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Live Fire Shotgun Drills

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In preparation for a recent shotgun match I was in, I did some live fire practice drills which I’d like to share for anyone interested in improving their performance with shotgun practical shooting.

The first drill I did to warm up was a simple Load Eight quad load drill.  The purpose of this drill is to test/improve the time it takes me to quad load eight rounds into the shotgun.  There are a few different variations on this drill, but the way I most often run it simulates the scenario I most often encounter in a match – this is a “planned” reload as opposed to one where I have run dry.  I simply want to “top off” with eight more rounds.  with the shotgun pointed down range at the target I start the timer and assume a shooting stance.  On the beep I do two weak-hand quad loads, bring the shotgun back up on target and fire one round.  This is a drill I run quite regularly in dry fire, and I normally hit about 3.5 seconds.  Some of the faster guys can hit between 2 and 3 seconds on a “load eight” quad load drill, but I find when I try to go much faster than 3.5 seconds, shotgun shells end up across the room and on the floor.  Several pros who have spoken to on this topic (most notably Jesse Tischouser) all say the same thing – focus less on doing a fast quad load while standing in front of a camera (to make a cool video for social media) and more on quad loading while on the move.  Jesse has further stated that as long as you’re getting an eight round quad load in the 4-second range or less, you’re good – particularly if you can consistently do that anytime you pick up the shotgun.   Interestingly enough (for me at least) my live fire time was slower than my dry fire time:

On this particular run, I felt like I was going really fast – at least as fast as I do in dry fire.  So it was puzzling to me (and still is) as to why I’m seeing roughly a .75 second variance in live and dry fire.  Conventional wisdom says I’m doing something wrong in dry fire – I’m just not quite sure exactly what.

Next up I performed one of the variations of the “load eight” drill – this time the assumption is I’ve run the shotgun dry and need to go to the match saver prior to doing a “load eight” quad load:

I tend to think that loading one from the match saver then closing the bolt adds about a second to your “normal” Load Eight drill.  If you deduct 1 second from that time, that puts me at 4.11 seconds for my Load Eight which a bit faster than when I did it above.

The next drill I tried was Keith Garcia’s Load 12 drill.  In this drill, you start with two rounds in the shotgun at port of arms.  On the beep fire one, then load four rounds and fire two, again load four and fire two, then finally load four and fire one for a total of 12 rounds loaded and six fired:

I’m not sure what a “good” time is on this drill, but I do know that 9.93 seconds is actually a bit faster than I’ve ever run this drill in dry fire.  In fact, I’m not sure I could significantly improve my time on this drill – it really felt smokin’ fast.

Finally, I wanted to practice a bolt closed empty gun table load in anticipation of there being a stage in the match I was preparing for that required it.  As it turns out there was no such stage at the match I shot, but it’s still good practice.

As you see in the above photo, I used a barrel for a “table” which actually worked well.  Here again, I’m not certain what a “good” time is, but I’m thinking that adding a second to 1.5 seconds to your “normal” Load Eight is probably about right.  If so, 5.56 seconds is about right, although I’d like to see it closer to five seconds – a good goal for me to work toward.

It didn’t take long for me to do these drills (about an hour), and I only used maybe 25 rounds, but it was very good practice for me.  Hopefully they’ve given you some ideas of things to try the next time you’re at the range.

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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