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For the Love of Competition Competition

Why Every Shooter Should Try 3-Gun

by Iain Harrison   |  September 23rd, 2011 43

Well, it’s been just over a year since Top Shot Season 1 wrapped up. I’ve been on a roller coaster ride since winning TV’s first shooting reality show, but this blog isn’t going to be about me. Rather, it will cover the shooting sports we love, the guns and gear we use and the people that make it all happen. It’s that last item that I’d like to stress, because it’s you guys reading this that are going to steer me in certain directions. I have my own favorite hobby horses, so if you find me beating them to death, feel free to poke me in the chest and tell me about it. Welcome, it’s going to be a fun ride.

Forgive me if I’ve struck a rather ceremonious tone in my first post, but there’s no better way to kick off a blog about competitive shooting than to examine its most popular discipline, 3-gun.

Here’s my top five reasons why every shooter should try 3-gun:

1. It’s sexy. So sexy in fact, it’s the only shooting sport with its own TV show.

2. If you really want to see how your gear and skills perform under pressure in a practical shooting environment, then you owe it to yourself to a 3 gun competition. Short of being on a two-way range, there’s not a whole lot more intense than the cauldron of competition, and you’ll discover just how well you can deal with problems when everything goes wrong. And go wrong it will. Your pistol that has fed and ejected every round flawlessly in practice will suddenly develop chronic indigestion, your rifle will mysteriously lose zero and your shotgun will go full auto. Every one of these has happened to me – one time in a single match. Suck it up, buttercup and get back in the fight.

3. You’ll learn from the best. The sport is still in its adolescence at the moment, so if you shoot at a major match, there’s a good chance you’ll compete with the likes of Taran Butler, Daniel Horner or any one of about two dozen pro and semi-pro shooters. The amount of information you can absorb about how to improve your own shooting would fill a book, and all you have to do is observe and ask the occasional thoughtful question. Can you imagine turning up at Pebble Beach and getting a masterclass from Tiger Woods? Neither can I, but you can if you shoot 3-gun.

4. You get to see new gear before anyone else. This is an intensely Darwinian sport – if gear doesn’t work, it goes the way of Giant Auk very quickly, but the reverse is also true. There’s enormous pressure to develop or adapt new equipment to gain a competitive edge, so you’ll often see (and try) innovations on the range long before they make it into print or onto TV.

5. Three-gunners are some of the funnest human beings on the planet. Hang around for the party on Saturday night and you’ll see what I mean…

What are the reasons you have tried or would like to try 3-gun?


  • Spk

    Great to see you onboard Mr. Harrison, I think you'll like it here.

  • breamfisher

    Having shot at a few club-level 3-gun matches, I have to say it's one of the most fun things you can do. It also will let you know how well that range queen rifle/shotgun/handgun of yours will work at speed, and let you know what of your technique you need to work on, and what works.

    Also, when stuff does go wrong, it gives you a chance to see how well you can work it out. Mag spring going bad? How quick can you clear the jam? Optic goes out? What do you do if you don't have a backup iron sight?

    Plus, more time on the range working for a purpose is always good.

  • wddodge

    Welcome. I shoot IDPA and a few 3 gun matches at the local club every summer. It's hard to imagine anything more fun. Is this the place to pose a question??? Remington 870 or any of the good semi's for the shotgun stages?

  • Nick-NEW/PMW

    Iain, when can I expect a 3 gun event in Rochester, Ny?

  • Mike Price

    Iain, great to have you here and looking forward to your blogs.

  • Iain

    Thanks for the warm welcome guys. Nick, there's occasionally a match at Rochester Brooks, but you'll have to ask the guys shooting uspsa there on Sundays for the inside scoop.

    Wddodge, it depends on the division you want to shoot in. An 870 would be a fine choice for heavy metal, but you'd handicap yourself if you want to shoot tac optics, limited or open.

  • Vic

    I've been chomping at the bit to get into some 3-gun but I live in Fairbanks, AK and there not much going on out here.

    Iain-Good to see you writing for Guns and Ammo. Looking forward to more.

  • Vic

    Iain, I forgot to ask…what guns are you using? Thanks!

  • Iain

    Sounds like a couple of posts covering 3 gun gear might be in order. Thanks for the feedback – this is what it's all about!

  • Jayc0968

    Welcome aboard Iain!

    I've shot one, a total BLAST!! (pun intended) Can't wait to shoot another!

    At the club range I shoot (in MD) however, it's all done on a pistol range so only pistol caliber carbines or .22 rimfire is allowed for your rifle, it's a variation of the original 3-gun matches.

    My Hi Point 4095TS was nicely suited and ran flawlessly.

