I Didn’t Believe Her



Alison and Daniel in the blind.

When my beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, animal-loving nine-year-old daughter informed me she wanted to go deer hunting, I didn’t believe her. But, I should have. She meant what she said and was persistent in trying to convince me she was ready. After two years of her pleading, Alison got her wish the day before Thanksgiving of 2015.


I don’t sugar coat life for Alison, and discussing hunting was no different. She quickly learned it would be her responsibility to make a good kill shot so the animal wouldn’t suffer. She would be the one pulling the trigger, taking the life. She would have to experience every detail after that shot: tracking, cleaning, cooking and finally the anticipated end result- the gratification of a field-to-fork meal.


Tyler Payne teaching Alison what to look for when tracking.


She’s excited about tracking, there’s some lung tissue!

My husband, Daniel (Alison’s step-dad), prepped her for her first hunt. They practiced shooting positions, dry-fired the rifle, zeroed together, and discussed the anatomy of deer. Daniel tested her shooting ability to determine at what distance Alison could successfully shoot. Alison was consistently making hits on an 8 inch steel plate out to 200 yards from multiple shooting positions. She was confident behind the gun.

I was stressed leading up to the hunt; this was a new kind of worry for me. Maybe I was the one who was not ready. Instant panic rushed through my body when my husband texted saying, “You are not going to believe this!! She got one.” I texted back with questions- no answer. I tried to call- no answer. Immediately, I was scared she would regret her decision. I worried she was crying and I couldn’t hug her. This is one of those defining moments in a child’s life; I hoped the moment she was living was a positive one.


It didn’t go far, but she was thrilled to find it.

Forty-nine minutes after that initial text, Alison called me with her story. “Hello? Momma, can you hear me?” As soon as I heard her voice, I knew she was okay. I could hear her smiling through the phone. She proceeded to tell me about how she “made a good shot, right through the heart.” She was beyond excited. She was proud; I was proud. My little girl did exactly what she set out to do, and she has provided us with many meals thanks to her success. Her comprehension and accomplishment has given me a new outlook on what “my little girl” can do. Go forth and conquer, Alison.


Dan makes success happen.


Big thanks to Tyler for letting Alison hunt on his land!

The details:
Date: November 25th, 2015
Location: Marion Co., Georgia
Rifle used: The same unicorn gun I used for my first hunt. It’s a Surgeon action, with a PROOF Research barrel, chambered in 30 AS, in a Remington Lightweight RACS chassis, and a Leupold VX-R firedot scope.
The deer: A 7-point buck that happened to turn broadside at a little over 50 yards away (lucky, right?!).



Alison’s no newbie around firearms, she spends a lot of time on the range and got her first rifle when she was six years old.


The Easy Answer to Guns for 3-Gun

Dan 3GN shootoff 2014

During 3-Gun competitions, shooters use a pistol, rifle and shotgun to engage targets while moving through a course of fire. Accuracy, speed and agility are all blended together into fast-paced competitions that are often decided in tenths of seconds. In recent years the sport of 3-Gun has continuously evolved and rapidly gained popularity. This progression has resulted in firearms that are more advantageous to competitors. For a new shooter though, gun and equipment selection can be overwhelming and confusing. Looking at what the professional shooters use, and why, can provide you with an easy approach to navigating through the endless options of firearms for 3-Gun competition.

3GN Dan Rifle

Currently, Daniel Horner is undoubtedly the best 3-Gun shooter on the circuit. Some of his most notable shooting accomplishments include:

  • 7-time USPSA National Multi-gun Champion
  • 3-time 3-Gun Nation Champion
  • 2-time IDPA National Champion
  • 2014 Trijicon World Shooting Champion
  • 1st Place 2014 USASOC International Sniper Competition (with partner Tyler Payne)
  • 1st Place 2012 International Sniper Competition (with partner Tyler Payne)
  • 4-time Winner of Mammoth Sniper Competition (2012-2015, 3 times with Tyler Payne, 1 time with Candice Horner)

Daniel is a member of the Action Team for the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He continues to improve his game and dominate the multi-gun circuit. Daniel chooses his guns based on their reliability, accuracy and weight. Read on for a rundown of his guns.

RM3G Dan Rifle


To effectively compete at 3-Gun a rifle should be both lightweight and accurate. Daniel’s rifle weighs 8.1 pounds, and shoots sub-MOA groups at 500 yards (with 77 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles). Many AR-15 components weigh mere ounces, so there are limits to where weight can be removed. Ounces do add up to pounds, though. The best areas to lighten your rifle are the barrel, lower receiver, bolt carrier, and buffer. A quality barrel and optic are the easiest way to attain a sub-MOA shooting rifle. Because Daniel’s rifle is both lightweight and accurate, he is able to consistently make his hits.

Class Dan Shotgun


Taran Tactical Innovations Benelli M2.  Daniel’s Benelli M2 has the complete TTI upgrade package, which includes a machined and polished loading port, custom bolt carrier, and 12-round magazine tube. A Benelli from Taran Tactical Innovations with a 26” barrel weighs 7.5 lbs. The choke tube Daniel uses most is cylinder. The upgrades to the shotgun make it easy to reload and engage targets while still maintaining the consistency for which Benelli is known.

RM3G Dan Pistol2


Daniel’s pistol is an STI 5” Eagle slide with a Tactical Lite 4.0 frame with a bushing barrel, chambered in .38 Super Comp, and shoots 2.5” groups at 50 yards. The .38 Super Comp stacks better in high capacity magazines due to the straight-wall casing and rimless design.  Daniel has been shooting the same pistol for the past 12 years and it has over 400,000 rounds through the same slide and frame; it is the definition of dependable.

RM3G Dan Pistol

Gun selection is crucial in the sport of 3-Gun. Instead of utilizing trial and error to select firearms for 3-Gun, capitalize on the success of others. Everything a professional shooter does is purposeful. Watch and learn how pro shooters, like Daniel Horner, employ the tools of their choice to win.

3GN Pro1 Interview

Five tips for succeeding at 3-Gun:

  1. Read the rules for the match you are attending. Many matches have different rules, so acquainting yourself with the current match rules can save you from a disqualification or division change.
  2. Know how to operate your guns and gear. New shooters can easily get stressed when the buzzer goes off. Practicing with your guns and gear will build muscle memory to help you through unexpected malfunctions while you’re competing.
  3. Relax.  3-Gun is just a game. Don’t stress. You’ll learn the game and improve the more you compete. 3-Gun should be fun!
  4. Take care of yourself while at the match. This includes bringing snacks, water, sunscreen and a first-aid kit.
  5. Be a sponge; learn from everyone. 3-Gun competitors are eager to share their knowledge and experiences. You’ll learn and improve faster if you listen to more experienced shooters and then decipher which tips will most help you improve.



Mammoth Sniper Challenge 2015


Photo credit: USAMU

“Do you want to do Mammoth together?”

“Sure, I guess so.”

That was the simple dialogue between my husband, Daniel, and I about 6 months prior to the Mammoth Sniper Challenge of 2015. In previous years, Daniel had competed in (and won) the Extreme Tough Man division with Tyler Payne being his partner. Fast facts about Daniel and Tyler: they are both in the Army Marksmanship Unit, they each have extensive training and experience, they have shot several sniper matches together as a team, and won every match they’ve shot together. With all that being said, the bar was set pretty high for me as Daniel’s partner.

I didn’t know the first thing about sniper matches, precision long range shooting, or what Mammoth was really about. I trusted Daniel, and just figured everything would be ok and as long as I did as he said and didn’t quit. The advice Tyler gave me ended up being a recurring thought throughout the match, “Expect it to suck. You’re going to walk a lot, and every time you do, you’re going to think it’s stupid.” We did walk/ruck a lot, a total of 23 miles in two and half days. And at around the one-mile mark of each ruck, thoughts like “Why am I doing this? I could be in my bed, warm and cozy; this is stupid,” would cross my mind. I learned the match was just as much about mental fortitude as it was about skilled shooting ability. On day two, my body reached a limit of pain that was physically debilitating and mentally challenging. The decision to push through was a no-brainer, but the way I did it was to accept I would be hurting for the duration of the match and it will come to an end.


