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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

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

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

PISTOL

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.

 

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Zero Preference, Keeping it Simple

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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

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3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series Qualifier

3GNqual2015

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.

CandiceandKatie

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.

Kadic

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.

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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.
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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:

Regionals

 

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

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Improve Your Shotgun Game for 3-Gun

ShotgunCandice

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.

Shotgun3GN

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

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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.

Prepping

Prepping

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.

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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

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About that Prize Table

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It’s fun to compete, but it’s icing on the cake when awesome prizes are involved. Match Directors work incessantly to ensure the prize tables awe competitors. The prize table is actually not about the prize table or even about the match; it’s all about you. Now that you know the prize table is all about you, let’s talk about what that really means.

I have seen prize tables where the actions of others made me think “Wow… this is madness, these people have no manners…someone please put order to this mess!” Match results are read in order by finish; prizes are supposed to be picked in the same order. The appropriate action by the competitor is to fall in line after their name is called and pick up their prize. It is also not okay to prevent other shooters from selecting an item by hovering over several different prizes cause you cannot make up your mind. At the end of the day, even the prizes are just items that can be bought and are not worth others getting a bad opinion of you if a prize table situation gets sticky.

prizetable3

Sponsors shine at the awards ceremony and prize table. There is more to match sponsorship than just putting guns, gear, and gift certificates on the table. Sponsors are able to gain exposure while actively showing support for shooting sports. This does not immediately translate into revenue for those sponsors. To show your appreciation, send the sponsor a quick letter or email. It is important to let the match sponsors know that they’ve made a good choice by sponsoring the event.

prizetable4  prizetable1

Most competitors do not shoot matches with the expectation of walking away with an amazing prize. No matter what you walk away with, do it with grace by thinking of the sponsors and your fellow competitors. When is comes to prize tables, the etiquette is simple: take your turn, be kind, and say thank you.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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3-Gun Gear: Whatever Works

1780126_10203059412635578_1970967941_o Shotgun3GN

Getting into the sport of 3-gun can be overwhelming. The question I hear most often is “What gear do I need to get started?” When selecting 3-gun gear, decide what purpose it will it actually serve.

My bottom line when choosing gear is function, followed by cost. As long as my belt stays in place, my holster retains the pistol, my magazine pouches hold the magazines, and my shotgun shell caddies firmly hold the shells: my gear functions as intended. Spending money on top-of-the-line gear will not make anyone a better 3-gun shooter.

As a new shooter, I cannot justify spending hard-earned money on fancy 3-gun accessories. For example, a belt can cost anywhere between 30 and 250 dollars. Practice makes progress, and that price difference between the low-end and high-end belts can instead be used to buy much-needed practice ammunition. I learned that valuable lesson after spending money on items I did not need, and they did not make me a better shooter. Currently, I am back to the first inner/outer belt combination I started out with and the cheapest magazine pouches I have purchased to date. All that extra, unnecessary gear is now collecting dust in my garage.

At the bare minimum, a new 3-gun shooter needs: a belt that stays in place and can hold two pistol magazine pouches, one rifle magazine pouch, and a pistol holster. There are several different shotgun shell caddy options. If you are just starting out, get on track with the upward curve of fast shotgun reloading, which is the load-two or quad-load methods. There are several different companies who manufacture shotgun caddies for the load-two and quad-load technique. From day one, I have been using caddies manufactured by Carbon Arms and my shotgun reloads have been consistently fast. In regard to cost, caddies designed for the load-two and quad-load methods are not the least expensive option, but they do serve the higher purpose of cutting time on your reloads. In that case, it is absolutely worth the extra cost.

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

The best way to figure out what equipment to buy is to watch what other, more experienced competitors are using. Several of the top-level competitors are using some of the least expensive gear, and it works perfectly for them. On the other hand, there are competitors who have the newest gear on the market and swear by it. When purchasing gear for 3-gun, start slow and start cheap, you will quickly find out what works best for you.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine