Safety and Training

Drills for 3 Gun Shooters

Speed loading a new magazine into a pistol

I have been shooting, training, and training others for a very long time. I am not a top competitor at 3 Gun. However, I recognize 3 Gun as a lot of fun for those that love to shoot. A love of shooting must come first. 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 3 gun shooters. I hope that they will add to my knowledge as well as yours.

Before you begin shooting, you have to understand that the baseline is that you must be skilled in the basics of shooting. You must 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 as a lot of people. Some have the time but not the money and others vice versa. Purchase a DVD from someone who has actually won at 3 gun (more than once). OK, who really watches DVDs these days? However, there are some really great videos online, but you still need a trustworthy source. The Personal Defense Network tops the list for many.

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.

3 Gun Drills 3
Being competitive demands a lot of practice and ammunition.

Pistol Handling

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

The Draw

Draw – Ten times from the competition holster.

Draw, re-holster, draw – Do not look at the holster as you draw and re-holster.

Dry Fire

As with all gun handling, start with a triple checked unloaded firearm and a backstop that would stop a bullet. Focus on a bright orange target on the backstop. Execute 10 good trigger compressions. Next, execute 10 reloads from slide lock. If you use snap caps, Lyman has new ones, this will go much easier.


Practice loading the shotgun with fake shells. Load two, load one, load a full gun load. 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 and do not be a robot but mix up the number of shells loaded. Practice working the action. When space allows practice quickly moving forward and to the rear quickly. Take long sliding steps so that you do not trip and fall on objects behind you.

3-Gun Drill Shotgun
Practice shouldering the shotgun and firing quickly.

Rifle Drills

Begin with the muzzle down, from a triple-checked empty chamber. 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. 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.

Where are the 3 Gunners out there? Share in the wealth and spread a little knowledge about your best 3-gun drills, tips, or tactics in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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!

1 Comment;

  1. I was always too cheap to shoot competition. And I get distracted too easy with my ADHD. Even if I was willing spend the money, I wouldn’t shoot worth a crap.:-) I do however admire those who can.
    I know a lady in her early 70s who shoots competition & does very well.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading