Standards (Part VI – Basic Marksmanship Standards)

At the NRA Annual Meeting this past weekend, the NRA Education and Training Division  conducted an update for NRA Trainers. The presentations and discussion rekindled my interest in the standards for students to pass the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting (BOPS).

In short, there are four levels of qualification (standards) offered to the students at the end of the Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. The very first level is Red, for which they must shoot a five shot group into a four inch circle four times at 10 feet. The four times don’t have to be consecutive but the students must be able to demonstrate the skill repeatedly so they can shoot four targets.

BOPS red target

Students who meet that standard are then offered the chance to attain three higher levels of achievement; White, Blue, and Instructor. Achieving Instructor level Qualification does not mean that they qualify as NRA Pistol Instructors but rather that they have shot to the same standard that NRA Pistol Instructors are required to.

BOPS standardsWhile many experienced shooters will say this is ridiculously easy, I say “NOT SO FAST!” Having run over 100 shooters of varying skill levels through the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course, I know it’s not as easy as it seems. The 100% standard for group is the kicker. Out of my 100 or so testees, only 1 person out of 10 was able to pass the MQP DP I Pro-Marksman test on the first try. That standard is five shots into a 12 inch circle at 7 yards (21 feet), four times. Repeatedly shooting a four inch group at nearly the same distance is obviously quite a bit more difficult.

Moving up to the Pistol Instructor standard, how many people practice shooting groups at 15 yards? Very few in my experience. A six inch group at that distance can be a major difficulty if you haven’t practiced it. Having one try at putting 16 out of 20 shots into a six inch group at that distance can be an eye opener about one’s demonstrable skill level.

To test myself on the requirements, today I shot all four levels with three different pistols; Walther P22, S&W SD9VE 9mm, and S&W 332 .32 H&R Magnum, which is my carry gun. The progression I used was as follows:

  • Red BOPS – P22
  • White BOPS – SD9VE
  • Blue BOPS – 332
  • Instructor – SD9VE

I was able to pass all the levels but it required some concentration on sight picture, trigger press, and follow-through. What a concept!

NRA Targets crop

A PDF of all the targets is attached below. Print them out and take them to the range next time you go to practice. Your results may surprise you. Note that the targets print just a little small so if one of your shots is slightly out, as with my Blue #2, you’re still on the mark.

If you can’t pass at the Blue level, perhaps you should consider taking the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. You can search for courses local to you at

BOPS targets

11 responses

  1. Claude. I am glad you are back elucidating once more!

  2. Reblogged this on .

  3. Interesting. No time limits are mentioned in your report, am I to presume there are no formal time limits?

    1. Correct, there are no time limits for BOPS.

  4. Barry Graham

    This is outrageous. Expecting Instructors to be able to shoot accurately. What happened to “Those who can’t – Teach”. The target shooting failures should become Instructors.

  5. […] Standards (Part VI – Basic Marksmanship Standards) […]

  6. […] (Claude has also recently discussed standards in a Ballistic Radio podcast), Claude outlined the NRA “Basics of Pistol Course”, which includes 3 “levels” as well as an instructor […]

  7. […] seek out some competent instruction. If you haven’t already read Robert’s post or the original blog from Claude Werner, then you may wish to do so now, as my post will make more sense with that […]

  8. I just shot this today – Level 1 all the way up to Instructor. I passed them all “easily”, but I did start to have trouble when I amped up the speed, even at Level 1.

    However, at my range, everything is in yards, so I was actually shooting at one- to two-feet longer than specified (picking the next yard mark up).

    Instructor score was 20/20 at first attempt. But I was a bit impatient on the earlier targets, so I usually had to reattempt at least once to get to four successful strings of fire.

  9. Print the targets at 103% to get them to the correct size, most if not all printers print by default at 97% of normal size.

  10. I realize this is an older article, but I just now read it. If your targets are printing undersized, turn off (deselect) “fit to page” “shrink to fit” (or similar) on the printer page before printing.

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