Multi-gun competitions are huge right now, and with big events like the ones in the 3-Gun Nation Pro Series, it’s no small wonder why. Cash prizes will get anybody’s attention, and new shooters are coming out of the woodwork all over the country to enjoy the sport.
And while you can take any basic semiautomatic rifle out to a local club match and have the time of your life, there are some “standardized” accessories that appear on nearly every seasoned competitor’s AR-15. Of course, simply bolting on some new gizmos won’t make you the next Jerry Miculek, but they will help you work your name higher up on your local scoreboard. Here’s a list of four items the professionals use that are guaranteed to give you an edge.
Free Floating Handguard
Even the fanciest match-grade barrel isn’t going to perform to its full potential unless it’s free floating. Free-floating AR-15 barrels only have the handguard touching them at the rearmost portion of the chamber, and are completely isolated from all outside influences. It’s actually possible to influence where your rounds impact by simply adding pressure to the barrel, and a free-floating handguard eliminates this factor. Upon firing, it also allows the barrel to complete its harmonic motion the same way every time, making your rifle more precise and your groups tighter.
Free floating is such a cost effective, simple way to improve your AR-15’s inherent accuracy; it doesn’t make sense not to do it. Another added benefit is most free-floating handguards can be made as long as you want them to be, so you can place your hand further out towards the muzzle to gain more control.
The Samson E2 Series extended handguard is preferred by many top shooters, and is easily installed by anybody with some simple gunsmithing tools and a sturdy bench vice. It’s also relatively inexpensive!
An efficient muzzle brake is a must-have addition to any competition rifle. There are a dizzying array of muzzle devices on the market, but they all work in the same basic way. Brakes provide broad, perpendicular surfaces for escaping gasses to impact against, thereby keeping the muzzle flat and under control during the recoil impulse. This greatly reduces shot-to-shot times and target transitions, because your sights stay on target.
The A2 flash hider that came on your rifle simply isn’t going to cut it. A muzzle brake is necessary for fast paced shooting. Most models install quickly and easily by simply threading on in place of your factory device.
The SureFire ProComp was specifically designed with the attributes of the company’s highly successful suppressor mount/muzzle brake line in mind. While you can’t put a silencer on the ProComp, the simplified (and cheaper!) design is perfect for the competition scene.
A match-grade trigger is a critical component to shooting well in a competitive match. More important than being light, a trigger must be consistent and have a positive reset. You can learn to manage a heavier trigger, but you can’t make it more consistent. Not only does a clean trigger make distance work worlds easier, it also makes close range blasting stages a breeze.
AR-15 triggers come in two primary varieties: single stage and two stage. A single-stage trigger (like the outstanding CMC flat face trigger) has you hitting the “wall” where the trigger breaks almost immediately, so it has a shorter overall travel. However, the consistent take up and clean break of a two-stage trigger is preferred by many dedicated long-range shooters and multi-gun competitors.
In the end, the right decision comes down to shooter preference. Regardless of the trigger you choose, quality time spent dry firing needs to be a regular part of your training regimen.
Lastly, it makes sense to have provisions for attaching a sling to your rifle. Most competition stages require the use of multiple guns, and some may even require carrying all three with you while shooting. Packing and shooting two long guns without a sling is a little awkward, to say the least.
A quality sling outfitted with quick detach swivels (like the Magpul MS4) gives you the option of slinging up, while still allowing you to speedily detach the sling if you want to run a clean forearm for a shoot off. Many slings give you options for a one, two, or even three point configuration, so you can be sure that an option exists to match your style.
Get out to the Range and Practice!
This is by no means a comprehensive list for kitting out a competition rifle, but instead a short summary of the common gear the pros use. If you have an old Bushmaster collecting dust in the closet adding the above items will give you a competitive setup for at your local club. The rest of the more specialized gear will come with time, as you figure out exactly what your own personal likes and dislikes are.
You may never experience the sweats before a high-stakes shoot off in front of a breathless audience and TV cameras, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t put together a basic rifle and enjoy the skill-building, good times and camaraderie that the sport offers.