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Finding a Career in 3-Gun Shooting: The Basics

Shooting as a career
Shooting as a career

The 3-gun shooting competition has grown in popularity in various parts of the country, and is currently among the fastest growing shooting sport nationwide.

Etiology and Form

The 3-gun shoot takes its name from the obvious fact that competitors shoot using 3 different firearms: a pistol, a shotgun and finally a modern sporting rifle (MSR).

In a match, there are different courses through which the shooter is required to move at different stages, aiming for targets placed at an array of positions. At every stage, the shooter will use the three firearms, and must know how to transition between them seamlessly.

The targets placed on the courses include cardboard silhouettes, pigeons made of clay as well as steel targets of different sizes. The match organizer also reserves the right to place other targets on the course.

How to win

To win, you must have shot the most number of targets as well as avoided the no-shoot targets, all in the least amount of time. Distances from targets vary between 1 and 500 yards.The rules of the game are as issued by the International Multi-Gun Association (IMGA) or the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA).

Local ranges however have some leeway as far as making small alterations to the rules provided the spirit of the legislation is in place. This is what largely contributes to the dynamism and excitement of the competition.

Like every other practical pistol match, the 3-gun competition course simulates a self-defense or combat scenario. Every stage offers challenges requiring the use of one, two or all three guns in a specified sequence. There is virtually no repetition: every stage of every match is new and different.

The guns

The rifle: The .223 caliber MSRs are popular among serious competitors. They have short barrels, about 18-20 inches long and magazines holding 30 rounds. However, the competition allows the use of a semi-auto that can handle a larger magazine.

The Shotgun: Provided it is a reliable pump-action or auto loading firearm, any shotgunis fine. In a serious competition however, you want one with an extended magazine tube, interchangeable chokes and a proper set of sights. Most 3-gun competitors use slugs and shotshells.

The pistol: A majority of shooters prefer the 9mm semi-automatic pistols, even though the .40 S&W and the .38 Super are fairly popular in some places.

Accessories: Every competitor should have a belt or pouch to hold extra ammunition and magazines as well as a holster to hold the pistol.

The Divisions

Basic definitions are similar for every match, though the specifics may differ for different competitions.

Limited: This forms the first stage and entry level into the competition. It’s also one of the more interesting ones if you are in it for the fun experience.

Tactical: this stage presents the toughest competition for 3-gun shooters since it is also the most popular. It allows a magnification on the rifle’s optic.

Heavy metal (HeMan):Shotguns have to be 12-gauge pumps with no porting and iron sights, rifles must have iron sights and be 7.62x51 and larger while handguns should be .45ACP or bigger, with porting only or no optics.

Open: This is the almost anything goes stage. It allows speed loaders for the shotgun targets, but handguns are limited to 171.25mm and below.

Outlaw open: Provided it’s safe, anything goes.

Where to shoot

For your practices, spot a 3-gun match shooting range where you live. Begin by watching and learning, and the ease into the shooting. For more information, you can visit Start with the basics; don’t invest in fancy arms just because someone said you should. You’re still learning. Finally, ask questions, many questions.

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