Competitive Shooting

At the Range: A Non-Tactical Guy Goes Tactical, Part 4

MSR shot by youngster from a bench

I have now had my new Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) for almost one year. It has been a definite learning experience, and a great deal of fun. While attending the 2013 SHOT show in Las Vegas, I participated in Media Day at the Range. There, I received a basic introduction to 3-gun competitions. For those who don’t know, a 3-gun contest uses an MSR, shotgun and pistol. It is also the fastest-growing shooting sports event and competition in the nation.

Shooter with AR-15 leaning against post
Like I said, MSRs are F-U-N to shoot, and with the combination of negligible recoil and high-capacity magazines, 400-500 round “practice” sessions can be quite common.

I’ve shot numerous trap, skeet, sporting clays competitions, and one IPSC event, but never something even close to a 3-gun competition. A 3-gun competition is set up across several different stages that present different scenarios with different weapon requirements. Distances can change from stage to stage and target to target, but are usually between 3 and 500 meters. Targets can be paper, cardboard, metal, even clay pigeons that are stationary, thrown in the air or rolled on the ground. Experts in the sport can complete a section in less than 30 seconds—sometimes even less!

Scoring is on a 100 percent basis. The top competitor receives 100, and everyone below receives their score based on the percentage below the top performance. This adds a variable that allows a mistake on one stage to be effectively “made up” on the others. I needed a bit more time than that as you can see in the video in this post. I’m going to blame the fact that it was 30° (before wind chill) with a 20 MPH wind in the Las Vegas desert. Of course, there’s also the fact that I have almost no experience with this type of competition.

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A friend of mine who is big into competitive shooting—he is a .22 rimfire competition shooter, where they shoot very, very small targets at 100 yards—let me know about several competitions for MSRs and several 3- gun competitions that anyone could register to compete. I was in! I looked them up online and sent in my registration form and fees. I spent what time I could at the range practicing my offhand shooting as well as rapidly changing out magazines and positions. I actually even found a forum post that recommended level shorter strides between stations to make sure you have good footing and don’t fall which can really eat into your time.

At my last range practice session, I realized something I had not previously considered. I did not have a lot of extra ammo. What I thought was a lot of ammo (much, much, much more than I had ever purchased or had on hand before and covering multiple calibers) turned out to not be enough to support several effective practice sessions, fun shooting, and to also participate in competitions.

Like I said, MSRs are F-U-N to shoot, and with the combination of negligible recoil and high-capacity magazines, 400-500 round “practice” sessions can be quite common. Not being a regular handgun shooter, I also did not have sufficient ammo for the handgun I planned to use. I was in a dilemma.

I would need 100 rounds of rifle, 50 rounds of pistol, and 20 rounds of shotgun ammo, with buckshot recommended, for each stage. That meant I would have to double it if I practiced once, and triple it if I practiced twice.

MSR shot by youngster from a bench
Introducing a young man or lady to shooting with an MSR may earn you a shooting partner for life.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any .223 ammunition on my regular supplier’s shelves for months. The same goes for 9mm ammo online at” href=”” target=”_blank”>9mm ammo. What I could find was typically the higher quality offerings for self-defense and too pricey to burn up at the range for practice on a regular basis. Fearing a personal shortage, I did two things. I pulled out of the competition, and limited my “practice” sessions to fewer than 100 rounds. Even at that rate, with the number of visits I have to the range, I will run out before this time next year. My attitude regarding ammo is that it is always better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

This journey has taken a few twists and turns, but I think that is what our lives are like…every day an adaptation. Over the last year I went from having handled an MSR a couple of times, shooting one once, and not knowing how it operated beyond the basic “pull trigger, go bang” to becoming an owner of a Ruger SR-556 and regular MSR shooter. I started pursuing game with an MSR and realized it was not only up to the task, but was an excellent choice for what and where I was using it.

I introduced my kids to a tactical gun, and they found it so much fun they beg to shoot it every time we go to my gun club. Finally, I was introduced to and became excited about competing in a different type of competition that was entirely beyond the scope of my experience, practice and passions. If you had told me that I would move into the “tactical side” of shooting as little as three or four years ago, I would have responded with a polite, but firm “not interested.” Today, I say “Come on over, you need to experience what you are missing!”

You can read the rest of the story in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

What are you experiences with making the transition of wood guns to MSRs? Tell us about them in the comment section.


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