Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Competition Corner: Getting Started in 3-Gun

A pretty sweet setup (not mine obviously)
I am going to start a series of posts about getting into competitive shooting. I will focus mostly on 3-gun (or 4-gun, as you can see from the picture above) but you can extrapolate the information for various forms of competitive shooting: IDPA, USPSA IPSC, etc. Today I want to start a basic discussion about what guns and gear you need to get started shooting 3-Gun. Naturally, to become a national champion you may need to expand your arsenal a little from there, but I can help get you started. More after the jump.

Let's start with a basic definition of 3-Gun. Multi-gun shooting involves practical competitions (divided into stages) in which you shoot some combination of targets using a handgun, rifle (usually carbine), and a shotgun. Some stages may only require 1 weapon type, whereas other may require you to switch from one type to another while coursing through the stage. On average, the shooter will be required to carry ammo for all three weapon types and perform reloads during the stage depending on the number of shots required. For example, a typical 3-Gun stage may start with a shotgun shooting steel plates which fall when hit, then require you to clear the shotgun and dump it in a dump bin, pick up your carbine and load, shoot paper or steel targets with the rifle, clear the rifle and dump it in a dump bin, then pull your handgun, load, and shoot paper or steel targets. All of this, of course, is done on a timer. Scoring is based off the amount of time elapsed and the number of hits/misses on targets and penalties. Therefore, the goal is to shoot in the shortest amount of time possible while minimizing penalties and misses.

Now let's talk about gear. At minimum, you need a rifle, shotgun, and handgun and the magazines and ammo to feed them. If you are just starting out and don't have any of these or all of these, it's easiest to borrow someone's or tag along with a friend to compete. Most of the competitors I've met shooting 3-Gun are more than happy to let new shooters borrow guns. Just be a good sport and bring your own ammo.

A well set-up AR-15 by the NST

The Rifle: The huge majority of shooters use AR-15s (obviously). AK variants also work fine, as well as any other semi-auto rifle (FALs, m14, etc). At a minimum, you should be using a dependable AR15 with a solid set of iron sights, a sling, and 30 round magazines. (Some companies market "3-gun AR's" which are set up for 3-gunning, these are unnecessary in my opinion.) It's perfectly well to compete with a bare bones AR15 with iron sights, and more important to get proficient manipulating your weapon. After you get serious about 3-Gun, then you may want to look into red dot optics, 1-4X variable power optics, different stocks, compensators, grips, etc. But at a minimum, have a dependable AR15 from a reputable manufacturer with a good zero that you know and understand.
Interesting shooting stance.....
The Handgun:  You probably have this one already. The majority of shooters will be using semi-auto pistols such as Glocks, Smith&Wesson M&P's, or 1911's. I prefer 9mm because its cheaper and has less recoil. You'll want a fairly high capacity magazine for competing because stages require lots of shots and a few reloads. 1911 type pistols usually come with 7 round magazines, so almost every one of those I've ever seen in 3-gun use higher capacity extended magazines. Glock's and M&P's have higher capacity 15 round magazines or more. Overall, these pistols are probably much more popular amongst competitors. You'll also need an appropriate holster to carry your handgun in as you usually retain it on your person throughout the event. Depending on the type of competition, certain holsters may be legal or illegal. You'll have to check ahead of time to know, but for the most part, kydex, outside the waistband, belted retention holsters are the most common. Don't plan on using an inside the waistband or concealment holster unless the particular competition calls for it.

Breach that door dude.....
The Shotgun: You have a little more variability here. Overall, autoloaders and pumps are going to be the most commonly used shotguns. Autoloaders offer the speed advantage of not having to cycle the weapon by pumping the round out, but are usually more expensive. Pumps require a little more familiarity but by a good shooter can be run just as effectively as an auto-loader. Open chokes such as improved cylinder, cylinder, and skeet are better here to be versatile hitting steel plates, flying clays, or whatever comes up. You'll also want an extended magazine tube to accomodate as many rounds as possible, because reloading the shotgun is the most time consuming activity in 3-Gun in my experience. Sometimes it seems like it just takes forever.  Shell carriers for your belt will also be needed, but again, are something you can perhaps borrow from another shooter at first.

Hopefully this short intro will help you define some of the basics of 3-gun or multi-gun. The next obvious step is 4-Gun, which incorporates a long distance rifle such as a bolt-action .308 or the like. If you are interested in finding a local club or range to try out 3-Gun check out this Rangefinder.

Be safe and see you next time.


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