Army Vs Navy — Shotgun Quals For All

Shotguns in the military are fairly rare. They aren’t typically general issue weapons, and they tend to be only broken out for special affairs. When you start talking weapon quals, a lot of military members have likely never touched a shotgun. Today we are going to do our own little Army Vs Navy competition, but instead of football teams, it’s shotgun qualifications.

Both the Army and the Navy make their qualifications easy to find, and both are fairly short and simple. It’s the perfect setup for a dual qualification piece to put the Army and Navy up against each other once again.

Army Vs Navy — What You’ll Need

In terms of weapon selection, all you really need is a modern pump action or semi-auto shotgun. You can go in any direction, but I tried to keep it on point with the two services. The Navy uses the Mossberg 500 series shotguns, and for the Navy’s qual, I plan to use a 590A1. The Army’s shotgun qual is specifically designed around the M26. The M26 is a straight pull bolt action shotgun that feeds from a magazine.

Getting an M26 is tough, so I settled for using the 590A1 for the Army qual as well. It seemed to keep things fair. Although, C-MORE, if you’re reading this, make them available in the States for less than six grand, and I’d buy one.

Mossberg 590A1
The 590A1 works for these quals. Although, I want an M26.

The Navy qual requires 18 rounds of 12 gauge and three targets labeled 1, 2, and 3. The Army qual requires 16 rounds and a single target, but after half a dozen rounds of buckshot, it’s likely going to need to be replaced.

For the Navy’s qual, it’s wise to have the means to carry extra rounds on hand. You will be loading a lot, and it’s all under time. The Army just has you replace and reload the magazine as necessary and not under a time limit.

Don’t forget your eyes and ears. The Army qual requires a shot timer, but you just need a stopwatch for the Navy qual. Neither qual is complicated, but it’s smart to pay attention to the details. Now that we are geared up let’s shoot the Army Vs. Navy shotgun quals. Who goes first? I flipped a coin, and the Navy won, so the seafaring sailors get the first blast in our Army Vs Navy shootout.

The Navy Shotgun Qual

For the Navy qual, we will use a range with four stations. The stations vary in range, with the first station being at 25 yards, the second at 20 yards, the third at 15 yards, and the final at 10 yards. At the 25-yard line, you need a tall piece of cover, larger enough to stand behind, and at the 20-yard line, you need a short barrier you can kneel behind. The 15 and 10-yard stations are barrier-free. This four-stage qual doesn’t have a time per stage but a total time of three minutes to achieve the entire qual.

Let’s start and see if the Navy can win the Army Vs Navy contest.

Stage 1

As soon as you make it to stage 1, the time starts. Begin by loading the gun with five rounds. The first round should be combat loaded through the ejection port and into the chamber directly. Then load the additional four rounds into the magazine tube. Once loaded, lean out for cover and begin shooting one shot into each target in this order, 3, 2, 1, 3, 1 for right-handed shooters and 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 for left-handed shooters. Prior to leaving stage 1, load four rounds into the magazine tube of the shotgun.

Navy shotgun qual stage 1, shooting over cover
The first stage implores cover and shooting over or to the side isn’t specified. Tall kings know we always go over.

Stage 2

At the 20-yard line, you assume a kneeling position behind the low cover and use the strong side of cover to shoot the targets in this order 3, 2, 1, 3 for right-handed shooters and 1, 2, 3, 1, for left-handed shooters. Before leaving the second stage, load four rounds into the magazine tube.

Navy shotgun qual stage 2, kneeling behind cover
The second stage makes you get low behind cover.

Stage 3

At 15 yards, there is no barrier. As soon as you get to the 15-yard line, you can start shooting. The order of targets is 1, 2, 3, 1 for right-handed shooters and 3, 2, 1, 3 for left-handed shooters. Once you’re empty, load three rounds into the magazine tube.

Stage 4

We are starting at 10 yards with three rounds loaded. Brace the shotgun under your arm in a hip fire position and shoot the targets in the following order, 1, 2, 3 for right-handed shooters and 3, 2, 1 for left-handed shooters. Scoring is easy. You have nine pellets in each shell and 18 total rounds. That equals 162 pellets. You need at least 30 pellets on each target to hit a satisfactory rating. That means you have to have a 56% rating.

Travis Pike shooting shotgun from hip fire position for Navy qual.
It’s unconventional for sure, but they say you gotta do it.

The Army Shotgun Qual

Now it’s the Army’s turn to show us how it’s done. The Army doesn’t use freedom units, so adjust your brain to meters instead of yards. The qual is fairly simple so let’s buckle in and get started.

Stage 1: 25 Meters

You’ll start facing the target with a magazine of four rounds inserted. At the beep, aim and fire two rounds into the target. You have four seconds to do so.

Stage 2: 25 Meters

Face the target. Now do a 90-degree turn to the right. At the beep, make a left turn, aim, and fire two rounds into the target. You have four seconds to do so.

90 degree pivot with Army shotgun qual
Rotating or pivoting 90 degrees means watching your muzzle.

Stage 3: 25 Meters

Face the target. Now do a 90-degree turn to the left. At the beep, make a right turn, aim, and fire two rounds into the target. You have four seconds total.

Stage 4: 15 to 5 Meters

Starting at the 15-meter line, begin walking straight forward and while moving, fire two rounds into the target. You have four seconds to do so.

Stage 5: 20 to 10 Meters

Starting at the 20-meter line, begin moving forward, and as you are moving, fire four rounds into the target before you get to the 10-meter line. You have 8 seconds total.

Stage 6: 25 Meters

While facing the target, engage with two rounds in four seconds.

Stage 7: 10 meters

At 10 meters, you will begin moving laterally to the left and firing a controlled pair. You have four seconds total. 

Army shotgun qual lateral movement
Moving and shooting is a big part of the Army shotgun qual.

That’s it! You did it! You completed the Army part of our Army Vs Navy shotgun qual contest. How do we score it? Uhm…well, it doesn’t really say. It seems to be based more on if the shooter hits the targets within the time limit. There isn’t a judgment on how many pellets hit the target.

Army Vs Navy, who wins?

Let’s break down a few things I like about each qualification.


  • The Navy’s shotgun qual offers multiple target engagements throughout the entire course of fire.
  • With the Navy, we get loading practice between each stage that’s timed and part of the stage.
  • The Navy qualification employs cover at two of the four stages and even.


  • The Army implements movement forwards and laterally, and that’s valuable.
  • With the Army, we get time limits for individual actions.

There are a few things I don’t like that are worth mentioning. The Navy seemingly requires a coach to remind you of the order in which to shoot the targets. I used some cheat cards to help me. The Army is repetitive, with two shots on one target dominating the conversation. The Army also features no timed reloads.

In my opinion, the Navy sneaks by just barely with a slightly better qual. That’s my opinion—run these quals, and then let me know what you think below.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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