Help outfit me for a 3-gun match...


January 18, 2011, 10:13 AM
I'm an IDPA shooter who is hoping to try out a 3-gun match at the end of the month. I have VERY little experience shooting rifles or shotguns in a timed format.

The round count is described as roughly 75 rifle, 75 pistol, 50 shotgun. The following is a summary of my current plan, and areas where I would like some input:

1) Pistol: I will basically just use my IDPA gear minus the vest. G34 and 3 mags would hopefully make it through any given stage.

2) Rifle: There will be one stage with shots out to 300 yards. I assume the rest of the rifle shots will be much closer. They will use USPSA scoring, which I am not very familiar with. The two most suitable rifles I have available are an 11.5" with Aimpoint, and a 16" with a TA11. Which would you pick, and why? Also, due to the round count I'm guessing that not more than one reload will be needed on any given stage... how do the 3-gunners carry extra AR mags? Right now I'm thinking of a belt mounted kydex holder from Comptac, mounted behind my pistol mags at roughly 5:00 (I'm a lefty)

3) Shotgun: My only option is a 590A1. Reloading this is my big issue here. I've seen those speed strippers that 3 gunners wear, but am not familiar with their operation. I was thinking 8+1 in the gun, plus two 6-packs on the belt (11oclock and 1oclock?) would give 21 rounds, hopefully enough to get through a stage. I think I have time to get some of these before the match; even though I'm not familiar with them I bet they would still be way faster than loading from the pocket. What are some good options? Even though I'm not really a 3gunner I would prefer not to get any junk just in case I ever do get into it down the line.

Thanks for the input.

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January 18, 2011, 04:41 PM
Pistol plan sounds fine.

Rifle: Use the one that you can consistently aim and shoot fastest. Time will be a huge factor as well as accuracy. You can buy kydex AR mag holders, but your back pocket may well work as well or better.

Shottie: Forget the fancy speed loaders as they require a speed chute adapter for the gun. Best bet is to try several combination or positions for your shell carriers and figure out which one is easiest/fastest/most reliable for you and your gun.

Loading the shotgun is THE MAJOR TIME SINK on a shotgun course. Take a pair of gloves too as the shotgun barrel will get very hot on a medium length course.

Have fun and don't shoot your eye out!


January 18, 2011, 05:16 PM
In three gun the least of worries normally is the shotty. Of all the choices now in auto shotguns most of them are good choices. I always pick a barrel a little longer than 18 that will accept chokes, and also it helps you so you can have a longer mag tube without it sticking out past barrel. This last build I have is a 1100 tactical with 22 inch barrel. Again with the 1100 tactical only disadvntage in most that I have found is load limits. These seems to only cycle heavier loads with consistency. So you can just buy a box of cheap box walmart box ammo to go and practice but who cares. But so far this has been a great gun thus far. Pretty much stock except for duracoating and since this pic I have added a speed bead and speed loader. Good luck with your choice.
Also I purchased the speedloader from Midway at about 50 bucks or so and it works great as long as you dont have a pistol grip shotty cause of the angle you have to put the speed loaders in when reloading. But if using a standard buttstock which with 1100s you dont have a lot of choice because of spring tube in stock they work awesome and cant beat it for the money. Here is a link to the one I purchased at midway. Good luck.

January 18, 2011, 05:24 PM
What class are you wanting to shoot in?

What is your goal in competing? Are you going for the best time possible or using it as a means of training for more practical use? I ask because IMHO this affects how one ought to do things. For example, one can flip a shotgun upside down tightly cradle it keep his or her head down starring at the gun and reload. This is fast. It is also not a very good technique or habit if one is in a situation where rounds are going both ways.

I don't think having a particular purpose is inherently better than another one, but I think it does affect how you will/should do things.

January 18, 2011, 11:05 PM
Actually I don't know about the classes. I'll have a 9mm almost-stock pistol, a .223 rifle with an optic, and a stock 590A1 pump gun.

My goal at the match is twofold; to have fun shooting, and see some good 3-gun shooters do their thing with the rifle and shotgun. I hear there will be a handful of nationally competetive shooters there, so we'll see how that goes.

My goal with this thread is just to make sure my gear is straightened out as well as it can be with what I have and/or can get in the next week or two, to meet the first goal above. :) If I walk away knowing I could have done a lot better with a minor tweak here or there it will cut into my fun factor.

I've always thought 3-gun looks like a lot of fun, but with no normal club match near me, the the chances I will ever actually get into it are currently pretty slim, so I'm basically a spectator for now.

I ordered a couple of "california competetive works" 6-shell carriers today. The 4-shell carriers might be better, but I just want to make sure I have something available on the 29th.

I've inquired with the MD about the percentage of total rifle shots past 200 yards, and the size of those targets... if it is just a small number of IPSC targets at 300 yards, with the vast majority much closer (this is what I suspect) I will probably go with the red-dot equipped rifle and call it a day.

That is a good looking shotgun, Remmy!

