The CSAT Pistol Standards: Shoot ‘Em Up

Last month I covered the CSAT rifle standards, and they whooped my butt. I’m used to police quals with super generous qual times, and the CSAT standards were a lot more demanding than most courses of fire. It’s likely because CSAT, which stands for Combat Shooting and Tactics, is run by former Delta Operator Paul Howe.

Paul Howe is the real deal, with a career in special operations and a second career in turning people into shooters. I’ve since returned to the CSAT way, and I’m giving their pistol standards a try this month. As you’d imagine, this is no beginner’s qual, and you shouldn’t sacrifice safety to rush your time. Take that time and learn, and work your way to lower times and higher accuracy. 

Necessary Gear  

We’ll most certainly need a handgun. I’m bringing my P320 with SIG Romeo2 attached. I feel quite comfy shooting this rig, and a red dot will give me a significant advantage. You’ll also need 25 rounds to punch those holes, two magazines, and a mag pouch.

duty rig for qual
I used a duty-style rig for the qual.

You’ll need a holster. This course of fire can be shot open or concealed. I went with open for my first run and will likely shoot it concealed soon as well. Open is easier, admittedly, and so is using a full-sized duty gun. 

You’ll also need a rifle, but it’s more of a prop than anything else, so no ammo is needed. 

The targets are CSAT-specific designs, but they are similar enough to a USPA target that they can be used in their stead. You will need two targets total. You’ll only need the A-Zone, though, because the accuracy demands are tight. It’s easy to find printable A-zones, and you can slap those on any target. Hell, get a ruler and draw one. Pair that with a 3×5 card, and you’re golden. 

Finally, don’t forget your eyes and ears and a good shot timer. Also, don’t be like me and fail to check your gear and come to the range with a dead shot timer battery. 

Scoring the CSAT Way 

Scoring is simple. Each event is pass or fail. You have to pass eight of the 10 events. Missed shots count as a fail. Shots beyond the time limit count as a fail. It’s as easy as that. It’s strict, demanding, but also satisfying to pass. 

The CSAT Pistol Standards 

All but one stage of fire is done at the seven-yard line, and you’ll mostly start from the low ready. Low ready is your muzzle pointing to the ground, below the target, with both hands on the gun. That’s about it. You’ll need your rifle for one stage only, so you can prop it until then. 

Stage One: Seven-Yard Line 

Get really used to this yard line. You’ll be starting from the low ready. Consider this your one warmup shot. At the beep, you’ll raise, aim, and fire one round center mass into the A-zone of your target. You have one second to do so. 

aiming handgun with red dot
Get a good sight picture, you’ll need it.

Stage Two: Seven-Yard Line  

Holster your weapon, reset it, and get ready to move. At the beep, you’ll draw and fire one round center mass. You have all of 1.7 seconds to do so. You don’t have much time to mess around. 

Stage Three: Seven-Yard Line  

Alright, back to the low ready. At the beep, we’ll jump the gun, aim and fire two rounds center mass in 1.5 seconds. Again, no time to waste. Move as soon as you register that beep. 

Stage Four: Seven-Yard Line 

Get ready to flex that trigger finger. We’ll start from the low ready, and at the beep, you have to fire five rounds center mass and then one to the head of the target. You get three seconds to make it happen. 

reloading handgun
I ran this part of the course and over until I just got the rep down fast enough.

Stage Five: Seven-Yard Line  

Get ready for a transition. From the low ready, you’ll fire two rounds center mass on target one and two rounds center mass on target two. You have three seconds total, so move fast and lead with your eyes. 

Stage Six: Seven-Yard Line  

We are going to start in a modified low ready. You’ll have the gun in your weak hand. At the beep, you’ll aim and fire two rounds center mass, then pass the gun to the strong hand and fire two rounds center mass. Do all of this in five seconds. 

Stage Seven: Seven-Yard Line  

Start with an empty chamber with a loaded magazine. This is a malfunction clearance drill, so it’s tap, rack, bang all the way. At the beep, aim, and then tap, rack, bang. Fire one round after clearing the ‘malfunction,’ and you have three seconds to make it happen. 

clearing a handgun malfunction
Clearing malfunctions is a critical skill to have.

Stage Eight: Seven-Yard Line  

Ensure you have the gun loaded with only two rounds and your spare magazine is loaded with at least two rounds. At the beep, aim and fire two rounds center mass, reload, and fire two more rounds, all in five seconds. 

Stage Nine: Seven-Yard Line  

Alright, we’ll start with the pistol holstered and the rifle ready. At the beep, transition from the rifle to the pistol and fire one round center mass. Do all of this in 3.25 seconds. 

rifle to handgun transition
The rifle is basically a prop, but an important one.

Stage 10: 25-Yard Line 

Oooh, that target looks a lot smaller at 25 yards, doesn’t it? Alright, with that in mind, get ready. You’ll start with your pistol holstered, and at the beep, you’ll draw, take a kneeling position, and fire one round kneeling center mass. You have 3.25 seconds to get it done. 

My Thoughts

Woooo, it’s over. I suck at shooting. I did not pass this qual. I failed often. I fired way more than 25 rounds. If I failed a stage, I just repeated it until I passed it or got frustrated. Stage six was particularly frustrating for me. If I passed the time, I didn’t pass the accuracy requirement. If I passed the accuracy, I blew past the time. 

Guess what that means? I got lots of good, demanding training. I most certainly improved my skills, or at the least improved my luck stat. This is a great way to train and get some demanding reps in. Heck, I plan to keep shooting it, maybe with a 22LR to save on ammo. I only wish Paul was a fan of the shotgun because I’d love to see the CSAT standards for the shotgun. 

Give the CSAT standards a try, and let me know what you think! 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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