3-Gun Rifles: Lockdown Upgrades

As many of you may remember, my girlfriend and I shoot 3-Gun together. I do it as a means of having fun, training and keeping my skill levels up at something other than the square range.

It is my tendency to like to take my time when shooting, as I need to do when going past 600 yards. This sport makes me practice making the less-than-perfect shot work.

My girlfriend has a more practical reason for shooting 3-Gun. She is a police officer and she shoots the course using her duty belt, so she is reinforcing the equipment and processes she hopes to never need on the job.

The department does not let her use her duty weapons in competition, but that is fine as her Duty AR isn’t really up to the task from a durability standpoint and she is only allowed to run a red dot as an optic.

She shoots a personally owned GLOCK for the pistol portion, a self-built Franken AR and a Stoeger M3K shotgun. Here we will be discussing the AR as it has undergone beautification and an optic upgrade.

Her 3-Gun AR-15 works great. She assembled and built the lower herself. We put in a standard CMMG lower kit with the upgraded springs from ALG and a Geissele 3-Gun trigger.

The CMMG kit we chose did not have a pistol grip, so we went with one of the Magpul variants that fits her hand well. The other upgrade we did, was run a nickel-boron bolt carrier group in the assembled upper.

Since installing that, she has petitioned her agency to allow her to replace the BCG in her duty gun as well.

The cleanup after 300 rounds shot practicing and shooting a match with the nickel-boron BCG is less work than the cleanup from 60-80 rounds from a qualification shoot. Did I ever mention she hates cleaning AR bolts?

3-Gun Rifles AR-15

GunSkins Customization

As a Franken-gun, the parts don’t all look seamless. It isn’t a big deal, but why not make it pretty? Seeing as she is a cop, I got on the phone with GunSkins and ordered her a “Thin Blue Line” skin.

As you can see in the images, it really transforms the gun. I did the application for her. The lower and base portion of the upper took roughly 45 minutes to apply.

It took significantly less than that for the base application, but carefully cutting out the portions of the vinyl that cover the various pins is precise work and took a bit of time.

I learned to remove the vinyl over the pins from a previous application. Doing so allows the material to stay attached to the firearm for much longer and gives you a cleaner place to drain out.

Live and learn, but I make mistakes so you don’t have to.

The application to the forend takes about 10 minutes. Cutting out all the M-Lok and ventilation holes took me another 90 minutes.

I strongly suggest a couple of safety razors or exacto blades, as it is much easier with a sharp blade. If you only have one, it will dull about halfway through.

Having a hairdryer handy is also useful to soften the vinyl in tight curves. I also use a lacquered chopstick to press and smooth in the fine detail areas to increase the bond and smooth out small air bubbles. I think it came out looking awesome.

The kit comes with one mag skin, but it has enough extra material to easily cover two additional mags and the cheek rest on the stock.

That makes it easy to keep track of the mags at competitions, and the rifle certainly looks vastly superior compared to its previous generic look. The real test will be how many comments she gets at this weekend’s competition.

New 3-Gun Optic

In addition to the new “paint” job, those who look closely will notice we upgraded her optic and mount. The previous optic was an older Sun Optic 1x6x24.

It was a good optic, but the new Swampfox Arrowhead 1x6x24 has significantly clearer glass and she really likes the illuminated reticle. The Sun Optic will be moved to our spare AR that comes to competitions with us, and she will use the new shiny.

I also picked up a LaRue quick-dismount system. It is unlikely that it will be used to hop from platform to platform, but it is a very solid scope mount and a better fit for her natural positioning on the rifle.

AR-15 With GunSkins and Scope
All told, the new upgrades probably cost as much as the rest of the rifle (not including the Geissele trigger), but it looks better and will start conversations.

The glass is at a better eye height and is much clearer, especially on overcast days. That means that the 6x setting is quite useable for that occasional 200-yard prone shot.

This was a great COVID lockdown project, and now that all the “Karen’s” have been kicked off the range, we plan on showing off the new look, the new optic and the results of her lockdown training time.

What upgrades have you done to your firearms during the lockdown? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Started with a Spikes Tactical basic flat top AR – removed everything off / and out of it

    Kept the lower … All Upgrade parts listed below … Updated / Corrections

    Radian Suppressor Charging Handle
    Hogue Beavertail Overmolded grips – blk
    VTS – V Seven Titanium Take down pins
    VTS – V Seven NP3 Ultra Light – FORWARD ASSIST – Diamond
    WMD – all remaining small parts upgraded and exceed Mil Spec
    WMD Nic Boron upper .. Black exterior coating
    Lantec – Nik Boron BCG
    Nic Boron Forward Assist
    14.5″ .223 Wylde 1:8 SPR Fluted Stainless Steel Mid length
    SJC Titan Muzzle Brake = Stainless Steel
    Echo Fostech Gen II Trigger
    Timber Creek Over Size trigger guard
    FAB Defense Vertical Forward Grip / Flashlight holder index finger Trigger Version
    (2) 100 round drum
    Trijicon TA – 31 G

    Wing Tactical … CTD … PSA … WMD … CFA

  2. Very Nice Job on the Skin Application. Something I’ve not tried yet. My free time during the lockdown nonsense has consisted of a number of firearm related activities. I spent a couple of weeks just fine cleaning, re-organizing and recording my reloading bench and its storage cabinet. I’ve always kept a journal, but now I can reorder components with a quick glance at the book, and know exactly what components I need to replace. As long as I update it after a session, it’ll work.
    Spent several days re-arranging gun safes and ammo cabinet as well as deep cleaning the closet (darn near a small room) where I store my gear. Replaced the cheap plastic gun slots for long arms, that came with the safe, for some I made using some scrap oak. These utilize the space more efficiently and are much sturdier than the plastic junk.
    Decided to Ceracoat an AR build I’d finished before the virus in Foliage Green. That took a few days with disassembly, degreasing, and painting as well as oven curing both metal and plastic parts. Turned out nice, and then to help with the caliber difference, gave the magazines a Ceracoat as well. That will also visually separate the .300’s from the 5.56’s.
    Cleaned and rearranged my range bags, counted cartridges on hand, went over every gun with a fine tooth comb, cleaning and lubricating, checking batteries on optics, lasers, lights and boresight’s. Rearranging, reorganizing and restocking my gun cleaning box.
    All in all, I’ve kept busy. Wishing our nearby ranges would open soon (the local indoor opens tomorrow, but I’ll probably wait a few days, due to the CoVid restrictions still on social distancing). Wished my family’s acreage wasn’t a 3 hour drive away, I’d run up there to practice.

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