The USMS Handgun Qual — Shoot Like a Marshal By: Travis Pike

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The US Marshal’s Service is the oldest branch of Federal Law Enforcement in the United States. They’ve been around since 1789, created by the First Congress and signed into law by George Washington. They’ve served warrants, subpoenas, and more ever since. These days their modern focus is the protection of judges, capturing fugitives, managing criminal assets, and operating the Federal Witness protection program. Oh, and filling Elmore Leonard novels. Today we are taking a look at the USMS Handgun qual.

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Who doesn’t love the Justified series? The show makes it seem like Marshals will be in gunfights weekly, so they might as well be good at it! Obviously, Justified is overblown, but US Marshals do put themselves in harm’s way fairly often, either pursuing threats or protecting people from threats. They need to be well-armed and well-trained. Does the USMS Handgun qual test the Marshals for the danger they face?

Let’s dive in and see if Raylan Givens lives up to Seth Bullock’s gunfighting standards.

A Little Disclaimer

I cannot find how current the USMS handgun qual is. It could be gone and replaced by now. Ultimately at one time, this was a course of fire used by the US Marshals. Sadly it’s tough to find what is currently being taught. The boys at Glynco are not exactly posting PDFs of their quals openly. Even if it’s not the current qual, it’s a nice piece of training that could be fairly applicable to concealed carriers.

Travis Pike, USMC handgun qual
The qual starts up close and goes back to 25 yards.

The USMS Handgun Qual — What You’ll Need

Let’s start with the ammo requirements. You’ll need 62 rounds total and a handgun. The strings of fire are fairly short, and you could use your average concealed carry firearm and pass it just fine. You’ll also need a holster and magazine pouch.

Glock 19 in Raven Concealment holster with House Morning Wood logo
A good gun, a few extra mags, and the basics are all you need.

You need three magazines and need to be able to carry at least two on the belt. The USMS handgun qual is fired from concealment, so ditch the duty rig and get a regular holster and cover garment.

The qualification doesn’t list any official USMS target. Instead, it seems like the Marshals shoot the US Treasury Transtar 2 target. This target is man-shaped with a series of different shades of color. As the shades darken, the zones become larger and worth fewer points.

handgun magazines
Bring at least three mags to the qual.

You’ll need something to use as cover. You won’t need anything crazy but a barrel, trash can, or anything your imagination can use as cover will do. Also, don’t forget the shot timer or something that can hold a par time.

Shooting the USMS Handgun Qual

With this qual, you start close and slowly move rearward, from three yards to 25 yards, so there are some diverse shooting ranges to cover. Some strings will be shot multiple times. Almost all stages are fired from concealment.

Stage 1: 3-Yard Line

At the 3-yard line, start with your weapon concealed and your hands in a neutral position. At the beep, draw and fire two rounds to the body and one well-aimed headshot. This is your classic failure drill, and you have four seconds to finish it.

Shoot this drill two times for a total of six rounds.

Stage 2: 3-Yard Line

At the 3-yard line, you’ll start this drill with the weapon in your hand. Specifically, it will sit in your weak hand at the low ready. At the beep, aim and fire two rounds to the body. You have four seconds to complete this drill.

You’ll shoot this drill two times for a total of four rounds.

USMS Handgun Qual - shooting with weak hand
Shooting with both your strong hand and weak hand is required.

Stage 3: 7 Yards

At this stage, the USMS handgun qual takes us to the 7-yard line and opens up the range a little bit. Start from a concealed position, and at the beep, draw and fire three rounds to the body. You have a total of four seconds to complete this stage.

Repeat this stage one more time for a total of six rounds fired.

Stage 4: 7 Yards

Sitting pretty at seven yards. We are starting concealed, but this time, when you draw your weapon, you are keeping it in the strong hand only. After you draw, you will fire three rounds to the body. You have five seconds to finish this drill.

Do this drill two times for a total of six rounds.

Stage 5: 7 Yards

Yep, the USMS Handgun qual has you still sitting at seven yards. This time we are using both hands but still drawing from concealment. After you draw, you need to shoot three to the body and one round to the head. This failure drill plus one will certainly break you of the shoot two and transition portion of failure drills. Your par time is five seconds.

You’ll do this drill for a total of four reps and a total of 16 rounds.

Stage 6: 15 Yards

Backing it up to 15 yards, you aren’t too far from the target. Start concealed and at the beep, draw and fire three rounds to the body of the target. You have a total of five seconds to get it done.

You’ll do this drill four times for a total of 12 rounds fired.

draw from concealment
Better work from concealment.

Stage 7: 25 Yards

Ooh boy, now the USMS handgun qual is getting interesting. Twenty-five yards seems hard, but I’m betting you’re better at it than you think. This drill is a long one, and here is where we will use all our spare magazines. The magazine in the weapon needs to hold six rounds, and the second and third spare mags need to hold three each.

Start from behind your cover, in the standing position. At the beep, fire six rounds to the body. Reload, transition to kneeling, and fire three rounds. Reload again and transition to the prone position, and fire the final three rounds.

USMC handgun qual, reloading behind cover at 25 yards
Your reloads are all at 25 yards.

Scoring

Now you’ve fired 62 rounds, but according to the scoring standards, you only have a possible 300 points. That means you can completely miss and still score a perfect 300 points. Odd, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles with the USMS handgun qual.

If you look at the target, the scoring zones are easily seen. The smallest area of the body is worth five points, and it seems like the headshots are worth five points. Passing is 210, which makes you a marksman. Here are your potential scoring ranks.

  • 300 pts Distinguished Expert
  • 285-299 Expert
  • 255-284 Sharpshooter
  • 210-254 Marksman
  • 0-210 Did Not Qualify

My Thoughts

I like that it’s all fired from concealment—well, 99% of the qual is fired from concealment. This makes it handy for a concealed carrier to train with. The par times are just ever so generous. A decent amateur could pass this qual without a lot of trouble.

The qual offers plenty of practice drawing and multiple rounds on target. It isn’t super tough, but it’s a fair bit of fun. What I would do to make it harder is to reload after every drill and then re-present the pistol. This can be untimed and will give you plenty of reloading practice.

Other than that, it’s a fairly good piece of training for the basics. It’s not too tough, but it also stretches your legs out to 25 yards which is rare to see. Check out the USMS handgun qual for yourself, and let me know what you think about it below.