Running to a position during a stage seven. Photo credit: USAMU

Cliff notes version of the match (Extreme Tough Man Division):

  • We shot as a team, with me as the primary shooter and Daniel as secondary (which is only pertinent for target engagement). That meant I usually shot first and my targets ranged the farthest, this ended up being beneficial for my lack of experience.

Photo credit: USAMU

  • We had to carry all the guns, gear, ammo, food, and sleeping supplies throughout the match.
  • The rucks (long walks between stages while carrying our gear) ranged anywhere from 1 to 5.5 miles, the max time limit was 18 minutes per mile. If you don’t make the time limit, you are cut from the division.
  • The first ruck was the worst. It was 3.6 miles over 11 berms, several of which were up to 20 feet tall. I struggled thanks to these berms; at one point (more like three) I was literally crawling to get over them. During this movement, Daniel took my rifle for the sake of our success. We quickly learned my max ruck sack limit for an 18-minute timed mile on that terrain was about 50lbs. We moved gear between our packs at the first stage, and Daniel carried my rifle the rest of the time to ensure I wouldn’t make us fail. Thankfully this was a team event, and he was allowed to carry my rifle.
Daniel's ruck

Failure was not an option. Photo credit: Joseph Niederbrach

  • We completed 3 stages on Friday and Saturday and 2 on Sunday.
  • Each stage had an 8-minute limit to complete the course of fire. We shot from awkward positions and most stages had some sort of obstacle. Keeping track of time while shooting saved us from wasting too much time on targets that wouldn’t benefit us overall.
  • The stage briefs were read very quickly and not repeated. It was important to take notes and understand which targets are worth more than others, because some weren’t even worth shooting at.

Finding our targets for our first stage. Photo credit: USAMU

  • We slept outside on Friday and Saturday night, temperatures were freezing. Our cold weather gear was extremely beneficial when we slept (and Benadryl). It was imperative to be well rested in order to shoot our best.
  • We were part of a really great squad. The men on our squad were so experienced, it was educational to watch them shoot and to learn about them. I was very thankful to the guys who always finished the rucks first, because they decided the shooting order…and they always ordered everyone fairly.
  • The staff were professional and well organized, they kept the match running smoothly.
  • Before our last 5.2 mile movement, we learned that we had tied with another team and would have to participate in a shoot off for first place. Each team shot from 800 yards, with each team member firing 10 rounds to engage targets of various sizes.
  • We ended up winning. This came as a huge surprise because there were some very legit competitors (36 teams total). I don’t think anyone would have put money on us to win. We won because we are a good team, communicate well, neither of us get our feelings hurt in moments of high stress, and we let the little failures go (like missing a shot). Those little failures end up being lessons in how to immediately improve. I can’t count on one hand how many times I shot at the wrong target, most of which happened on our first stage. Daniel was patient and corrected my errors without creating undue stress while on the clock.
Start of a stage, Daniel lifting the log, me carrying the gear.

Start of a stage, Daniel lifting the log, me carrying the gear. Photo credit: USAMU

Daniel carrying the log up to our shooting position.

Daniel carrying the log up to our shooting position. Photo credit: USAMU

Stage 7, my portion. Shooting from 700 yards at 1.5 MOA targets.

Stage 7, my portion. Shooting from 700 yards at 1.5 MOA targets. Photo credit: USAMU


Post-match pic with our rifles.

Tips if you plan to shoot Mammoth:

  • Practice shooting from unstable positions and use the gear you have to your advantage (i.e. your pack and multiple sand socks).
  • Wear comfortable boots and good socks.
  • Invest in quality sleeping gear (lightweight tent, sleeping bag, etc).
  • Learn to read trace and give corrections.
  • Have good guns and gear, know your dope and expect to shoot out to 1000 yards.
  • Pick a teammate you care enough about that immediate anger or stress won’t affect your overall performance.
  • Expect to be cold, in pain, and exhausted most of the time.
  • Don’t quit.
Final Ruck

After the final ruck. Photo credit: Joseph Niederbrach

Get the run down on our guns and optics: Precision Guns and Optics: A Winning Combo

Read another competitor’s AAR of the match: Click HERE

Check out the match website, 2016 registration is open: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

Follow Mammoth Sniper Challenge on Facebook for updates.