January 18, 2011, 11:34 PM
I've shot in several 3-gun matches and I'll pass on the advice that was given to me because it worked.

Since this is your first time why not just "run with what you brung." Right now you have all you need to have fun getting your feet wet and just as important, observe what other folks are doing. This way you will have some idea what is working before laying out the bucks for stuff that you thought might work and doesn't. You'll also have those sucessful competitors there to give you the benefit of their experience - priceless.

The only other thing I would do is identify yourself to the range officers as a first-timer and ask to be placed last in the order so that you will see others doing it several times before you have at it. This can make a huge difference in your performance. I still try to get the tail-end spot in all the competitions whenever I can.

January 19, 2011, 09:43 AM
Noalibi, normally I think that is great advice and is what I tell people coming to a local pistol match for the first time. However, since there is "no tomorrow" for me with 3-gun, I just have one chance to get it as right as possible.

So far the CCW 6-shell carriers, and a belt mounted kydex single AR mag carrier (may or may not use this... back pocket does look like an amazingly decent option here) is the only special gear I've ordered, and I think it will stay that way. I can see using that stuff at some point in the future anyway; it will be good to have.

January 21, 2011, 09:24 AM
Contact the MD and ask about shotgun round count. 21 is probably enough to run a stage, but I have seen 30+ stages, although those were shotgun-only and not multigun. Having some in pockets or a dump bag is ok.

The CCW holders are fine. The 4 rd ones are for those who can grab 4 at once and load them. I use 6rd trays because I have not developed the skill to grab 4. I carry 18 rounds that way, plus 9 (or 10 at some matches) in the gun, and 7 more on a sidesaddle.

Belt mounted Kydex mag holders are common, like Blade Tech ( I have not used more than 1 mag in a while, but I have an extra holder - I always carry 1 more mag than what is required to run a stage in case something goes wrong (drop a mag during reload, something breaks, whatever). Back pocket is ok, although it might not be retained during physical activity which may be required (running, going prone, etc.).

If you decide to replace the 590a1, this year Mossberg is bringing out a semi-auto 3-gun shotgun based on the 930. That will be the one to look at next.


January 21, 2011, 12:56 PM
I bought a bag that you can put an entire box of shot shells in (box & all) that just clips on your belt. $5 at wally world. Not fancy but it works well. I did unload the box and place them all with the same orientation. That way when I reached down I did not have to flip them. As for pistol and rifle you should be OK. I hope you have fun. I know i do.

January 21, 2011, 01:36 PM
As for shotgun, a 6-shot sidesaddle, 6 shot butt-cuff, and 8+1 in the gun have been enough for me in 2 3-gun matches. For a couple of stages I also wore a bandolier that holds 25 rds or so, but it's a bit fiddly to use. It really depends on the course. From the shot counts you posted it looks to ME like you won't need more than a full gun +12 shots unless you miss a lot.

For your first 3-gun match you don't need to get totally geared up anyway. Just have fun.

I actually wore my hunter-orange upland game vest for my first one. That was my mag carrier for the rifle stages. LOL :D

Have a great time and let us know how it goes. :cool:

451 Detonics
January 21, 2011, 02:27 PM
Once you see the actually courses of fire you will plan a bit better. Best advise I can offer is to carry a 1/3 more ammo than you think you'll need. First time running through a match and match format that is unfamiliar can make missing a bit more frequent, especially if small steel targets are part of the course. Also if you do have a jam it is nice to be able to dump the mag completely, clear, reload, all without worrying about running short of ammo. Cargo pants aren't the best answer for extra rifle mags but not the worse either. The shotgun ammo is the hardest to tote and have a good method to load with but these work well...

January 21, 2011, 02:46 PM
Thanks for the input everyone; I will post about how it goes afterward. My shotshell carriers came in today. I will get some practice in with them before next weekend.

The MD told me there will likely be multiple 300yd shots on targets as small as 8" with stiff (20sec) penalties for misses... so I'm definitely going to go with the 16" gun with 3.5x scope. Even if it slows me down a little at close range, if I get even one more 300yd hit with it than I would with the short/red dot gun, it will be worth it.

One problem though; I don't have a load developed for that gun with accuracy in mind, so I will need to do a crash load development for it with some SMKs in two days this weekend.

January 21, 2011, 03:40 PM
I find the four round CCW carriers work well in front (11-1 o'clock) , it's easier to bend at the waist when necessary. The six rounders are best on the sides, strong hand or weak hand. Work on both strong and weak hand reloading techniques. Some courses are longer than others and you can wear out one hand pretty quick.

As far as rifles go I connect one mag to another and go with that. That gives me 60 rounds on the rifle and I keep a spare thirty rounder available in an ammo pouch.

January 21, 2011, 03:44 PM
The shotgun ammo is the hardest to tote and have a good method to load with but these work well...

"•The 4 round capacity speed stripper will also hold one 20-round AR-15 magazine"

That's pretty cool, actually... may have to get some of those.

