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4 Most Effective Military and Police Qualifying Shoots

Do you want to become a better shooter? See how you compare against 4 of the best military & police shooting qualifiers...from pistol to rifle to shotgun.

Do you want to be a better shooter?

Of course you do.  We all do.

Shooting skills are something we all attempt to improve continually.  There is no perfect shooter or someone with no room for improvement.  Even the famed Jerry Miculek is also attempting to improve his skills and break his own records (cause no one else is touching them).

A good way to improve is to train to a standard that allows you to measure progress and see actual improvements. 

So how exactly do you train to a standard?

Who do we look to?

The combat pros – the military and police of course!

Today, we are going to look at 4 of the most effective and realistic qualifying shoots used or created by professional gunslingers.

Number 4 – Handgun: Air Marshalls

Air Marshalls, CBS
Air Marshalls, CBS

The Federal Air Marshals are tasked with an extremely difficult job.  

They are the first and last line of defense on an airplane.  

They are forced with situations very similar to civilian self-defense as most shootings are done at close range and are over very fast.  

Air Marshals are forced into situations where they must be extremely accurate to avoid hitting any innocent passengers, so they stress accuracy and speed.

One Target – At least Two Magazines and 30 rounds

FBI QIT Target
FBI QIT Target
Procedure Starting Position Time Allowed Total Shots
Fire 1 Round Concealment 3.3 Seconds 2 2
Double Tap Low Ready 2.7 seconds 4 2
6 Aimed Rounds Low Ready 3.00 Seconds 6 1
Shoot 1 round, Reload, Shoot 1 round Low Ready 6.5 Seconds 4 2
1 round at 2 targets, Targets three yards apart Low Ready 3.30 Seconds 4 2
180 Degree pivot. 1 shot on three targets, left to right. From Concealment 7.00 seconds 6 2
Fire 1 round, slide locks, transition to knee and reload, fire 1 more round Low Ready 8.00 Seconds 4 2


  • The drills with multiple strings must be done under the total time.  Per round time is an average, or split time.  For example, Drill 1 can be fired with one string of 2 seconds, and a second string of 1.3 seconds and still ‘qualify’.
  • Target used is an FBI QIT Target at 7 yards.
  • Shots inside the bottle are 5 points, shot’s outside are two points. 30 shots fired, a max score of 150, a passing score is 135.
  • Issued Weapon to Federal Air Marshals is the P229 in 357 Sig.

Why It’s Effective

This drill has one awesome feature and one not so awesome feature.  

The awesome feature is the focus on concealed shooting.  

Many police and military qualifications have no focus on shooting from concealed.  Since Air Marshals look and act as normal civilians on flights, they train and focus on shooting from concealed.

The not-so-awesome is the lack of focus on getting off the X and finding cover.  

In an airplane, there isn’t much cover or room to move, so it makes sense this isn’t an issue for them.  For the everyday concealed carrier, the use of cover and the ability to get off the X is important.  However, the transition from standing to a knee and reloading is a valuable skill to have, as well as pivoting and engaging.

Additional Thoughts

I do like how they implement the 6 accurate rounds in 3 seconds.  

The reason being that sometimes a double tap just doesn’t do it.  You may need to shoot an opponent six times.  Training for more than two accurate shots on a target prevents building a two shots is enough mentality and habit.

Need help selecting your first handgun?  Check out our beginner’s guide.

Number 3 – Carbine: MEU (SOC)


MEU (SOC) or Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Qualified, are Marine units deployed at sea.  

They are tasked with traveling the world and being the world’s 911 force.  Equipped with enough Marines and Sailors to stage an invasion, MEU (SOC) deployments are always dynamic.  

My second deployment was a MEU (SOC) unit and the training is intense.  

As an infantryman, you must pass a variety of different training packages with the Special Operation Training Group before you deploy.  

Their rifle skills package is dynamic, varied, and some of the best training I ever went through.

Phase One:  One Target – 28 rounds (Have extra 22 round mag in mag pouch for reload)

Marine Corp Targets
Marine Corp Targets
Distance Procedure Shots Fired Time Allowed (seconds)
50 Yards 2 shots in each position Standing/Kneeling/Prone to body 6 10
25 yards Sprint 50 to 25 yards. 2 shots in each position Standing/Kneeling 4 11
25 yards Head Shot 1 2
25-15 yards Walk 25 to 15 fire 2 shots to body 2 5
15 Yards 2 shots to body, standing 2 1.5
15-10 yards Walk 15 to 10 Failure to stop drill* 3 4
10-5 yards Walk 10 to 5 Failure to stop drill* 3 3.5
7-3 yards Walk 7 to 3 Failure to stop drill 3 3

Score Before Moving to Phase Two.