    Something to think about for other ranges that can't accommodate the AR style rifles and want to run a match.

    Happy shootin!

  • Slanteyedshootist

    Welcome Iain. I don't shoot competitively but am looking forward to reading your blog. It's cool to see someone from Oregon doing great on the national scene.

  • Ernie


    Never competed in a 3-gun match, but have done 3-day tactical matches (2-man team) that has handgun (shoot-house) bolt rig and AR, with high volume short-range, and out to 600 yards with carbine, and beyond 1000 yards with a bolt-gun.

    3-gun sounds fun just nothing here

  • NN

    Welcome aboard, I'll watch for more.

    • Joe Kelly

      Glad to see that your still into it, I have a lot of respect for you and your abilities under pressure. The 3-GUN to me is the most addicted shooting sport there is,im hooked

  • Patrick

    Good job on "baiting" the 3 Gun trap Ian! Trap??? Yes, I said trap. Having played many of the other gun games (most with a modest level off success) I have abandoned them all…trapped by the lure of the next 3-Gun stage. "Shooter ready, stand-by"….Beep, and so it goes.

  • Aaron

    Ian tell them to fix the subscribe button so i can get these all the time

  • Kevin Holman

    Because – it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

  • Jesse Tischauser

    Great article! I couldn't agree more.

  • Jeff Cramblit

    Started 3 gun years ago and had a ball along the way, can't quit until I shoot a match to the best of my ability, hasn't happened yet always know where I could have done better, as you said, it's a tremendous proving ground for man and machine, see you again soon

  • Justin Porlier

    Nice article. Glad the accent doesn't come through in your typing! I agree with all your points and have to admit to being bitten by the 3 Gun bug myself.



  • Mark Cronenwett

    I got started a couple of years ago after some serious prodding. Talk about having the most fun while keeping your pants on!! I started with a stock 870 and put the shells in my pockets, then in M16 pouches. Just take what you got and go try it out. I am trying to decide if I am only going to do 3 gun next year and stop doing the others so I can do more matches. :D

  • Phil

    I would appreciate some info on the basic necessities for 3 gun. To my neighbor from Fairbanks, (I live in Anchorage), I've only heard of one 3 gun match here in Alaska, and it is usually held in Seward, the last one I know of was held 9-11-10, not sure if they had one this year.

  • T.D.

    I've shot a couple, and it's quite the humbling experience. The old Remington 870 – the most reliable personal defense shotgun. Mine froze up like an iceberg during one match. I was banging it on the shooting table like a battering ram. That's Hell on your times and your ego. What do you do? Go out and buy two backups. It's a great excuse for more equipment.

  • Gary W. Burris

    You might be interested in the new 3-gun association that we are starting. It is a bit different in that the association is a not-for-profit association formed with the following two purposes:

    1. Build a set of easy 3 gun match rules (including airsoft replicas), with the objective of creating safe, easy scoring and fast resetting of stages.

    2. Build a tool for public and political awareness. Used to spread legal, responsible possession of firearms and the right to use firearms in a practical manner suitable for self defense, especially in those countries where such shooting sport matches are not permitted.

    Our mission is global in scope and is starting to be very popular in Italy. We will help to fund gun rights organizations. The organization's name is Lone Star Shooting Association (LSSA).

  • John Schmidt

    I just saw my first episode of 3 Gun Nation. After 20 years in the US Army, I think I found something to get the adrenalin flowing. Can't wait to search the local shooting clubs to start putting lead downrange. And hell, any excuse to buy a new gun, is a good excuse.

  • Anna Herrmann

    3 gun rocks the house because it's critical thinking, strategy, all the while testing your marksmanship and physical conditioning on a pistol, rifle and shotgun! It makes you a better shooter in general with a bunch of adrenaline on top- I started USPSA shooting in Jan of this year, shot 2 of three guns in July at Rochester-Brooks 3-gun match;my carbine was borrowed from one of our top shooters, and my shotgun from another of our top shooters.3-gunners are the nicest folks around, ready to help with equipment and advice; plus I get to wear my pink camo during matches!It is the most fun you can have with a gun!

  • Bigslug

    Iain! Welcome to the nuthouse!

    I tried a 3-gun match at our local club. I fear it is not for me for the same reason that Cowboy and IPSC are not for me: the gamers and gearheads have taken it over – at least as far as the shotguns are concerned. It started as a combat-oriented game, but the winner's circle now seems to always be occupied by equipment that is anything but a practical combat weapon. When I showed up with my "work" Vang Comp 870 and well-practiced reloading skills and found myself at an equipment disadvantage to 26" 1100's with ten-shot magazine extensions to guys who couldn't feed a round to save their lives, I decided I'd rather continue to live a little closer to the real world.

