Developing Department/ Agency Standards


I don’t envy the poor individual who is set with the monumental task of developing Unit/ Agency Standards in pistol and rifle qualifications. Not only will they be judged by peers and outsiders on their product but it is a monumental task that is guaranteed to step on toes, highlight deficiencies within current training programs and individual performance. All of this before you even have to deal with upper management who choose to dilute your content due to budget, mindset, lack of experience or all of the above.

One crucial aspect of conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID) operations is developing host nation (HN) security elements that don’t mirror image the partnering element specifically. The aim should be to develop a modern skill set and capability that reflects the HN, threat level and conditions with a readily equipped and capable security force who don’t lose their (HN) identity upon partnering forces leaving; this then turns into a mentor/ maintenance relationship and maintains a foothold within the region.

How does this relate to your department or agency in a comfy first world setting? Cultural issues and language barriers aside, which make training foreign elements really interesting, you will be set to develop standards with the following constraints just like ODA’s experience in developed and under developed countries around the world;

  • Budget.

  • Time available to conduct an assessment that doesn’t interfere with mission tempo and operational staffing capabilities.

  • Resources - man power, equipment, range space etc. - this will also play into budget.

  • Pre-exisitng knowledge of upper management to identify and understand what you are trying to achieve (autonomy is also key) and also that of candidates; sound - critical - knowledge and understanding across the spectrum of weapons operations and maintenance is vital and corners should not be cut nor should the content be diluted.

  • Ego of predecessors and direct superiors will also be on the line. Good leaders will commend your capability and what you are aiming to achieve while sensitive egos in the game will see this as a negative reflection of their performance, standard and knowledge. Personally, I’m one to highlight negligent standards and fix them immediately. I believe that the cost of what we are dealing with is human life. - it is precious and we all only have one.

These are the five main points that will restrict development. There are a couple of others however, I consider those to be secondary and tertiary points of concern: fitness standards, weather/ season etc. Your Department/ Agency may be affected by one, two or all of these.


“Standards need to assess and enforce accountability. Critical thinking and scene assessment is essential for the modern warfighter operating in demanding and austere environments”

HN - Host Nation - Generally a struggling nation that requests ally/ coalition assistance for development of infrastructure and security to become self sufficient and secure from insurgent/ foreign activity and influence.

FID - Foreign Internal Defense - Conducted in regions where host nations are generally failed states or weakening secondary to external and insurgent influences. Environments can range from permissive, uncertain, to denied regions/ hostile environments (just to name a few).

Beans - Bullets

*There is no breach of TTPs or assessment standards - this article has been reviewed and cleared. Course of fire is reflection of the program in place for assessment and selection and does not mirror the entirety. Rather, it reflects core movements across the 5 categories of assessment before secondary screening and further assessments and training.


Moving on. When considering developing or re-assessing agency standards, there are a few points we have compiled to keep at the forefront of your decision making process:

  • Shooting standards are relevant and address the full spectrum of your mission profile.

  • Standards should test your most experienced marksman whilst also still allowing your lowest performer to pass when putting in work.

  • Scalable from a small unit tactic perspective to the individual shooter.

  • Scalable from running slick to doing it in full kit.

  • Standards should evolve in complexity over time and constantly become outdated or tiered in complexity to cater for new recruits/ candidates to the unit; revision is standard and mandatory otherwise you’re just pushing beans and going through motions.

  • Standards should push, question and identify weaknesses in every shooter. A drill develops understanding of the action and movement to complete when under duress, this is why we train. A standard does the aforementioned and should never be confused between the two.

  • It doesn’t have to be costly and push the budget. Targeted drills addressing the full spectrum of tasking can be achieved with relatively low round count; it’s not a drill - it’s an assessment piece to measure unit/ individual proficiency and operational capability.

To put all the above and a few other things into perspective, my current Organisation’s *course of fire as an assessment is a little spicy, to put it lightly, however it addresses the core principles of employing firearms within our mission profile. Core assessment principles are:

  • Fitness, strength and agility standard

  • Marksmanship standard - Pistol and Carbine

  • Communication standard within a small unit tactical environment

How is this assessed? After a zero, the assessment covers a variety of engagements and activities up to 500 yards - targets are mix of steel and paper for their respective serials and include:

  • Engagements up to 450 yards with either irons or holographic/ red dot - no magnification and from various firing positions.

  • Climbing of connex boxes and engagement from prone, controlled descent with short sprints to mixed firing positions and use of cover.

  • Engagement from within and around vehicles.

  • Firing positions from simulated urban and commercial housing rooftops.

  • Clearance of a mock defensive strong hold in a small unit.

  • Runs covering average distance of 150 yards to get to each station - some distances are short and some are the full 150 whilst everything is timed.

“No tyres were flipped this day”

This is just to name a few however, you can see how each stage assesses the individual to the core level across the full spectrum of what one would encounter when operational. Standards don’t need to be intense but, should reflect the very mission and engagements shooters are expected to control and dominate. In the above course of fire there is shooter’s discretion on how one executes each stage but, the how and efficiency in execution is also assessed and discussed in debriefing.

Doing useless exercises that just smoke an individual beyond what is reasonable and destroying all fine and gross motor skills is not a standard. Not only do you degrade one’s performance to non-existent, it also delivers no quantifiable results to adequately assess their performance. Keep in mind though, stores carries are essential and a viable option in assessing distal performance (manipulation and control) when shooting.

Train hard, and assess yourself and your team often.