The New Jersey Shotgun Qual — Garden State Redux

Today we are going to New Jersey to examine their police shotgun qual. To be fair, I know two things about New Jersey, and both come from “The Sopranos,” so I really know nothing. I do know finding their various police quals are simple, and with that in mind, I’m going through their handgun, carbine, subgun, and shotgun quals. I figured we’d start with the scatterguns.

This qual involves a slug and buckshot phase. What’s interesting is the document that lists the quals lists the reasons for a slug qualification as having to do with black bears. The qual says they are a recent problem and has brought the slug back to the shotgun arsenal.

What You Need

First, we will need a total of 20 rounds: 10 rounds of buckshot and ten slugs. You’ll also need the means to carry extra ammunition. A side saddle, bandolier belt, or something similar. Reloads are a big part of this qual.

gun and gear
The qual doesn’t require much gear.

You’ll need a repeating shotgun of the semi-auto or pump variety. I went with the Mossberg 590A1. Don’t forget your FBI Q targets. Technically it calls for one, but I’d use at least two and switch between the slug and buckshot phase. You’ll need a shot timer as well as your eyes and ears to keep things safe.


Scoring is pretty easy. Buckshot and slug portions are scored separately. You have to have an 80% in both to pass. With nine-pellet buckshot, you need 72 impacts, and with eight-pellet buckshot, you need 64 pellets to hit.

For slugs, you need to hit eight out of 10 to score 80%. It’s easy, but it might take some time to count the buckshot impacts.

Time to Shoot The New Jersey Shotgun Qual

This will be fairly quick. It’s a mere four stages for both the slug and buckshot quals. We’ll start with the buckshot qual first. To be honest, the qual repeats itself for the four stages, so if you feel déjà vu, it’s perfectly normal.

You’ll be doing what the qual calls a combat load. It’s a port load. Meaning with the action opened, you’ll insert it directly into the action and close the chamber on it. While it’s most commonly called a port load, it’s also been called an emergency load.

Buckshot Qualification

Stage One: 20-Yard Line

Stage one takes place at the 20-yard line. Start in the low ready with the gun empty, with four rounds ready to load. On the command to go, you will load the magazine with four rounds of buckshot. Shooters will then fire all four rounds of buckshot into the target.

With the gun empty, you’ll combat load a cartridge into the chamber directly, close the action, and fire that fifth round. You have a total of 25 seconds to load and fire all five rounds. I think you’ll find that’s plenty of time.

Loading the shotgun
The only thing I like about this qual is the practice I got loading the gun.

Stage Two: 10-Yard Line

Now that we’ve cut the distance in half, you should feel quite comfy. We will start with the gun empty, with the action opened and safety on. On the command to fire, combat load one round directly into the chamber and load two rounds into the magazine. Then fire those three rounds.

With an empty gun and an open action, you’ll combat load one round into the chamber and one into the magazine and fire both rounds. You have 35 seconds to shoot all of Stage Two.

port loading a shotgun
The loading aspects of this qual are the only good things.

Slug Qualification

I’d switch targets before switching to the slug course of fire. Ten rounds of buckshot will tear the hell out of a paper target. With a fresh target and 10 slugs, let’s start shooting slugs.

Stage One: 50-Yard Line

Oh man, if you have a bead-sighted shotgun, you’ll need to make sure you know how your slugs shoot. Fifty yards is a good little walk. You’ll start with an empty gun with four slugs ready to load. Just like before, you will load four rounds into the magazine, then fire the four rounds into the target. Leave the action opened at the last shot.

Now combat load one round directly into the chamber and fire the fifth round. You have 25 seconds to send those slugs downrange.

shotgun qual shooting
50 yards is great slug range practice.

Stage Two: 25-Yard Line

We are a little close now, and slug work is a bit easier. Like before, we start with the action opened and have five rounds of slugs on tap. At the beep, you’ll combat load one round into the chamber and two rounds into the magazine, then fire three rounds.

Now, with an empty gun, combat load a slug into the chamber, followed by another in the magazine. Fire the two rounds.

You have a total of 35 seconds to shoot this drill.

regular loading a shotgun
You have plenty of time, but loading quickly is a good skill to have.

My Thoughts

The New Jersey shotgun qual feels like a check-in-the-box qualification. Their pistol, rifle, and subgun qualifications are all much longer and much more intensive. The shotgun as a tool is clearly being ignored by the state. This qual ensures you know the basics of using a shotgun, but it’s absurdly easy to pass with generous times and doesn’t require much skill.

There is some benefit to being good at loading the shotgun, but there isn’t much to test here. No shooting on the move, no using cover, no multiple positions. Which is a shame. The subgun qual has tons of positions, the use of cover, and more. Why the shotgun is basically ignored is beyond me.

The New Jersey qual is about as bad as the Texas one, which is about the only thing those two states have in common.

What to fix?

Just scrap the qual and start over. It’s not a competent qual, and outside of the loading aspects, there isn’t much here. Give it a try. I can bet you can pass it on the first try with little stress. Am I wrong? Let me know below what you think of this scattergun test.

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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