2011 Ironman 3 Gun Highlight Reel:
From June 5th to 7th 2011 in Parma, Idaho I participated in the MGM Targets Ironman 3 Gun Match. The Ironman 3 Gun sets itself apart from other 3 gun matches in its high round count. The match requires 3-4 times as much ammunition as other major 3 Gun matches. It is a true test of not only the shooter’s skill, but also endurance and durability/reliability of their equipment.
This was the 10th consecutive Ironman 3 Gun I have attended. The match has grown a lot over that time. This year the match was split into two parts; Trooper, Open, Heavy Optics, and Limited shooters all competed June 5th-7th. Tac-Scope division shooters all competed from June 9th-11th. This was certainly the most logistically efficient and organized Ironman I’ve attended. We were done shooting by 6:30 the first two days, and scores/prizes were done rapidly the last day as well. I think a good balance has been struck between making stages longer and more challenging than most 3-gun matches, and still making it so everything runs on schedule.
The Ironman 3 Gun is the only remaining major 3 Gun match to feature Trooper Class. It is also the only match where Trooper Class is a significant additional challenge. Trooper requires that the shooter carry all the gear, guns, and ammo they will use for the entire match from start to finish. Gear can be grounded when shooting a stage, but your guns better run or you better have the tools/parts to fix them, and you better have brought enough ammo. Running out of ammo or having guns break can result in getting bumped out of Trooper Class into whatever division your guns would put you in. The advantage to Trooper Class is that equipment is totally unlimited. It is in fact more “open” than Open in that shooters can use multiple guns, reconfigure them, and even use pistol caliber carbines instead of a pistol.
Trooper Class at Ironman has continued to grow every year since it was included in 2005. This year 29 Trooper Shooters registered for the match, and 26 finished. The level of competition in Trooper division has definitely been increased. I’m glad to see the division I helped create attract more shooters in general and more upper tier shooters. Congrats to Chuck Anderson on winning Trooper Class this year. Ben proved that it isn’t entirely an arms race in Trooper by finishing second with his Tac-Scope division gear. Iain Harrison (as seen on Top Shot season 1) finished third. Anyone who finishes in Trooper at Ironman can consider it an accomplishment regardless of placement.
I personally finished 5th/26 this time and I’m content with that given the skill of competitors that are now participating in the division. I shot to the best of my ability with minimal penalties (its almost impossible to shoot this match 100% clean) and all my equipment worked. My physical fitness was the best it has ever been for this match and I did not feel like it was a limiting factor during any of the stages. The issues I identified to get faster on these stages were ones of general stage efficiency/management, and I think being squadded with some of the upper level shooters in the future could help with that to be able to learn by watching them.
Guns, Equipment, and how it all worked.
Primary: 16″ Sabre Defence Midlength with Trijicon TA31DOC, Primary Weapons FSC556, and Troy TRX Extreme Rail.
I used this rifle on eight of the ten stages. Most of the rifle shooting at Ironman is at 100-300 yards, with a few targets at 400 yards. The ACOG is a good optic to use within this operational criteria. I like cross hair reticle of the TA31DOC as it is more precise for dealing with skinny sammies than a donut or chevron reticle.
Secondary: 18″ Gamma Designs intermediate gas system upper with Aimpoint T1 Micro, Primary Weapons FSC 556, and Troy TRX Extreme Rail.
I carried this spare upper and used it on two of the ten stages that were close quarters only, and using an ACOG would have been a hindrance. The recoil impulse of the intermediate gas system is less, which made for faster more controlled double taps on paper.
I did not clean either upper during the match, and both ran without malfunctions for the duration.
Rifle Support Gear
Harris Bipod (swivel style) on Larue QD mount: I used this on only one stage. Every other stage with distance shots had barricades or some type of support to brace on.
Viking Tactics Sling on QD Mounts: There were several stages that required the use of a sling with the rifle. the V-tac is a good simple, easily adjustable sling, and the QD mounts let me take it off rapidly for the stages where I didn’t need it. If I’m not actually wearing a sling I prefer to not have it on the rifle.
Primary: Saiga-12 with Aimpint Comp M2 on K-VAR Mount, SGM Modified Choke, AGP Side Folder stock, Krebs Iron Sights, AGP magazines.
My Saiga-12 ran for the duration of the match with only 2 malfunctions. Both were failured to feed; the gun extracted and ejected, but the bolt went forward without picking up the next round. Simply racking the bolt solved the problem both times. This is the most reliable a Saiga-12 has ever been for me at Ironman. Shotguns are the most problematic gun for all competitors, and mine seemed to run better than most.
