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New to 3 Gun... a little guidance


Bigharge
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So as the title states I’m completely new to the sport but my son has shown an extreme interest in it.  Just wanted to reach out to some with a little more knowledge on the best things to prioritize as we began the process.  We have talked to others locally and done some online research but figured I’d ask on here for any of you that have gone down this path with their own kids what kind of advice you could pass on.    My budget is smaller than most so as we progress I want to make sure I’m buying needs and not wants, lol. Anyways I know this is a vague post and question but appreciate any replies 

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Just use whatever you have before you go buying a ton of stuff you might not like later. Go shoot some 3 gun matches and talk to other shooters. Most will let you use their equipment to see if you like it. 

 

My biggest pet peeve with 3 gun shooters is they hate the shotgun. Don't hate the shotgun and if you run onto another shooters saying that, stay away from them. Learn how to load it and practice it, it's fun. You can challenge each other quad loading at home with dummy rounds. If we continue on this path of negative towards the shotgun it will eventually just be 2 gun and then somone will complain about that until we are back to outlaw uspsa. 

 

It's called 3 gun for a reason, you have to master all 3 guns. 

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IOUU is absolutely right about watching other shooters, asking questions and running what you have until you figure out what divisions you want to shoot and what kind of gear appeals to you.  If you have to buy anything, keep it simple and inexpensive.  Then invest in practice!

 

Welcome to the sport!  LMK if you’re ever in the Las Vegas area.  We have matches running here almost every weekend.

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No kids, but in addition to going through the "getting started" process myself, I've walked a few friends through it. I'm actually doing the exact opposite of what you're talking about at the moment - my dad has expressed an interest in getting into 3 gun, so I'm kind of walking him through picking out gear (it's nice that it's made birthday and Christmas shopping for him pretty simple the past few years...).

 

I'll echo the general sentiment of "don't spend too much money until you know what you need." Do you mind if I ask what phase of this process that you're at? I ask because it informs the process of figuring out what it is that you need. You said you've asked around locally - are there regular 3 gun matches in your area? If so, have you gone to any of them to just watch? That's definitely the best starting point.

 

Also, leaving aside all of the need/wants/whatever, when it comes time to start dipping toes into actually shooting matches, do you have a rifle, pistol, and shotgun? A fair number of folks have a bare-bones AR (or other semi-auto rifle), a pistol of some sort, and a hunting or home-defense shotgun lying around - if you're one of those people, then those are definitely good enough to start with. Is it just your son getting into shooting, or is this something that you're doing together? If the latter, then you've probably already heard this, but you can totally share gear/guns if you need to - the range officers will let you tweak the shooting order to give you time to sort out a handoff of stuff that you're sharing.

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I started my son shooting when he was 7.  At the time he will only compete in USPSA matches with a 22 AR.  Now he is 13 and we are currently sharing my 3-gun gear.  He has his own belt with holster, mag pouches and shot shell caddies.  We just have the RO stagger is in the order so we can get setup between turns.  We share all 3 guns.   
How old is your son and how much shooting competition have both of you done before?  Any experience in USPSA or steel challenge?

reason I ask is that any of the practical shooting disciplines will help with how match is run, rules and safety.

With 3-gun all of that is multiplied by 3.

but like others said, just show up.  The shooting community will help get you going.

 

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I've raised two boys to shoot. I started both of them out with .22 pistols around the age of 7 (we have a .22 steel match monthly here that is great for new shooters), then they graduated to centerfire action shooting competitions - one shot outlaw multigun, one shot USPSA pistol. . They enjoyed it until they got to college and found other pursuits. I am comforted knowing they can handle firearms competently, and expect they will come back to it when they are ready.

 

You don't say how old your son is, nor whether he has any shooting experience. Is his interest driven only by watching YouTube videos? Video games? Other? Does he tend to stick with things or is he prone to changing his mind on hobbies?

 

My advice would be to start him out with one-gun instead of three. Action handgun matches (under USPSA or IDPA rules) are far more prolific than 3-gun, and shooting a handgun requires more discipline and care than the long guns... in my experience, it is easy to teach a competent handgunner to be competent with long guns, much less so to go the other way. Getting into handgun first will also let him get used to shooting competition (rules, safety protocols, how to shoot a stage etc.), will present more opportunities to shoot, and will be MUCH easier on your pocketbook. A quality service-size 9mm handgun (Glock 17, M&P9 etc.), a couple of spare magazines, a decent Kydex holster and mag pouches, and a sturdy belt are all he will need to get started, and will work just fine as he transitions into 3-gun. If he decides to quit, all of that gear can be repurposed for personal protection.

 

Starting out right now is particularly challenging because of the current supply crunch on guns and ammo. If you already have guns and ammo, or have a friend you can borrow gear from for the first match, that would be smart. Worst case, post your location here and see if someone local is willing to walk him through his first match.

 

Good luck.

Edited by StealthyBlagga
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Thanks, really appreciate the info.  Going to try and track down something close we can go to and get our feet wet, might have to drive a little but can make a weekend of it.

 

He’s 12 and been shooting his whole life recreational, but started shooting more competitions this year.  So he’s got some experience and can handle the basic start of it.  I think we will just take what we got and go find a place and see what happens.  

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On 12/7/2020 at 12:34 PM, louu said:

Just use whatever you have before you go buying a ton of stuff you might not like later. Go shoot some 3 gun matches and talk to other shooters. Most will let you use their equipment to see if you like it. 

 

+1

 

what guns and gear do you/your son have now?

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1 hour ago, Bigharge said:

Have just a basic 5.56 ar platform rifle, a 9mm semi auto pistol, and a sporting semi auto shotgun.  Shotgun would probably be the first area we upgrade if he ends up wanting to do it more.

Just show up. I showed up to my first match with my USPSA rig, my basic ar, and my benelli nova duck gun. When I showed up I let everyone know I was brand new to 3 gun and most already knew that as I shot USPSA with many of them. Was hooked up with a stoeger m3k and the MD lent me a taccom quad load setup on a tek lol that he brings to every match to lend to new shooters.

 

Depending on where you are, if the season doesn't start for a few months you can start trying to collect some used gear but don't go overboard. You can stuff mags in your pockets and bring a fanny pack for shotgun shells. It's only as expensive as you want to make it.

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7 hours ago, Bigharge said:

Have just a basic 5.56 ar platform rifle, a 9mm semi auto pistol, and a sporting semi auto shotgun.  Shotgun would probably be the first area we upgrade if he ends up wanting to do it more.

 

I just started earlier this year with zero background in competitive shooting so here is my take so take it for what its worth.  Much of which I learned from this site and other shooters by going to matches.  Like most have said just showing up will teach you a lot and that is pretty much what I did but knowing a few things before hand and having a few basic items can make the experience better IMO.

 

1. A must have is a good belt with holster that will retain the gun.  I had several issues this year with this item alone one resulting in a DQ after a supposed "competition" holster I bought fell apart dropping my gun and another time I had a Bladetech Techlok I was using for holster retention come apart almost getting me DQed.  Remember you will be running with a holstered loaded gun a and bunch of mags and rounds so make sure you have a good set up that you can run with and will be safe!  There are a lot of options out there and they do not have to be terribly expensive.  Mag pouches shotgun caddies and gear can be expensive with a lot of options so you may want to wait on buying some of that stuff up front.  Just get some basic pistol mag pouches and you can throw extra mags and shells in you pockets to start but you will need a good belt and holster no matter what.  Check out Benstoegerproshop.com they have a ton of options there and decent prices and his Hoss hanger is a popular item for holster retention.  If you spend any money this is the one place I would start first as it is a pretty essential piece of equipment and it is not one that is easily borrowed.

 

2. Think about how you are going to move and carry your stuff around.  There is a lot of gear to lug around and a small wagon or cart of some sort and good range bag are essential.  Get extra chamber flags for the rifle and shotgun too and you will want to bring water drinks and snacks.

 

3. Its a real PIA to hit stuff with a pistol when your running around.  It is much easier with a rifle and even easier with a shotgun.  A lot of competitors will start with 2 gun due to having to load a shotgun and deal with the extra equipment which is what I did but may not have done now.  With 2 gun you have made 2/3 of the stage pistol since you have to hit a bunch of the shotgun targets with a pistol which is more difficult.  Failure to engage and misses are worse than going slow if you have a shotgun even a pump I would probably use it.  Your going to be slow at first no matter what, just try not to miss stuff and not get DQed, you will score better.

 

4. Try not to buy any new guns to start lol!  A basic AR is all you need.  Most of the time I still use a stock SW Sport 2 with a cheap $40 Tacfire red dot which spits out cheap surplus ammo and works really well out to 100yds, and I have other nicer ARs.  Any basic 9mm semi will work well I started with a glock 19 and should have kept using it but I cant resist buying new guns and gear.  I did not have a shotgun to start and ended up buying a Stoeger MK3 freedom which I like a lot, it was fairly cheap at $650 works REALLY well has 10 rd capacity and comes setup ready to go for 3 gun out of the box. 

 

Last I believe it was suggested above to start with a single gun sport like handgun which is some really good advice.  The handgun is the most difficult to master and learning to move and shoot well with it first is going to be your biggest challenge. I jumped right into 3gun but will be spending more time next year just shooting pistol matches to improve.  In the end just showing up having fun and being safe are what it is all about.  I had an absolute blast getting into this sport this year and can not wait till next season.

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13 hours ago, Bigharge said:

Have just a basic 5.56 ar platform rifle, a 9mm semi auto pistol, and a sporting semi auto shotgun.  Shotgun would probably be the first area we upgrade if he ends up wanting to do it more.

 

To echo what others have said, that is absolutely all that you need to go ahead and jump in! Other shooters will loan you anything that you need, up to and including guns, and that's a good way to get a good idea of what your preferences are in terms of upgrades as you go along.

 

I'm going to make a couple of recommendations that will make that a bit easier - bear in mind that I'm by no means suggesting that you need to start buying things now, but just some generally "safe" options that will carry a minimal risk of wasting money as you go forward:

 

5 hours ago, ML123 said:

1. A must have is a good belt with holster that will retain the gun.

 

This is a good starting point.

 

A good holster for your current pistol is probably the top priority if you don't already have one, since a holster with poor retention or attachment to the belt can present some safety issues. There are lots of good options out there, but if you have no idea where to start (totally understandable, because there's a whole ecosystem of custom holster manufacturers, retention mechanisms, and belt-attachment systems out there), I'd suggest that the Safariland 579 series is a good starting point. They can frequently be found for much less than the MSRP listed on that page - typically in the $35-$45 range. It has active retention, and will fit a wide array of different pistols. The advertised "universal" fit has some quirks (the main issue I've run into is accidentally dropping a magazine because the side of the holster is too close to the release button on some pistols), but there's a good chance that you can find a model that will fit the pistol that you have, the pistols that your fellow competitors might lend you, and the pistol you "upgrade" to if/when you get to that point. Even you ultimately decide to go in a totally different direction, you wouldn't be out that much money.

 

In terms of belts, most shooting sports have a ton of different options, but 3 gun actually has a de-facto standard: the Safariland ELS system. There are a few folks who use different methods of attaching things to their belt (and have their own perfectly-valid reasons for that), but the overwhelming majority of folks I shoot with use an ELS-compatible belt. It's an easy way to be able to swap around what you're carrying on your belt to meet the requirements of each stage. There are a few options out there, but the Safariland 032 is probably the cheapest, especially if you grab one while there's a sale going on. You can also buy any two-layer competition shooting belt and then use a drill or soldering iron to make holes to mount the receiver plates if you're more willing to invest time than money. Assuming that you and your son are even vaguely close to each other in terms of waistline, you can even pick up a single outer belt to share.

