Skip to main content

Top ARs in 3-Gun Shooting Today

Here's the latest competitive intel on what are the top ARs in 3-Gun today and why.

Top ARs in 3-Gun Shooting Today

While reminiscing with Chip Montgomery, a local 3-Gun shooter sponsored by Trijicon, about how 15 or 20 years ago when 3-Gun was a sport very few people had even heard of, I pointed out that J.P. rifles were the only dedicated competition rifles on the scene. At the time, every other AR on the market stuck very closely to the military M16A2 or CAR (later the M4) pattern, and there weren’t that many brands to choose from.

Back in the day, when it came to factory rifles, you could be guaranteed a Colt would run, but it would be a clunky Mil-­Spec piece with a horrible trigger. Even if you wanted to make it better, there weren’t many aftermarket manufacturers and accessories to turn it into something suitable for competition.

A J.P. Enterprises’ rifle, on the other hand, would run great, but they looked nothing like the military rifles and were far from inexpensive. And that was nearly it. There weren’t a whole lot of options in-­between those two extremes, especially rifles that could be guaranteed to be reliable.

Things have changed drastically.


J.P.’s rifles still maintain a huge influence in 3-­Gun, but I wasn’t sure exactly how many competitors were actually using them or really which rifles were the most popular among avid and accomplished competitors. So, I reached out to all the competition shooters I know, in person and on Facebook, and asked them what rifle(s) they were actually using at matches. The answers were very interesting.


THE SURVEY SAYS

First, I wasn’t surprised at all by this, but J.P.’s name came up quite a bit. They are still considered the gold standard, even after all these years. The only problem? They still cost a lot of money — more than most shooters are able or willing to spend. Still, if there is one brand that is the most popular among competition shooters, it’s J.P.

Top-ARs-in-3Gun-2
Taran Butler running a Taran Tactical Innovations TR-1.

Taran Butler runs Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), which puts out custom competition pistols, rifles and shotguns. I own one of their TR-­1 Ultimate competition rifles. However, my survey returns indicated TTI’s tricked-­out Benelli shotguns were garnering more of a following on the 3-­Gun circuit than TTI’s rifles.

The respondents also told me the most popular factory 3-­Gun rifle (initially) among shooters was the Armalite M-­15 3-­Gun edition because of its balance of features and price. But as the price went up and more options hit the market, people started moving away from Armalite.

TODAY'S TOP CHOICES

About a year and a half ago, I tested the Ruger AR-­556 Multi-­Purpose Rifle (MPR). This rifle has an 18-­inch barrel freefloating inside an aluminum handguard and tipped with a multi-­port brake. It also features Ruger’s Elite 452 two-­stage match trigger.


The MPR is meant to be great for any type of shooting – including competition. The factory muzzlebrake nearly eliminates muzzle rise, and the trigger is great. The rifle is an amazing value for $900. I thought that this would make a great competition rifle out of the box, and I’ve heard the same thing from several competitors. If you are a shooter new to the game and are looking to buy your first rifle, I’d recommend the Ruger MPR.

The newest “best purpose-­built” 3-­Gun rifle for the money seems to be the Caracal Versus, with its 18-­inch Proof Research carbon-­fiber-­wrapped barrel and Geissele Super 3-­Gun trigger, among other features, for around $1,800.

If you look at the specs for the Caracal, it seems to be competing directly against the Savage MSR 15 Competition, which also has an 18-­inch Proof Research carbon-­fiber barrel and a match trigger, but it also adds more features, including an oversized magwell and a side charging handle. Those extra features over the Caracal Versus add extra cost, so the Savage rings up for $2,875.


Ten or so years ago, I remember testing the DPMS 3G1 competition rifle, and it seemed a solid rifle for a good price. Since nobody I talked to mentioned DPMS, I checked and found that while they offer the 3G1 in .308, they no longer sell a 5.56 version.

Top-ARs-in-3Gun-1
The author running a Stag 3G rifle at a match.

Daniel Defense is huge on the tactical side of things, but few are running their rifles in competition. Their “tactical” rifles are costlier than the Caracal Versus while offering none of the upgrades that competition shooters want and need, such as a better-­than-­GI-­grade trigger pull.

