June 2nd-4th 2013 I participated in the MGM Targets Ironman 3 Gun Match in Parma, ID at the Parma Rod and Gun Club June 2nd-4th in Trooper Division. Trooper Division requires that competitors carry all the guns, gear, and ammo they will use for the match with them for the duration of the match. If a competitor’s guns break they must be carrying the spare parts or a spare gun with them. Stages at the Ironman take up to 7 minutes to complete and the round count is 3-4 times that of other 3 Gun Matches. The high round count, long stages, and increased physical and logistical challenge of Trooper Division make this a very challenging match.
My initial loadout is about 140 pounds. I took 400 shot shells, 100 slugs, 600 rifle, and 800 pistol. About half that amount started in my ammo can at the Trooper Check point. Ammo for the stage is carried on my belt and chest rig, resupply in the pack. It’s important to not only bring extra ammo, but cleaning supplies, spare parts, snacks, and hydration mixes.
I ended up placing 3rd in Trooper out of 25 competitors. The Army Marksmanship Unit’s Tyler Payne dominated Trooper coming in first with an 28% lead. Experienced Trooper Shooter Sean Smith came in second. Tyler Payne used Tactical Scope division equipment from what I could tell, not taking advantage of many of the equipment advantages available to Troopers. This demonstrates that skill can trump gear in a big way.
As a consistently above average shooter, I’ll take all the equipment advantages I can get…
Shotgun: SAIGA-12 with RS Regulate Aimpoint Mount and Aimpoint M2.
A detachable magazine fed shotgun makes shooting the high round count stages significantly easier for those of us who don’t care to practice loading tube feds. My Saiga ran OK for the most part with assorted failure to chamber based malfunctions. Rock and Lock style reloading is clearly becoming a disadvantage vs other mag fed shotguns that have straight insert mag wells. My goal for next year is to switch to a mag well system and improve the reliability of the gun. My Tapco stock broke and was wobbling back and forth in the receiver, but this did not appear to effect function or my ability to shoot the gun.
Pistol: One Source Tactical Technical Services Division Glock 17 with Trijicon RMR06 and Glock 34 Length Barrel.
The red dot equipped Glock continues to offer advantages in engaging farther targets and shooting from awkward positions. I noticed several other competitors using similar systems in Trooper and Open Divisions this year.
Rifle: GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII with Palmetto 20″ Upper, Leupold HAMR/Aimpoint Micro, Samson EVO Rail, PWS Brake, CMC Trigger.
The rifle ran flawlessly the whole match, despite being filthy and coated in sand after stage 9. I was happy with using the HAMR/Aimpoint Combo as it offered good multi-functionality. Using the HAMR on my non dominant side was problematic on stage 6 as I was not used to getting the correct cheek weld to see through the limited eye relief optic with my right eye.
Pistol Caliber Carbine: GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII with CMMG 9mm upper, Aimpoint M4S, Hahn Mag Block and Buffer, Metalform Mags, Ergo Grip rail system.
Troopers can use pistol caliber carbines (PCC) to engage both rifle and pistol targets. This year the match also allowed paper targets to be shot with rifle or pistol, and close steel to be shot with pistol or shot on many stages. Consequently the PCC could be used to engage the majority of targets on several stages and drastically reduced the amount of shotgun ammo required (saving a lot of time on reloads). Not having to switch guns saves time in itself too. The increased muzzle velocity and less muzzle jump made rotating double spinners with the PCC easier than doing so with a pistol. Troopers still need to bring a pistol because there are some stages where the PCC is a liability.
The 9mm carbine had a few malfunctions on Stage 2. I found a large brass shaving on the feed ramp and cleaned the gun, and it ran fine for the rest of the match.
Here are the complete stages in the order I shot them
This was my first stage of the match. The rifle and pistol portions being right next each other and all close range made using the PCC the smart option for me on this stage.
This was the second stage of the first day.
My slug killed the double spinner on this stage, the top plate flew off. Repeated slug hits are probably hell on welds.
The pistol and rifle portions of this stage being right after each other made it advantageous to use the pistol caliber carbine for all of it.
This was the blind stage. I chose to use my 5.56mm Rifle and Pistol on this stage rather than PCC because in years past there could be a 100 yard section at the end of the stage that would be impossible to do with a PCC.
This stage was pretty straightforward. I chose to use my Pistol on it rather than PCC because of the 100 yard rifle shooting at the beginning, and carrying both a PCC and a shotgun in the golf cart is a liability based on past experience.
This was the first stage of day 2 of the match. Shooting into the sun early in the morning made the rifle portion more difficult.
I choose to use my 9mm carbine on this stage to engage many of the close range rifle, shotgun, and pistol targets.
This was my second stage of Day 2 of the match.
I chose to use my 9mm carbine at the beginning and engage as many paper and steel targets as I could from the start. This saved me an extra trip across the range and consequently a good chunk of time. The 9mm carbine had some magazine related malfunctions on this stage; I cleaned everything afterwards and it ran the rest of the match.
This is the 3rd Stage of Day 2 of the match for me.
I chose to use my pistol instead of PCC on this stage due to the way it was set up with rifle at the beginning, shotgun in the middle, and pistol at the end. The long range rifle shooting on this was a lot of fun.
Stage 4 was divided into 2 parts.
4A was a virginia count stage with 90 second par time. I ended up wishing I had shot pistol targets, then shotgun, then rifle to make better use of the time. This was an interesting shooting problem, and almost everyone had targets not hit or not engaged at the end.
4B was the infamous zip line stage. I really enjoy the match over all, but I strongly dislike this stage. Even though I score relatively OK to well on it every year, I wish it was relegated to a side match or bonus stage. I don’t care for heights and the harness is uncomfortable. Troopers are wise to use a pistol rather than PCC on this stage as the harness torques the shooter in directions that require only using one hand to actually be able to engage targets.
This was a pretty fun stage, but left me wishing I had brought some buck shot or heavy field loads with me because of the shotgun plate rack at 20 yards. I hadn’t needed buck or heavy loads for the past several years, but just when you think you know what you need for Ironman, they change it up.
I chose pistol over pistol caliber carbine due to the distinct rifle-shotgun-pistol sections on this stage. The plate rack at 25 yards on this stage was -15 seconds per target bonus.
This was my last stage of the match, and also the one I was least happy with regards to my performance. I should have shot underneath the truck like everyone else, but decided to take advantage of a position available to lefties being forced to shoot righty. The position didn’t work out so well and I struggled to see through the magnified optic with my non-dominant eye. Using red dots on the support side is relatively easy with little practice, magnified optic is harder to get used to. The ROs said my run was still pretty decent, I guess this stage destroyed a lot of people who don’t practice support side at all.
If I had to do it again I would have used my PCC as my rifle at the start because the red dot would have been easier to use off my support side, and the lower muzzle signature would be easier to shoot with underneath the SUV.
I hope these videos help people new to Ironman know what to expect when attending the match. Ironman 3 Gun is a marathon rather than a sprint, and it is much better to approach stages conservatively to avoid injuring yourself or getting disqualified so you can finish the match. Every serious action shooter should go to Ironman at least once; for the same amount of time spent on the range you get to shoot 3-4 times the amount in unique and challenging stages.