Five different short term assays (<48 h) used to measure macrophage-mediated, nonspecific cytotoxicity were compared under similar conditions in the same laboratory using the same reagents. The purpose was to determine the extent to which results were comparable. Three of the assays were dependent on the release of a radioisotope to measure cytotoxicity, one was dependent on cell counting, and the last was dependent on flow cytometric quantification of remaining viable tumor target cells after they had been exposed to macrophages. The variables examined were the following: a) three different populations of macrophages; b) four different kinds of target cells; c) two types of radioisotopes; and d) two different agents that trigger the expression of cytolytic activity by primed macrophages. Recombinant gamma interferon was used as the priming agent in all the experiments. There was unexpectedly good agreement between the results of the various assays. No differences were found among the different macrophage populations, the isotopes or the triggering agents. Perhaps the most important finding was that differences in target cell susceptibility to killing by activated macrophages, which were apparent in assays of less than 24 h duration, disappeared when the same kinds of targets were compared in assays of greater than 40 h duration. The results of this study are an important first step toward standardizing the way in which macrophage-mediated, nonspecific cytotoxicity is measured in short-term assays, laboratory to laboratory.