This week we are proud to feature a guest blog by one of our good friend’s Shine Taylor. Shine is a long time outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman (across multiple disciplines), and has recently made the jump into the world of Action Shooting Sports. Recently we asked Shine to sit down and write us a bit about how he got into 3-gun or multigun, and advice for those that are thinking of taking the leap. Remember that we can help outfit you for any of your shooting adventures at Modern Outdoor Adventures.
For More information about Multigun or Action Shooting Sports, check out the following links:
Some people call it the “fast growing shooting sport” some call it “motocross with guns”, I just call it 3-gun and I can attest that it’s a heck of a lot of fun and addicting once you start playing. Now they’re countless websites and forums devoted to the 3-gun topics on how to get started, what type of gear, etc. What most articles don’t tell you is how to find a match and what to practically expect once you get there and how to have a great day shooting. I will cover a couple of key topics below that go where I believe most articles fall short. I’ll try to cover topics that will inspire people to go shoot or their first match or help those less experienced shooters advance up the leader board.
So you think you really want to get off the couch and jump in to 3-gun? Well stay on the couch or in the office chair for a few minutes more and fire up Google and start doing a quick search for local 3-gun matches. Most local gun clubs have accepted the action shooting discipline and started hosting pistol matches or in our interests 3-gun matches. Sometimes 3-gun is referred to as multi-gun but that’s just semantics as they all require three basic types of firearms, a pistol, rifle and shotgun. Now this blog post could be an equipment piece about all the different cool guns or ammo or a sales pitch to you on the latest and greatest optic or gadget that you might need to get started but I think that would overshadow the most important piece of information I could possibly give you today which would be “get off your couch, grab your guns, pick up some ammo and head to a match”. That’s what I did this year and it’s been a heck of a lot of fun.
Now once you’ve decided where and when you are going to shoot and what guns to carry (maybe a polymer framed Glock 9mm), it’s time to decide whether or not you can handle the ego check. When you show up to your first or possibly 20th match you are not going to be the best unless you have some sort of amazing skills. Most of us start out as noobs blasting our rifles (that old .223/5.56 carbine in the back of your gun safe) at far targets not hitting anything but the dirt or running out of ammo with a pistol at the Texas Star that we couldn’t just figure out (start with top plate and trap the targets not chase them). Bad stage plans and poor shooting or another gear issues happen and we’ve all been there. I had an “easy” shotgun/pistol stage at my last local match that I just well boogered to put it nicely. I couldn’t shoot simple steel knockdowns with the shottie (maybe your pump Remington 870 in 12-guage) and it took me from somewhere maybe in the top 5 or better to number 7 in my division. Yes, there was some ribbing from the range officer (RO) who I had been previously bragging with about my spectacular shotgun loading skills; as karma is still a 5-letter word spelled a different way. But for the most part other competitors (mainly the shot timer) doesn’t care what you look like or how fast you are. Most others shooters are out there to learn a little more about their skill set and their guns and hang out with some like-minded people for a weekend day.
So now that you put you ego aside and got to a match what’s expected of you? Well first off get registered and let the person in charge know what guns you are running and they will get you in the right division (limited, tactical, open or heavy metal for most competitions) for scoring. You will get placed within a squad or flight and this group composed of guys and gals that will be with you all the day so try to get off on the right foot, please. Once you break out introduce yourself, make friends, find out who the A and B shooters are and get to know them and see if you can tap into some of their mojo. Actually, wait on tapping into that mojo of fast shooters for a few matches.
Some of the top shooters at local matches can go extremely fast and can push the limit to where us mere mortals would do something unsafe get penalized or worse disqualified (DQ’d). Make sure to listen CAREFULLY to the safety briefing up front and to listen to the details of every stage. You are going to be discharging live ammo with people and equipment around and the one thing this sport and our culture doesn’t need is any accidents that would lead to bad press. We have rules in place for a reason to protect you and others around you and if you break the 180 barrier (don’t aim a gun behind you at any time) or drop a gun outside of a dump barrel you will get DQ’d which means pack your bags and head back to the house for the day. Another big no-no is loading any firearm (“make ready”) before the RO says so. There are some cases where shotgun tubes (not chambers) can be loaded before, but do not remove chamber flags (you do have chamber flags for your long guns don’t you?) and start racking bolts. Just remember to follow the safety rules to the letter and don’t try any hero moves until you are comfortable. Listen to your RO and follow every command, as they are there to make sure everyone is safe!
How to Shoot the Match
So now we have the safety topic covered, how do we go about shooting a match? Each course or “hole” of fire is called a stage and there can be varying numbers of stages depending on space of the match, time allotted and number of competitors but most day matches have anywhere from 5-12 stages of fire. Now I know what you are thinking, that it won’t take very long to shoot 30-200 sec. stages, but here is what separates our sport from others. You need to actively participate in resetting the stage after each shooter. Those paper targets that you just double tapped to get your 2 hits to neutralize or the pepper popper that engaged the clay bird that just got launched in the air that you just whiffed (miked) on, aren’t going to reset themselves. So unlike the NFL or golf or most any other sport each competitor has a job to do during the day to help out and reset the targets on each stage. Ever seen a professional golfer rake the sand traps or better yet an NFL player move the chains between 1st downs? One of the best advantages to resetting is to better understand how far or heavy that small steel way out there is and to better determine if you would be able to pick it off with an Improved Cylinder choke in my shotgun or a tighter choke would be needed? So, should you reset every time? No, when you are in the hole or more importantly on deck to shoot please be getting ready and safely getting set up for your stage run.
