A new and exciting shooting sport is sweeping the country. The 3-Gun Match gives competitors exciting challenges to conquer using their pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The courses of fire can be difficult physically, sometimes with a dummy “wounded buddy” to carry, doors and windows to hold open while shooting, or an obstacle course to negotiate. The mental game can be even tougher, with dizzying arrays of steel stars and spinners, no-shoot “hostage” targets, and targets that flip up clay pigeons when hit. There are even blind stages where the competitors do not know what they will face until the clock is already running. The course of fire designs are truly wild. One pistol course at Fort Benning this year featured a deep trench network, covered by a plastic tarp, which competitors descended into using a handheld flashlight provided for them at the “cave entrance.” At the MGM Ironman match, competitors are strapped into a zip line harness and engage targets below them while flying through the air, 15 feet above the ground!
3-Gun Match does not have a long history of rules and regulations handed down from on high and set in stone. 3-Gun started with “side matches,” using shotguns or rifles, occasionally shot just for fun after organized pistol matches were over. They were so much fun, shooters wanted to shoot their rifles and shotguns every time. Although the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) has the longest tradition of organized 3-Gun competitions, other organizations such as the International Multi Gun Association prefer different rules. Some events have their own rules just for that event, because that is how the event organizers want to do it. One event may have separate stages for each gun. Another event may have guns waiting in barrels or on tables as the shooter goes through an obstacle course, and another event may have the competitors carrying multiple guns at once through a course of fire. This leads to a “run what ya brung” attitude where innovation is encouraged. You can see a wide variety of guns, optics, iron sights, magazines, muzzle brakes, and calibers at these shoots, as different people try different ways to accomplish the same goals. This is part of what makes 3-Gun so exciting and fun right now, particularly in the open division. Unlike other competitions with strict limitations to avoid “cheating” with non-standard gear, if you want to show up with a Saiga 12 shotgun with a red dot scope, twin muzzle brakes, and two 10-round magazines clipped together, you can step right up to the shooter’s box.
The problem with the open division is that competing with the latest, greatest experimental gear gets super expensive! That’s why the Tactical division only allows factory configured guns—no scopes or compensators on pistols, scoped rifles scored separately from iron sighted rifles, and no speed loaders on shotguns. You can show up for the Tactical division with an iron sighted AR-15, a stock Glock 17, and your grandpa’s Remington 1100, and you’ll already be running guns that are on par with the best shooters in the division. Then there’s the Heavy Metal division—7.62 NATO caliber battle rifles limited to 20-round magazines, .45acp pistols limited to 10 rounds, and pump-action shotguns. Participating in Heavy Metal means a lot of reloading and firearms manipulation with some big guns, but the toughest division of all must be Trooper. A Trooper competitor must transport all three guns, any accessories or cleaning equipment he wants to carry, at least one liter of water, and all the ammunition he will use for the duration of the entire match with him at all times from the moment he signs in. During the courses of fire, the Trooper is allowed to “ground” his rucksack and shoot using the other supplies on his person, but once the shooting stops, the rucksack goes back on and the Trooper must carry it with him to the next stage. And no, he can’t pull a little red wagon behind him all day!
Participating in a 3-Gun match is a great way to hone your skills with three different firearms in the same day, with the added pressure of being in a competitive environment. It is easier than you think! As the 3-Gun wildfire catches on around the country, odds are increasing that a local organization near you will put on a match sometime soon. Why not get in on the hottest new trend in the shooting sports community and have a blast doing it?
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