My favorite picture. An RO caught this moment through a spotting scope after we won the shoot off.

More pics:


I rested every opportunity I could. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge


Setting up our camp site. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge


Reorganizing my pack and getting ready for rest. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge


Photo credit: USAMU


Partner assist stage. Photo credit: USAMU


Photo credit: USAMU



Photo credit: USAMU


Jumping into the back of a dump truck to shoot from. Photo credit: USAMU


Photo credit: USAMU


Photo credit: USAMU

Mammoth Prizes

We walked away with great prizes. Big thanks to the Sponsors! Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

For more pics from Mammoth, check out the album on Facebook.

Stay tuned for one of my next posts about the gear and supplies we used.

Questions welcome :)



Zero Preference, Keeping it Simple


Competing and doing well in 3-gun competitions has a lot to do with personal preference of gear and guns. Mind you, training is pertinent, but figuring out what works best for you is subjective. I prefer not having to think about much when I shoot except “See target, see sight on target, pull trigger.”

Most 3-gun competitors use either a 50 yard or 100 yard zero for their rifle. Through trial and quite a bit of error, I have learned that using a 50 yard zero works best for me. I utilize this zero for all matches, whether only short range targets are present or a mixture of both long and short range.

Using a 50 yard zero simplifies my thought process when shooting most distances encountered at 3-gun matches. At most major matches, long rang targets will not go further than 325 yards. The bullet trajectory of most 55 and 77 grain .223 or 5.56 has the same point of impact at 50 yards and 200 yards. This means at 50 yards and 200 yards, I would hold center of the target and would make the hit. During a match, if there are rifle targets at 50, 100, 200, and 300 yards, my thought process is: “50 yards- hold center, 100 yards- hold low, 200 yards- hold center, 300 yards- hold high.” By streamlining my thought process for the rifle portion, I can focus on other aspects of the stage that require more attention to detail.

With a 100 yard zero, targets out to 200 yards can easily be hit. When I used a 100 yard zero, I would hold center on targets out to 100 yards and then start to hold high on further targets. What I did not like about the 100 yard zero is that with no magnification and just a red dot optic, I had to put too much space between the top of the target and the bottom of the dot when shooting past 250 yards. When your hold over a target requires a lot of space, it is easy to lose track of the expected point of impact.

To get an accurate 50/200 yard zero, I zero my rifle at 50 yards first. Then verify the 200 yard point of impact, and I adjust as needed to until my hits are dead center at 200 yards. As a new 3-gun competitor, I have been able to dodge a lot of penalties on long range steel by having a simple approach to my rifle game.


Originally written for:  GunUp the Magazine, in April 2014


3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series Qualifier


Last weekend I competed for my chance into the 3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series.  There was a bit of deja vu as far as stages are concerned- but that’s a good thing.  Long story short, I made the cut and I’m honored to have the chance to shoot the fast-paced pro series.


Who finished first?!  Katie Harris, of the US Army Marksmanship Unit, of course!  Katie is a good friend and a phenomenal shooter whose success is due to her unsurpassed skill.  Some shooters are successful thanks to experience.  Katie is different; there is something intrinsically unique about her competitive edge.  Junior shooter, Ashley Rheuark, attained second place.  Ashley is fairly new to 3-gun, but is a very accomplished pistol shooter with a master shooting resume.  I remember watching her shoot at a local match and thinking “She’ll be on top of this game in no time.”  And here she is, a force to be reckoned with.  I was very pleased with my 3rd place finish, being competitive against national champions, is a blessed position to be in.


Photo credit: Reanna Kadic

Now let me tell you about Reanna Kadic.  Reanna is a junior shooter (16 years young), and is an absolute delight to be around.  Her bubbly, happy-to-be-living-life-to-the-fullest personality exudes grace and confidence.  She has not been competing for long, but I expect to see great things from her in the future.  Reanna’s dad was with her; his supportive attitude was remarkable.  Their day consisted of a lot of “I’m proud of you,” “Good job,” and critique that was extremely positive.  The best part of my day was bearing witness to their strong bond.  Parenting done right.