Shots in the designated head, chest, and pelvis are 2 points.  Other shots on target are 1 point.  Misses are, of course zero.  24 shots fired equals a max score of 48 in Phase One.

Phase Two:  Two Targets – 4 rounds left in magazine from Phase One (1 magazine with 22 rounds ready)

Distance Procedure Shots Fired Time Allowed (seconds)
50 Yards 2 shots standing to body of target one,
Reload, 2 shots kneeling on target two
4 11
25-15 yards Shooting on the move. 2 shots each body 4 6
15 Yards 2 shots to bodies of each target 4 3.5
15-10 yards Walk 15 to 10 2 shots to the body of each target 4 4
10 Yards 2 shots to the body of each target 4 3
10-3 Yards Walk 10-3. Hammer pair to body of each target, followed by single shot to brain of each target. 6 5

Score targets.

Shots in the designated head, chest, and pelvis are 2 points.  Other shots on target are 1 point.  Misses are, of course, zero.  There are 24 body shots, and 4 head shots.  You can gain a total of 52 points in Phase Three.

Phase One & Two combined equals 100 points.  80 points is required to pass.


  • Failure to stop drill is two shots to the chest and one shot to the head OR to the pelvis.
  • Hammer Pair is two shots for one sight picture AKA a double tap
  • Target Used US Marine Corps E-Type Facer (Can Substitute any target with head, chest, and pelvic areas)

Why It’s Effective

This is an overall excellent carbine drill.  

It mixes shooting with movement, and at the same time, demands precision.  

It is not an easy drill and it’s designed to keep you moving.  That 25-yard sprint wakes you up and gets the heart pounding.  To make it extra hard and realistic, toss on a plate carrier and some plates to add weight.

The qualification puts a lot of stress on shot placement, which is the most effective fight stopper.

 There is also movement, transitions between standing, kneeling, and prone, and a forced reload.  

This qualification is difficult but really stresses the fundamentals of shooting.  If you can conquer this drill, you have an excellent grip on using a rifle in combat.

The downside to the qualification is there is only a single reload.  

The other is the fact it may be hard to find a range that allows you to run from the 50-yard line to the 25-yard line.  A lot of ranges do not allow fire and movement, and a lot of this qualification requires movement.  It may be a doubled edged sword in a lot of respects.

While the M4 is the weapon used by the USMC for this qualification, it can really be done with any semi-automatic rifle.  The AR-15 is the civilian equivalent of the M4…check out our Buyer’s Guide.

Number 2 – Backup/Small Gun: Maine Criminal Justice Academy

MCJA Graduation, Maine DPS
MCJA Graduation, Maine DPS

I can’t say I know a lot about the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, but I can say their Plain Clothes carry qualification is quite robust.  

Designed for officers who carry a smaller than average weapon.  It’s an excellent course of fire for concealed carriers.

Distance Procedure Shots Fired Time Allotted (seconds)
3 yards 1 Round Standing (From Holster) 1 2
3 yards 2 Rounds Standing (From Holster) 2 3
3 yards 3 Rounds Standing (From Holster) 3 3
5 yards 2 rounds standing Controlled Pairs*
(From Holster)
Repeat Drill 3x
2 per rep
6 total
3 seconds per rep
5 yards 3 rounds, failure to stop drill*
(From Holster)
3 3
7 yards 2 rounds standing Controlled Pairs*
(From Holster)
Repeat Drill 3x
2 Per Rep
6 Total
4 Seconds Per Rep
7 yards 3 rounds, failure to stop drill*
(From Holster)
3 3
10 yards 3 rounds standing
( Ready Gun)
3 3
10 Yards 3 rounds, kneeling, failure to stop drill    

(Ready Gun)

