorly designed that it is not capable of measuring skill beyond a novice level. Even a “perfect” score can be shot by a low-skilled shooter and everyone scoring less is even worse. Most range qualifications for police and military suffer this fault, so the SOP 9 results are no surprise.

Range results can be a reliable indication of real world skill IF the course of fire used is stringent enough and relevant to real world needs. Range results can be a reliable measure of skill provided you don’t consider elementary range qualification results.

The NYPD isn’t the only agency compiling such data. In a report compiled by the Metro-Dade Police Department (Statistical Abstract of Shooting Incidents, 1988-1994) there was a correlation found with higher range scores and improved hit rates. It’s also worth pointing out that all departments, including the NYPD, have changed things since 1981…

Range results can never be a perfect predictor of success elsewhere, even if more stringent and relevant range exercises are used, because there are too many variables at play. However, good shooting skill as seen on the range helps, especially when people realize “good” shooting skill usually can not be measured with the typically low standards required by most qualification courses.