    Highpower and Smallbore rifle are more my thing. Not very "sexy" at all. Won't televise worth a damn, the "fashion" is often as bad as bicycle racing, and a lot of us who shoot it are nerds – or at least have a high degree of OCD. But they are both humbling games that become more about the man on the trigger once the gear essentials of having enough mechanical accurcacy for the game, sights you can see, and a stock that fits have been met. When you want to shift from adrenaline to Zen, it's a great place to hang out.

  • Jerry Hoffman

    Hi Iain,

    I'm looking forward to reading you blog.

    I have to agree — once you shoot 3-gun everything

    else is rather boring !

  • Jerry Hoffman

    Hi Iain,

    I'm looking forward to reading your blog.

    I have to agree — once you shoot 3-gun everything

    else is rather boring !

  • Jerry Hoffman

    Sorry for the double post — I corrected a spelling error and ended up double posting.

  • Greg

    I would love to try a 3 gun match. I didn't see the links in the article for more information about when, where and how.

  • JB

    OK you got my attention, but I have questions…many of them. What gear do I need? Can I bring what I already have? For instance a S&W revolver, FN 49, and whatever scattergun I can scrounge up? Where do I sign up for matches and where are they being held. Are there different classes of participants such as pros, beginners, or one for guys like me with stock service guns? Can't wait to hear more. How many rounds of each type are expended? What does the course consist of? How many targets and what distance etc. Sounds like a fun sport, but like most other shooters I do not want to invest a fortune in new gear and guns to try out a new discipline. Please tell us more!

    • Brian K Browe

      JB – check the web site
      You'll find the answers to a lot of your questions along with local and national events.

      Everybody – BROWE, INC is looking for top 3-gun competitors to run our new 4×32 BROWE Combat Optic in the upcoming national events. If your interested plesase contact us at Product information at or on facebook, Browe, Inc.

  • Tom

    I recently began watching season 3 of Top Shot and quickly became a fan. My wife bought me the season 1 DVD set of Top Shot for my birthday which I watched last weekend. Truly inspiring. I'm the same age as Ian and seeing how well he competed helped me realize that this isn't just a young man's game. I live in Orange County, CA and very interested in getting involved in 3-Gun competition. I would be grateful to anyone who can steer me in the right direction. In particular I'm interested in learning the fundamentals, possibly joining a club, if one exists. The 3-Gunners all appear to be shooting at the expert level, so I need to first learn and develop my skills, if I ever have a chance of entering any kind of competition.

  • Jim Morris

    the 3 Gun Multi-Gun Report

    All the info you need to know to get into the Sport.

  • Jeff Mardoyan

    3 gun will test you and your gear! Try it now! I have shot with the best and you will never find a better bunch on shooters in any sport.It does get harder the older you are.Where was this sport when I was young?

  • Trevor

    It looks like a ton of fun, I just wish we could actually participate easily in California, unfortunately we have to drive to Arizona/Nevada to escape our draconian gun laws. I would love to see more articles about the sport and how to select equipment for each class. Good luck on the writing!

  • Doug Alley

    WTF, G&A? Posting too fast? I can read, but can't type. How did I jump ahead? And how does one unsubscribe?

  • zhuk

    Great to see you here, Iain. We were all barracking for you to win Top Shot in here Australia, and you certainly did that in spades!

    Unfortunately, unlike Californians there is nowhere that we can travel to experience 3-gun competitions…painful! as it looks insanely fun.

    Not going to be possible when you're restricted to bolt actions and O/U shotguns lol

  • Dennis K

    Belated congratulations on your win at TG-1.

    I'll be looking forward to your input. Just retired from the Army and have 'toyed' with the idea of 3-gun. Since the Nationals were held here in Las Vegas, I guess I should start there.

    Drive On –

    • TACOPS

      3-gun is a fascinating and fun sounding way to keep yourself fresh and sharp with the hardware you own. No matter what way you choose though to keep sharp and capable with all of what you own is to include in practice shooting some reading and studying just as if you were in school. Also just like a professional golfer takes lessons on a regular basis, any shooter especially a competitive one should take lessons to make sure you haven't forgotten more than you knew before you enter a competition. If you study, take a few lessons (I don't mean dozens of hours)and practice a whole lot you, my friend, are going to have one hell of a great time.

  • Dennis W. Boyle

    I'm a new customer. I never received the September issue of Guns and Ammo. Can you help me?

    13107 Dairymaid Drive

    Germantown, MD 20874





  • DKnight

    I am an above knee amputee, and interested in the sport, is there opportunity’s , for the physically challenged to participate?

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