The Elk Grove Shotgun Qual

Shotgun qualifications are often an afterthought for police departments. With the reliance on the patrol rifle, the tactical and patrol shotgun is often ignored and forgotten about. It’s a very versatile tool that’s sadly ignored and seemingly forgotten about. Well, it’s almost forgotten. The folks at the Elks Grove police department put on quite a bit of training in how to use the scattergun. Today we are breaking down their course of fire, as well as their training drills. 

What You’ll Need 

First, we need a shotgun! The Elk Grove PD uses the tried and true Remington 870. If you want to run the drills as well as the qual, you’ll need a pistol and holster. In terms of ammo, if you want to just shoot the qual, you need 12 rounds of buckshot. If you want to run the drills and the qual, you’ll need the following: 

  1. 18 Rounds of Buckshot
  2. 3 Rounds of Federal Flitecontrol 
  3. 12 Slugs
  4. 34 Birdshot
  5. 14 Pistol Rounds 
mossberg 590 ready to shoot
The qual uses a Remington 870, but I went with a Mossberg.

You’ll also need something to carry spare shotgun ammunition as well as a sling for your shotgun. They don’t list a target, but I’d bring about 10 man-sized targets. Shotguns mess targets up really bad, real quick. This makes it easier to score. Don’t forget your eyes, ears, and a shot timer. 

The Drills 

The shotgun course put on by Elk Grove includes a series of drills that are separate from the qual. These drills range from very simple to quite complicated and it’s interesting to see them attached to the qual. When combined with the qual, I think this offers a good bit of training for the enterprising shotgunner. 

Range Drill One: 50 and 25-Yard Line 

Range drill one will have you shooting slugs at the 50 and 25-yard lines. Shooters will establish a good, stable shooting position and fire three slugs at 50 and 25 yards focusing on the fundamentals of marksmanship. The goal is to learn how to engage distant threats with slugs. 

Stage Two 

Stage Two is essentially learning how to pattern a shotgun. Shooters will have three normal rounds of buckshot and three rounds of Federal Flitecontrol. You will be combat loading. Combat loading is loading one round through the chamber and closing the action. It’s also called port loading. 

port loading a shotgun
Port loading, also called combat loading, is done several times throughout the qual and training.

Shooters will shoot one round of normal buckshot from seven,15, and 25 yards and examine the effects. At each yard line, the shooter will combat load a round of buckshot directly into the chamber of the gun. 

Next, shooters will shoot one round of Flitecontrol buckshot from seven, 15, and 25 yards and examine the effects. At each yard line, the shooter will combat load a round of buckshot directly into the chamber of the gun. This allows them to examine the differences between normal and Flitecontrol buckshot. 

Range Drill Two 

Range Drill Two has us practicing our loading skills and is broken down into three stages. These stages are all fired with various ammo types and at various yard lines. 

Stage One: Combat Load – 15 Yards 

Shooters will combat load one round of birdshot at a time into the chamber for five rounds. Fire each round center mass on target. 

Stage Two: Duty/Deficit Loading – Seven Yards 

This stage is fired with all birdshot. A duty load is an admin load. The shooter will load four rounds into the tube of the shotgunand face three targets. The instructor will call out one target at a time, and the shooter will engage. After each engagement, the shooter will automatically deficit load one round into the shotgun; the shotgun stays up and ready during this process. 

This will be repeated until five rounds have been fired. 

Stage Three: Round Transition Drill – 25-Yard line 

The shooter will deficit load three rounds of buckshot into the gun and have six slugs ready to load. On the command, the shooter will open the action, causing a buckshot round to load onto the shell lifter. Shooter will remove the buckshot round and replace it with a slug. 

Shooter closes the action and engages the target with the slug, and then cycles the action loading a round of buckshot into the action. 

On the command, the shooter will then deficit load a slug into the magazine and then cycle the action. Shooter will then fire the slug and cycle the action again, loading another round of buckshot into the chamber. 

On the command, the shooter will open the action, ejecting the buckshot round, but the shooter keeps the action open. Then shoot combat loads a slug, closes the action, and then fires the slug. 

Man aiming shotgun
When shooting the slugs take your time and work on your fundamentals.

This completes the drill. The shooter will repeat this entire drill one more time. 

