What is 3 Gun Competition

Lately in the shooting sports it seems like everywhere I go I hear, “3 gun this, 3 gun that, Ole’ MacDonald had a 3 gun, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I’ve enjoyed watching youtube clips and even glancing at competitions on the show occasionally, but only this past week did I decide to give it a go.

My First 3 Gun Competition

My initial thoughts and questions probably weren’t unlike those that others have when considering entry into the sport:

“What if I don’t have the right equipment?”
“How much is it going to cost?”
“Are the experienced competitors going to be elitist jerks and look down on the new guy?”
“What if I suck and get laughed off the course?”
“How much ammo do I need?”

Early on each of my questions and fears were put to rest as I met one quality dude after another. All the guys were glad to share tips and welcome me with arms open wide as a first timer into the sport. Over the next couple weeks I’ll do my best to offer some insights to help newbies to 3 Gun help have the above questions answered and feeling as prepared as possible while getting set for their first match.

After spending my evenings this week researching and trying my best to understand the rules and how divisions are made up, looking at different stage maps and watching youtube videos, I determined that there was no time like the present to take the plunge even if I didn’t know anyone and could look like an idiot. If experience really is the best teacher, then I was in for a lesson in humility.

I settled on taking my AK as I was sitting on plenty of ammo and the AR-15s I have are outfitted for hunting and seemed like they would be too heavy to carry on the course (didn’t know what to expect), my Pardner Pump gun for home defense, seemed like the Benelli Nova or Super Nova would have been overkill, and my ever present Glock 23. It didn’t hurt that I have a fairly high familiarity and mucho trigger time logged with each of these guns, and they at the very least fit the requirements to shoot the “LIMITED” class for 3 GUN.

So without this first How to Shoot 3 Gun post turning into a book, I’ll shut up and let you watch the short video of me stumbling through the pistol round. I finished about middle of the road on pistol out of 50 total shooters, 21st for rifle (200 meter course with the AK, not too shabby!), middle for pistol/rifle combo and towards the last on shotgun. Reloading killed me. Now at least I know what to practice till next time.

Introduction to 3 Gun Competition

In the above section, I gave some indication of the different thought patterns, fears and questions I had entering the 3 Gun world. Even though I’ve been shooting in some capacity for the past 22 years, I still get jitters right before delving into something brand new for the first time. As with anything where multiple unknowns are present, it takes some guts and initiative on the part of the n00b to dive in, introduce yourself, and be willing to take a few risks in regards to how well or how poorly you’ll do. My main goal for the day was not to finish last, and I managed to do that with flying colors along with a couple other first time 3 gunners. I’ll do my best to help answer some questions like cost, gun choice, ammo cost/choosing and finding your way to a 3 Gun match near you.

The Limited division is the category I’d get lumped into thanks to my AK with limited optics (aka NO optics) and plain jane iron sights. Tactical is next which is the most common followed by HeMan or “Heavy Metal” being bigger bore calibers (minimum 7.62x51mm rifle and .45 Auto pistol), then Open or the “nearly anything goes” division, Outlaw Open where LITERALLY anything goes and finally Trooper division which may be the most hardcore of all. Each division offers different advantages and disadvantages for running through the course of fire. The Limited division I found myself in is in my opinion the easiest for entry level shooters to compete in thanks to the limited (see how I did that?) amount of excess gear needed for your guns. The rifle is limited to a non magnified optic which can include a red dot sight and the shotgun can be semi or pump action with no optics or muzzle brakes with the pistol following suite. Basically everything is bone stock in this division. This makes your gun options wide open and allows many shooters to begin competing simply with what they already have or can borrow, like me.

Here you can see what the USPSA cardboard silhouettes look like mixed in with “no shoot” or hostage targets. The shooter must neutralize each target with either 1 shot to the “A” zone or 2 shots inside of the “C” zone while avoiding errant hits on the no shoots.

The ammo supply a shooter should bring seems to be a common question too. Our shoot directors require 150 rounds of rifle and pistol ammo, along with 75 rounds of shotgun shells and 10 slugs. In a shooting heavy course, I believe I fired an estimated 65 rifle rounds, 50 pistol and 35 shotgun. So if you’re worried about how many rounds you use in the actual match itself, my guess would be you’ll be looking at more ammo burned during practice beforehand. I benefitted from the fact that I had plenty of ammo lying around for the AK and the Glock 23 in 40 S&W. My hunch is though as addicting as this new sport is I’ll be hunting for more deals and stocking up so it’s not as big of a hit the night before the event.

Scoring is based on time and error. While there are several scoring methods, all complicated and not worth explaining this early on, each is primarily engineered to score a shooters speed and effectiveness. If I’m able to shoot a rifle stage in 60 seconds, with 3 penalties (failure to engage a target, failure to neutralize a target or hitting a no shoot (hostage)) I’ll be adding 15 seconds to my score, leaving my final mark at 75 seconds for the stage. Each course of fire will be set up differently so there’s not necessarily an overall “PAR” for the course or stages because of how they vary. The trick is balancing your speed and precision and doing so in a hurry all the while not rushing your shots. Hopefully it’s evident how valuable practicing with your heart rate up and keeping a cool head can be.

Those are some of the basics without going into detail on doing magazine changes, transitioning weapons and how stages can be laid out. The next installment will be a semi-brief recollection of how I did in my first 3 gun match. I will tell you as a teaser that overall I finished 35th of 50 total shooters and of the 8 Limited division shooters I finished 4th, which I can live with. Maybe.

My experiences

I was fortunate enough to get turned on to a monthly local three gun match through a colorado shooter’s forum I’m a member of. The deal is if you’re one of the first 6 shooters to show you get to shoot that day for free, so it’s pretty much a race to get there. Fortunately though, even I had been late or unable to help with setup, the match is just $20 to shoot. This doesn’t include ammo or anything, but it seemed pretty reasonable to me. The director for our shoot was Zak from Competition-Dynamics and was fantastic early on answering any and all of my questions and was welcoming from the start.

Since I was shooting the Limited division with my AK-47 (which meant iron sights, no magnified optics), I was secretly hoping the longest rifle targets for the day wouldn’t stretch further than 100 yards since that was the furthest I’d tested the AK and just briefly to test accuracy. You can imagine my subtle despair when the first stage I helped set up that morning was the Rifle only stage and it was revealed all positions would be fired from 200 meters. OUCH! Adding to the nerves, I learned after we divided into 4 shooting groups that my group would shoot the rifle only stage (stage 4 and ironically the ONLY stage I didn’t get video of) first.

I wasn’t the first to shoot, but I was definitely surprised at the accuracy my AK showed when my first 200 meter shot pinged the 10×18″ mini silhouette target with a loud CLANG! That immediately built confidence and away I went. I still took several penalties thanks to the small 6×6″ center target and a wild center position out of the 5 in the stage, but I’m happy to say I didn’t hit the 4 minute time limit for running the stage, which felt like quite a feat for the 16″ barreled AK shooting steel cased ammo. Guess AK’s aren’t accurate after all (heavy use of sarcasm).

The rifle/pistol combo round you’ll see in the video was smooth and close range for rifle so speed is paramount. When I had trouble charging the bolt on the AK because I’m a genius and forgot to disengage the safety it threw a bit of a kink in things, but I did manage to run the whole course with no errors. Needless to say I was much more pleased with my performance with the Glock 23 on this round than I was the pistol only stage. The steels feel pretty fast and I smoked each target dead center.

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