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Getting Started In 3gun / Multi-Gun Competition
What you need to know to get started:
Most new 3gun shooters come from another shooting discipline and are already familiar with safe gun handling and understand the basic safety rules involved in our games. I will not go into those aspects here because it is beyond the scope of this discussion.

A quick overview of 3 gun competition can be gleaned from the USPSA 3 gun supplement. A PDF copy can be downloaded Here

The best upfront advice that I can offer is not to buy too much new stuff, too fast. Try to shoot a few matches by using some borrowed stuff, or supplementing what you already have with some minimal purchases. Too much, too fast can sometimes not allow the best choices to be made. If you shoot a few matches first, you will see a lot of other shooters gear and you will be more aware of the reasons behind some of the typical setups in use.

The choice of which division to compete in needs to be made before buying a bunch of equipment. Most new shooters getting into 3 gun are heading straight to Tactical division where a single optic can be used on the rifle, but the shotgun and the pistol must use iron sight systems. Limited division is the same as Tactical except that iron sights are the only type allowed on the rifle.

Lately there is large interest in the HM (He-Man, or Heavy Metal) division where a .30 caliber rifle using iron sights is required, along with a .45 caliber single stack pistol and a 12 gauge shotgun. The HM division is also specifying the shotgun be pump action at a lot of matches, but this has yet to be standardized.

The last option available is Open division where pretty much anything goes as long as safety and caliber requirements are met.

What you need to get:
  • Serviceable semi-auto pistol in 9mm or larger caliber.
  • Holster that securely holds pistol and will retain it during vigorous movement.
  • A half dozen, or more reliable standard capacity magazines for pistol and holders to carry them in that they won’t fall out of.
  • Serviceable semi-auto, or pump shotgun in 12 gauge with 20-21” bbl threaded for screw-in chokes.
  • Extended magazine tube for shotgun and appropriate shotshell carriers.
  • Serviceable semi-auto rifle in .223, .308, or 7.62x39 (AK) caliber.
  • A half dozen, or more reliable 30 (or 20 in .308) round magazines for rifle and holders to carry them in that they won’t fall out of.
  • Belt that will hold holster and ammunition carriers securely.

Pistol choices for Limited/Tactical range from STI, or SVI to Springfield, Glock, Beretta, SIG and Tanfoglio/CZ. Caliber choices are usually 9x19, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. 9mm is OK for IMG matches, but relegates you to minor power factor scoring at USPSA matches.

Rifles are usually AR-15 variants in .223, but the Ruger Mini-14, and AK platforms are also viable. For HM division, the M1A/M14, AR-10 and FN platforms in .308 are all good choices.

Semi-Auto shotgun choices are divided into two camps. Gas and recoil operated. The recoil operated camp is best represented by the Benelli M1 and M2 shotguns which are very popular. The gas breathers are split into several sub-camps and the preferred choice seems to be the Remington 1100, 11-87 and Competition Master guns. There is also the Winchester SX2 and the Browning Gold to choose from in gas operated and these are becoming more popular. The Benelli’s and the Remington 1100/11-87’s need a few mods to get them ready for competition. The Remington CM, the Winchester SX2 and the Browning Gold all come a good bit closer to competition ready and can almost be used outa da box.

A good up-front pistol holster choice would be the BladeTech Kydex ones and similar types from other manufacturers. They offer great retention, are reasonably priced and don’t break, or wear out easily. Kydex mag holders also work well too. High quality belts, ammo carriers and other 3 gun gear can be found at: 3 Gun Gear, Wilderness Systems, Arredondo Accessories, Shooters Connection and more...

What you may also want to get:
  • Gun cases, equipment bags and a way to haul it all.
  • Knee & elbow pads.
  • Hydration systems.
  • Rain gear & footwear options
  • Re-loading equipment.

