Getting into 3 Gun is a great excuse to pull out the gear you bought and have not used in awhile, or purchase the new toys you have had your eye on but needed the excuse. Either way, while 3 Gun is a gear intensive sport, it does not take a huge investment to get started. Over time though, there are certain pieces of gear that you’ll want to improve your game. Here is you your starter list.
The sport of 3 Gun is one of the most social shooting sports you be engaged in. You can show up with just about any pistol, shotgun, and rifle and play (some caliber restrictions apply). Moreover, while you will have a great excuse to buy a lot of new gear, you do not need to have it all the first day. Other club members are often willing to lend a piece of gear or two.
When I started, three of buddies joined with me and we pooled a lot of gear. That not only kept the cost down, it let us try different combinations to see what worked for each of us before making a purchase. There is no way to tell you exactly what gear you’ll need, but I can give you a pretty good idea. Once you shoot your first few rounds and watch those around you and the gear they are running, you’ll find your path rather quickly.
The three guns goes without saying, so there is not much for me to cover here. You will be shooting matches with rather high round counts. Check with the match organizer or read the course outline before signing up. That will give you an idea of the number of rounds. Generally speaking, regular ball ammunition for your handgun will work as well as anything, especially when starting out.
Having all you need for 3-gun can best be organized if you break it down into three segments: guns/ammo, belt/holster, and transport. Glock, Smith and Wesson, Springfield, FHN – any of the major brands will do. I shot my last competition with an Arex zero 1S. (These guns just love to run.) You’ll need a minimum of three high capacity magazines and mag pouches. Five would probably be better, but three will get the job done.
You’ll see plenty of shotguns on the range with extended mag tubes. Lately, most shooters are switching to magazine fed shotguns. Depending on the capacity, you’ll want to carry 20-plus rounds as a minimum between what is in the gun and in your spare magazines or readily accessible. You can reload on the range, but remember, you will be on the clock and under pressure. Rifles are generally pretty easy with most running an AR-15 with two or more 30-round magazines.
I usually choose a 9mm. It gets the jobs done with less recoil. The ammunition for training and competing is also cheaper than .45 ACP. Depending on the competition, there may be a handicap or power factor that’s limits some of these advantages. Don’t get too hung up on which equipment you have. The range officials will classify you appropriately. Remember, you are learning, not going for the win on day one.
For my 9mm pistols, I shoot 115- or 124-grain. I carry 3 19-round and one 17-round on my belt and in the gun. I have never needed more in a single stage. My shotgun is a Magazine fed MKA 1919 Pro. I carry two 10-round and one 23-round magazine. My favorite load is Winchester AA #8s 1300 fps. For my .223, standard 55-grain loads work well enough. However, if your rifle runs better with a heavier bullet, go with what works for your.
The piece of gear that will yield the biggest improvement to your scores—other than upgraded guns—will be a properly set up competition belt and holster. Any solid gun belt will work, but a dedicated competition double belt will be more solid and allows you to set up and secure your magazine holders in place. This allows you to practice your reloads and develop your muscle memory, which will improve your performance and decrease your stage times.
A quality holster is also a must. 3 Gun requires you to move, even run. Having your gun pop out of the holster can be dangerous, but it will guarantee your disqualification. That means you’ll need a retention holster that completely covers the trigger guard. I use a Double Alpha belt and mag holders, but I’ve also attended training camp and used Kydex holsters and mag pouches with good results.
Shotgun accessories are an absolute must. Previously, the top shooters were using the “load 2” and “load 4” method. Taccom and Invictus Practical have belt and chest-rig systems to facilitate that loading method. However, as I previously mentioned, magazine fed shotguns offer advantages that simply can’t be beat when reloads are necessary.
You’ll need two rifle magazines. One 30-round magazine in the gun and one on the belt. Certain stages may require you to start with the rifle unloaded. That will require you to pull a magazine from your belt, so at least one magazine holder is necessary. Alternately, you can get a dump pouch for less than $20, which can double to hold your favorite Pmag or shotgun magazine.
When you are not shooting, your guns will either be holstered or cased. Soft cases work well for long guns and hard or soft cases for your handgun. You’ll need a range or two for the ammo. I also preload my magazines before the competition begins or the next stage and stash them in the range bag until I am ready. Check out Cheaper Than Dirt! for dedicated 3-gun cases, especially if you’ll be flying with your guns.
One of the best pieces of equipment you can buy is crate wagon from your local home improvement store. Three guns and a few hundred rounds of ammunition start to add up if you are carrying them. The wagon can also carry jackets, a cooler, range tools, a cleaning kit, hearing protection, and other accessories.
Do you have a 3 Gun tip or favorite piece of gear? Share your answer in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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