July 15, 2019

Ten Take-Aways for Your First Three-Gun

Everything you need to know for your first 1st 3 Gun Match – 10 Take Aways

By Logan Holtz – IG: @holtzlogan

I recently shoot my first 3 Gun Match called “Zombies in the Heartland” and I realized it can be a bit intimidating to get started. In this article I wanted to share a few things I learned that I wished I knew going in. I am confident this will help others feel more comfortable giving 3 Gun a shot…pun intended. :)

The first thing you need to know about shooting 3 Gun is it is a ton of fun and hopelessly addicting. If you are looking for a casual hobby you should probably stop reading this right now. The second thing to know about getting into 3 Gun, at least in my experience is everyone involved is helpful and are willing to help you in any way they can.

I am going to keep this as simple and as short as possible in an effort to encourage more people to at least try shooting a 3 Gun Match because as I mentioned it is hopelessly addicting and like anything else you will learn far more from doing it that reading about it.

Take-Away #1 - Find a mentor or friend who regularly shoots 3 Gun, but not one who takes it too seriously and get in their squad for the match. If they are too serious they won’t be able to step away from their own match to answer your questions give you tips and help you get comfortable. On the other hand, if they are new to the sport they could mislead you or even worse encourage you to develop bad habits.

Take-Away #2 – Don’t go shoot a 3 Gun match until you are familiar with your weapon systems. A person that is new to firearms shouldn’t go straight to 3 gun, they should spend time on the range shooting and learning how to properly and most importantly safely operate their firearms. After getting comfortable with your weapons and becoming confident running various 3 Gun drills outside of competition you’re ready to sign up for a match.

Take-Away #3 – Set a low goal for your first time out….for me it was don’t get DQ’ed. With any shooting sport there is understandably an element of safety. In 3 Gun there are’nt many rules, but every rule that exists is there for a reason and enforced very strictly for everyone’s safety. There is no warning system, you break one of the cardinal rules (listed later) an you are done for the match, no second chances. So for your first time out, focus on following the rules and enjoying the experience. Cutting time and getting more efficient will come later. The last thing you want to do is travel to a match, pay to shoot and get thrown out only to watch from the sidelines. Especially keep this in mind going into your first stage. You will be surprised at how nervous you will get when they call your name to run the first stage and even more surprised at the level of adrenaline that your experience when going through the course.

Take-Away #4 – Let the Match Director, the Range Officers and everyone else in your squad know it’s your first 3 Gun Match right away. Let them know or even better show them you are confident with your weapons and that you are safe, but that you’re are also new to the sport. You will be surprised with how much help you get and how much people are willing to help a new shooter out. One last addition to this piece is try and make sure you don’t start first in the lineup. This will give you a chance to watch others run the stage which is a great opportunity to learn the commands, and how to run the stage safely.

Take-Away #5 – Know the Safety Rules

General firearms safety – If you are questioning what this entails you shouldn’t be considering 3 Gun Matches yet. However, the one rule I will mention is “muzzle up.” Not just muzzle control but muzzle up as most don’t like seeing muzzle down.
Don’t break the 180 – At no point during the course of fire should any muzzle break 180 degrees in any direction. Not up, down, left or right. Its simple keep the muzzles pointed down range.
Don’t “ND” Negligent Discharge i.e. shoot on accident
Don’t shoot from outside designated shooting areas
Many matches will insist that Chamber Flags are used at all times when you’re not running the course
Magazines out of weapons (pistol especially) when you’re not running the course
Don’t drop your weapon – Ensure your pistol is always snug in it’s holster before moving to the next stage or shooting position.
Don’t shoot the wrong target with the wrong gun. The main example here is don’t shot steel with a carbine inside 50 yards. Those tend to be pistol and shotgun targets unless otherwise noted.
When running the course put each gun on safety before putting them back in the barrels.

*This looks complicated but if you follow the Range Officers direction and general gun safety you will be fine.

Take-Away #6 – Make sure you are all set up for the stage before it’s your turn. This includes loading your mags, ensuring your optic is at the correct magnification. For your first match I would recommend just leaving your optic on the lowest power. If your completely ready every time they call your name you will not have to worry about getting stuff together and will be able to focus on being safe and running the stage.

Take-Away #7 – When it’s your turn, make sure all of your guns are ready for that stage before staging them (putting them in the barrel). This part can be a bit confusing for beginners. Rather than attempt to learn a new vocabulary I simply asked the Range Officer the same two questions every time for every gun before I staged them: Mag in? One in the camber? Otherwise you can learn the staging terms and what they mean before you go:

“Cold” Mag out and nothing in the chamber
“Cruiser Ready” Mag in and nothing in the chamber
 “Hot” Mag in and one in the chamber

Take-Away #8 –  Know the process and the Terms

Step 1. They will call your name

Step 2. You will stage your guns

Step 3. They will call you into the starting box

“Shooter you may load make ready”
“Shooter are you ready”

Step 4. You will shoot the course

Step 5. You will fire your last shot. Range Officer will confirm you are done and go through the following:

“Unload and show clear” – You drop your magazine and pull back bolt slide releasing last round from the chamber. You and the Range Office will ensure the gun is empty.
“Hammer down and holster” – You will point the gun down range, close the chamber and pull the trigger to ensure the gun is empty. After you hear the click you will put the gun in your holster and then you are done with that stage.

Take-Away #9 – Walk through the stage before you run it and try to pick the spots you are going to shoot from as well as the targets you are going to shoot at from each spot. For at least the first couple stages walk through with your mentor, listen to their game plan and ask questions about why they are planning to do it a certain way. For me this strategy aspect was one of the most fun parts about 3 Gun. In the end this will help better your times, but most importantly it will help prevent you from breaking the 180 rule. Look out for hidden targets that will tempt you to shoot close to 180 during the heat of action.

Take-Away #10 – Have Fun!



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