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What is 3 Gun?

What is 3 Gun?

Understanding 3-Gun: An Introduction to the Dynamic Shooting Sport

3-Gun is a fast-paced, dynamic shooting sport that tests the versatility and skills of participants in handling different types of firearms. This article delves into the world of 3-Gun, exploring its rules, required equipment, and how you can get started in this exciting sport.

What is 3-Gun?

3-Gun is a competitive shooting sport where participants use three different firearms – a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun – in various courses of fire. The courses are designed to challenge shooters with a mix of target types, distances, and shooting positions.

The History of 3-Gun

The origins of 3-Gun date back to the 1980s, where it evolved from military and law enforcement training exercises. It has since grown into a popular civilian sport, with competitions held across the United States and internationally.

The Firearms Used in 3-Gun

Firearm Type Description
Rifle Typically a semi-automatic rifle, often an AR-15 variant, is used for short and long-range targets.
Shotgun A semi-automatic or pump-action shotgun, used for close-range targets and flying clay targets.
Handgun A semi-automatic pistol, used for medium-range targets and some precision engagements

The Rules and Scoring

3-Gun competitions have varying rules and scoring systems, often depending on the organizing body and whether its an “Outlaw” match or USPSA sanctioned. Generally, the scoring is based on how fast you complete a stage, with penalties for missed targets or procedural errors. Hit Factor scoring is rare for most matches.

Typical Categories and Divisions

Participants can compete in different divisions, each with its own rules regarding firearm types and modifications. Common divisions include:

  • Limited: Rifle optic must be non-magnified. Iron sights are required on pistols and shotguns. Magazine restrictions are usually in play.
  • Tactical: Magnified optic allowed on rifle. Iron sights are required on pistols and shotguns. Magazine restrictions are typically more relaxed than limited.
  • Modified: Similar to Tactical, but now allow red dot sights on either pistol or shotgun (or both).
  • Open: Almost any modification is permissible – from optics on every firearm to bipods, tripods & shooting bags.
  • 2×4: This division introduces the possibility of a Pistol Caliber Carbine or PCC to substitute in any stage
  • Heavy Metal: Minimum caliber of .308 for rifle, certain matches also require .45 for pistol and the true he-man divisions require a pump shotgun

Essential Gear and Equipment

Aside from the three firearms, shooters need:

  • Ammunition: Specific types for each gun. Bimetal jackets and steel core is normally not allowed, or velocity limits are in place. Lead birdshot for shotguns.
  • Holsters and Magazines: For quick reloading.
  • Eye and Ear Protection: Mandatory for safety.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Comfortable for movement and varying weather conditions.

Safety First

Safety is paramount in 3-Gun. Competitors must follow strict safety protocols, including muzzle discipline and keeping the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Getting Started in 3-Gun

To get started, new shooters can:

  1. Join a local club or range that hosts 3-Gun events.
  2. Attend a beginner’s training course to learn the basics.
  3. Practice with each firearm to build familiarity and skill.
  4. Watch competitions online or in-person to understand the flow and strategies. Your local club is more than happy to accommodate spectators provided you sign a waiver and bring proper eye and ear protection.

Tips for Beginners

  • Start with basic equipment: No need for high-end gear initially.
  • Focus on safety and learning: Speed will come with practice.
  • Connect with experienced shooters: They can offer valuable advice and tips.


3-Gun is a thrilling sport that combines speed, precision, and strategy. Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a beginner, 3-Gun offers a challenging and enjoyable experience. With the right approach and practice, anyone can become proficient in this dynamic shooting discipline.

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