On August 25th, 2014 I was on The Arms Room Podcast talking about competition shooting:
On August 25th, 2014 I was on The Arms Room Podcast talking about competition shooting:
Rifle: Sig 556R with Aimpoint M4 and TSD Kompressor
Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17 with Inforce APL.
Shotgun: Beretta 1301 Comp
Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17
Not every club has access to elaborate moving target systems, and it is certainly less common for the individual to have them to practice on their own. Consequently, when presented with a stage like this at a major match shooters who haven’t encountered these challenges before can be intimidated. Here is some general guidance if you do encounter this type of stage.
1) Pay close attention during the stage briefing, and watch the demostration of the targets being activated. This is particularly true if you are the first shooter.
2) If you are not the first shooter watch at least 3-4 other shooters on the stage to get an idea of how consistently the targets move and present themselves. Sometimes activators don’t work as quickly or targets move faster.
3) With multiple moving targets you need to know the sequence and how much time you have availble. You need to know that split second of when to abandon one target and move onto the next. In this video I took a second longer to make sure my shotgun safetywas on; Something I didn’t account for in stage planning. I only got one shot off at a disappearing paper. Fortunately that one shot counted to neutralize the target.
4) If you aren’t confident, don’t take the risk. Some people tried to engage more targets during the delays between activators. They didn’t accurately gauge how long it would take to transiton back, and thus missed multiple targets. People either did well on this stage or crashed and burned.
5) Targets that disappear with no chance to re-engage are alway the priority.
6) On swinging targets don’t chase them, pick a spot and ambush them with 3-4 rounds as they swing past.
7) In the event movers will slow down and remain visible activate the mover first then shoot everything else and finish on the mover once it has slowed down a bit.
There is no substitute for practicing on the actual target systems you will face at matches. If possible find a local match that has some, or do a group buy with friends to have some to practice on your own.
The number one reason people tell me they don’t want to shoot 3 Gun is because they don’t have/don’t want to buy a shotgun just for shooting a game. I have heard this more and more since the mid-2000s. There are three major things I believe are contributing to this:
1) There is a large pool of people that came back from the global war on terror. They have bought carbines similar to the ones they were issued, and want an outlet to practice the martial skills they learned and used. Very few of these people actually used shotguns, and those who did will admit their limited utility.
2) The focus in commercial defensive/tactical shooting schools as whole is largely geared around rifles and handguns now, there aren’t as many tactical shotgun classes taught anymore by comparison.
3) Expense: one less gun makes it that much more affordable to compete in both initial equipment investment and ammunition costs. While people may own shotguns, few are optimized for shooting 3 Gun. Competitive 3 Gun Shotguns are somewhere between a home defense shotgun and a hunting shotgun. 21-24″ barrels with chokes and full length or longer magazine tubes are the norm. The ammunition carrying equipment to be competitive is also increasingly impractical for anything other than competing. The shotgun is consequently viewed as much more specialized equipment than rifles or pistols.
With these things in mind, there is an untapped market of potential competitors. The 2 Gun Action Challenge Match in Tucson, Arizona is an event that appeals to these demographics. It is strictly a rifle/pistol match. Many of the stages combine physical challenge elements. The more complex stages are often based around real world incidents. The mean age of competitors is younger than other venues. More active duty military, veterans, and Law Enforcement attend it. There are also more people attending who have paid for commercial training that want a monthly event to keep their skills sharp
Including physical challenges as part of stages changes the tone of the match. Shooting this match feels more like a training session with friends than a serious competitive event. It also helps keep away the whiners and complainers that can ruin the experience. The fewer the targets on the stage, the harder the stage is physically. Physical Challenges Can Include: 100-200 yard sprints, kettle bell throws, carrying heavy objects, crawling under obstacles, or going through obstacles. The end result is more challenging stages with less ammunition expended.
Inclusivity Fosters Success
The match has wisely chosen to remain inclusive in the sense that any equipment allowed at other multi-gun matches is allowed there. Arizona has a large action shooting population, they can use the same rifles and pistols they use in 3-Gun if they want. Prohibiting equipment simply gives people a reason not to participate. There is crossover from other local competitive venues as a result. Armored division is available for people who wish to compete with body armor on as it does tend to make one slower and the physical challenges harder.
Stage Design Defines Everything
2GACM distinguishes itself based upon stage design and shooting/physical challenges. Events that try to distinguish themselves based upon equipment restrictions invariably prohibit equipment with real world applications. Stage design alone determines how useful something is in reality, and how martially applicable the match itself is. We often see that traditional match equipment is a liability at 2GACM. At the basic level magazines fall out of pouches because the match is more physical. Typical competition rifles are too long to maneuver in confined spaces. Short Barrelled Rifles can in fact be advantageous. Limited eye relief optics are slower, the more times the shooter has to reacquire the sight picture or from awkward positions. Carpets are not placed on the ground in shooting areas so muzzle brakes can kick up dirt/dust obscuring targets down range.
Run Your Own Match
2GACM is open source; all you need to get your own match going is a range that is 50-100 yards, shot clocks, and 2-3 steel targets. If you don’t like what your own local clubs have going on, get your own match started. Even if it’s just 5-10 guys at first you can grow it over time and make more complex props and acquire more advanced target arrays. You do not need the backing of a national organization to make your event happen. There will be a learning curve in match logistics and how to set up and run your match in a timely manner. As long as you have a range to run your match on, none of the challenges you face are insurmountable.
Techniques, Tactics, and Mindset
All the Action Shooting Sports we see today have martial roots, just as archery, fencing, wrestling, and track and field do as well. How martially applicable various matches are depends solely on stage design which determines the skills tested and what type of equipment is more advantageous than others. When designed to test martial skills stages can make using traditional USPSA or 3 Gun Equipment less effective or a liability.
The simple fact is in many areas matches are the only venue where shooters can draw from a holster, move and shoot, or engage in positional shooting. Many public ranges prohibit these actions at anything other than matches, so the martial shooter may have to shoot matches to have a venue to practice in at all. With that in mind, what you get out of competition largely depends on the mindset you have going into it. Use it to focus on gun handling and marksmanship skills, proofing out equipment, and socializing with like-minded people. If your sole intent is to win, that path will take you down the rabbit hole that would cause you to start disregarding martially suitable equipment and gun handling techniques.
Matches cannot and will never be able to test tactics objectively. Accept this and move on. Do not view stages as literal tactical scenarios. Instead look at them as a shooting drill with some problem solving. There are often shooting drills used in various courses that are not literal tactical scenarios, they are simply meant to build gun handling and marksmanship skills. View stages the same way, it’s just a drill where you’re trying to shoot as fast and accurately as possible. The fact there are barricades that form a hallway and the targets are humanoid does not turn it into the hallway in your home practicing for a home invasion. What it does let you do is practice moving in confined spaces safely with a gun and acquiring targets rapidly.
Martial gun handling techniques such as using your support hand to run your slide every time or reloading with retention generally will not have a significant effect on your score. If you shoot fast and accurately and move efficiently you will still place well. If your mindset is to win at all costs, then these things may bother you. I like winning, and I feel proud when I win or place high, but ultimately my goal for going to a lot of these things is for the shooting experience and to validate equipment and techniques. For example I’ve won Trooper division twice at Ironman 3 Gun (2008, 2009), but I will tell you both those years were not my best performance. Over all the best performance I had was in 2011 and I placed fifth How can I say it was my best performance with that placement? I trained really hard, all my equipment worked exactly as I wanted it to, and I shot the cleanest and fastest I ever have. There were 4 people who were simply better than me that showed up that year. Having annual events to go to helps keep yourself motivated and gives you things to work on in the interim.
Equipment and Technology
We have seen quite frequently products developed through the rapid feedback cycle of competitive shooting being useful for martial purposes. Sometimes they require modifications to be suitable, other times they do not. At matches I have attended all over the country I have spoken with and shot with a large number of military and law enforcement that are there using it for training augmentation and R&D purposes. In 2005 for example when I attended the US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Fort Benning 3 Gun Challenge; the commander at the time told us all “we are here to find better ways to kill the enemies of the United States”. He made a point of going around to each squad and talking to us about what we were using and why we used it. At the Ironman 3 Gun match I have regularly competed with servicemen from various special units that were trying out new equipment and asking us about the equipment we were using. You can use these venues for the same purposes. If your equipment does not work under the mild stress of competition, it is unlikely it will work when your life is on the line. If it works consistently match after match, it is more likely you can trust your life to it.
Recommendations to get the most out of matches as a martial gunman:
1) Safety Rules and Range Rules/Procedures: Comply with the rules so you can finish the whole match
2) Scoring/Penalties. Again treat it like a drill. Understand the requirements and operate within those requirements.
3) Target Systems: There are a lot of target systems that are for lack of a better term essentially carnival games or tricks, but they do move and require timing to hit properly. Understand how these systems work to engage them effectively.
