Getting Started In 3-Gun

Target shooting sports are enjoying a resurgence of popularity across the country these days. But while many people find a sport that “rings their bell,” so to speak, and generally dedicate themselves to that particular activity, there are some who ask the question, why limit yourself to just one gun or one discipline? Why not become proficient with a shotgun on clays, a pistol on steel or paper and the MSR (modern sporting rifle, or AR-platform rifle) on the 100-yard line?

For those who want to master all and test the limits of excitement at the same time, the sport of 3-gun is the one for you.


What is 3-Gun?

3-Gun is best described as the “X Games” of the shooting sports. For the younger generation, it is better than any video game and the most action they will likely ever experience without serving Uncle Sam in uniform. As the name implies, the sport of 3-Gun requires three different guns—a pistol, a shotgun and a rifle. The course of fire is timed and you score points by shooting a variety of targets including cardboard silhouettes, clay pigeons and steel—but that’s not all.

Most other shooting sports like trap or skeet or highpower rifle, the course of competition and targets are at the discretion of the range officer or competition organizer. That’s right, each match director makes up the competition and so each 3-Gun match you shoot will be unlike the one you shot before and totally different from the next one on your match schedule. There may be shoot or no-shoot targets that could be either scoring bonuses or deductions. Some targets must be knocked down, while others, like steel, for instance, may activate another target. The course is scored by how many targets you hit, the accuracy of the shot on certain targets (cardboard), deductions for various penalties and, of course, the time you take to complete the course.

Gearing Up for 3-Gun

Believe it or not, you do not have to break the bank or sacrifice your kid’s college fund to enter the sport of 3-Gun. Attend a match to see what it’s all about, and you’re likely to find more than a few willing to loan you their guns for the day to get you started. Once the bug bites—and it will—with today’s prices, you can buy all three guns for less than $1,000. Typically, you would start with a modern sporting rifle (MSR) such as an AR-15, a shotgun (pump or semi-auto as you choose) and a handgun. The pistol can be a semi-auto or revolver, however the semi-auto will normally be the most advantageous choice. While 3-Gun can have an “anything goes” approach—I’ve even seen 3-Gun matches for muzzleloaders!—typically you are going to want to select a shotgun of 20-gauge or larger, a rifle chambered for .223 or larger and a pistol of 9mm or larger.

In addition to the firearms and the ammo needed to both practice and shoot matches, because you are going to mobile and shooting a fair number of rounds during matches (including stages that require you to reload), you’ll need spare magazines for your rifle and pistol, as well as a way to carry and easily access spare shotshells. Conventional thinking varies, but carrying spare shotshells is going to boil down to pouches on your belt or some type of chest carrier (or vest), but developing your system is half the fun, so pay attention to other shooters and get creative.

While most equipment is at the discretion of the shooters, safety is paramount. Eye and ear protection are, of course, mandatory, but that’s just the beginning. For instance, your pistol’s holster must cover the entire trigger guard. That holster also has to securely retain the firearm as you hustle through the course. Dropping a firearm during the competition will result in an immediate disqualification, so pay attention when selecting your equipment and choose those pieces that both protect your firearms and aid you in staying safe.

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