Yesterday had me fixing an issue that's bothered me for years. While I have shot in more than a few kinds of matches, one has always eluded me... till now. For me, the Tactical Three Gun match is no longer a mystery. The day was spent at the Heidelberg Sportsman's Association, roasting in the hot sun alongside some of the best people ever met on a range.
First, a run down of the technical and gear side of the coin. (Warning: Link farm ahead).
To take part in the match to it's fullest, a shooter needs three guns (shocked.. yes, shocked we all are). The match at HSA had four classes, so a shooter could run only a pistol, or any combination of pistol, rifle, and shotgun. A contestant with only one or two of the three guns shoots the same stages, but just the portions set up for his weapon. New folks should be aware though... it seems if one shows up to a match like this without full battle gear, he should expect to be inundated with offers to use other peoples weapons. As was said before..... good folks at that match.
First, the pistol. Depending on the match, anything will do, but to really compete the choices get narrower the higher the score card one goes. Semi-auto with a high capacity is almost a requirement, although some shooters see no reason to turn away from the perfection that is the single stack 1911designed by Mr. Browning. I chose to shoot the match with a Colt Commander carried in a Blackhawk Serpa holster. Two Wilson magazines rode the other hip in a Fobus twin mag carrier.
Next time I go..... and there will be a next time..... I may take along the Ruger P-85. It has features that work for a match like this; it's reliable, has excellent accuracy, a good capacity... and will function perfectly through the rough and tough stages designed by evil match masters.
Now, the rifle. Technically, anything will do, but a shooter would be severely handicapped with anything less than a 'tactical' carbine. Heavier battle rifles work, but the weight, length, and recoil will show up on the time clock. AR's rule the game here, in every configuration imaginable. Some form of optical sight is a huge help as well, and this match featured enough Eotech sights to equip a company of marines.
Being a contrarian in many ways, I had to be different, if only just a little. My shooting was done with an Armalite AR-180b. Topped with an Eotech 512 on a StormWerkz mount, the rifle is accurate, reliable, and easy to run.
The shotgun.... again, anything goes, and again..... seeking higher scores narrow the gun rack on this one as well. Pump or semauto, with a higher than normal capacity, and reload storage on the weapon is not a bad idea. Optical sights are okay, but most of the shotgun targets are large and up close, with speed being the real factor. As with any tactical shotgun shooting, be it home defense or at a match, reloaded can be the limiting issue. Practice reloading under pressure!
My race gun for the match was nothing fancier than my house gun, a Remington 870 with a police barrel and a Knoxx folding stock set. The short round count of the standard magazine could have been a handicap, depending how the stages were designed. On this day, it was not a problem, but that short magazine will grow before the next match... that I promise.
The folding Knoxx stock turned out to be a help as I lugged gear from stage to stage. Experienced match shooters used tactical golf bag carts, children's wagons (tactically enhanced of course) and even a baby stroller (also tactically enhanced). This being my first Three Gun match, I played the Noob and just carried my things. Being able to fold the shotgun stock and shove it under the handles of my range bag was a huge help.
The rest of the gear? Whatever you need to be comfortable and ready. 'Tactical' clothing generally means pockets... lots of pockets. I took advantage of the brand clothing I prefer, and used the well placed pockets as magazine holders and ammo carriers. It helps that Blackhawk designed a hidden expanding waistband into their pants, especially for chubby old farts like myself. Getting down to prone position and jumping back up goes much easier when not fighting your clothing and the match at the same time. One of these days I'll have to try out the 5.1.1 line and see if they are the same.
I even wore my lucky hat, autographed by Todd Jarrett. I could hear him whispering in my ear... " I TOLD you to hold it tighter, why won't you listen??".
It's called 'Three Gun' because each stage has the shooter using all three weapons, although from there anything goes. The rifle can be used at five yards or fifty yards, and the pistol at five feet or fifty feet. The shotgun... perhaps steel poppers, falling plates, swingers, or even tricky bird throwers. The shooter doesn't know the stages in advance of match day, so practicing has to be kind of generic.
An example of a stage (one of four): From a ready position, on the beep the shooter draws his pistol and shoots five targets (double tap all) at about 30 feet, through a window. One is a falling steel, which releases a 'shoot' target to rise from behind a 'no-shoot' target'. Once this set is fired, the shooter lays his pistol down on a table and runs twenty yards to where his rifle is staged. He readies his rifle and fires two body shots each at five targets at fifty yards... while leaning through a window barricade. He then reloads his rifle, drops to prone, and fires two head shots on each target... from under the barricade.... a gap of about twelve inches grass to wood. Then the shooter regains verticalness* and lays his rifle down in favor of his shotgun, which is loaded with four rounds. The shooter walk/jogs/sprints down a marked lane to find four targets about 30 yards down. He engages those four, and then reloads on the run till he engages four more targets at the far end of the range.
That's it; all under the clock, with a stage master following you timer in hand, and forty people watching.
The stages were an excellent and challenging mix of situations. Round counts varied, and the targets were creative indeed. Shooting a steel pistol target might cause another target to rise from behind a no-shoot. Hitting what appeared to be a steel popper with a shotgun might have a clay bird bouncing straight up in front of your eyes. A wooden 'window' standing in the field looks friendly enough... just lean on the frame and shoot the rifle targets way down there.... until one realizes half the targets have to be engaged prone and shooting through the twelve inch space under the wooden frame. Open a door to engage the pistol targets beyond, just to have a swinging 'no shoot' device spinning wildly in front of the scoring targets.
My friends, this is fun shooting... very fun indeed. Is it good training as well? In the sense that it forces a shooter to work outside the usual box, and face new situations, I suppose it is. The added stress of shooting under match pressure tends to drive home handling mistakes pretty quickly. These could be valuable clues on area's that need work and additional training, especially for a police officer whose life might ride on his ability one day.
For my first time.... it was a great day. Not too many errors, coupled with meeting a lot of good people. The shooters (and families) had fun, even while working on their skills and competing under pressure.
Shoot for fun, for training, or in the points race.... either way you look at it the Three Gun Tactical match is a fine way to spend a day!
Now.... the match in photos, which tell the story far better than I can:
* It's my blog, and if I wish to make up words, I shall. Anybody older than forty knows what verticalness means, and understands the process.
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