Building a 3-Gun, Multi-Gun Competition Rifle for Beginning Competitor.

March 7, 2024

Building a 3-Gun, Multi-Gun Competition Rifle for Beginning Competitor.

Most 3-gunners and multi-gunners use an AR15-style rifle, shooting 5.56 or .223. They are common, parts are readily available, they are customizable, and they are the best-suited rifle for 3-gun or Multi-Gun Competitions. Sometimes, you'll see someone bring an AKM, SCAR, or something else, but for speed's sake, whatever you choose, you want to be semi-automatic and able to use detachable magazines. Don't let not having the perfect rifle stop you from getting started.

The first thing you will want to do is find a range that hosts competitions and find out what division you are with the gear you have or what gear you need to be in the division you want—divisions like Tactical Optics, Limited, Open, Modified and Heavy Metal. Once you do that, you can figure out if you are good to go or if you have some shopping to do.

There are 2 main things you want to think about when selecting or building a Speed competition rifle: reliability and recoil control. Ensure you use ammo that works best with your rifle and that it's clean, lubed, tested, and sighted in.

Recoil control is probably the most important factor to a serious 3-Gun competitor, and the reason for that is fast target accusation. There may be a row of five-inch steel targets at 200 yards, and if recoil is throwing you off for your follow-up shots, that is costing you time. A good muzzle brake to tame recoil can help you acquire the next target faster is a great advantage over a flash hider.

What Optics, if Any, Should I Use for My 3-Gun Multi-Gun Rifle?

If you are running optics, determine which division you are shooting in and at what distances. Some matches are shooting out as far as 700 yards where some ranges are shooting matches in bays 100 yards or less.

Some shooters with great eyesight or shooting at a range with shorter distances will run open sights or straight red dots to run in the limited division. Red dots are faster, but ensure you have a red dot that is bright enough to use on a bright day. Also, because most are electronic, electronic failure is possible. Some red dot users use flip-to-side magnifier for longer range shots.

Check out Warne's line of Red Dot Mounts and Risers.

What Scope and Scope Mount Should I Use for 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition?

Ar15 with 45-degree mount and Warne AR scope mount

Probably the most popular setup is a low-power variable optic or LPVO. LPVOs act like a red dot at one power but can quickly be zoomed in for longer-range shots at smaller targets. Common LPVOs come in 1-4, 1-6, 1-8 and 1-10s. The Warne XSKEL is a popular scope mount with 3-gunners and multi-gunners. It is a cantilever mount extension, making it popular with low-power variable scopes, allowing eye relief and access to the charging handle. For those with larger fingers or a scope with a larger rear bell, the Warne super high SHXSKEL would be a popular choice for many shooters because it allows for a more upright shooting position when shooting offhand and it gives giving plenty of clearance to reach the charging handle. Both of the XSKEL design are very popular with pro shooters because of its lightweight skeleton design and because they are engineered to be stronger than it needs to be to handle the abuse of competition shooting. 

Warne also makes the  Skyline Precision Scope Mount designed with bolt on features for long-range precision rifles. The cantilever model is well suited for speed competitions as well. 

Precision Scope Mount for 3-Gun and Multi-gun

Another popular 3-gun multigene build uses an XSKEL with either an LPVO or Higher power Variable scope in a 2.5-10x40 or similar with a 45-degree mount like the  Warne A645 with a reflex sight. This is a great option because, with a tilt of the rifle, you have the speed of a red dot with the magnification of the Magnified scope, and if one breaks or loses zero, you can keep going.

3-gun AR15 with high power scope and 45- degree reflex sight

It's interesting to point out that many Variable scopes, like the good ole 3-9x40s, tend to cost and weigh less than most LPVOs, so using them with a 45-degree mount and reflex is a good tactical option that is not as hard on the wallet.

What Rifle Accessories Should I Consider, That Might Improve My Speed?

Many aftermarket accessories are made to improve speed for those serious about improving their time. These are unnecessary to participate in competitions, and some accessories may not suit everyone. Sometimes, it is best to go to matches and pay attention to what the best shooters are using and consider if that option would help you out. Some of the parts that could help improve your time might be.

3gun accessories for the ar15

  • Oversized Ambi Charing Handles- For faster grab, provide some leverage when charging the rifle, especially when reaching under an optic.
  • Ambi Safety Levers are designed specifically for speed using the thumb to release safety and the index finger to put it back on safety.
  • Muzzle Break for recoil control and faster target acquisition.
  • Picatinny rail handguard or Mlok with Picatinny or Arca rail sections for quick disconnecting a bipod if using a bipod.
  • QD bipod that is durable and fast like a Warne bipod designed for competition use.
  • Competition Trigger – Trigger pull is always important, whether speed or precision; however, a good single-stage trigger is a good go-to.
  • Possibly a cheek riser to get consistent cheek weld. Not getting a consistent cheek weld when you go to aim can slow you down. Make sure if you need a riser, get one. If you are using a Warne XSKEL, it is very unlikely you will need one.
  • Warne plus five Mag Extensions – Sometimes, certain targets take extra shots, so having an extra 5 rounds in the mag may save you from doing that.
  • A Picatinny rail and a QD bipod, like one of the Warne Skyline bipods, can also be helpful. Just ensure it is a QD bipod, as it can get in the way.
  • A good shooting bag - can also be used in addition to or in place of a bipod. Before running out buying, go to a match and see what others are using,
  • Extended mag releases - time can be lost reaching for the mag release. Making it larger creates leverage, saving milliseconds and adding up to seconds.
  • A mag funnel (usually seen on competition handguns) or lower receiver with flared magwell. This can speed up reload if you're in a match that requires reloads.

extended charging handle and ARCA rail

Does Rifle Weight Factor in Speed Competitions?

Weight is a matter of preference that is often dictated by where competitors shoot the most often. Shooters who see more long-range engagements might prefer a heavier build, while shooters who frequent matches shot more commonly in bays may prefer a lighter weight rifle. Some rangers where we push to 700 yards and often see over 400 yards on multiple stages.... a heavier rifle might be better suited.

Unlike long-range precision rifles, where weight benefits accuracy by helping to reduce recoil, there is more of a balancing act with speed competition rifles. There is a need to reduce recoil and, at the same time, make it lightweight but not too light.

A lightweight MSR for speed competitions improves agility and maneuverability, reduces fatigue, and leads to Faster Target Transitions and easier Handling in Unsupported positions. The downside is that the lighter the MSR, the more felt recoil, so a muzzle break is necessary to tame the recoil.

lightweight ar15 bolt carrier group and adjustable gas block

A lightweight bolt carrier coupled with an adjustable gas block is often used by competitors who use dedicated race guns for competition. Besides the barrel and choice of optic the bolt carrier group is the next heaviest component but is critical to the proper function of the rifle. There are skeletonized bolt carriers that when coupled with an adjustable gas block, can reduce weight and, when finely tuned, reduce felt recoil. However, a heavier BCG can increase dwell time for a more accurate rifle. Some considerations when using an adjustable gas block with a reduced carrier include having consistent quality ammo. If you adjust your rifle to shoot one brand and bullet weight of ammo and switch it to lower-power ammo, it may short-stroke at the worst time and fail to cost you time at a match.

Don't let not having the perfect gear keep you from getting started in competitive shooting.
If you have not shot in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun, check out our upcomming post "How to Get Started in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition."