How to Get Started in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition

March 19, 2024

How to Get Started in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition

If you are relatively new to competition shooting, it may seem overwhelming. Many of us will ask ourselves these questions. What gear do I need? How do you find a match? What do I wear? And what if I suck at it?

We all must start somewhere. Warne has been a leader in providing scope mounts like the Warne XSKEL AR Scope mount and shooting accessories for competition shooters from precision competitions like NRL and PRS to shooting speed competitions like 3-Gun and Multi-gun, and we sponsor many matches, so we are here to encourage you and advise you on how to get started.

competition shooter at the start of a stage

What is a 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition?

3-Gun or multi-Gun competitions involve a sporting rifle like an AR15, a Shotgun, and a Pistol. In multi-gun or 2-gun competitions, you can usually substitute a handgun for a shotgun or vice versa to engage targets if you don’t happen to have all three.

There are a series of timed stages. Each stage will shoot 3 sets of targets: one with a pistol, then a shotgun, then a Rifle. Targets can be within 25 feet, and rifles can be hundreds yards out, depending on the hosting range.

There may be different platforms to shoot off and obstacles to shoot around and you will have to move between them as fast as you safely can. Many experienced shooters will run but move at your own pace to what you feel safe and comfortable doing. Remember, at first, this is about having fun and developing your shooting skills.

  running and gunning in multi-gun competition

Ultimately, they tally up all the scores and rank everyone from first to last overall and first and last by division. There are different divisions, like open divisions based on the gear, such as optics or open sights.

What Are the Differences Between Multi-Gun and 3-Gun?

These competitions adhere to standardized rules and equipment requirements set by organizations such as USPSA or IPSC. Sometimes, 3-Gun competitions can be harder to find as not all ranges can host them due to range distance requirements.

On the other hand, multi-gun competitions may have more flexible rules depending on the organizer, allowing for different firearms and equipment choices. For example, if the competitor does not own a shotgun, they may use a handgun in the place of a shotgun in the shotgun stages.

Be sure to check the match rules for details. 

How to Get Started in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition.

If you are new to competition shooting, you first must not worry about competing against others. Get in the mindset that you are competing against yourself. You are learning, and you want to improve and get better with each match. At each match, there are people from beginners to seasoned pros and many people in between who love enjoying some fun competition shooting their guns. It’s a great way to build shooting skills, test your gear, and make new friends.

Men and woman from many walks of life compete, including ironworkers, chiropractors, teachers, lawyers, policemen, construction workers, mechanics, baristas, and many more that you would never expect. It’s a very open and friendly environment if you play safe. Improper gun handling is the only thing that is frowned upon and can get you disqualified and kicked out.

female 3-gun competitor

Most shooters are friendly and enjoy helping newbies join the fun and the action. There is a lot of hurrying up and wait between stages, and if you let the range officer know that you are new, they will try to put you towards the bottom of the list so you can watch and learn from others on each stage.

One of my recommendations if you have never shot in competition before is to try a rimfire speed competition like rimfire challenge. Rimfire Challenge is a great starting point for competition speed shooting as they just use a .22lr rifle and .22lr pistol, which takes less investment and is beginner friendly.

How Do I find a 3-gun or Multi-Gun Competition or a Rimfire Challenge Match?

If you have the gear and some shooting experience and know how to be safe with a gun, go to  Practiscore and search for matches in your area. Some ranges may have extra requirements, and you may need to meet them for a beginner orientation.

Be sure to read the match details and equipment rules before you buy more gear. Find out what division you want to shoot in and decide what gear you need.

What Gear Do I Need to Shoot in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competitions?

Keep in mind what division you want to shoot in when selecting accessories. Like any hobby, you need to start somewhere, and like many hobbies, you build as you go and as you feel necessary. If using 3 guns, you will need a handgun, rifle, and shotgun. You will need ammo, a bag, a bipod, a wagon or stroller to carry your gear is helpful, hearing and eye protection and hydration, and good shoes or boots with adequate traction. In other words, don’t wear footwear with worn-out soles. You will be running and don’t want to slip. Some people will also wear lightweight, flexible knee pads if they shoot on gravel ranges or have sensitive knees.

chest rig shotgun shell holder

What Rifle Do I Need to Get Started in 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition?

Most 3-gunners and Muli gunners use an AR15-style rifle or something like it, shooting 5.56 or .223. They are common, parts are readily available, and they are simply the best-suited rifle for 3-gun or multi-gun competitions.

  ar15 used in 3-gun competition

There are 2 main things you want to think about these when selecting or building a speed competition rifle: reliability and recoil control. Reliability is a giving. Make sure your rifle is clean, lubed, and sighted in. Accuracy should be at least 1 MOA.