Here are a few tips from mistakes I made at the 3-Gun Nation Qualifer:

  1. Wear sunblock, or you will feel physically drained by mid-day.  I often give this advice, but rarely listen.  I will no longer be stubborn about this.
  2. If you forget something in your stage plan, don’t slow down trying to figure out what is missing.  Slowing down will definitely not help you.  I forgot my mag change on stage 2 and when I missed it, I knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out in the moment.
  3. Don’t dwell on that last bad shot.  Think about the one you’re about to take, it’s more important.
  4. Treat every stage with the same amount of importance.  I didn’t give the walk through on my final stage as much attention as I did the others.  I missed an important position because of it.

What did I do right?  Several things, but here are a few:

  1. Didn’t get stressed.  Refer to this article for info on how I deal with nerves:  Have No Fear
  2. Visualized what every single shot should look like for each intended target before shooting the stage.
  3. Shot with both eyes open for the whole match.  Seriously, this is a big deal for me, cause I previously continued to revert back to my bad habit of closing my left eye.
  4. Reloaded my magazines immediately after shooting a stage.  This helped with focusing on the next stage at hand.

Photo credit: 3-Gun Nation

So what does all this 3-Gun Nation stuff mean?  3-Gun Nation (3GN) is an organization that promotes our Second Amendment right through competitive shooting events.  The Pro Series is a tv show where competitors have to first make the cut to compete and then will compete against each other on the tv show.  In addition to the Pro Series, 3GN holds Regional matches that attract new and experienced shooters.  If shooters do well at the Regional or Club (matches held by local shooting ranges) series, they gain an invite to the Pro Series.  The Pro Series is the quintessence of “run and gun,” there is no room for error in this high-speed environment.  The Regional Series matches consist of longer stages and further shots, these matches are a great place to learn the sport and also to contend for titles.

Please leave any questions in the comment area below.

Upcoming 3-Gun Nation Regional matches:



In order of finish, here are the Ladies who will be competing in the 3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series:

Katie Harris

Ashley Rheuark

Candice Horner

Audra Brown

Kellie Prince

Reanna Kadic

Tennille Chidester

Returning Pro Ladies are:

Lena Miculek

Kay Miculek

Dianna Liedorff Muller

Randi Rogers

Becky Yackley


Precision Guns and Optics: A Winning Combo


Daniel and I shot the Mammoth Sniper Challenge as a team, competing in the Extreme Tough Man division. The match, known for being one of the most difficult, required that we carry all the guns, gear, ammo, and food we needed for three days/two nights and eight courses of fire. We rucked everything, through obstacles, for a total of 23 timed miles (18 minutes per mile maximum).  We slept outside in freezing temperatures and shot dynamic stages that tried our physical limits just as much as our marksmanship skills. Our success was undoubtedly determined by our keen selection of guns and optics.

We ultimately won the match because we made our hits. I shot primary; my targets were 400-1040 yards. Daniel shot secondary; his targets were 150-650 yards. The target sizes ranged from ½ to 3 MOA.

Our rifles were identical (total weight of each rifle with scope and bipod was 14.5lbs).  Here’s the breakdown:

Surgeon Scalpel Short Action Rifle with a PROOF Research Barrel


Photo Credit: USAMU, SFC Piper

Action:  Surgeon Scalpel 591 Short Action

  • Very smooth bolt throw
  • Easy bolt lift after firing

Barrel:  28” Carbon Fiber wrapped PROOF Research

  • Immediately shot great
  • Consistently 0.3 MOA results
  • POI did not walk when barrel heated during courses of fire and during testing

Candice5shot100yrd  Dan5Shot300yrd

Pictured above: Candice’s 5 shot group at 100 yards (Left) and Daniel’s 5 shot group at 300 yards (Right)

Trigger:  Jewell Trigger, set to 2lbs

  • Light pull
  • No grit
  • Crisp break
  • Easy to adjust

Brake:  Badger Ordnance FTE Muzzle Brake

  • Extremely effective in mitigating recoil

Caliber:  .308 Winchester

Ammunition:  Federal Premium, 7.62x51mm, 175gr Sierra Matchking

Stock:  McMillan A-5

  • Easy to adjust cheekpiece
  • Adjustable length of pull

Bipod:  Sierra 7 Bipod

  • Quickly attaches and detaches to picatinny rail
  • Tension adjustable pan and track features
  • Legs lock individually at the 0,45,90,135,180 degrees
  • Raptor feet provide stability on barricades