Other companies making dedicated competition rifles popular with shooters include: Stag Arms, Seekins Precision, Adams Arms, Barnes Precision, F-­1 Firearms, Rise Armament, Iron City Rifle Works, Radian, Sun Devil Manufacturing, Gibbz Arms, Cobalt Kinetics, Rock River Arms, DoubleStar, Black Rain Ordnance, and American Defense Manufacturing.

However, I kept hearing the same thing over and over from everybody. I think Mo Shaw in my Facebook feed said it best: “The most popular rifle hands down is the Frankenrifle, built with the user’s selection of custom parts that they desire.”

Both Montgomery and Matt Koopikka (another Trijicon-­sponsored 3-­Gun shooter) estimated that a staggering 70 percent of the rifles they see at matches around the country are home built. Because it is possible to assemble an AR-­15 using nothing but hand tools, I completely understand the urge to build a rifle from the bare receiver.

Top-ARs-in-3Gun-3
There is another route to finding a competition-ready AR, and that’s building one. Quality uppers, lowers and assorted parts are very plentiful and come in a range of prices to fit most any budget.

Building your own isn’t always cheaper, but it is a way of creating a custom rifle that is unique in the world. Being able to hold a rifle in your hands and say, “I built this” is a great feeling. Plus, the rifle is built exactly to your specs.

When it comes to preferred parts, you’ll see a lot of the same names over and over: Aero Precision receivers, Stretch 16 barrels, Geissele and HiperFire triggers, Nordic Components, Odin Works, J.P. and Magpul accessories.

So, the answer to the question, “Which rifle dominates in 3-­Gun competition?” Well, it doesn’t have a single answer, or even a simple answer. That’s actually not a bad thing — it just means that your choices today have never been greater, whether you want to buy a complete competition rifle or build one up from scratch.

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout cartridge was developed to provide greater effectiveness than a 9mm at short and medium ranges when fired from a short-barreled suppressed firearm. Just because the cartridge wasn't designed to go long doesn't mean Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand won't take it there, using a large-format pistol, no less. Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain TMK ammunition, Beckstrand attempts to ring steel at 600 yards with help from Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calculator in this segment of “Long Range Tech.”

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle, the Impulse, with three hunting configurations.

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick Sweeney compare the visibility of red and green lasers in outdoor, sunny conditions.

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

In this Guns & Ammo TV segment, Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr discuss the benefits of airsoft training for uniformed professionals and armed citizens alike.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE sensor, onboard recording, automatic & manual calibration options, multiple color palettes, and manual focus.Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look Optics

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE...

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and deer; here's everything you need to know to make it work for you..350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know Rifle

.350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know

Tom Beckstrand - April 02, 2019

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and...

The Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan is arguably the best production-grade precision hunting rifle available.Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan Review Rifles

Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan Review

Joseph von Benedikt - March 25, 2019

The Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan is arguably the best...

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight ready.14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See Handguns

14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See

James Tarr - December 20, 2018

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

There's a lot to like about the Kel-Tec SU-16E. With a gas-piston operation, the SU-16E is a departure from the traditional 5.56 NATO-chambered AR-15 design. Retired USMC Col. Craig Boddington takes a close look at the unique sport-utility carbine and finds that it's handy with many desirable features.Guns & Ammo TV: Kel-Tec SU-16E Rifles

Guns & Ammo TV: Kel-Tec SU-16E

Guns & Ammo Staff - July 28, 2020

There's a lot to like about the Kel-Tec SU-16E. With a gas-piston operation, the SU-16E is a...

Excellent fit and finish are essential for an accurate firearm. While the Wilson Combat Ranger in .350 Legend wasn't made as a precision competitor, it sure performed like one.Wilson Combat Ranger .350 Legend Review Reviews

Wilson Combat Ranger .350 Legend Review

Jim Angell - October 02, 2020

Excellent fit and finish are essential for an accurate firearm. While the Wilson Combat Ranger...

In 2019, Remington hulked up the Model 783 and introduced a new model for varmint hunting, appropriately named the Remington 783 Varmint.Remington 783 Varmint Review Reviews

Remington 783 Varmint Review

Alfredo Rico - July 24, 2020

In 2019, Remington hulked up the Model 783 and introduced a new model for varmint hunting,...

Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range with both .177-caliber airguns to test their aim and demonstrate why the full-auto selector is often called the Air Gun Reviews: Full-Auto Fun Rifles

Air Gun Reviews: Full-Auto Fun

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 26, 2020

Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range with both...

See More Rifles

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now