Stage Four: Rolling Thunder 

This drill requires four to five shooters to accomplish. It’s a variable loading drill and is often a race. Shooters will line up with one round loaded and plenty of ammo accessible. The way the drill works is simple. Shooter one fires, then shooter two, then shooter three, and so on and so forth. After shooter one fires, he immediately begins to load. 

The rounds fired increase with the strings fired. So string one is one round, string two is two rounds, etc. This requires you to load fast and to be done loading by the time your string ends and turn comes around once more. 

Range Drill 3 

Range Drill 3 is when we start moving. You’ll need a shotgun and handgun with a holster for this course of fire. This is where things get a little complicated, and the training gets fairly intense. 

Stage One 

Shooters will start at the seven-yard line with an empty gun and the action open. On the command, the shooter will combat load one round into the shotgun and assume the ready position. At the second command, the shooter will fire one round from the shotgun center mass into the target. 

The shooter will then transition to their handgun and fire two rounds into the head of the target. You’ll repeat this drill five times. 

Stage Two 

This is the casualty drill. Oh, and you are the casualty. The Elk Grove PSP Shotgun course advises you to run this drill dry first, then go into the live fire zone. 

Shooters will start at the 15-yard line and load two rounds into the shotgun with one hand. At the command, the shooter will fire both rounds center mass and operate the action with a single hand.  

Shooters will then sling their shotguns and transition to their pistols, and fire two rounds into the target. Shooters will repeat this drill one more time. 

The Qual 

The Elk Grove Police Department doesn’t ignore the shotgun by any means. They really embrace it, and their PSP Shotgun Course shows it. The drills above and the training for the shotgun are quite well done. The qual does leave something to be desired. You have a timer but none of the stages are timed. The timer will act as our command to fire. Let’s dive into how they qualify their officers. 

Scoring is very simple. You are firing 10 rounds of buckshot and need 75% of those pellets to hit the threat. If you are using a nine-pellet buckshot, that means 68 pellets need to hit the target. If using eight-pellet buckshot, then 60 pellets need to hit the target. 

Stage One: 25 Yard Line 

At the 25-yard line, the shooters will duty load their guns with four rounds. The duty load is more or less the admin load. It’s done with total control and isn’t a timed or fast-moving event. Load the four rounds and come to a low-ready position. 

On the command to fire, aim and fire two rounds into the target. Set the weapon to safe. 

Stage Two: 25-Yard Line 

From the 25-yard line, you will do a tactical reload with rounds into the gun. On the command, shooters will move toward the target with their guns at the low ready. When the shooters reach the 15-yard line, they will engage the target with two rounds. 

Stage Three: 15-Yard Line 

At the 15-yard line, shooters will receive the command to move. They will move to the 10-yard line with the weapon up and pointing at the target. When they reach the 10-yard line, they will fire three rounds on the target, emptying their gun. 

Cycling shell for a shotgun
Shoot fast! Or not. There is no time limit.

Leave the action open. 

Stage Four: 10-Yard Line 

At the 10-yard line, with an empty gun, shooters will combat load five rounds into the shotgun. Begin by inserting one directly into the chamber and closing the action. Then cover the target and thumb four more rounds into the shotgun. 

shell ejecting from shotgun
Look at that round fly!

At the command, shooters will move from the 10-yard line to the seven-yard line with the gun covering the target. At the seven-yard line, the shooter will fire three rounds at the target. Shooters paying attention will realize they have two rounds left. 

To end this stage, the shooter will unload the remaining rounds and render the weapon clear. 

My Thoughts 

The course is pretty easy. Taking time out of the equation allows you to take as much time as necessary, and it’s impossible to really fail. The shooting drills stress movement and loading, which is good, but there isn’t much more than that. I do like that the course of the fire starts at 25 yards and continually moves inward. 

The last drill is great. Rarely do we ever see a measure of restraint that forces shooters to not just empty the gun. It also has them unload and clear the gun post-qual, which is a good way to transition from threat to nonthreat. 

When you combine the drills and training with the quals, I think you get a good bit of training, but the qual could be more difficult, and you would really benefit from testing some of those skills learned in the drills section. While not perfect, this is one of the few quals that seems to have some effort behind it, and I give the Elk Grove folks credit for not ignoring the shotgun. 

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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