The Marine Corps SOTG M4 Qual – Get MEU Ready

The Marine Corps has lots of shooting qualifications. We got ’em for handguns, machine guns, and multiple rifle quals. Most people who know a little about the Corps know that Marines qual once per year with their rifles, but that’s not the only rifle qualification out there. Nope, there are quite a few, with the once-per-year qual being the most important for a Marine’s career overall. Today we are looking at the little-known SOTG M4 Qual.

SOTG stands for Special Operations Training Group. This group trains Marines as they prepare for a MEU, aka a float. It’s a robust qual that is focused on close-quarters shooting. The SOTG M4 Qualification also ties to the SOTG M45 qual for Force Recon and their fancy modern 1911 pistols. Today we are going to run the course of fire and discuss its pros, cons, and what you need to get frisky like a Marine.

The SOTG M4 Qual Logistics

First, we’ll need a range of at least 50 yards you are able to maneuver on. That can be tough to acquire. This drill can be shot with the Mantis Blackbeard, minus the reloading portion, and done at home. If you have the range, you’ll also need 50 rounds of ammunition in addition to two magazines and, of course, a rifle.

CMMG FourSix
Logistics aren’t too bad or demanding.

Preferably a semi-auto rifle. The qual requires an M4, but any semi-auto rifle with detachable magazines will work. You’ll need a method to carry the spare magazine as well. Each part of this qual has a par time, so you’ll need a shot timer as well. You’ll need two targets with the head and torso presented. The Marine Corps has its own targets, but you can use nearly any other man-sized target.

3D targets for M4 qualification drill
You’ll need two targets, although the first portion only requires one target.

Don’t forget your eyes and ears either. To set yourself up for success, load your first magazine with 26 rounds and your second mag with 24 rounds.

The SOTG M4 Qual — Round After Round

There are two parts to this qual. The first portion utilizes a single target, and the second incorporates two targets. All drills will start at the low or high ready. The Marine Corps expects the shooters to have a handgun. In the event of a malfunction, the shooter transitions to the handgun but does not actually fire. If you so choose, you can do the same.

Stage 1

Range: 50 Yards
Rounds Required: 6

Drill: Fire a pair of rounds standing, a pair kneeling, and a pair in the prone in ten seconds.

M4 Qualification drill, Part 1 Stage 1 - standing, kneeling, prone
Stretch and limber up, ’cause you’ll be moving.

Stage 2

Range: 25 Yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: Sprint from the 50 to the 25-yard line, fire a pair standing and a pair kneeling in 11 seconds.

shooting from kneeling position
Get quick at taking a knee.

Stage 3

Range: 25 yards
Rounds Required: 1

Drill: Fire one headshot in two seconds.

Stage 4

Range: 25-15 yards
Rounds Required: 2

Drill: While moving from the 25 to the 15-yard, fire a pair to the torso in five seconds.

M4 Qual part 1 stage 4 shoot while moving
Be prepared to shoot, move, and shoot.

Stage 5

Range: 15 yards
Rounds Required: 2

Drill: Fire a pair to the torso in two seconds.

Stage 6

Range: 15-10 yards
Rounds Required: 3

Drill: While moving from the 15 to 10-yard line, fire a failure drill (two the chest, one to the head) in 3 seconds.

M4 Qualification drill part 1 stage 6, moving failure drill
You’ll be moving a lot during the SOTG M4 qual.

Stage 7

Range: 10 to 5 yards
Rounds Required: 3

Drill: While moving from the 10 to the 5-yard line, fire a failure drill (two the chest, one to the head) in 3 seconds.

Stage 8

Range: 7 to 3 yards
Rounds Required: 3

Drill: While moving from the 7 to the 3-yard line, fire a failure drill (two the chest, one to the head) in 3 seconds.

SOTG M4 Qual — Part 2

Now we are moving into the second portion of the SOTG M4 Qual. You will now shoot at two targets. The magazine in the weapon should hold one round, and your rifle should have a round chambered. This sets you up correctly for a proper reload.

Stage 9

Range: 50 yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: Fire two rounds on the first target in the standing. Reload your empty rifle and then assume a kneeling position and fire two rounds into the second target in 11 seconds.

M4 qual part 2 stage 9, reload
There is only one reload during the whole course of fire.

Stage 10

Range: 25 to 15 yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: Start at the 25-yard line and move to the 15. As you move, fire two rounds into each target in six seconds

Stage 11

Range: 15 yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: Fire two shots into each target in four seconds.

Stage 12

Range: 15 to 10 yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: Moving from the 15 to 10-yard range, fire two rounds into each target in four seconds.

Stage 13

Range: 10 yards
Rounds Required: 4

Drill: At the ten-yard line, fire a pair to each torso in four seconds.

Stage 14

Range: 10 to 3 yards
Rounds Required: 6

Drill: Moving from ten to seven yards, fire two rounds into the chest of each target and then fire a headshot into each target in 6 seconds.

drill walking and shooting
Get comfy walking and shooting.

All Done

That’s it for the SOTG M4 Qual. It’s pretty solid. The drills are basic but do require proper shot placement. I prefer to use small targets to force accuracy onto me as a shooter. The course of fire has lots of movement and is one of the few I’ve seen that require a sprint.

On top of that, the course of fire offers multiple positions and the time limits aren’t super generous either. They aren’t tight all the time, but a slight mess-up will kill your time. It’s also a fun course of fire that utilizes some combative shooting techniques and multiple targets to get the job done. I also like that it starts far and moves in. Marines locate, close with, and destroy their enemies and going from far to near represents that.

sprinting for the M4 qual
Sprinting plays a part in one of the drills.

What would I change? More reloads would be nice. They would up the challenge level. More headshots wouldn’t be bad, especially on the second portion of the qual. You can ratchet some time limits down a bit, but other than that, it’s pretty solid. Plus, it can be mostly be done with a Mantis Blackbeard for a dry fire experience.

Shoot Like a Marine

If you’ve ever wanted to shoot like a Marine without the need for a 500-yard range, well, here you go. Fifty rounds, 50 yards, and that’s about it. Logistically it’s fairly simple and can be shot with an AR, a PCC, or whatever else you choose. Will you add this course of fire to your repertoire?


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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