3-Gun: Family-Friendly Shooting Sport

Here's a fun shooting sport your whole family will love.

posted on June 28, 2017

Video and online gaming is fun, but we all know it’s just a fantasy. You are not really out there shooting all those cool guns and saving the world from bad guys. Instead you are sitting in your living room with a game console, covered with snack-chip dust. Wouldn’t be awesome if you could actually live the game?

Well, you can. You can shoot at lots of different targets with a real pistol, rifle or shotgun, often from odd positions, such as from under a car, while sliding down a zip line or as you run down a tunnel. You will move through the course, shooting at the targets as they appear. Sometimes the targets are moving, sometimes they are close, sometimes they are very far away—and the thing is, you never know which it’s going to be. Some of them are the “good guys” and you can’t shoot them at all. You need to think and act fast, as you will do all this while being timed and scored. This is like entering the virtual world of gaming, only it’s all real…which is so much better.

It’s called 3-gun competition and it might best be described as a real-life video game. But I warn you, once you try the real thing, the virtual games will seem dull and boring. Nothing compares to making a good run though a stage, shooting and moving and knowing you are “in the zone.”  It’s an adrenaline rush like you have never experienced. After you pull off a fast double on a pair of clay birds flying through the air and watch them explode to dust, then drop the shotgun, pull your pistol and mow down a line of steel targets, then transition to your rifle and pick off a “sniper” target at 500 yards, you will understand what an “extreme sport” is really all about. This game will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine. It requires good hand/eye coordination, a fast-thinking mind and the shooting skills of a Special Forces operator. No other shooting game even comes close. This is not your grandfather’s skeet field; this is action shooting at its best.

As you might assume from the name, you will need three guns to compete in this sport. If you or your friends or family like guns, there is a good chance that if you combine your resources you will find you already have what you need to get started. It’s easy for two or three shooters to share equipment at a match. You can simply stagger the times when you shoot, to allow time for each of you to get ready.

One thing you will discover is that the people who shoot 3-gun are very willing to help, particularly if you are a new shooter. When you arrive at a match, you will see people running around wearing bright shirts plastered with sponsor logos. They will often be covered with impressive-looking gear, belts bristling with pistols and tons of ammo. It can all be a little intimidating. But these are really nice people who remember when they were in the same place you are, back when they were the “new guys.” Just say hello and explain you are new and you will be amazed at how friendly everybody will be to you.

There are several different classifications that will use different types of guns. For example “Heavy Metal” requires a rifle chambered in .308 Win. or larger, a pump shotgun and a .45 ACP handgun. But the most popular class is called “Tactical Optics.”  This is where most new shooters start and where a lot of experienced shooters stay. It is always the most challenging class, but it also has the most user-friendly equipment.

The pistol must be a 9mm or larger. Of course, if you already have a .40 S&W or even a .45, you can use it. But if you are buying a new gun, forget “larger,” the 9mm is by far the most popular choice because of higher magazine capacity and lower recoil. Almost any high-capacity 9mm semi-auto handgun will work. Of course, for a lot of young people the deciding factor will be finding a pistol with a grip that will fit your hand. It would make sense to spend a little time in some gunshops trying different handguns until you find one that you like.

You will need at least four pistol magazines. Also critical is a holster that will retain the gun safely while you run and jump, but that will also allow you to draw fast. You will also need some magazine pouches to fit on your belt and hold your extra magazines.

The rifles used in Tactical Optics class are almost all AR-15 rifles chambered in .223 Remington. The very popular 16-inch M-4 style of rifle will get you started and if you or somebody you know doesn’t already have one, they can be found “priced to sell” in gun shops right now. But the best rifle will have a slightly heavy barrel, 18 inches long and with a muzzle brake fitted to help control recoil. A good trigger is important, as is a stock that will fit you. The adjustable-style stocks will shorten to fit a smaller frame person.

If you want to shoot “Limited Division,” you can actually use the iron sights that are probably already on the gun. This might not be a bad idea, as there are fewer shooters in this class, so it’s easier to move up—and sharp, young eyes have an advantage. In Tactical Optics you are allowed one optical sight and almost everybody has it on the rifle. A low-power variable scope like a 1-4 is the best choice for most 3-gun shooting. You will also need three or four 30-round magazines and perhaps a holder for your belt to carry a spare magazine.

The shotgun should be semi-auto. The 20-gauge gun will be a little smaller and lighter, which is easier to use for a small-statured person. Also, the 7/8 ounce shells will not recoil as much as a 12 gauge. (On the other hand, the 12 gauge is going to be a heavier gun, so it will absorb more recoil and feel like it kicks less. So the recoil might be a wash; a lot will depend on your personal tolerance for it.) If you can handle the bigger 12-gauge shotgun, it might be a better choice because ammo is easier to find and usually less expensive than 20 gauge.

The shotgun will need an extended magazine tube. In the Tactical Optics class, the gun can have up to nine shells loaded at the start of the stage, so a magazine extension that allows eight shells is just right.

You will need some shotgun shell holders to carry your spare ammo. To start with, you can buy an inexpensive nylon shell belt designed for hunters. But as you progress, you will probably go to the belt-mounted holders that hold four or six shotshells.

More and more local clubs are putting on 3-gun matches, so a little time spent surfing the Web should find a shoot near you. Grab some glasses to protect your eyes, some muffs to protect your ears and all the ammo you can carry. Just be prepared to be hooked on the most addictive shooting game ever. Your weekends will never be the same again. 

Want to learn more? Visit our friends at 3-Gun Nation by clicking here!



Video Review: Silencer Central Banish 46 Suppressor

"For those suppressor customers who are out there looking for a one do-all suppressor, they're going to have a hard time finding something better than the Banish 46."

Your Free Summer 2024 NRA Club Connection Magazine is Here!

"The NRA is back. That's the first thing I want to say to you as your new Executive Vice President and CEO." - Doug Hamlin

Groundhog Days! Fine-Tune Your Skills & Make a Farmer Happy

Starting to feel like you're stuck in a loop this summer? Take a Groundhog Day to keep things interesting.

Throwback Thursday: World's Biggest Typical Whitetail Buck

While there's far more to deer hunting than trophy antler racks, we have to admit that there's something irresistible about them.

Hot! Daisy Nationals to Scorch Arkansas with Special Guests & Prizes

The 2024 Daisy National BB Gun Championship is a perennial favorite, but this year promises to be special.

Wild Table with Savage Arms: Bison Short Rib Quesadillas

A recipe so delicious you can practically taste it through the screen.


Get the best of NRA Family delivered to your inbox.