Next week, my state’s fraternal association for police officers holds its annual conference, which will include a pistol match. It’s the de facto state championship for cops. It’s hosted by a different law enforcement agency each year, so the match is always different. Some years, the rules demand using the department-issue sidearm. Some years, the rules state that you can use any gun you are authorized to carry on duty.

For some, those are one and the same, but for those of us in more enlightened departments, it gives us some latitude. My agency’s standard issue sidearm for the last couple of years has been the Ruger P345 – the high-quality, low-priced .45 caliber semiautomatic that I recommended elsewhere on this blog to a reader who was looking for an affordable .45. Before that, since 1993, we had the same gun’s predecessor, the Ruger P90. I still have my “old” issue gun, so I can use either one if the rules turn out to be “standard issue only.”

My department is more liberal than some. We can carry a high quality double action .45 auto of another brand if it’s on the department-approved list. I have a SIG .45 that occasionally rides with me in uniform. Assorted high quality 9mm and .40 S&W caliber auto pistols are authorized for plainclothes and off-duty carry. For me, these include a Beretta 9mm that I’ve shot in at least three competitions in the past twelve months (won two, placed second in the other) and a .40 caliber Glock Model 22 with eight-pound New York trigger module with which I won the event I’m now preparing for in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Our department even allows cocked and locked 1911-style .45 automatics, if we can qualify at Master level with them. I wear one in uniform occasionally, and came in second at the “state shoot” with it in 2004.

I don’t know yet what the rules or the course of fire will be (they like to surprise us) but I’m told it will be a tough “qualification” course instead of the run-and-gun assault courses that have constituted the match for the past four years. Good news for me, since I “gun” better than I “run.” Since we probably won’t know the exact course of fire ‘til the morning of the match, I figured I’d take a few guns to the range and run them on “Course Seven,” the most challenging qualifier our state has on its books. Stuff like draw, fire three shots strong hand only, change hands, fire three more weak hand only, all in seven seconds. This would be easy with “qualification scoring,” in which the big oval “8-ring” of the police B27 target is counted as 5 out of 5 possible points, and a hit anywhere on the silhouette, even if it would have only pierced the bad guy’s earlobe or shot off his cuff link, counts for 3 out of 5 points. Unfortunately, at the match we use competition scoring, where the mark is a “10-X ring” that’s smaller than a business card, and some of the shooting is from 25 yards away. I can’t remember the last time I ever shot this course in “qualification scoring” with less than 180 out of 180 possible…and I have never shot a perfect 360 out of 360 possible on it in “competition scoring,” nor have I seen anyone else do so.

I ran the course with the Glock. Shot a 354 out of 360. That’s been good enough to win before. Shot it with my sleek 9mm Beretta: 352. The SIG P220ST? I used that gun for my personal best on this course, a 358, but can’t repeat that on demand, and today I got a 354. I tried the new and hotrock-popular Smith & Wesson Military & Police 9mm; I’ve been shooting the M&Ps since they came out, and they “like me,” but I got the same 354 score. Tried the old P90, that I’d won the state shoot with in 2000, but its blocky grip never fit my hand quite right, and I’d been away from it too long; I shot a 344.

Then I tried the currently issued “company gun.” The Ruger P345 gave me – you guessed it – a 354.

Aw, the hell with it…I’ll probably just shoot the match with the issue P345. That way, I’m covered even if the rules go strict and I have to use the gun the department gave me. But, you know, there were lessons in this morning’s experience.

The Ruger was the cheapest gun of the batch. Some of them had several hundred additional dollars of custom work in them, action slicking and such. The Ruger was literally out of the box. With some careful shopping you can buy a new one for $500 or less, and get an even better deal on a used one.

Lessons? 1.) A Chevy gets you just as far, just as fast as a Cadillac. 2.) Consistency is good, [though one could argue that consistency is also a key to mediocrity L]. 3.) As I constantly tell my students, it’s not so much about the gun so much as it’s about the shooter, and it’s not even about the shooter so much as it’s about consistent application of proven technique. It was the same guy and the same gun firing the 9-point hits on the 36-round course, as firing the 10s, whether the guns were plain or fancy. The imperfect hits came from the operator’s loss of concentration, not poor selection of tools.

I’ll let you know how it comes out. But in the meantime, tell the rest of us about your experiences in this vein.

The day you discovered that you hit just as many birds with an inexpensive Mossberg shotgun as with a Perazzi that costs more than some people’s homes. The day you realized the vegetables you raised economically in your garden tasted better than the finest high-dollar produce at the Food Boutique.

Validation of values, and lessons of life experience, sometimes come from unexpected quarters.


