The Texas TCOLE Shotgun Qual — Do Better

A day at the range with shotguns is always a good day. Just throwing lead downrange can be fun, but sometimes you want to actually train and learn a thing or two. This is why I seek out the various police and military quals across the country to try my skills against some professional standards. Today I am trying my hand at the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shotgun qualification. For short, let’s just call it the TCOLE shotgun qual.

Grab your scattergun and a fistful of ammo, and get to the range!

Travis Pike running Remington 870 for Texas shotgun qual

TCOLE Shotgun Qual — What You’ll Need

Prospective shotgunners will need 10 rounds, broken down into five slugs and five buckshot rounds. The qual specifically lists nine pellet buckshot. That’s not a ton of ammo, but okay, shotguns aren’t suppressive weapons.

Next, you’ll need your shotgun of choice. The TCOLE Shotgun qual doesn’t distinguish one type or another, and you can choose your favorite.

Mossberg 590 shotgun
I took a Mossberg 590 to the range.

I went with a classic Mossberg model 590. Next, we need a target. The qual calls for a TQ-19, which is a man-sized, almost IPSCish target. You can use that, or an IPSC target, or any man-sized target. An FBI Q target is perfect for a little extra challenge due to its smaller size.

That’s all you need! Well, obviously, you should grab your eyes and ears and a shot timer. While not necessary, a side saddle or some means to carry spare ammo is advisable. This will make the qual a little more tactical and allow you to practice reloading with your actual setup.

Scoring the TCOLE Shotgun Qual

This is one of the easiest quals to score. Every hit on target counts as five points. Every pellet is five points, as is every slug. You can score a total of 250, and you need a total of 225 points to pass. Score-wise, the qual is pretty generous, but let’s shoot it first before we dive into judging it too much.

Side saddle with five shells on shotgun
Bring extra ammo and something to carry it with.

You could miss every slug, but as long as you hit with every buckshot pellet, you can qual.

Shooting It Out

Grab your shotgun and ammo and hit the twenty-five-yard line. Every stage begins with you loading the shotgun in a specific way. The term tactical load applies to what most of us call a port load. A port load is the act of tossing a round directly into the chamber when the weapon is completely empty.

The term patrol load is also referenced. Patrol load is a fancy way to say you are going to load the shotgun’s magazine tube. Now that we know some terms, let’s dive into the TCOLE shotgun qual.

Stage 1: 25 Yard Line

Step up to the 25-yard line with an empty shotgun. Patrol load the shotgun with three slugs, and then chamber and fire all three slugs at your target. You have twelve seconds to fire the three rounds and land accurate hits on target.

Stage 2: 25 Yard Line

Stick to the 25-yard line and patrol load two rounds into the magazine tube. On the beep, chamber and fire both rounds. You have a total of eight seconds to land your hits.

Travis Pike patrol loading Mossberg 590 for Texas TCOLE qual
Loading is always an important skill to have. This is the patrol life.

Stage 3: 15 Yard Line

Moving on up with the TCOLE Shotgun qual, you are switching from slugs to buckshot. Have three rounds of buckshot ready. Commit a tactical load directly into the chamber, then load two rounds into the magazine tube. At the beep, chamber and fire all three rounds. You have ten seconds to fire three rounds.

Stage 4: 10 Yard Line

At 10 yards, you are at bad breath range with buckshot. Have two rounds ready to load. Begin the drill by tactically loading one round into the chamber and then patrol load one into the magazine tube. On the beep, fire both rounds. You have five seconds to fire both rounds.

Travis Pike Mossberg 590
The qual has various ranges and various loads.

That’s it, go grade your targets. You are done.

My Thoughts

When people complain about the low standards for firearms training with the police, it’s stuff like the TCOLE shotgun qual they are complaining about. This is painfully easy. Even an amateur with no shotgun experience could pass it after ten minutes of instruction. There is no use of cover, no multiple targets engagements, and the par times are generous enough that you can take a smoke break from the last time you pull a trigger to the end of the par time.

For fun, I shot this qual again, but this time I set aside the Mossberg 590 and grabbed a TAC-14. This stockless firearm is harder to handle than a stocked shotgun, and I still had no problems passing the qual. Since the shots can land anywhere, the shot placement doesn’t even matter.

Travis Pike aims TAC-14 shotgun
The qual was so easy I used the TAC-14 and passed it.

How would I fix it? Just staying within the realm of TCOLE shotgun qual, here is a few things I would do. First, include the loading of your shotgun as part of your par time. So in stage 1, you have twelve seconds to load and fire three rounds. The ability to reload a shotgun is an important skill to have, and doing so under a timer encourages speed.

Second, use the various portions of the TQ-19 target to encourage accurate shot placement. Hell, at the very least, score the slug shots with head and upper torso shots only. Maybe even switch targets to encourage a more combat-focused qualification. That’s the best way I can think to preserve the qual inside of its framework.

Shuck Shuck

If we moved outside of that framework, I’d include multiple targets, a slug switch-over drill, and combat improvised reloading portions. A lot could be done to make this qual harder and make it a better test of practical shotgun skills. The TCOLE shotgun qual is great if it’s your first time handling a shotgun. As a police qual, I would expect more.

Remington TAC-14
Even with the TAC-14, it was easy.

Is it too easy? Am I being too harsh? I always think of Texas as having higher standards when it comes to guns since they embrace an armed population. 

Take it on and let us know what you think.

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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