OPOTA Shotgun Qual — Scattergun Perfection

As the resident shotgun nerd, it feels appropriate that I hunt down as many shotgun drills and qualifications as I could possibly find. I have a few favorites in the works, but today we are going to do a fairly simple and fairly easy shotgun qual from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. OPOTA has a fair number of quals, so don’t be surprised if we see them come up every now and then during this series, but today it’s all about the OPOTA shotgun qual.

Shotguns are finicky weapons that are often misunderstood and often discarded with disdain. It’s true they aren’t the most user-friendly of weapons, and it does take a fair amount of training to effectively wield the gun. Quals like this can provide a baseline for shotgun training and shotgun utilization. Once mastered, the repeating claymore is quite a handy weapon, and it’s brutal in close-quarters combat.

The OPOTA Shotgun Qual Logistics

Shotguns don’t pack the same ammo punch as most guns, and neither do their drills. Rarely do you need more than a dozen rounds to run a shotgun qual or drill. The OPOTA shotgun qual only requires six live rounds. However, you’ll also need an additional four dummy or spare live cartridges for some reloading portions of the drill. I used Sterling Buckshot.

You’ll also need a shotgun, obviously. OPOTA says you need a Remington 870, but any pump-action or semi-auto shotgun will do the job. A semi-auto will make it a fair bit easier, and you might want to trim a few seconds off the part times to accommodate it.

Benelli Supernova shotgun
You need a shotgun, 6 rounds, a target, and some dummy ammo and a way to carry it.

OPOTA also wants you to use OPOTA targets for the OPOTA Shotgun qual. You can get those on Amazon, but you could really use any man-size target. Heck, print the targets from Sage Dynamics, and their smaller size will give you a harder to hit target. You’ll also need something to hold spare ammo. It can be a shotgun side saddle, a plate carrier with a bandolier, or whatever. I use my own custom shotgun war belt.

Like most drills, you’ll need a shot timer if possible. A cell phone with a par timer will work but isn’t perfect.

Add in your normal eyes and ears, and that’s all you need. Logistically the OPOTA shotgun qual is fairly simple and stress-free.

Shooting the OPOTA Shotgun Qual

The OPOTA Shotgun Qual is broken down into three stages, and each is fairly simple. We’ll break down each drill stage by stage and add a little bonus at the end.

Stage 1

For Stage 1, you’ll start only 10 feet from the target. This is the range where shotguns absolutely dominate. You will load two rounds into the shotgun and leave the chamber empty. The shotgun will be held in the low-ready position.

On the signal to fire, the shooter will rack a round into the chamber, aim, and fire. They will then cycle the action and fire again. These two shots should be fired within four seconds.

OPOTA Shotgun Qual
Having spare ammo is a must have.

Stage 2

At stage 2, you’ll need to back it on up to the 20-foot line, still well within the dominant range of the shotgun. You’ll load two rounds into the weapon and load one into the chamber prior to the drill beginning. At the go, you’ll raise the weapon, aim, and fire the two rounds within three seconds.

port loading a shotgun
Port loading is part of the qual.

However, the drill doesn’t end, just the timer. Once you recognize the weapon is empty, do an emergency port reload into the chamber, close the action and aim at the target. Then you’ll do a tactical reload and load three spare rounds into the tubular magazine. Now the drill is over.

Stage 3

Stage 3 sees you walking back to the 30-foot line and loading two rounds into your shotgun. This part will be awfully familiar. Load the weapon with two rounds, and rack one into the chamber prior to the drill begins. At the signal to fire, aim and fire two shots into the target within three seconds.

shotgun recoil mitigation
Proper recoil mitigation will take you far.

Next, you’ll repeat the reloading drill. Port load the shotgun and then load three spare rounds into the tubular magazine while keeping the weapon oriented at the threat.

shotgun reload drill
Keeping the gun loaded is critical.

To pass the drill, all six shots need to have hit the target. Dropping a single shot results in a failure. There is little room for failure.

Bonus — Multiple Targets

The OPOTA Shotgun Qual doesn’t require this portion to be a part of the qual but does list it as a necessary exercise. You’ll need to double up your targets, placing one to the right and left of the range. There isn’t a range or time restraint on this portion of the drill.

Let’s split the difference and fire it at 20 feet. If you need a time constraint, let’s get it done in three seconds. Start with your gun loaded with two rounds, with the chamber empty. At the go signal, rack the weapon and shoot the left target, then transition and shoot the right target.

Now repeat the drill, starting with the right target and transitioning to the left target.

My Thoughts

The OPOTA Shotgun Qual is fairly simple and relatively easy. I like that it trains you with time constraints, and I really love that it stresses both port and tactical reloads. Both are critical to mastering a shotgun. It also works your ability to fire multiple shots under time constraints with the shotgun.

What I would prefer is a tactical port reload followed by a shot to the target under a time constraint. I’d also like to see multiple targets as part of the qual and not just a bonus. Beyond that, the drill could use a little use of cover, and even an engagement with the off-shoulder, even if it’s not timed.

OPOTA shotgun qual
You’ll be shucking a six rounds per qual.

One of the most critical elements the drills are missing is patterning. It should require the shooter to pattern prior to shooting the drills and understand what their pattern means and how it will affect their qualification.

Finally, it’s too easy. I was able to complete the drills in under half the time required. I’d trim one second at the least off each of the stages to make it a fair bit more challenging. Overall, the OPOTA Shotgun Qual is simple and easy and does require you to know the very basics of how to handle a shotgun.

A Fun Day at The Range

The OPOTA Shotgun Qual is a fairly simple task and doesn’t require a whole heckuva lot of ammo, time, or other logistical concerns. It’s fun but quite easy, especially if you have a background with shotguns. If you’re new to shotguns, this drill and qual are perfect for beginners. It gives you a baseline for performance without being too demanding.

What do you think? Run the OPOTA Shotgun Qual and let us know below your thoughts on the drill and how you performed.

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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