4 3
12 yards 2 rounds, standing
( Ready Gun)Repeat Drill 2x
2 per rep
4 total
3 seconds per rep
15 yards Behind Barricade Standing Over
2 rounds, standing
Transition to kneeling, fire 2 shots around barricade on strong side.
4 10
18 yards Start at 25 yards, draw firearm, move to 18 yard line with barricade with weapon ready.
2 rounds standing over barricade
2 rounds kneeling Right side barricade
2 Rounds kneeling Left side barricade
6 rounds 15 
18 yards (Drill requires Moderator to issue commands.) (Start with Ready Gun)

Approach Target on Command – Low Ready


Threat Command –  High Ready and Verbalize ID and Command target to stop


Fire Command – 3 shots center mass

Stop, Command target to Back-Up – Low Ready

Threat Command – High Ready and Verbalize threat

Fire Command – 3 shots center mass                                              

Dress Line and Command to Back-Up – Ready Gun


Scoring 1 shot 1 point. 50 shots fired total. Minimum of 40 points to pass.


  • Controlled pair is one shot one sight picture. A slow repeatable pattern.
  • Failure to stop drill 2 shots to the torso and 1 shot to head

Why It’s Effective

Many course of fires and qualifications are difficult for small guns because of the capacity required.

This qualification allows shooters with small concealed carry weapons to train and qualify without changing capacities much.

This qualification may not stress reloads, but most people carrying concealed do not carry a reload.  Reloads could easily be worked into this course of fire if you carry a reload.

It also stresses drawing and firing, as well as using cover.

There is also a move to cover portion that is extremely important in any gun fight.  The last drill is complicated but allows concealed carrier to issue commands, and work with a moderator to make you stop, issue commands, and tell you when to shoot.

You can also do this on a budget since it only takes a single box of ammunition.

The downside is that for a small gun course of fire, you have to have at least six rounds.  Those who carry J frames will be forced to modify the drill down to 5 rounds only.  Also, shooting and moving is often prohibited at ranges.

Number 1  – Shotgun: DOE Protective Force

DOE Protective Force
DOE Protective Force


The Department of Energy Protective Force (DOE) is in charge of guarding nuclear power throughout the United States.  

This paramilitary force is one of the best armed non-police, non-military unit in the United States.  They use a wide variety of weapons…including shotguns.  See what we think are the 5 Best Tactical Shotguns for Defense.

Shotguns are excellent fight stoppers and the DOE stresses some of the more important aspects of shotgun use.

Distance Procedure Shots Fired Time Allotted (seconds)
7 yards (Begin with an empty chamber, 3 rds in tube)
Charge, and fire 2 rounds. Load 1 round in the
magazine tube, and fire 2 rounds
4 12
15 yards (Begin with an empty chamber, 2 rds in tube)

Charge, and fire 2 rounds from a standing position.
While assuming the kneeling position, load 1 round through the ejection port and close the action,
Load 1 round in the magazine tube, and fire 2 rounds

4 15
25 yards (Begin with an empty chamber, 2 rds in tube)

Charge and fire 1 round from a standing position; kneel and fire 1 round

2 6

Scoring is based on pellets per target on a NRA B27 target.


If using 9 pellet buckshot, you need to land 63 for a 70% and instructors need to qualify with 72 pellets for 80%.

If using 12 pellet buckshot, 84 pellets need to land and instructors need to land 96 pellets.

Why It’s Effective

The focus on combat and tactical reloads makes this an excellent course of fire.

One of the keys to being a good shot-gunner is being able to quickly reload your shotgun due to a shotguns limited capacity.  

There is also strict time limits and the 25 yard line makes you work with buckshot.  

The transitions to kneeling are an excellent touch and keeps the shooter thinking.

The downsides are that it is a super short qualification.  There isn’t a lot of focus on moving and shooting either.  

I would also like to see the implementation of slugs.  For some reason, shotgun qualifications are almost always all buckshot or all slugs

Qualification Day

These quals give you a solid point to measure your shooting ability with rifle, handgun and shotgun.  

They also tend to be decently budget friendly in terms of needed gear and ammunition required to complete them.  

Outside of giving a measurement of skill, they also provide valuable training to make you a faster, more accurate, and more confident shooter.  

Who doesn’t want to be better?  

If we missed your favorite police/military standard…let us know in the comments below!

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2 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    alf ox t

    You missed the FBI Pistol qual

    December 2, 2018 4:56 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I want to become a soldier. Am afraid but love the job. I've learnt alot

    March 25, 2018 12:35 pm
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