This post originally appeared on Unapologetically American on 5 September 2014. Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UnapologeticallyAmerican.
Guns. They’re in the news every day, seemingly always the target of some political assault that casts them in a negative light. Guns are scary. Guns are evil. Guns will grow legs, jump out and blow your head off with their unlimited-capacity, super-automatic death clips. Guns are the devil!
Except, no, they’re not. When treated with the respect they deserve, guns are far from scary; they possess no inherent morality, nor do they make alliances with supernatural powers. In fact, when used properly, guns can be tools that inspire confidence, teach responsibility, and propagate good old-fashioned American values – like family, and redneckery.
Not to mention the fact that guns are FUN! For people that enjoy an adrenaline rush but don’t wish to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, the practical shooting sports offer a fun, safe alternative that will get your heart pumping and keep you coming back for more! There are sports that cover everything from pistol-only, to precision rifle, to my personal favorite, 3-gun.
The sport of 3-gun has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, becoming the most rapidly growing practical shooting sport. What was once a sport of literally one match a year is now played by thousands of men, women, and children every weekend nationwide.
So what is 3-gun?
3-gun is a shooting sport in which competitors maneuver through a timed course of fire consisting of rifle, pistol, and shotgun targets. The goal is to complete the stage as quickly as possible, while still getting all your hits on target; misses result in penalties that add time to the competitor’s score, so they must walk a fine line between speed and accuracy. A match consists of multiple stages, with competitors earning points on each stage. At the end of the day, the shooter with the most points (or lowest time, depending on how the match is scored) wins the match. Some matches take place in square bays and emphasize speed; others are set in natural terrain and challenge a shooter’s long-range accuracy. Every stage is different. Every match is different. The challenges are limited only by the match director’s creativity and the range’s capacity.
How did we get here?
The sport of 3-gun is about 30 years old, but we’re gonna blow through the history montage in less time than it took Rocky to get strong. (This section pulls heavily from The Complete Guide to 3-Gun Competition by Chad Adams, published by 3-Gun Nation.)
- 1st Wave: Soldier of Fortune. The Soldier of Fortune 3-Gun Tactical Championship began in the early 1980s and ran through the early 2000s. What was once literally the ONLY 3-gun match every year boasted a $10k payout to the winner. SoF was a combat-focused match, with competitors all shooting tactical police/military gear. To add to the combat environment, competitors first saw the stage only when it was their turn to run it; just like on a battlefield, they fought their way through the course of fire with nothing but their weapons and their wits to help them.
- 2nd Wave: Rise of the Outlaws. The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) hosted its first multigun nationals in the early 1990s, doubling the number of available matches each year to a whopping 2. After a few more years, Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun was born in 1996. With Superstition, shooting divisions were born, allowing shooters to choose to continue shooting their combat gear, or to build “race guns” specifically designed for the shooting sports. More matches followed in the coming years as the sport grew in popularity. By 2011, there were about 10 major matches nationwide. These “outlaw” matches were not united by any sort of governing body, and equipment rules and scoring often differed from match to match, prompting some shooters to call for unity. Enter 3-Gun Nation.
- 3rd Wave: 3-Gun Sweeping the Nation. 3-Gun Nation, also known as the National 3-Gun Association, came on the scene in 2010 with its self-titled television show. For the first couple seasons, the show followed shooters at established outlaw matches and served as a huge catalyst for providing exposure to the sport and drawing a new wave of shooters. In 2012, 3GN introduced the Pro Series, in which the top 63 men (and 1 woman) in the sport shot a series of pro-only matches leading to a grand prize of $50k. The next year, the Lady Pro Series was born, along with the Club Series – a sort of feeder series that would allow shooters to earn an invitation to the Pro Series the following season. Most importantly, 3GN brought a set of standard rules that apply to every 3GN-affiliated match at the local, regional, and professional level nationwide.
A far cry from one match a year, the sport of 3-gun now has approximately 20 major matches a year (not counting Pro Series), and nearly 70 registered 3GN clubs across the country. More importantly, it’s not just your military-aged male, or your daddy’s gun club buddies you see out there. You see sons and daughters shooting alongside their fathers; wives competing with their husbands; heck, you even see women who show up alone simply because they love to shoot. And the best part? Everyone goes home safe and sound, with no extra holes in them at the end of the match. Truly a sport for everyone, 3-gun is a very bright spot in America’s gun debate.
So what are you waiting for?
I jumped on the 3-gun bandwagon in 2011, when I drove halfway across the country all by myself to shoot the Kentucky State 3-Gun Championship. I was instantly hooked, by both the challenge of the sport and the friendliness of the shooters who welcomed me with open arms. (The chocolate chip cookies I brought along may have prompted some of that friendliness.)
My 3-gun friends quickly became my 3-gun family and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I’ll share them with you. Stay tuned to this space for profiles of some of my favorite shooters. Better yet, head over to www.3gunnation.com to find a club match near you, and make your own 3-gun family!