4) Understand that people that go to matches are all there for different reasons. Get a group of buddies with the same mindset and goals and go compete against each other. If you beat a large percentage of the sport-only mindset shooters you can consider that you are doing well.
5) Use your daily carry gear or whatever martial gear you have in the appropriate division. Equipment is always of much less consequence than shooting ability. For example Race Holsters matter less than simply running faster at times, and they can be a liability when the gun falls out resulting in a DQ. Similarly split times with a tuned low mass gun matter less than simply being able to get into and out of positions faster and being familiar with your equipment. None of these equipment advantages really matters until you get to the top 5% of shooters.
6) The only way to get better at matches is to shoot matches. Local matches are organized practice sessions for larger events, don’t stress it and view it as simply renting the range time for you to run. You will never be ready for your first match, just go do it.
The Ironman 3 Gun is the highest round count 3 Gun match in the United States. The stages take up to seven minutes to shoot. The long days on the range and environmental conditions take a toll on shooters and guns alike. These factors are what make the match interesting and enjoyable for me to shoot. They also make it interesting to take people without a lot of match experience and throw them into it to see how they do. Every year I try to convince someone who hasn’t shot competitively very much or at all to go with me.This year I convinced John Brooks to go to the match, and as you’ll see from his background below he is not an inexperienced shooter. He simply has not shot many 3 Gun matches.
Ironman also coincided with having a Beretta 1301 competition shotgun on loan for a Recoil article. I had previously used the 1301 for Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun, but I wanted to get some more rounds through it to assess longer term reliability. I would be using my VEPR-12 in Trooper division, so I had John use the 1301 for Ironman in Tac Limited division.
John’s review of using the 1301 at Ironman 3 Gun 2014 follows below.
Beretta 1301 Competition at Ironman 3 Gun 2014
by John Brooks
The 2014 MGM Ironman would be the second 3 gun match I had ever attended. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the firsthand accounts I had heard and the things I read on blogs and forums. “The most physically and mentally demanding 3 gun match around,” was the general consensus. After my years of military service, time spent as a marksmanship instructor and various shooting disciplines I had dabbled in, I thought, “how hard could it possibly be on me and my equipment?” I started shooting at a young age, and have spent time doing everything from small bore silhouette, DCM and USPSA, to skeet and trap. I was never heavily invested in any of them, but thought this diverse shooting background would be of great help in this endeavor.
I didn’t have a shotgun even close to being considered competitive, so Russell allowed me to use the Beretta 1301 competition he had on loan for an article. I grabbed it just a few weeks prior to Ironman, which allowed me just a few short hours of familiarization and practice that I managed to squeeze in with my work schedule. My first impressions were great to say the least. In wing shooting, a forward weighted shotgun is not a bad thing. It allows for a smooth sweep across a clays trajectory and good follow through on moving targets. For 3 Gun, however, it would seem a light, nimble gun would be better suited to the interrupted swinging on staggered, static targets and aerial clays. The 1301 has this in spades. Its light weight nature, functional lines and solid grip texturing allow for a very pointable shotgun that becomes an extension of your body. It was a smooth, fast shooting gun that handled everything I fed it; from #8 shot low brass target loads to low recoil 1 oz slugs and 3in #6 shot. It became apparent the only limiting factor for this gun would be my level in proficiency in manipulation.
Attending Ironman would be a baptism by fire for the 1301 and me. I drew first in the shooting order on our first stage. I thought this was not exactly ideal for my first time there. I had decided to utilize a weak hand reload technique, since most of my equipment was borrowed, and I had ended up with seven 4-shell caddies. At first, it was slow and painful, but learning on the clock either makes your or breaks you; in this case it made me. On the third day of shooting, I was averaging almost 2 shells per second on my reloads. The 1301’s opened loading gate area and chamber no doubt helped with a quicker learning curve. On stage 3, I was able to shoot the three clay popper targets and the three following aerial clays in quick succession. I was also able to make most of the required slug shots using only the standard bead on the barrel.
Coming from the perspective of a shooter and a gunsmith, there are very few times I have been boldly impressed by a production gun. The Beretta 1301 Competition enthusiastically makes my list. To remain objective for the purposes of our evaluation of the 1301, I opted to conduct zero maintenance on the gun for the entire three days of shooting. The 1301 ran flawlessly despite being exposed to the talcum powder like sand on the range when left with the action locked open in racks and abandonment barrels. For the price, performance, and utility it is everything a limited division shooter could ever want right out of the box. I am convinced it played a crucial role in my third place finish in Limited Division. It will definitely be the next gun I purchase.