Photo Credit: USAMU, SFC Piper

Rifle Scope:  Leupold Mark 6 3-18x44mm with H59 reticle with Leupold Mark 4 Steel Rings

  • Tracked properly
  • Great clarity
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged
  • Locking elevation turret
  • Easy to use zero stop

Spotting Scope:  Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60mm with H32 reticle

  • Very clear
  • Easy to see trace
  • Durable
  • Used in conjunction with Aimpoint (T1 micro)
  • Used with Bushnell tripod

Photo Credit: USAMU, SFC Piper

Image Stabilized Binos:  Fraser Optics Gyro-Stabilized 14x40mm

  • Extremely quick to employ
  • 2 depths of field to see trace
  • Compact
  • Low energy consumption
  • Very rugged
  • Can see trace as well or better than a spotting scope to 600 yards
  • These binos would be better if they had a Horus reticle

Photo Credit: USAMU, SFC Piper

Huge thanks to Surgeon Rifles, PROOF Research, and Leupold Optics for making products that are innovative and unparalleled.


Her First Gun

image-3  photo-9

Whether or not a child should have a gun is a controversial topic. With firearms being so dangerous, why should a child, let alone a girl, even handle a firearm?

My daughter, Alison, was four years old the first time she shot a firearm, which was a .308 rifle. For the next two years, she begged for her own rifle. For Christmas, Alison received a 22LR Cricket Rifle, it was a very girly pink color. She loved the rifle, and learned to operate it without assistance. Under supervision, she manipulated the rifle safely and understood that it was a dangerous weapon. Alison’s love for her rifle was short-lived after seeing firearms that were semi-automatic. Her newest desire, as she put it, was “a pistol that could shoot more bullets faster, so that I don’t have to reload after every shot.” The following Christmas, she received a pink cerakoted Ruger SR22. At just under eight years old, Alison was proud to say “I have a single-shot rifle and a semi-auto pistol, both of them are pink!” She is amused when boys at school envy her for having guns and going to the range on a regular basis.


Alison is witness to my enthusiasm of firearms and to the sport of 3-gun. Going to the range is an activity we do together. She enjoys the instant gratification of shooting a steel target and hearing the “tink” sound from the impacting 22LR round. With excitement and a huge grin, Alison will yell “I did that! I hit that target! Did you see?!”

I’ve gotten into long-winded conversations, initiated by complete strangers, as to why in the world would I let my daughter shoot guns. Bottom line is, because she wants to. Alison takes pride in learning to shoot; her current goal is to shoot competitively by the age of 12. Her love of learning to shoot works to my advantage. I use this as leverage towards good behavior. If Alison acts out at home or school, she loses her privilege to go to the shooting range. There is also an underlying, ulterior motive to letting my little girl shoot guns. And, that is empowerment. Without her knowledge, I am shaping Alison into a strong-minded, independent young lady who is fearless of double standards. Alison does not care that shooting guns is historically a man’s hobby. Giving a young girl the power to believe she can do and be whatever she wants when she grows up is the gift of a lifetime.


Originally written for:  GunUp the Magazine


Improve Your Shotgun Game for 3-Gun


Understanding that the shotgun can make or break your 3-gun game is paramount. If you do not learn to work with your shotgun, it will become your weakest link. When I first started competing, I saw a distinct divide between those who accepted the challenges of the shotgun and adapted accordingly and those who did not.

Competitors tend to focus on how to improve their pistol and rifle. While it is important to improve those firearms, it is also equally important to pay attention to the third gun for 3-gun. There are not many competition shotguns that are ready for a match straight out of the box. To be match-ready, the shotgun should be modified for easy reloading and have a higher capacity magazine tube.