January 25, 2011, 10:35 AM
This past weekend I got my rifle sorted out, so now if I can't make those shots I know it is just because I have not spent any time shooting the rifle from prone before. :)

That leaves the slug shots as the one shot I have not tried to know whether or not the gun is actually sighted in. I will just have to wing those I guess (out of time to practice before the match).

I put on all the gear I will have on my belt last night. I will stick with my original planned layout above, and will use the AR mag carrier.

I'm a complete newbie with these shotshell caddies, and of course I can fumble the reload, but I can see now that practicing with these could yield some ideal results. My only gripe so far is that one of the carriers seems to be "tighter" than the other one. I'm sure that has something to do with the way I stuck the spacer in there (no directions supplied). I think I'm going to grab three shells at a time instead of four since that seemed to be the more reliable motion for me in some practice last night.

January 25, 2011, 11:07 AM
Why is it a better idea for the mag tube not to extend past the muzzle?? Makes an excellant muzzle protector and it can be 6"s longer with no problem. Some matches you will have to discard the shotgun into a receptacle muzzle down, the extra mag length will protect the barrel. Don't forget you might need slugs, some stages will require slugs on paper for a few targets.
I prefer 4 round caddies, there is no way I can pull six and load the gun. 4 is not hard with some practice and I don't want to waste time. You may also find that the six round will poke your gut a lot every time you bend over to reset steel.
One of the probs with the ccw caddies is after you pull a couple the rest can bounce around and fall out of a partially full carrier while your running

Just go shoot it and see what everyone else is using before you jump in neck deep

January 25, 2011, 01:56 PM
Actually I don't know about the classes. I'll have a 9mm almost-stock pistol, a .223 rifle with an optic, and a stock 590A1 pump gun.

My goal at the match is twofold; to have fun shooting, and see some good 3-gun shooters do their thing with the rifle and shotgun.

Sounds like you've got the guns you need to do just that, (maybe upgrading to an auto shotgun later), what you need are the accessories to accomplish this goal.

Your IDPA rig will work just fine for your pistol, what's lacking is ammunition storage for your rifle and shotgun. A few thoughts on that...

A scope on your rifle but not on your pistol or shotgun means Tac Scope, and that means competing in what's usually the most crowded division in any given match.

You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many shotgun shells on you for a 3 gun stage. :)

In Tac Scope, it's not a shotgun shooting competition, it's a shotgun reloading competition: He who reloads fastest, wins. However you chose to set up your rig, practice with it first. A lot. And be prepared to shoot shot and then switch over to slugs for the next target.

Myself, I shoot Tac Iron with an AR, Mossberg 930 and a CZ75. I've got an Arredondo double mag setup on my rifle and a third mag on my belt, a 6 round stock carrier from Midway, two 6 shell carriers from California Competition Works on my belt plus a 7 round sidesaddle and a 2 round forend saddle from 3 Gun Gear ( on my 930 SPX and a holster and a two mag pouches for my CZ on my belt as well

There is much more variety about where and how reloads are carried in Three Gun than there is in Practical Pistol. Figure out what is best for you to start with, and then modify it as you see fit.

January 25, 2011, 03:05 PM
Thanks Hawthorne; I HOPE, considering the total round counts and number of stages, that I will not need more than 21 rounds of shotgun or 60 rounds of rifle on one stage. If so I'll just have to reload from the pocket. I've bought as much dedicated gear for this match as I'm prepared to buy.

I can see how the 4-shell carriers are better and if I ever really got into 3-gun I would go in that direction. The 6-packs I got now will sure beat the heck out of pulling shells out of my pocket, and will also be useful when I shoot a sporting clays course which I usually end up doing for fun once a year or so.

I will practice shotgun reloading every night this week, but not too much; I don't want to beat the crap out of my thumb, which I almost accomplished last night.

January 26, 2011, 12:23 PM
For an excellent primer on reloading a shotgun, watch this video from the Army Marksmanship Unit. (

It covers loading from a side saddle, as well as loading from the shell carriers on your belt.

Once you've got the basic technique down, practice, practice, practice.

Also, trim your thumbnail extra short.

January 26, 2011, 02:22 PM
Thanks Justin, I was watching a similar video by a guy from the Noveske sponsored team. Very helpful.

January 27, 2011, 11:52 AM
The Noveske video is also a great one. Between those two, they cover about every aspect of running a shotgun.

January 30, 2011, 04:44 PM
Just wanted to follow up and say I had a great time at this match, and the best news of the day is that I hear they are making an attempt to get this started as the only regular 3-gun match in the area. I think if they do that it will be just a matter of time until I get into it. :rolleyes:

Of course it was a learning experience and ironically the only shot I specifically prepared for; the 300 yard rifle shot, is the the one that really cost me. I was right on target the week before, but yesterday I learned afterward I was hitting low for some reason; maybe there was a different angle on the shot, or maybe the wind had something to do with it.

I did alright for the first time out on the shotgun reloads I think.

I also got to squad with the best shooter there, so that was good to watch.

Appreciate the advice everyone.

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