A shooting test performed among peers without prep is the only way to truly "test" someone's ability with a gun. The test in question must contain a variety of different shooting positions, skills, distances, strong and weak hand, timings, and be able to be scored. Shooting competitions like IDPA and IPSC are great for performance pressure and the learning of where to make up time but they sometimes lack any shooting at long distance and shooters can actually get away with "playing the game" and making up misses with gross speed of shooting and non-tactical movement. In other words, you should definetly try a few, but find a test or two to use as a measure for yourself or your unit.
I've said before that I think the best all around pistol test (if I could pick only one) is the Hackathorn Standards. It has every aspect in a pistol test you can do except malfunctions. For reference, I've posted the test and a video of me shooting it here a few months back. Check the blog achive if you've never seen it before as it will push you, your speed, and your accuracy.
The Hackathorn is a great measuring tool of one's ability. I used it routinely while at BW to measure mine and everybody else's ability and instituted it as the instructor's qual simply because none of us could come up with anything better without taking parts from the Hack (give credit where it is due to the guy with the funny mustache). The one problem with the Hackathorn Standards is that the test will show you where you are weak, but it won't "teach" you anything.
That's where the 700 Point Aggregate, AKA- "The Humbler" comes in. It is, I believe, the best teacher and evaluator of BASIC FUNDAMENTALS (targets don't lie). The reason is twofold. First, it is taken on a scorable target- NRA B-8, 25 yd bull. This allows the shooter to constantly measure old scores with new and note what stages were shot at a less than optimal standard. Second, it is all done from the 25 yd line on a 6" bull. This means that the 2 most important fundamentals; trigger control and sights, have to be strictly adhered to. If they're not the results are very noticable in the score of the individual stages and the overall test.
I notice less and less people who want to shoot a pistol at distance. It is becoming alarmingly too common especially among military and LE (who carry a pistol as a primary weapon) to shoot quals up close, on a large target, with unrealistic times, and generally without a set goal or purpose to the test in mind. Except to get eveyone to pass! Yes, studies have shown that most pistol gunfights occur at 7 yds. So speed is important and has to be worked on. But, if you can hit at a distance most can't, and you have good situational awareness, standoff is now a great tactical friend. Shooting up close too much will also mask errors in fundamentals and at the same time give the shooter an unrealistic confidence of his/her abilities.
I have never had a problem taking a guy who can hit at 25 yds and making him fast at 7. The reason is because he understands fundamentals and what he can get away with both with movement and sights. However, I constantly see shooters that can blaze at 5,7, even 10 yds, but once they are at distance they completely fall apart. Usually this results in some kind of justification as to why they are doing poorly or don't need to shoot at distance with a pistol at all. This is not the correct answer. The correct answer is to apply the very basics of shooting to their upmost.
I also must reiterate that I believe to truly test someone's ability with any firearm the test must be conducted cold, meaning no warmup. Ideally, going a week without any shooting is best. I test myself with carbine a week after doing a pistol course and vice versa. This way I have a real world example of performance and realistic times of major skills like the draw and reloads.
Another overlooked aspect to testing is the scores. My personal goal varies depending on the test and here's why; The Humbler at 90%(630) is not the same as the Hack at 90%(270). My estimate is that the Hack at 95%(285) is more along the sames lines of a 90% Humbler. You have to weigh the pros and cons of speed, accuracy and penalties to the size of the target and use of any tactics like barricades or movement.
I've listed the complete test as I know it because I've never seen it easily available on the web before. I took pictures of each stage I ran(video of this would be entirerly too long due to the times). I shot this one without having dry fired, warmed up, or been to the range in 2 weeks. One of my goals this year is to average 630 on this test, that's 90%. I believe that only dropping 70 is doable repeatedly cold, and realistic. I've shot it twice so far this year; a 651, and this one, a 637both cold.
*At the risk of doing math in public, and getting the pics mixed up*
It's called The Humbler for a reason;
All at 25 yds. on an NRA B-8.
Stage 1- 10 rds slow fire in 10 min
Stage 2- 5 rds in 20 sec from the draw X 2
Stage 3- 5 rds in 10 sec from the draw X 2
Stage 4- 5 rds strong hand in 5 min
Stage 5- 5 rds in 20 sec strong hand from the draw
Stage 6- 5 rds in 10 sec strong hand from the draw
Stage 7- 5 rds weak hand in 5 min
Stage 8- 5 rds kneeling in 5 min
Stage 9- 5 rds in 20 sec standing to kneel with the draw
Stage 10-5 rds prone in 5 min
Stage 11-5 rds in 20 sec standing to prone with the draw
A common result of testing w/o a warmup.
Just like with sniper stuff, note "cold barrel" groups
The 10 sec rapid fire is also good to note if you have any 'english' one way or another.
Aaron Burr style. Minimal arc of movement is critical with a pistol, but strong hand only is even more so.
sights and trigger
The ultimate test of trust b/t you, your sights, and your trigger
Weak hand is correct. I've actually seen someone walk off the range when we got to this part and it didn't turn out like he wanted.
These should be a gimmie at this point. Should be.
nickel and diming me to death.
Pistol prone screws alot of people. We have a method that seems to work out well for most folks and most semi autos.
Done. Figure on about 40-45 min to run the whole thing using the full allotted time.
Combine the 700 Point Aggregate with The Hackathorn Standards and your covering and testing everything on resonable targets with good timings.