There are several companies that sell extended magazine tubes; most competitors utilize a tube that will hold 10 to 13 shells. I prefer a 10 round magazine tube because I like to tailor my load plan to even numbers. The magazine tube spring will get worn from repetitive reloads that happen during matches and practice; keep a spare spring on hand. But if you are in a pinch and do not have an extra, you can stretch out your old spring until you replace it. You should be able to load the tube to maximum capacity without resistance, if it is too difficult to get that last shell in, you can cut the spring down. To test if the spring is worn and needs replacing, load the tube, turn the gun upside down, press the action release and pay close attention to the speed that the shell is released onto the lifter. Then clear the shell from the lifter and ensure the chamber is empty. Continue checking the speed each shell is released from the magazine tube. If you notice that the last shell seems to be released slower or is more sluggish than the first shell, you should consider replacing the spring before your next match.


Modifying the shotgun loading port is relative to how you reload the shotgun. I load two shells at a time with my right hand, which is my strong hand. I had the loading port modified so that, when flipped upside down, the right side of the loading port has more material cut away and is smoothed out. Doing this enables me to load quickly and easily. The way the loading port is widened for a shotgun can be compared to putting an extended magwell on your pistol, both modifications serve the same purpose: quicker, fumble-free reloads. For the way that I reload, there is no reason to modify the lifter.

Learning which choke to use and when is an oversight many competitors unfortunately often make. The most useful knowledge I learned that helped improve my shotgun game was at an all-shotgun match. I had a crash course in chokes, and the importance of patterning a shotgun. The chokes I use are: diffuser, improved cylinder, and modified. When I patterned my shotgun, I tested the limits of all the chokes. For measuring the distance, I used my own paces instead of standard yards. When I’m unsure if my choke of choice will work during a stage, I walk the distance from the target and know immediately if I’ll make the hit. The other important part of patterning a shotgun is to know how different brands of ammunition perform. Use paper targets to pattern your shotgun, you will be able to see the shot spread. Slugs hits are one of my biggest areas of weakness. I steadily improved my slug hits once I accepted the fact that my improved cylinder and modified chokes cause a different point of impact and that there is a large difference between ammunition brands. I have three brands of slugs and they each have a unique point of impact, I need to be cognizant of that fact when loading my shotgun. One upgrade on my “to-list” is to get a rear sight for the shotgun, this will also help make those far slug hits.

You can only be as strong as the weakest link in your game. For many 3-gun competitors, the shotgun is a continuous struggle. Anyone can excel once they understand several crucial aspects of the shotgun as they relate to 3-gun success.

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

Originally written for:  GunUp the Magazine


Have No Fear

My first match

My first match

I have seen many competitors get nervous during shooting matches. Some of the signs and symptoms of their nervousness include hand tremors, sweating, nausea, and self-doubt. What is the root cause of these manifestations?

Fear can have an incapacitating effect on the human body. Fear is learned, and is only useful for the purpose of survival. Competing in 3-Gun is not life or death, so you must remove fear in order to perform your best. There are two types of fear that can affect your mental game: fear of the known and fear of the unknown.

Poor past performance can cause you to worry that it will happen again. If you haven’t had enough trigger time and are aware of your areas of weakness, you might dwell on parts of a match where you expect failure. Feeling like you are being watched while shooting can cause you to worry about what others are thinking or saying about you. All of these examples are fear of the known; you are familiar with how similar experiences have made you feel and now you are letting them hinder your future performance.

You might be completely new to competitive shooting and not know what to expect. A match that has further shots or different stages than you anticipated can cause you to feel unprepared for this new experience. Fear of the unknown can be just as debilitating as fear of the known because your mind can construct some very irrational possibilities.



Both types of fear can be handled in the same way because fear is not productive in your growth as a competitive shooter. Build your confidence by strengthening your fundamental shooting skills and believing in your capabilities. Do not think of the match as a whole entity, instead focus on each stage. At each stage, focus on each target. Concentrate on the present in order to keep your mind free from the fears that could inhibit your performance. With so much focus on what is about to happen, there should not be any room left to worry about what other people think. Their thoughts have no impact on how you have prepared, so what they think absolutely does not matter in reference to the stage you are about to shoot.


Focus on your current shot

I like to view every stage as a new, fun experience. By doing so, I prevent myself from worrying about my overall standing in a match. Even though I am not the best shooter, I am not intimidated by the outstanding performance of my competitors. I believe that their success does not mean my failure; it just means I have a lot to learn. I do not remember the last time I have been scared or fearful in a situation. Have no fear and you will improve your game.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine