Principles of Loading the Shotgun for Competition

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People often ask me for the best way to load their shotgun.  My answer is that there isn’t “a best way” to load your shotgun, there are far too many factors involved to single out one way as “THE best.”  It is my opinion that a shooter must be dynamic in order to maximize their potential.  I believe this skill, or lack thereof, manifests itself most boldly when it comes to the shotgun.  A shooter who is skilled in the shotgun portion of action shooting, will mold their reloads around the challenges of the stage.  For instance, a shooter who typically loads their shotgun via strong-hand quad loads, may end up loading traditional weak-hand because the stage forced the shooter to load their shotgun from the prone position.  So, having the ability to change things up without losing the three components to loading, is definitely beneficial.  The three components to reloading your shotgun well are:  consistency, speed, and fluidity.

The most important component is consistency.  A shooter must be able to trust, with a high level of certainty, that when they attempt to put rounds into their shotgun, all of those rounds make it into the magazine tube.  It doesn’t matter how fast a shooter can put shells into their shotgun, if they can’t rely on it while navigating a stage on the clock.  Therefore, breaking down the reload technique to its most minute details, and building upon those, is paramount to becoming proficient at consistently loading the shotgun at speed within a dynamic environment.

The second most important component is fluidity.  Unlike the previous component, this component is very ambiguous and covers a wide variety of applications.  Fluidity applies to everything from adapting the loading pace to match movement, to changing techniques within the stage.  First of all, many shooters practice reloading their shotguns in a static position, and so when navigating a stage they appear awkward and uncomfortable attempting to load their shotgun while moving.  A great way to avoid this happening to you, is to simply practice loading your shotgun on the move.

Fluidity also applies to knowing when to reload, and how many shells to add.  For example, while navigating a stage, if a shooter comes across several arrays of targets that include movement between them.  Perhaps it is faster to load four rounds between each array while moving quickly, or maybe it’s better to wait and load eight or twelve rounds at a slower pace after sprinting between a couple of arrays.  A skilled “shotgunner” will find the best application of their reloads in order to navigate this stage the fastest.

Fluidity also applies to mixed loads and “plus-ups”.  The best shooters can overcome a missed shot or two by seamlessly adding an additional round from their “emergency caddy,” and continuing on with the rest of the stage.  This also applies to arrays that may have a mixed target in them.  Whether it be a slug or buckshot target, being able to grab one round from a different caddy and adding it to the magazine in order to address that target is a skill that allows a shooter to flow through the stage.

Speed is the third component to being a success at reloading your shotgun.  I feel that this is the least important of the three components discussed in this article, yet it is the one on which shooters spend the most time.  It may also be the single biggest video topic on YouTube.  While it is important to be able to get shells into the shotgun quickly, if a shooter can’t do it fluidly or consistently, it is all for naught.  When talking about speed, I am not talking about a set time, but its application within a stage.  Being able to put eight rounds into a shotgun in 2.5 seconds is great, but the shooter who can cover the distance between arrays while getting the necessary rounds into their shotgun the fastest is the one who is best set-up to succeed.  Training for consistent speed while on the move, is the best way to make sure that you are in a position to succeed.

Now that we’ve covered the principles of loading the shotgun for competition, it is up to you to train them.  By building a solid foundation of consistency, fluidity and speed when loading your shotgun, you will have taken a big step toward success.  Now, you just have to hit those dang targets.

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