Hauling gear from range to range is another issue in 3 gun competition. The amount of equipment is more than 3 times what is used in pistol competition and some provision for getting it from place to place at a match must to be made. Some ranges allow vehicles to be driven right up to the stages and the shooters can gear out of them (I love my 100mph range bag!), but that cannot always be counted on so some method of hauling all your gear on foot needs to be in place. The typical solution is a wagon/cart/handtruck like used in SASS (Cowboy) competition. Another solution is minimilism and going to a stage with all your ammo in carriers on your person and your guns holstered and slung. There is a new Division in play at some matches called Trooper (PDF copy of Trooper rules). where you are required to man haul everything with you to each stage. No cars, no wheels and no re-supply runs to your vehicle

The positions we need to get into and the props and terrain we navigate are sometimes hard on our extremities. To keep the knees and elbows intact and to allow getting into position faster and with less pain, quality elbow and knee pads are a must have in 3 gun competition.

Because you stand around in the sun for hours on end and it get’s real hot at the places where a lot of the larger matches are held, keeping yourself cool and hydrated is a very important point, especially considering the extra effort the extra gear requires. A CamelBack hydration system is a very good idea, as is a well stocked beverage cooler. A little thought in the sunscreen and skin protection direction is a good idea too. Shelling out mucho bucks to travel to a large 3 gun match and then collapse from dehydration, or heatstroke is no fun and neither is a bad sunburn.

Foul weather gear is another good idea. A two piece GoreTex rain suit is worth it’s weight in gold when the skies open up. A couple different types of footwear are a good idea too. I have good stiff hiking boots for natural terrain matches and rough ground where some ankle support is in order. I also haul a pair of Nike LandShark cleats for grass, sand and gravel and and a regular pair of running shoes for open ground sprinting contest stages.

You can surely get started using factory ammo and there is no real reason not to keep using factory ammo depending on your needs. If you live-fire practice pistol and rifle a lot, re-loading the same brass multiple times can result in a large savings in the long run. If you get into Open division, you almost certainly will want to customize you pistol and possibly your rifle ammo. Stay away from any rifle ammo with steel in the bullet as most matches don’t allow steel jacket/core rifle ammo to be used.

Learning how to use all the stuff you get:
Step 1 is making sure that all firearms and magazines function 100% with ammo you will use. Nothing is more frustrating than having stage after stage get flushed due to malfunctions at your first match. Hitting the targets while learning to manipulate multiple firearms safely within a course of fire is difficult enough without fighting equipment problems while doing it. Rule #1 is to make sure your gear works BEFORE the match.

Step 2 is getting familiar with using all of your gear, getting a good zero on everything and learning the different points of impact you will be dealing with. Learn how to get into and shoot each gun from various positions (offhand, stronghand, weakhand, prone, kneeling, etc.). Don’t ignore learning how to shoot the long guns weakshoulder because you will be faced with it sooner, or later. Test each gun at various ranges to see where it hits after you get it zeroed at your distance of choice (this is especially important with rifle and slugs). Check actual point of impact (POI) from point blank to beyond the longest range you will use a gun at. Some shotgun specific things to think about: Don’t asume that a slug zero gives you a shotshell zero too, pattern it at various distances after the slug zero. Test your shotshell and choke choice on steel targets at distances out to 35 yards and even beyond because not all shotgun steel is in your face close. An Improved Cylinder, or Modified choke is a good choice in a 3 gun shotgun, an open cylinder is not! This is why I recommend getting a shotgun with a threaded bbl for screw-in chokes. Smaller shot sizes in medium loadings (6 or 7.5 shot in 3 to 3.25 Dram loadings) will allow you to shoot faster (lower recoil) and with the right choke choice they will work a lot better on steel than the expensive heavy stuff does. Smaller shot sizes also break flying and stationary clay targets more reliably than larger shot sizes do (more shot = denser pattern = more chance of a pellet strike).

Step 3 is to go to as many local club level 3 gun matches as you can. After a few club matches you will feel a lot more confident about going to a major 3 gun match. Check the USPSA Club Finder to find IPSC clubs nearby. Quite a few of them have regularly scheduled 3 gun matches.

More information on all of these points and many, many more things can be found in the 3 gun section of the Brian Enos Competition Shooting Forums.

Printed and video training materials can be found at BrianEnos.com and at BurkettVideo.com. There are no better training materials available than what you will find at these websites. The only way to learn more is to practice more, or take some personal instruction (which can also be found through these websites).