The Wisconsin Handgun Qual — More Than Cheese and Beer

I don’t know much about Wisconsin, but I like what I do know. They like beer, cheese, and guns. I stumbled across the Wisconsin Handgun Qualification standard, aka the Wisconsin Handgun Wual. This qualification was put together by the Law Enforcement Standards Board Tactical Advisory for the Training and Standards Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. That’s a mouthful for sure. 

Travis Pike aims pistol in Wisconsin Handgun Qual
Make your shots count. Shot placement is a big deal.

The Wisconsin Handgun Qual is a reasonably standard police qualification shoot that doesn’t require a whole ton of ammo or time to complete. It’s also one that acknowledges its own limitations, stating: 

This course does not indicate whether officers have received recent, relevant, and realistic training necessary to perform their job. It does not train or test an officer’s ability to perform psychomotor skills in a rapidly-evolving, dynamic, and realistic work environment. Thus, this qualification course should be viewed as a stepping stone.

That’s a fairly honest appraisal of most qualifications out there. With that said, let’s dive into the Wisconsin Handgun Qual. 

Loading up Logistically for the Wisconsin Handgun Qual 

Ammo-wise, you will need 30 rounds. I suggest a modern compact or full-size pistol like a modern agency would wield, although using your CCW will be great training. Don’t forget a holster and a spare magazine and pouch. You’ll also need three dummy rounds

S&W CSX with range gear
You only need 30 rounds.

You’ll need something you can use for cover, and a notional cover won’t do it. I use a PTSB Lite. It works really well due to its portability and is one of my favorite pieces of gear. For proper scoring, you’ll need a target with defined zones. An IPSC-style target could work more or less, but the Wisconsin DOJ has its target, and it’s great. 

If you said Wisconsin man, this is exactly what I’d picture. It’s a man target with a gun and has several integral zones important to scoring. The qual calls for one of these targets. 

Don’t forget your eyes, ears, and a shot timer. 


Scoring zones are broken down into A, B, C, and D zones. The Wisconsin Handgun Qual isn’t broken down into three scoring phases, and each phase is divided by different distances. 

For scoring phase one, the target must have at least eight newly fired rounds in the C zone or better of the target. 

Wisconsin Man Target zones
Wisconsin Man!

In scoring phase two, you must have seven newly fired rounds in the C zone or better. 

Finally, for scoring phase three, you must have ten newly fired rounds into the D zone. 

Any rounds fired passed the time limits assigned to each drill will be scored as D hits, and any saved rounds are scored as misses. If you fail one scoring phase, you only need to reshoot that scoring phase to qualify. 

Shooting the Wisconsin Handgun Qual 

After each scoring phase, score and mark your targets. This will make it much easier to track hits and misses and ensure proper scoring. 

Scoring Phase One 

Stage One: 3 Yards — 4 Second Par Time 

Have your firearm loaded with at least three rounds. At the beep, dynamically take a lateral step left or right, draw and engage the target with three rounds. 

Stage Two: 3 Yards — 4 Second Par Time 

At the beep draw and fire three rounds, strong hand only. 

Travis Pike running the Wisconsin Handgun Qual
You get as close as three yards with this qual.

Stage Three: 3 Yards — 4 Second Par Time

This stage of the Wisconsin Handgun Qual requires you to draw and switch from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand. What’s important to remember is that this portion is not timed. Once you switch hands, hit the timer. Then at the deep engage with three rounds weak hand only. 

Travis Pike aims handgun with non-dominant firing hand for Wisconsin handgun qual
…but I need to practice with my left hand a lot more.

Scoring Phase Two 

Stage Four: Seven Yards — 12 Second Par Time 

Load your handgun with three rounds, and have your spare ready with a single round loaded. At the beep, take a side step behind cover and draw. Fire your three rounds, and then reload and fire the fourth and final round. 

Stage Five: Seven Yards— 10 Seconds

Here the Wisconsin Handgun Qual gets spicy. Load your handgun with three rounds. You need a live round in the chamber and two live rounds in the magazine alongside a single dummy round. The dummy round should be the first or second round in the magazine to feed. 

Handling a malfunction in Wisoncsin Handgun Qual
Malfunctions are a big part of this qual.

With this properly set up, hit the timer. At the beep, take a side step behind cover, draw and fire three rounds. Somewhere you’ll hit the dummy round and be required to do a Type 1 malfunction clearance, a.k.a. Tap Rack, Bang. Once the dummy round is dealt with, complete the drill. 

Stage Six: Seven Yards — 24 Seconds 

24 seconds? Yeah, it’s a lot of time, but it’s a complicated drill. You’ll need to get properly set up before beginning. Ensure you have a live round loaded into the chamber of the handgun. Load three dummy rounds into the magazine. Have your second magazine loaded with a single live round. 

At the beep, take one side step to cover, draw, and attempt to fire two rounds. When the second round rails do a Type 1 malfunction clearance. When that fails, do a Type 2. A Type 2 clearance is dropping the magazine, reloading with a fresh magazine, and racking the slide. Once you do your Type 2 malfunction clearance, fire the final round to end the drill. 

Scoring Phase Three 

Stage Seven: 15 Yards — 24 Seconds 

Start at a ready position with your handgun loaded with eight rounds and a spare magazine loaded with four rounds. You’ll be behind cover when you start in the ready position. At the beep, fire four pairs of two rounds from different positions behind cover. 

shooting from behind cover in Wisconsin Handgun Qual
Popping around a different side of the qual can be tough to do.

You can use left, right, kneeling left or right, and over the top. The only rule is that you can’t use the same position for two consecutive pairs. You need to fire this drill in 24 seconds. 

shooting from behind cover in Wisconsin Handgun Qual
Using cover is critical in real gunfights.

Stage Eight: 25 Yards— 20 Seconds

At this stage, we are backing up a fair bit beyond normal, at least beyond normal for police qualifications. The Wisconsin Handgun Qual doesn’t hold back. At 25 yards, you are going to draw and assume your preferred shooting position. There doesn’t seem to be any rules about what’s acceptable, so take the prone if you want. 

After assuming the position hit the timer and at the beep, engage with four rounds. 

With that, we are done with the Wisconsin Handgun Qual.

Cheese and Beer Time 

Now that we are done, I do feel that the Wisconsin Handgun Qual is pretty good. It has a lot of skills worked beyond the norm. It has plenty of draws and a reload, and of course, malfunction failures are nice to see. I also like the 25-yard work. It’s not common to see that in a handgun qual. 

The big fault with this qual is the one I often complain about—the times are too generous. 20 seconds to fire four rounds at 25 yards is absurd. That should be ten seconds at the most. Stage Six also has a very long par time. I feel like I can take a sip of water between everything and still make the par time. 

Shorten those par times to the point where they challenge you, and you’ll find some solid training with the Wisconsin Handgun Qual. Check it out, and let us know what you think in the comments below! 


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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