We consider estimation of the precision of a measuring instrument without the benefit of replicate observations on heterogeneous sampling units. Grubbs (1948) proposed an estimator which involves the use of a second measuring instrument, resulting in a pair of observations on each sampling unit. Since the precisions of the two measuring instruments are generally different, these observations cannot be treated as replicates. Very large sample sizes are often required if the standard error of the estimate is to be within reasonable bounds and if negative precision estimates are to be avoided. We show that the two instrument Grubbs estimator can be improved considerably if fairly reliable preliminary information regarding the ratio of sampling unit variance to instrument variance is available. Our results are presented in the context of the evaluation of on-line analyzers. A data set from an analyzer evaluation is used to illustrate the methodology. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.