 

The reason I'm suggesting looking at this sooner rather than later is that a good belt with a couple of ELS plates on it will make it very easy to borrow mag pouches, shell caddies, whatever from the rest of your squad, which is a great way of figuring out what you like before spending any money. Again, totally not required to start shooting matches, but a decent place to start if/when you decide that you enjoy it enough to start spending some money.

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I agree with @StealthyBlagga's recommendation about starting with fewer guns being better. becoming and staying proficient in 3 guns is a LOT more time than 1 or 2. 

Also - equipment and ammo for 3 guns is, well, triple+ the price.  And I found the shotgun equipment to be the most expensive and least used (example quad load shell holders). When you go with 3 guns you'll also need a BIG cart to carry all 3 guns and it's a LOT more weight with 6 different types of ammo (9mm, .233, bird shot, turkey loads, slugs, 00 buck).  Unless he's a strapping 12 year old, you'll need a very strong back.

 

I went to my first 3 gun match not owning a shotgun and never even shot a semi auto.  I went out spent a money on a low-end shotgun, shell caddies, shells, dummy rounds. Then I spent a TON of time practicing reloads and dual loads and quad loads. Then I ended up replacing a lot of equipment. It was frustrating and I lost a lot of time I should have been spending shooting/practicing the pistol. I asked one of the local gurus how to get good at all 3 guns and he said it's really impossible. He recommended I focus most of my practice on pistol first, then get better at rifle ... and just try to be good enough at the shotgun to be in the middle of the pack.  I took his advice and started having much more fun and much better results.

 

If I were to start now I'd be looking for pistol only, rifle only, and 2 gun matches.  Then after getting comfortable with the 2 guns (and focusing more money on the right equipment for those 2), I'd expand into 3 gun. 

 

I have several friends who have asked for advice and, because we have local monthly matches with both 2gun/3gun divisions that's my recommendation to them.  

 

 

I definitely agree with the concept of using the equipment you already have for a long time before you start upgrading.  Everyone will show you their equipment at a match and you can buy the right thing once instead of needing to sell things you end up not liking. 

 

 

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You only need an extended tube for the shotgun.  Most 3-gunners are very generous and they lend you or help you with equipment at the match, especially juniors.  What scope are you using on the AR?  Vortex has a nice inexpensive 1-6x scope.  I've seen a lot of juniors come out with their fathers AR's decked out w/  Eotech's or Aimpoint and can't hit 100 yard steel, thus getting frustrated.  You want to keep the junior engaged otherwise, they won't last long. 

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8 hours ago, poortrader said:

You only need an extended tube for the shotgun.  Most 3-gunners are very generous and they lend you or help you with equipment at the match, especially juniors.  What scope are you using on the AR?  Vortex has a nice inexpensive 1-6x scope.  I've seen a lot of juniors come out with their fathers AR's decked out w/  Eotech's or Aimpoint and can't hit 100 yard steel, thus getting frustrated.  You want to keep the junior engaged otherwise, they won't last long. 

I'd add to figure out max range and make sure you know your hold overs. For my local matches, the shots only go out to 150 but they set the states to make you have some unique shooting positions to add difficulty. But I've even seen guys max out time and never get past the prone shooting position because they can't hit an 8 in target at 150, which is harder than you think once you get that heart rate up.

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  • 2 months later...

Shoot what you have.  Don’t even buy anything new until you or your son's gear are holding you back.  Great to hear of your sons love for the game!  

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  • 2 months later...

As poortrader said, about all you really need is an extended tube on the shotgun.  Then shoot some matches, see what others do, and upgrade as needed.

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