Left row, all .45s, from top: Ruger P345, Ruger P90, SIG P220ST. Left row, from top, Glock 22 in .40, 9mm Beretta 92, 9mm S&W M&P.

“Qualification scoring” is forgiving with the NRA B27 police silhouette target. Anything inside the competition 8-ring is 5 out of 5 points, “center mass”; 7-ring is 4 out of 5, and anything touching the black is worth 60%. In competition scoring, however, anything outside the 7/4 ring is scored as a miss…even a head shot, since the shooter has missed point of aim by a foot or so.

Competition-mode scoring demands more accuracy. Center oval is 10-X tie-breaker, next ring out is worth 10 points, then 9, etc. Anything outside the 7-ring is worth zero, and any late shot gets a minus-10 points penalty. Pistol is author’s department issue .45.


  1. I learned very early on when a sub-junior smallbore shooter. Dad bought me a Winchester 52D when I was either 10 or 11 (yea I was a BIG kid and weight was not a problem). Out of the hundreds of state and regional matches yes there were the “silver spoon” kids that beat me with Anshuitz (sp?) $1800 rifles (this is in the late 70’s early 80’s) but I consistantly out shot the majority of shooters that shot the higly prized German firearms that were all the rage for Olympic compitition. So a good old American 52D @ $275 or a $1500+ German machine.. it does not matter even in high level competition, it’s the shooter.

  2. For me I shot a lot of GLOCK Sport Shooting Federation matches. I often would match the model to the category such as a G24 in the competition category, G17 in the Amateur LE category and the G26 in the SubCompact category. Over time I noticed that the sub compact 9mm G26 was the pistol that routinely allowed me to shoot my better scores. I started using the G26 for all of the categories I would shoot. I ended up winning two pistols and hope to get “bumped up” to master class with another win with the baby GLOCK. I just need to practice!

  3. Mr. Ayoob,
    I enjoyed your article “Picking Your Gun” and have a question for you. Do you change out the bushings on your semi-auto handguns, especially those you use in competition shooting? My Dad just replaced the bushings on our Glock and Colt 10mm’s and also on our AMT Longslide and Colt Combat Commander .45 calibers. Also, Dad has a Perazzi trap gun-what a beautiful walnut stock! But I, myself, just use a Remington 1100 trap model.
    M. Lang

  4. Mr. Ayoob,

    I don’t have a Perrazzi or even a Remington 870 to outshoot it with. I do own and hunt with one or another of the New England Firearms Single Shot shotguns (NEF SB-1). They win no awards for beauty although I think they are sleek. Last time I hunted with a freinds 870 I didn’t change my hit profile any. What the NEF SB-1 does allow me to do is only MISS once per bird, instead of giving into the temptation to fire three shots in vain.

    For CCW I have qualified with a S&W 66 that I acquired used from a local police department. Last two times I qualified I outshot most people on the line with high quality semi-auto’s. Got to give a lot of credit to good sights, grips that fit, that oh-so smooth trigger and absolute reliability.


  5. Mas:

    I remember well a very similar episode a few years ago at the final qualification shoot at the end of LFI-II that I took with you a few years back in Richmond, VA.

    I don’t remember the final scores, but I do recall that I finished second (by one point) to a police firearms training officer from the Petersburg, VA PD, and the two of us were a bit ahead of the other shooters in the class. At the final debriefing, you made a point of having the the two of us come to the front of the class and show our weapons to the class.

    You said, “I see a bunch of $2000 Thunder Ranch Specials and lots of expensive European pistols, but you guys should take note that the first and second place shooters were shooting totally stock, $500 S&W 3rd Generation autos. [a 4006 and a 5906, respectively] It’s the shooter, gentlemen, not the gun, that makes the difference.”

    It will be a long time before I forget your evil chuckle and the glint in your eye as you said this, and the despondent looks of the other shooters in the group.

    Stay Safe!
    Norm in AK

  6. Between the P90, P97, and P345 which is the more reliable gun. My son wants to buy a .45 but doesn’t know what to buy. I have a CZ 97b and prefer it to any other Semi-Auto other than a P9 Springfield I used to have. I don’t know what to tell him.

  7. Reg, the short answer is, go with the P345.

    FWIW, I own 2 or 3 P90s, a P97, and two P345s. I carry a P345 frequently and voluntarily. The P90s and the P97 live in the gun safe. The P345 is more ergonomic than either and more accurate than the P97.


  8. I really wish Ruger would bring back the P345. It was an underappreciated gun. Frankly if they made the P345 in 10mm with a longer barrel, Ruger would have a hunting handgun that would rival Glock and the 1911s in 10mm.