We are trying something new here. While we have nothing at all against sport shooting and competition, the senior staff at AIM has quite a bit of experience at training people who actually go into harm’s way. We wanted to offer a venue for people who might actually anticipate having to use handguns for self defense who would like a scored activity in which they can learn which firearm/system is best for them (not for everyone else) and to hone their self defense skills without being penalized by a scoring system for doing things that enhance their chances of survival.

At the same time we want to welcome anyone who just wants to shoot this for fun!


Throughout the program we have strived to establish a par system. True this is subjective, but it is based on observations of years of training people for the fight and the results of thousands of lethal encounters. The main thing is that everyone is scored by the same process so if we are off a little in establishing par then everyone will still have a relative and relevant score.

Our Par system is based on a score of 100 being an Expert Score. Do not despair if you did not score 100. Very few people shoot Par on a professional Golf Course and it is frequent that master level golfers only beat Par by about 5%, and some days they consider themselves lucky to make Par.

If you are able to hang around long enough for us to plug the scores into the computer, you may find that your total Raw Score is a bit different. This is because we have to tweak the formula to award a bonus for completing a stage faster than par time or penalty for completing it lower. Your score may be different but everyone’s score changed by those same factors. 

There are 4 Stages with a par of 100 for each so the Total Par would be 400.

There is no “handicapping” people just do not compete across classes.

In the future, we will probably use the Standards stage to establish classes.

The Tests

Stage 1 – Standards

This is at its core a marksmanship test. It is however a test of advanced combat marksmanship. Normal Police/Military and Competition targets can serve adequately for “normal” self defense. Most attackers are fairly easy to dissuade and can be thwarted simply by fighting back. Terminal Ballistics or Marksmanship have very little to do with the outcome since they will often give up the attack when they are shot AT…let alone are hit. 

At AIM we feel that we want to prepare for the more determined attacker which may require actual physical incapacitation to end the event. We are not addressing lethality but rather effective Marksmanship, which is a combination of Accuracy, Speed and Effectiveness (or Power as some refer to it).

The GRIP Standards are therefore more difficult than standard competitive standards and far more difficult than normal Police or Military qualification. Our system rewards hits to the central nervous system far more heavily than hits to the circulatory system which is in turn rewarded more heavily than hits to the general anatomy which take longer to effect incapacitation.

Ballistic Effectiveness

Without getting into the hotly debated topic of “stopping power,” this version of GRIP seeks to recognize that some differences exist. While we really do not believe that the .357 Magnum or the .40 S&W are as effective as larger calibers we are willing to compromise and afford them the benefit of the doubt and lump the pretty much standard self defense calibers into one group.

9mm and .38 special have been involved in so many failures to stop with “center mass” hits that we penalize them, but only slightly, and at the same time award them equal value on central nervous system hits.

To the normal Major and Minor caliber classes we also added a “Minimum” and a “Maximum” levels meant to allow folks to use their small pocket pistols or their fairly large “hand cannons” – as long as the latter are concealable. No one shot in those levels in this event.

Once you look at how relevant the scoring is in the Standards stage you realize that there is a large premium on hitting important parts and on not missing! There is a 10 point penalty for missing the target! That is based on the reality that misses often endanger the public at large on the street and our families if we are defending our home.

The key to a good score on the Standards is to shoot carefully, not more. The times are fairly generous. Essentially they are designed to let you fire about 2 rounds carefully on each string of fire for a total of 12 (you are of course allowed to shoot as many rounds as you wish). The weighting of the score is based on well established norms that presume that a hit to the Central Nervous System (A-Zone) stops the attack instantly, a hit to the Heart/Aorta (B-zone) is somewhat caliber dependent but is much slower in achieving incapacitation no matter what caliber you shoot. A hit to “Center Mass” (C-zone) is even slower and frankly we have awarded such hit far more value that they deserve.

