The USMC’s Practical Shotgun Shooting Course

I love my beloved Marine Corps, and I love shotguns. When I stumbled across a Youtube video of Marines training with shotguns, I spent two minutes watching it. After watching, I can certainly say those Marines need more scattergun training, but at least they were getting it. In the video, I learned about something called the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course. I went searching for the full course, and after an hour poking around the Military Police training manuals, I found it and promptly shot it. 

What do we need for the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course? A shotgun, of course, and I used my own Benelli M4, which matched what the Marines in the video utilized. Shooters will need 18 rounds of buckshot for the course of fire. I also recommend something to carry the spare ammo for easy reloading. 

We need three targets total and a barrier that you can stand or kneel behind. You don’t need a shot timer, but you do need a stopwatch of some type. The course of fire has to be completed in three minutes total, but there is no individual time requirement for each of the four stations. 

The targets will be placed in a row and numbered 1, 2, and 3. The different stations require the targets to be shot in a particular order, so you’ll need to pay attention or have a buddy calling them out for you. 

Prior to starting the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course, you’ll need to get your blood flowing. The Marine Corps loves PT, and they love shooting, so today, we get to combine it. They recommend two minutes of strenuous activity. I did two minutes of jump rope. 

Shooting the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course

After getting a sweat in, I grabbed my Benelli and got to shooting. 

Station 1 – 25 Yards – Standing Barricade 

The three-minute time starts as soon as you hit Station 1. You approach with an empty gun with the action opened. As soon as you arrive behind cover, you port load a round directly into the chamber and close the action. You then load four more rounds into the magazine tube. 

After you load, you lean around the barrier and fire one round per target for five engagements. You shoot the targets in the following order if you are right-handed, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2. If you are left-handed, you fire 1, 2, 3, 1, 2. After firing five rounds, load the magazine tube with four rounds, but leave the chamber empty. Move to Station 2. 

Station 2 – 20 Yards – Kneeling Barricade 

Take a knee behind the cover and charge your weapon. Lean outside from cover and fire one round at each target in the following order for right-handed shooters, 3, 2, 1, 3. Left-handed shooters will engage targets 1, 2, 3, 1. Load four rounds into the magazine tube, but leave the action clear and advance to Station 3 of the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course. 

Station 3 – 15 Yards – No Barricade 

At Station 3, charge your weapon and engage all targets with one round for four engagements. If right-handed, you’ll fire in the following order, targets 1, 2, 3, 1. If you are left-handed, fire 3, 2, 1, 3. All shots are fired in the shouldered standing position. After engaging, load three rounds into the tube, and leave the chamber empty. Advance to Station 4. 

Station 4 – 10 Yards – No Barricade 

At the ten-yard line, you’ll engage from the standing underarm hip position. Essentially you chicken wing the gun and point aim at the targets. In this position, fire three rounds, one per target. Right-handed shooters will shoot targets 1, 2, and 3. Left-handed shooters will shoot targets 3, 2, 1. 

With an empty gun, port load and fire on target 2, port load again, and fire on target 3. (If left-handed, do the same, but shoot targets 2 and 1.) After that, the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course is complete. 

Rounds Fired 

If we use standard nine pellet 00 buckshot, that means you’ve fired 162 pellets. I did Math for Marines, so I know! You need to have at least 30 rounds on each target for a total of 90 pellets on target. Not too tough, honestly. After shooting paper targets this many times, it’s pretty tough to count pellets. 

The Shotgun Practical Weapons Course is fairly simple. It does have you engage at various distances, with the shooter constantly advancing on the threat. It’s fairly simple to complete but does stress lots of loading and multiple target engagements. It’s fun to shoot, but I’m not exactly convinced of the underarm hip position. At ultra-close ranges, sure, but ten yards is silly. That’s a range I can still aim the gun from the shoulder. 

I do like the use of cover too, and it’s smart to implement it. Overall, I like the Shotgun Practical Weapons Course and think it’s great for new shotgun shooters. Try it out, and get after it. 

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.