Drills for 3 Gun

By Bob Campbell published on in Competitive Shooting, Safety and Training

I have been shooting, training, and training others a long time. I am not a top competitor at 3 Gun. However, I recognize 3 Gun as a shooting sport that is a lot of fun, especially for those who love to shoot. That must come first.

Man shooting a pistol for 3 gun competition

Running at full speed takes plenty of practice. (SIG Sauer photo)

Next, you may have a desire to compete for the sake of it. 3 Gun is a great thing for this. As an instructor, I recognize what it takes to win and I hope these lines will help you to get started and be competitive. I am looking forward to comments from three gun shooters and hope that they will add to my knowledge.

Before you begin competing in 3 Gun, you have to understand that the baseline is that you must already be skilled in the basics of shooting. You should be able to shoot well. You must be able to shoot safely. Get this squared away, and start training. Remember, poor training will result in the waste of a lot of ammunition!

If you cannot afford to take a top-rated training class, well, you are in the same boat with a lot of people. Some have the time but not the money—others vice versa. Purchase a DVD or take advice from a YouTube video from someone who has actually won at 3 Gun more than once.

Man changing a pistol magazine in competition

Be certain to get rapid magazine changes down pat before proceeding to competition. (SIG Sauer Photo)

As for training, I have won a string of combat-style matches and handgun silhouette. I was firing a minimum of 500 rounds a week in practice. This is a small amount compared to what competitors fire to stay on top today. When other demands including a job, family, and education intervened, I toppled from the top spot.

Commit to the program and realize that it will be three to five months before you see significant improvement. Firearms skills are perishable. You will improve with time, and you will reach a plateau. After that, it will take more work to get to the top.

Dry fire is essential. Practice handling, speed loads, dry fire, and trigger press. These drills will improve your gunhandling. Gunhandling is more important than marksmanship in some competitions. The marksmanship problem isn’t as severe as the speed problem.

Shooting a pistol with four cartridge cases in the air

The 9mm is a good choice for 3 Gun—control and practical accuracy are excellent. (SIG Sauer Photo)

The following are good training sessions, beginning with the handgun.


Ten times from the competition holster.

Draw, re-holster, draw—do not look at the holster as you draw and re-holster.

Dry Fire

Focus on a bright orange target on the backstop. Execute 10 good, trigger compressions—using a triple-checked unloaded firearm and a backstop that would stop a bullet!

Execute 10 reloads from slide lock. If you use snap caps this will go much easier.

The Shotgun

Practice loading the shotgun with fake shells. Load two, load one, load until the gun is at capacity. Load the shotgun and move into the firing position. Load it with one shell or two and then move into the firing position. Keep practicing. Do not be a robot. Mix up the number of shells loaded.

Running the shotgun takes plenty of practice.

Running the shotgun takes plenty of practice.

Practice working the action. When space allows, practice moving forward quickly and moving to the rear quickly. Take long sliding steps, so you do not trip and fall on objects behind you.

Rifle Drills

Practice shouldering the rifle and acquiring the sights quickly. Shoulder the rifle and find the sights 10 times. Next, shoulder the rifle and dry fire the piece 10 times. Begin with the muzzle down, and a triple-checked empty chamber. You need not use an empty magazine. This drill is easier if the magazine isn’t in place and the bolt doesn’t lock back.

Next do a barricade drill, shouldering the rifle and dry firing from the right side of the barricade (or corner wall) and then the left side. This is good preparation for 3 Gun competition. As you progress, there are other drills. You should move and pivot to address targets at all angles.

These dry fire drills will be a solid foundation for 3 Gun shooting. Keep safety first as you progress to live fire and pay attention to the basics.

Do you shoot 3 Gun? Share your favorite drills in the comment section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (1)

  • Karl


    Handling/ firing less rounds- but more frequently will gain you competency. Worked for me one summer shooting a Redhawk 44Magnum


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