I did have trouble with accuracy with slugs at 70 yards on one stage. I will be trying different slug brands in the future to find a more accurate slug for my gun.
The side folding AGP stock is solid and comfortable, and allowed me to more easily strap the gun to the back of my pack. The AGP 10 round magazines performed reliably without issues.
The only maintenance performed on the Saiga was brushing out the gas system after the first day of the match, and cleaning out some of the magazines that had been dropped in the dirt.
Secondary: Benelli M2 24″ with Nordic Components extension and Williams Fire Sights. I brought this gun with an additional support gear in the event I encountered too many problems with my Saiga as I had before. I ended up not needing to use it as the Saiga stayed reliable enough throughout the whole match. I am very superstitious when it comes to preparing for Ironman, if I hadn’t brought the Benelli I am sure the Saiga would have failed spectacularly.
Glock 34 with Trijicon RMR (LED illuminated) mounted on the slide, cowitnessing suppressor sights, and X200. The factory slide was modified by One Source Tactical’s Technical Services Division to mount the RMR.
I found the RMR glock to be particularly useful at the Ironman 3 Gun due to the number of precision pistol shots required at 25-30 yards. In the past I had used a pistol caliber carbine in Trooper division because of the accuracy advantage. Using the RMR equipped Glock has eliminated the need for me to do so by allowing me to make better use of my pistol skills. I still have to do my part in aiming and trigger control, but the red dot is easier to read on target for when to pull the trigger and when not to. On farther shots the dot being super imposed on the target rather than the target being covered by iron sights made it easier to shoot accurately.
My pistol belt is a Spec Ops Brand Gun Fighter belt with Spec Ops Brand suspenders. The Gun Fighter belt is nice because the closure system allows for rapid resizing over heavy clothing or after a heavy meal. The SOB suspenders are soft elastic material that are comfortable throughout the day, and the X style design prevents them from sliding off my shoulders like H style suspenders have in the past.
I have gone away from thigh rigs as I feel they reduce my mobility. My holster is a belt mounted Safariland 6280 modified to accept the Glock with RMR. I have two pistol magazines, one rifle magazine, and a dump pouch on my belt. I also have a utility pouch for batteries, lens wipes and misc items.
My vest is the Coyote Tactical Trooper Vest specifically designed for use at Ironman. It carries 4 Saiga mags, 3 AR15 mags, and 2 Glock 30 rounders. It was comfortable throughout the match and allowed me to carry my stage minimum + 50% load out on every stage. The amount of movement on the stages made me make use of the retention flaps most of the time to keep the Saiga mags in place; this made my reloads slower but I never lost any mags on a stage. I heard of at least one other shooter with a more speedy set up losing all of his mags during a stage, fortunately he had more prepositioned to use down range. This is a good example of how getting past a certain speed level involves more risk, shooters need to decide for themselves what level of risk they are willing to accept based upon their goals in attending a match.
My pack was a Kifaru EMR with a number of pouches and accessories added. I’ve used this pack for several years now because it allows me a lot of storage space, and the rigid frame and padded belt make it more comfortable to use.
My total load out between pistol belt, vest, pack, guns, and ammo for the match weighed in at 140 pounds at the start. This got lighter with every staged fired. I started the match with 800 rifle, 800 pistol, 400 shot, and 145 slugs between what was on me and what was in the ammo can cache at the Trooper check point. I only used about 60% of that total, I can probably safely trim that down for next year. Shooters with lesser pistol skills or long range rifle skills should consider a 3:1 ratio in ammo packing. Bring three rounds for every one shot required. Pistol is easiest to run out of. Conversely the round count for shotgun is usually closest to the number of rounds you will actually use.
I was fortunate to get POV video of all the stages this year. I use a Vio POV 1. I really like this set up because it is rugged, weather proof, and easy to calibrate and review footage immediately. Here are all the stages in the order I shot them:
In closing, I recommend that all serious competitors try the Ironman 3 Gun at least once. If I had to pick one big 3 gun match to go to once a year it would be the Ironman. For the same amount of time off work, travel, and match fee you get 3-4 times as much shooting as any other major match. The Ironman gives me something to work towards throughout the year and I view it as an annual test of my shooting skills, physical capabilities, and the reliability and effectiveness of my equipment. You will learn things participating in this match that you will not from any other 3 Gun Venue.