The Vermont Police Shotgun Quals

Let’s go back to Vermont, the state that is one of the longest-running examples of constitutional carry. Although, outside of that, their gun laws have soured a fair bit. But I hate talking politics, so let’s talk shotguns. Vermont’s Criminal Justice Council came up with what they must feel is a good shotgun qual. Feelings aside, we have to ask, is it? That’s what we intend to find out.

In fact, we’ll do ya’ one better. Vermont has a separate shotgun qual for slugs and buckshot, so we are going to run both of them back to back. Both are fairly short, and you won’t run dry on ammo with either. So let’s maximize our day and start blasting away.

What We’ll Need

First, we gotta have a repeating claymore. In general, you want to use a tactical or defensive-oriented repeating shotgun in the pump or semi-auto variety. Vermont is surprisingly strict with its qual. Police are only allowed to carry a shotgun model they’ve qualified with. If you qual with an 870, you can’t pack a Benelli M4 in the trunk. Besides a shotgun, you’ll also need a handgun for both quals.

On the ammo front, we need nine slugs for the slug portion and nine rounds of buckshot. Your chosen handgun will need two rounds per qual, so only four rounds total. With the presence of a handgun, you can rightly assume you’ll need a holster, and your shotgun will benefit from a sling.

vermont shotgun gear
Bring your eyes, ears, buckshot, and slugs.

When it comes to targets, you can use any target…but Vermont has a specific layout for that target. You’ll need to take your target and draw a 22-inch tall and 12-inch wide rectangle. Above the big rectangle will sit a smaller rectangle that is eight inches tall and six inches wide. Hits only count inside those boxes.

You only need one per qual. I do suggest bringing two to the buckshot qual because most buckshot rounds tear targets up and make them hard to score. We also need something to use as cover. It can be notional, or a safety fence, or a barrel, or just something to hide behind.

Finally, don’t forget your eyes, ears, and a shot timer to finish things up.

shotgun and ammo
Buckshot and slugs are a shotgunner’s bread and butter.


Scoring is a little different depending on which qual you are shooting. The slug qual requires you to land every shot. Any miss is a failure. You can also not exceed the time limits.

The buckshot qual has scoring tables for each range and for either 9- or 8-pellet buckshot. Here is the minimum to pass each stage.

9 Pellet

15 Yards – 20 Hits Out of 27
Ten Yards – 20 Hits Out of 27
Seven Yards – 27 Hits Out of 27

8 Pellet

15 Yards – 18 Hits Out of 24
Ten Yards – 18 Hits Out of 24
Seven Yards – 24 Hits Out of 24

All shots fired from handguns are scored, and it’s required you hit all handguns shots to pass both quals.

Slug Work

We will start with the slug work first. Start the first drill with a cruiser-ready gun. This means the chamber is empty, the hammer is down, safety is on, and the magazine tube is loaded. In this case, start with three rounds loaded.

Stage One: 20 Yards – Three Slugs

Start with your cruiser-ready shotgun in the low ready. At the beep, aim and fire three slugs into the target in 15 seconds. Once you’re done, do a tactical reload of three more rounds.

loading shotgun
Keeping the gun loaded is a big part of the qual.

Stage Two: 15 Yards – Three Slugs / Two Handgun

Start in the low ready. At the beep, aim and fire three rounds into the threat in 15 seconds.

Transition to the handgun and fire two rounds center mass. This portion is untimed.

Reholster and tactically load the shotgun with three rounds.

Shooting with handgun
Transitions can be vital with a shotgun.

Stage Three: 25 Yards – Three Slugs

Begin kneeling behind cover, weapon ready. At the beep, aim and engage the threat with three rounds in twenty seconds.

The slug course is over, and now we move on to the buckshot portion of today’s article.

End of One, Beginning of Another

Stage One: 15 Yards – Three Rounds

Start with your cruiser-ready shotgun in the low ready. At the beep, aim and fire three rounds of buckshot into the target in 15 seconds.

With an empty gun, commit a tactical reload of three rounds.

shooting shotgun
The 1300 Defender was a great choice for this qual.

Stage Two: 10 yards – Three Rounds

From the low ready, aim and fire three rounds of buckshot into the threat in 12 seconds.

Tactically reload the gun with three rounds.

Shooting with a handgun
Two hands are better than one, but I forgot my sling

Stage Three: Seven Yards – Three Rounds

Start in the low ready, and at the beep, fire three rounds in 10 seconds.

Transition to your handgun and fire two rounds center mass. This is untimed.

Boom, we are done. Score ’em up and see if you passed.

My Thoughts on the Vermont Police Shotgun Quals

Let’s get the good out of the way. I like that they address both slugs and buckshot. That’s a good move. Second, I like the tactical reloading between stages and the handgun transition. I appreciate the use of cover during the slug qual as well.

Where it all falls apart is when it comes to the standards. The accuracy standard is quite high, but holy crap, the time standards are very low. You have so much extra time that’s just not required. At a minimum, they should cut these times in half.

Shotguns are often seen as an afterthought by most police departments. There seems to be some fear of the boomstick, and this leads police departments to make shotgun quals exceptionally easy. The perception of harsh recoil often leads to lower standards. The qual itself is also very basic and doesn’t really call for multi-target engagements, very much use of cover, or any form of target transitions. Heck, a slug select drill would blow me away.

Ultimately it’s not a great qual. It does try, but like many shotgun quals, it feels more like an afterthought than anything else. The Vermont handgun qual is fairly robust, so I’m not sure why the shotgun is treated like a red-headed stepchild.

If you are a new shotgun shooter, this can be a fun introduction with low pressure and low round count requirements. It can be an introduction to tactical shotguns, but not much more.

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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