The first time I saw someone quad load a shotgun in a competition, it seemed like a magic trick. In a matter of seconds, the competitor flipped the shotgun, loaded in four shells with one hand movement, and was back on target.
That’s quad loading.
This loading technique has been developed through action shotgun competitions like 3-gun over the years. Quad loading is the fastest way to reload a shotgun without bumping up to open division, which has magazine-fed shotguns. I promise you can quad load without the help of magic, let’s break it down below.
To quad load properly, the right gear is needed. Competition-style belts such as Safariland allow clip-in accessories like shell caddies.
Shell caddies hold the shells stacked on top of each other so that they can be loaded one after another. The caddies I use are King’s Competition and Safariland. The King’s is a 12-round holder that retains the shells by tension and magnets. Safariland is an 8-round holder with spaces between each quad grouping. These are retained by only tension. There are many great options and styles out there depending on your preferences.
Competition-style shotguns feature modified loading ports to help you quad load. This is done by substantially widening the port and creating smoothed and chamfered edges. The angle assists with guiding the shells into the gun. Other modifications, such as a grooved trigger guard, are helpful as well.
What Reloading Style to Use
The hand you use to grab the shells defines the style of reloading. Weak-hand reloading is using your non-dominant hand to grab shells. Strong-hand reloading uses your dominant hand. Try both and see which one seems more natural.
Using your weak hand has both benefits and drawbacks. Weak-hand reloading keeps your strong hand on the stock/receiver, which makes for a quick remount and good control while you move. However, in some courses of fire, the long magazine tube can get in the way.
Here’s how it works.
Rotate your shotgun clockwise so that it is pinned under your armpit. The receiver should be facing up with the loading port visible.
Use your arm to stabilize the shotgun and allow the gun to hang – This will prevent your arm from fatiguing. For control, hold onto the back of the receiver/front of the stock with your strong hand.
With the weak hand, reach to the caddy and wrap your hand around four shells.
Index the third shell by placing the tip of your thumb on top of the casing. Then pull away all four at once.
Move your hand to the loading port while maintaining eye contact with it. Split your palm so that two shells are held by your fingers, separating them from the two shells that are held in your palm and thumb.
Load the shells two at a time in one sweeping motion. Immediately after, load the last two shells with the same type of movement.
Note: For the shells to go in smoothly, you’ll need to angle them.
If you don’t already have a round chambered, hit the lifter release and rack the bolt as you rotate the gun up to remount. (Some shotguns may only need the bolt to be racked).
If the chamber is already loaded, simply mount the shotgun and engage your next target.
Strong-hand reloading is typically the easiest to learn because most people have more dexterity in their strong hand. It has benefits, such as being able to maneuver in tighter spaces, but the drawback comes in long stages where your weak hand runs the risk of getting burnt by the barrel. For strong-hand reloading, the hand manipulation of shells is the same, but getting there is different.
Pull the shotgun stock over your strong-side shoulder and support it against your neck.
The weak hand will stay on the foregrip, stabilizing and controlling the gun.
With your strong hand, quad load using the same technique.
Rack the bolt and push back out on target while remounting.
Quad loading can be difficult! But once you nail it, quad loading becomes fun and can make or break a competition. Practice is going to be the key to becoming proficient. Expect there to be yard sales of shotgun shells as you learn. But stick in there, and it will come.