Stages like golf holes can be set up so many different ways depending on variables such as targets availability, skill level of shooters, back stop distances, gun choices etc. Some stage plans (should be posted on some area of the stage on a piece of paper) are written in stone and have to be followed to the letter while others give the shooter the freedom and flexibility to make up their own path. This is my favorite part of our sport and being able to see a path around a stage is part of the challenge and fun for me. The easiest way and probably only way to practice this is to show up at a match, walk a stage and execute. Since you got the match early then you should have taken that time to walk the stages and understand the course of action at each stage. If not, usually you get a 5-10 min. period before each stage to get a plan, walk and discuss with your squad mates some sort stage plan. The way in which you might choose to shoot the targets might be similar or much different depending on your skill level but that is all right. If you are just starting out then don’t try to pull of some crazy crouch walking shots through small ports or trying to double up steel targets with the shotgun. Remember it’s only a time saver if you actually pull off the shot but I’ve learned that this game is a game of error reduction and everything you can do to reduce the chance of missing targets should be put into action. One more tip I can give you is to stick to your plan once you get on the line; your time will thank you.
Some stage plans allow for some flexibility in choosing which gun to engage certain targets with. Most targets are placed anywhere from danger close with all guns to 20-30 yards out with the pistol, 15-20 yards with the shotgun (with bird shot) and some out to 400+ yards with the rifle. So if you are better with the pistol out at further distances and if given the option between that and the shotgun then I’d try to figure out a way to get the pistol in my hand during that section if the stage plan allows (ask the RO if you aren’t sure).
Should You Practice or Buy Gear Before Your First Match
I’d say don’t worry about practice and go shoot as long as you have the basic fundamentals of gun safety down and can manipulate your weapon (can you really clear that pistol stove pipe on the clock). Will you hit every target, heck no. Will you struggle on those long range rifle targets if you have never shot past 100 yards on anything less stable than a bench, yep. But that’s why I asked you in the beginning to check that ego. If you are really worried about your ego then this gives you an opportunity to head out to range and work on your weak points. Practice practical shooting at 200+ yards instead of shooting precision groups at 50 yards off sand bags. Never loaded a shotgun under pressure, then get out your shotgun, order some dummy rounds and try to load as many shells as you can as fast as you can and do it until you can’t mess up. Now in my opinion I wouldn’t let lack of practice keep me from shooting my matches but checking zeros on your rifle or making sure your pistol or shotgun is running well should be a top priority. The same thing goes with buying lots of equipment.
How do you know what you will need for your first few matches, because some guy on the internet told you that you needed this piece of gear? Of course that single piece of gear was going to make you a great shooter, right? Listen, put your pistol in a locking holster on your leather belt and put your magazines in your pockets and shotgun shells in another and show up and shoot a match. I promise in your first match the difference between you and first place will not be the fact that you are digging magazines out of your back pocket on reloads. One of the coolest things about most 3-gunners is that they are willing and able to share equipment and usually their guns as well. If you don’t have something let it be known from the beginning during the introduction that you are new shooter and chances are someone will be willing to help you out as most of us leaned on someone else when we first started. As for ammo needs, check the match website or Facebook page or email or call the match director to find out the minimums and make sure you show up with double the amount if you can afford it. Ammo doesn’t go bad and you can always use it next time, just try not to be the guy or gal bumming ammo off someone their first time out. Also, you can stick with cheap ammo as your learn and avoid using any ammo that is attracted to a magnet!
One piece of equipment though that can be nice before you head to your first match is a cart of some sort to carry your gear between stages or store it during the day. I’ve modified a baby-jogging stroller but for the first few matches I just humped my shooting bags around and made it work. An old garden cart or toy wagon would work in a pinch. My local match has carts to rent as well and I’m sure other venues might have them as well as they sure do make the day go a little easier.
One last tip I can give you as make sure those firearms are clean and ready to run. It’s probably the single most time sink (remember you are racing a clock) at my local matches. If you don’t know how to properly take care of your guns then ask someone or go on the internet and read articles or watch videos. I guarantee some one out there has done a breakdown, clean and lube video for every firearm around the world. Try your best to make sure your gun cycles reliably and the ammo you are shooting works well in your gun.
Well I think that about covers every topic (yea right) about this amazing sport. If you have any questions I’m available to answer them and if I don’t know well then I’ll see if we can’t figure it out together. Go out have fun and make sure to get ready to take your safety off after hearing the RO command “Shooter ready, standby!”
Shine Taylor is a biologist working in agriculture in Florida. He grew up hunting and over the past few years has re-kindled his love for shooting by learning a lot about long distance precision rifle with family and friends. He’s recently picked up competitive shooting by venturing into 3-gun and is active at his local matches at the Manatee Gun and Archery Club in Myakka City, Florida as time and travel allows.