Controlling recoil is important because you are being timed while engaging multiple targets, so fast target acquisition is necessary for a winning score.

Read more about Building a 3-Gun Multigun Competition rifle in “ Building a 3-Gun, Multi-gun Competition Rifle.

You will also need 2-5 20 or 30+ round magazines (check out Warnes 5 mag extensions to save on reload time.) Before going to a match, there should be info provided where you signed up with a round count to let you know how much ammo to bring. If you are new, bring plenty of extra.

Also, have something to carry your mags in, like a mag belt with special mag holders or at least a bag that you can reach in and grab mags quickly or pockets that will hold magazines. A lot of beginners will simply store their mags in their pockets for each stage. A good way to start out buy if you a serious get a belt with pouches for magazines. 

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

You will need to find out what division you want to compete in first, and it helps to know what distances you will be shooting at the match. Once you know what division you want to be in, look at what you have and go from there. Get what best suits your shooting ability. For example, if you have really good eyesight and the targets you will be engaging are at shorter ranges, you may only need a red dot; however, if some of the targets are further out and you have problems hitting long-range targets without magnification, then look at using a magnified optic.

Some popular combinations are

  • Open Sights,
  • Red Dot with red dot mount
  • Red Dot with a flip-to-side or QD magnifier
  • The most popular is the LPVO, which acts like a red dot at one power but zooms up for distance shooting in a cantilever scope mount like our Warne  MSR AR Scope Mounts
  • A magnified optic with a red dot on a 45-degree mount like our Warne A645 for the fastest speed when engaging targets at multiple shooting distances.

I go into more detail about optic combinations in “Building a 3-Gun, Multi-gun Competition Rifle.”

What Shotgun Should I Use for a 3-Gun or Multi-Gun Competition?

Again, this will be based largely on the division you are shooting in. Unlike 3-Gun, some multi-gun competitions let you run 2-guns rather than 3, which could be a combination of Rifle and Shotgun or Rifle and Handgun. Check out the competition regulations to find out more. 

using a tube fed shotgun in 3-gun

If running limited, then you have to run open sights. If you run in 2-gun, modified, or Tac Scope division, you can run a red dot on your traditional tube-fed shotgun, and this is where the Warnes  shotgun rib red dot mount comes in handy because it will give you speed with accuracy using a red dot going between slugs and birdshot. You also use that combination in open class. However, once you go to open class, you will shoot against competitors using shotguns with red dots and detachable magazines, a big advantage over tube-fed. Having a tube fed mag extension really helps out when shooting shotgun in multi-gun competitions. 

using a red dot on a shotgun for multi-gun match

You will need a mix of birdshot and slugs for ammunition. Check the match list to know how much ammo to bring and how much extra to bring based on your skill level. Birdshot is ideal for close-range targets and slugs for longer-range or heavier targets. You will also need something to carry your shotgun shells on and keep the birdshot from the slug, like a chest rig, deep pockets, or pouches.

What Handgun Should I Use for Multi-Gun Competition?

Starting, use what you have and are comfortable with. However, if you get serious about it, you will want to see what others are using and possibly build a custom race gun over a factory pistol. You will need something more powerful than a .22 rimfire, and common like a 9mm, to knock over steel targets. You will need a good holster, preferably a gun belt that holds your pistol and magazines. You can go to open sites, but it’s my experience that red dot optics shoot faster and more accurately once one has become accustomed to using them. I can shoot pretty accurately with open sights, but I can do it faster with a red dot.

Also, consider magazine extensions from Warne if you are in a state where you can use them, as they do add some extra rounds to your magazine, which may mean less time spent on reloads, giving you a better score.

You will also need 2-5 magazines (check out Warnes pistol mag extensions.) Check the match list to know how much ammo to bring, and bring extra if you think you need it.

  shooting at spinning targets with handgun

What is Some Other Useful Gear for 3-Gun and Multi-Gun Competition?

Something to haul all your gear in, like a wagon or a Stroller that safely holds your gear in as you move from stage to stage, is very handy. Ensure you have a case for all your firearms. In most cases, a holster for your Handgun is considered a case. Have good eye and ear protection. Sound-canceling headphones or plugs are great so you can hear the RO with instructions and course of fire while protecting them from loud gunshots, having mag compartments on your belt, or a chest rig to hold shot shells or magazines. Don’t be embarrassed to show up with cargo pants using your pockets for magazines and shells or a simple pouch when getting started. See what others are using, research your gear, and look to Warne for your scope mounts, mag extensions, bipods, and Shotgun rib mounts.

Also, the handy Warne range tool can come in handy when working on your gear or loaning someone to another competitor who is having problems with their gear.

warne range tool