It’s still dark as you pull out of your driveway on your way to the range. There is a small pit in your stomach that grows larger with every mile. You’ve been to the range many times, but this time is different.  This time, you are going to compete in your first local 3-gun match.  There is so much stuff to remember like guns, gear, ammo, and more.  The nerves you’re feeling are the direct result of the unknown.  You have a ton of questions in your mind while making that drive, so let’s see if we can answer some of those questions and relax some of that anxiety.

The first question many people ask is about the type of people you may encounter at a local 3-gun match.  The people who make up the 3-gun community are without a doubt what I love most about this sport.  You would be hard-pressed to find a better collection of people anywhere, and they are very open and accepting of new shooters.  So, take heart in knowing that you will be embraced and made to feel like a part of the community.

Being a part of this community means contributing to the match.  This means that you will be expected to help with reset, and if possible, set up and tear down also.  If you can get to the range early, make that a priority.  It’s an excellent opportunity to help set up the match, see the process, ask questions, and learn the sport from experienced 3-gunners.  Trust me when I tell you that the single greatest way to endear yourself to the 3-gun community is to work hard before, during, and after a match.  I will squad with hard workers who are mediocre shooters over great shooters who refuse to reset.  I can’t stress this enough, if you want to shoot 3-gun, you must reset.

Well, working hard at the match may be easy enough for you, but you may get anxious when thinking about everyone watching you while you’re on the clock.  No one wants to look like a fool, especially in front of a bunch of people they just met (something about first impressions).  Let me tell you, it’s nearly impossible to look like a fool in front of these people.  You have to understand that everyone at that match has done something foolish on the clock.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve fallen, ran past targets, and completely tanked a stage.  We’ve all made mistakes on the clock, so we typically reserve judgement.  As long as you navigate the stages safely, you’ll be just fine.

You may be confident in your ability to safely handle your firearms, but you’re not sure that your firearms are the right ones for 3-gun.  As long as they are centerfire guns, that can be safely operated, they are the right guns. Of course there is always an exception here or there, but I recently had a new shooter on my squad who was running a budget AR-15 chambered in .223 with the carry handle attached, a Browning 1911 chambered in .45ACP and a Mossberg JM930 with a magazine extension.  The reason I use this example is because he was shooting guns that could be used in 2 or 3 different divisions, but it was what he had and he wanted to compete, so he came out and shot the match.  He may or may not make upgrades in the future, but I know I’ll see him on the range at future matches, and that’s what’s important.

You’ve purchased all the guns and gear to get you ready to compete in your division of choice.  You’ve read the rules posted online by your local club.  You’ve watched more YouTube videos on quad-loading and dry-firing than anyone should.  You’ve been training every day in your basement and you are now ready to go and win the first match you ever shoot.  I caution you against expecting to win your first 3-gun match.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to beat all the veteran 3-gunners you’re competing against.  I’m not saying don’t try to win the match, I’m saying that you should make learning and ingratiating yourself to your local 3-gun community paramount above all else.  If you follow this advice, you’ll most likely have a great experience at your first local 3-gun match, but I must warn you, it is addicting.

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