Stage 2 – Basic Encounter

Too many contests overlook that the “normal” lethal encounter – if there is such a thing – can be as simple as canceling a single threat and topping off your weapon in case there is another threat that appears. The lack of such simple stages in competition will often lead to the misguided impression that you have to have a gun that holds lots of bullets or it must be large in order to be useful in self defense. 

In GRIP, we recognize that just as important as being able to shoot is the ability to avoid being shot! In this encounter you step off the line of attack while presenting your weapon from concealment (unless you are in the Novice, Senior, or Hobby class) engage a “hard to stop” threat (represented by a 3D reactive target which requires a CNS hit to disable – all calibers will take the target down with 1 CNS hit).

The speed at which you were able to cancels this initial threat is factored into your score. Par is considered to be 2 seconds and if you did this faster you got a bonus. If slower you score is adjusted somewhat.

One of the most important skills one develops in real world self defense training is the Threat Scan. Unlike many competitive scenarios, multiple threats may appear *after* you think the fight is over. This closely ties with the ability to reload, but even more important is the ability to stop any process you are involved in and engage a threat that appears unexpectedly.

In this stage a bonus is awarded if you can successfully engage the additional threat… it can appear anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds after you cancel the initial threat and it is exposed for 3 seconds. It is not as hard to “stop” as the initial threat and an accumulation of 10 points on the paper target is sufficient.

For this reason, your Par score may seem low since many folks are unable to successfully engage the second threat.  The time it takes to cancel this threat is not considered in the score as it appears at random. So it is just an opportunity for a bonus. 10 point penalties are assessed for a shot taken that missed that threat.

Stage 3 – Use of cover

One of the things we learn from many training and competition venues that may decrease the odds of our survival is the implied need to rush through multiple assailants no matter how much it leaves us exposed to threats while we do it.

This stage is designed to reward people who use cover effectively and intelligently. To put it bluntly, if you crowd cover, rest your gun on cover, stick your muzzle into unknown territory, take more than one threat from any one point of cover and expose yourself twice at the same point you are “practicing getting killed”.  It is also a bad idea to remain exposed too long, which allows other threats to target your position.

This makes scoring such a stage very complex but we are willing to take on the challenge in order to properly reward the folks who establish good tactical habits.

Par on this stage is set by canceling the threats as follows: Tgt. 1 you start holstered in the open and move to cover engaging on the move or from behind cover with a Par Time of 2 seconds. Tgt. 2 is longer range (the first one you could see as you “pied” the edge of cover) and will go down with one or two hits from any service caliber pistol (9mm to .45) and a par time of 1 second exposure (time will not start until the target could see you!). Tgt. 3 takes a Heart/Aorta or a CNS hit and that Par time was 1 second also.

Penalties are assessed for exposing too long (over 3 seconds), exposing at the same place twice in a row or for hitting any of the “bystander” targets beyond the threat targets – Remember Safety Rule 4 – every bullet you fire has a lawyer attached to it!

Stage 4 – Movement

In keeping with the theme that avoiding getting shot is even more important than shooting, when caught in the open it is every bit as important to move – Motionless Operators Ventilate Easily! – as it is to deliver accurate fire. 

In this stage there are two Reactives. One requires a CNS hit and one a Heart/Aorta or CNS hit to cancel. All shooting has to be done on the move or from the piece of cover that is available some 5 yards away. A “Clock Stopper” (a Bowling pin) has to be shot from the end. While a bowling pin is an excellent sized target (and the range was very short) the purpose is to prevent “gaming” the stage by taking “baby steps” like you see in many competition formats.

Par for this is set at 8 seconds. If you achieved the movement and cancellation of threats in 8 seconds you get a Par score of 100. If you do it faster, you get some bonus points and if you do it slower, some penalty points. The bonuses and penalties are not enough to turn the event into a “track meet”. Again, you cannot miss fast enough to win a gunfight!


We hope you enjoy your time with us. We are far from perfect and do not mean to convey any sort of arrogance in offering our program, but we do think a tool is needed for people who carry a firearm for self defense to test their skill and further develop their skill.

AuthorJames Higginbotham