TL, DR; design stages so you get what you want.
I haven’t been involved in 3 gun for very long, but I’ve been seeing the same thing. That’s saying a lot, since I shot Olympic/bullseye style rifle and pistol through high school and college (about as monotonous as you could get). 3 gun was always an interest, and I remember watching videos of it since I discovered it in ~2008. I took a 3-4 year hiatus from shooting while stationed at fort hood, but got into 3 gun midway through last year. Since, I’ve competed in 4 majors and a bunch of local matches across Texas, Kentucky, and Georgia. On to my point:
Target props are only tools which can be utilized to train skills which are more difficult or costly to train otherwise. A star’s moving plates can be replicated by a paper target on a track to train tracking and shooting a moving target, but is more costly and complex. Having said that, there is a line between using it as a training aid and a crutch. These target arrays should be treated as a standard target, not the focal point of the stage. Clubs are limited in the targetry they have to employ, and spending $1000+ on a Polish rack vs the equivalent amount of poppers kind of canalizes them in stage design. Is it worth the investment? Depends on the implementation. I think that 8 moving targets are a greater challenge than 8 stationary poppers, but the real treat is having it placed in the middle of a 30 round pistol COF.
My local match directors are great people, and they do a stellar job every month. But they have the same requirements the rest of us do. When time is at a premium, we all look for the simplest solution. After moving back down to GA/AL, I’ve managed to stabilize myself somewhat and come to know the range and MDs there. After shooting a couple technically challenging (but not fresh) stages, I realized I have to take a more active role to further refine and test my skills.
My solution was to be a a more active participant in my local club through designing stages that replicate the skills and challenges of a major match with the equipment available. Combining firsthand experience in the few matches that I’ve shot, and secondhand from footage of older stages on YouTube, I can incorporate the known quantity of targetry the club has in creating new and challenging stages for the monthly matches. This both alleviates the strain the MDs have between matches, and it allows me to tailor stages so that I can refine my deficiencies.
This is is my first big post on this forum, but I’ve been in the shooting sports for a long time. With 3GN falling off and UML rising, this transition period should be a wake up call to all 3 gun shooters. Participation in the sport needs to be active, not passive. The more shooters get involved, the more the sport thrives. Design the stages you want. Don’t just show up and run the course.