My Favorite Shotguns Drills and Skills

As a shotgun fan, I’m always looking to improve my skills with the gauge. Shotguns are not user-friendly like ARs, and the training curve to master one can feel sharp. In reality, the limited use of shotguns means that the core skills required to use a shotgun are relatively simple. Simple, but difficult to master. Drills are a popular way to train skills, but shotgunners likely feel a bit left out. Don’t fret; I’ve got three shotgun drills to help you train in the way of the gauge. 

Shotgun Drills and Training 

There are a few skills that are essential to running a shotgun. These aren’t the only shotgun skills, but they are the most important. When shopping for shotgun drills, I looked for drills that worked these skills. 

Ask about shotguns, and people will gladly tell you they recoil too much and, therefore, the AR is superior. In reality, these folks have never practiced proper recoil management. Recoil management is the number one skill that shotgunners need to learn to succeed. In the year of our lord 2024, the Push/Pull technique beats recoil like it is a stepchild. It allows you to shoot quickly, shoot straight, and save your shoulder. 

The shotgun works best at handgun ranges. The shotgun dominates this range by putting a handful of projectiles on a target per trigger pull. It’s efficient and fast. CQB fights are often rapid and brutal, and speed matters. One of the big skills one should have with a shotgun is getting a shot on target quickly. I can get a load of buckshot on target at ten yards from the low ready, which is less than 0.6 of a second. 

Finally, the last skill is reloading. Shotguns hold anywhere from four to eight rounds. In most defensive encounters, it’s doubtful you’d ever have to reload the gun. Still, crap happens, and you want to be able to keep the gun loaded and running. Reloading is a valuable skill to have. 

With this all in mind, let’s get into our shotgun drills. 

The Shoot, Kneel, Shoot 

For the Shoot, Kneel, Shoot drill we need three rounds of ammo, and a single target to go along with our shotgun and PPE. 

The Shoot, Kneel, Shoot starts with one round in the gun and standing at 10 yards. At the signal, you’ll fire one round on target. You then transition to a kneeling position and port load a cartridge, fire, then port a second cartridge and fire again. That ends the drill. You should land all three hits, and the drill should be done in at least ten seconds, with seven being preferable. 

This drill works all three of our big skills. You’ll need to rapidly reload and engage the target while exercising proper recoil control. Transitioning from a port load to a proper push/pull while engaging quickly is difficult. This transition is tricky but worth learning. It helps you flow into the push/pull and starts to build good habits. 

Shotgun Casino Drill 

I first saw the Shotgun Casino Drill on the Active Self-Protection YouTube channel, but I’m not sure if they created it. The drill requires ten rounds per run and can be done with a pump or semi-auto shotgun. You’ll need four targets, preferably man-sized targets. 

Shooters will start five yards from the target. According to ASP, a pump gun can start fully loaded, and a semi-auto should start with three rounds in the tube and one in the pipe. I think three in the tube and one in the pipe works for both guns, but you should be faster with a semi-automatic shotgun. 

Starting from left to right, mentally label the targets one through four. You’ll shoot the target sequentially, and each target will get shot according to its number. Target one gets shot once; target two gets shot twice, so far, and so on. By the time you get to target three, you’re short on ammo. 

Now, as the shooter, you decide when and how to react. Do you load the tube to full capacity and continue, or as needed? That’s entirely up to you. You have 30 seconds to complete the drill, which is a ton of time. 

This drill stresses reloading, recoil mitigation, and rapid engagements. It’s easy to let the drill get away from you if you aren’t practicing the proper techniques. 

Shotgun El Press 

Justified Defensive Concepts modified the classic El Pres into a shotgun drill. Like the classic El Pres, you’ll set up three targets and start seven yards away. You’ll need nine rounds of ammo per run. Load six in the gun, and have three on your belt or side saddle. There is no rotate and engage, you’ll start facing the targets. 

At the beep, you’ll fire two rounds into each target. Once the gun is empty, you’ll conduct an emergency reload and fire once per target. Each target will receive a total of three rounds of ammo. Justified Defensive Concepts has not published an acceptable time, but I use the 10-second par time for the original El Pres. 

Once more, we are working on all three skills and doing so in a rapid and efficient way. You are running the gun fast, and that makes it easy for recoil to become a hassle. You’re reloading and instantly engaging, which tests all three skills at one time.

Shotgun Skills 

The shotgun can be a brutal weapon but also a very efficient defensive tool. Even though the skills aren’t complicated, it does take a lot of training to master each one. The above drills will get you well on your way to gauge supremacy. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.