The Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun Match (SMM3G) is held annually at the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club in Mesa, AZ. It is the longest running active 3 Gun match in the country with the most competitors. This year over 390 competitors participated. KE Arms generously provided me with a sponsor slot for the match and a rifle to evaluate by using it at the match. I will be doing a full write up on the rifle in a separate article. To get ready for the match I used the guns I would be using there at as many local matches as I could. I also took a Rifle/Pistol competition class from Kelly Neal two weeks before SMM3G using the same rifle and handgun I would use there.
Here are the guns I used to compete in Open Division: Shotgun: VEPR-12 Shotgun with Vortex SPARC 2. I started with 13 rounds in the shotgun, and a second 12 round mag clamped together with the first. Extra reloads were with MOLOT 8 round magazines from Legion USA
Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17 with Trijicon RMR and Suarez’s new suppressor sights. I use Limited length mags that hold 20 rounds.
Rifle: KE Arms KE15 with competition funnel mag well and NP3 coating on the upper, lower, and Delta-S free float keymod handguard.
KE Arms Duty 4# Trigger
16″ Daniel Defense Barrel
Suarez International Kompressor
Nightforce 1-4X Scope Harris 9-13S Bipod (used on one stage).
I’d say my shotgun is the closest thing to a true Open Division gun. The pistol is somewhere in between open and tactical. The rifle could be a Tac-Scope rifle if I didn’t use a bipod. However, any one feature from a higher level division bumps a competitor into that division.
I chose to shoot through with the match staff so I could work on various media projects while the main match was in progress. Shooting through with the staff gives one an appreciation of how much effort goes into a match of this size. Planning and logistics for the next year’s match begin almost as soon as this year’s match is over. Stages are designed well in advance and concepts tested at the club level match leading up to it. Setting the stages up takes a lot of man power and time before the match starts.
The staff match starts at 6AM two days before competitors arrive. Staff shoot until dusk the first day, and until done in the afternoon the second day. The focus when shooting the stages in the staff match is to proof them out; make sure props will work, targets will function and stay in place, safety issues are resolved, and stage descriptions make sense. There is always something to be fixed on every stage.
It is readily apparent what starts out as fun turns into work and by the end all the staff simply want to be done shooting. I would be surprised if anyone that shoots the staff match is truly competitive and on their A-game. The compressed schedule and different mental focus makes it almost a different event entirely. Another factor is that there aren’t as many shooters to observe and plan stages. The more people you get to watch the more potential solutions and problems you can see before your turn to shoot. There were several things in retrospect that I wish I had done differently after observing more shooters during the regular match.
The match theme this year was Back to the Future. All the stages incorporated elements from the film trilogy. The shooters bags all included some goodies at the start: PMAG30, KE Arms +5 PMAG extension with SMM3G engraving, Prolix gun cleaning products.
Here’s my match in the order the stages were shot:
Day 1 Morning Stages
One thing I noticed on Stage 2 was most of my squad hit the moving no-shoot at the back when it leveled out on the track. I think the change in direction resulted in people pulling the shots as they were leading expecting it to keep going in the first direction.
Day 1 Afternoon Stages
On Stage 3 I wish I had shot the steel first then the hangman. Watching other shooters this made sense in retrospect; get settled in on the big targets. Get solid behind the rifle and on the optic then shoot the small pipe. Interesting challenge nonetheless.
On Stage 4 I shot conservatively because I saw others struggle on the timing. This was definitely a stage where the more you saw it shot, it was easier to understand the timing of all the activators.
Stage 6 ended up getting thrown out because it took too long to reset during the regular match. By the end of day two a full squad was backed up.
Loose gear? Stuck casing? Debris in your fire control? Luckily I had my Honor Point JACS with all my Trooper Division equipment to support the squad with gun maintenance and fixes.
Day 2 Stages
Day 2 started out very windy with with wind speeds of 15-30mph.
Stage 7 was my worst stage of the match. I couldn’t tell where I needed to hold with the white backers behind the targets. I’m not sure it would have mattered anyway with thw winds being so inconsistent anyway. I saw a lot of people struggle on this stage for similar reasons. Others lucked out and had no wind to deal with. That’s simply how it goes sometimes shooting in field conditions and the elements are unavoidable.
The rest of the stages went fairly smoothly for me. The only malfunction at the match for me was with the VEPR-12 after switching to slugs there was one failure to eject.
I use the “load 8 system”: 8 round VEPR-12 magazines in chest rig when the 25 rounds on the shotgun at start aren’t enough.
Many of the names here may be recognizable. The top of the charts here is a who’s who of competitive shooting. SMM3G has the highest concentration of exceptional shooters out of any match I attend.
The last time I shot open division at SMM3G in 2010 I was 24th out of 59 shooters. I shot Limited division at the match the past few years. This year I ended up 28th out of 82 shooters in open. And that’s with all the inherent difficulties of shooting the staff match. My goal was to break into the top 30 so I am content with that. Maybe next year I can break into the top 20. Being 35.106% slower than Jerry Miculek is doing pretty decent as far as I’m concerned.