It seems sometimes that the only way to get good at 3-Gun to to buy expensive, high-end equipment that gives you a competitive advantage. To some degree that is true, but as Keanu Reeves demonstrated in preparing for the John Wicks movie, training and practice are also very important.
This presents a problem for many shooters with smaller budgets because both guns, ammo, and training are expensive. Unfortunately, “pay to win” is to some degree an intrinsic part of the sport and cannot be changed.
This is especially the case for 3-Gun, where the myriad of combinations guns, gear, and upgrades means there will always be the newest doodad and gimmick to give one shooter an edge over another (this season, you’re going to see a lot of those from me).
One of my preferred tactic to overcome the “pay to win” problem is to efficiently focus on improving your own skill with whatever equipment you have on hand. I prefer this tactic because it gives you as a shooter a more solid foundation of skill to work from if you move to higher end equipment.
It’s worth noting that paying for high end equipment won’t automatically make you good.
If you are clueless with a rifle, starting off with a high end, $3000 custom AR15 won’t make you successful. It might humiliate you or make you angry when someone with a $700 Chinese rifle and $2300 worth of practice ammo outshoots you. If that happens, the experience is ruined for you and you’ll hate the sport and hate people who are better than you.
So I consistently recommend to the new 3-Gunner (or anyone looking to start with any shooting sports) to buy the cheapest gun and gear you can get, keep everything stock, stack ammunition to the ceiling, buy a range membership and practice, practice, practice. Only once you can shoot as good as your gun is capable should you even consider upgrading, if you can afford it.
Doing this, however, you still will just have to accept the fact that even if you master your low-end, stock guns you will not be competitive with other shooters with either (or both) better gear and more skill than you.
If you are good with a stock gun, you could be better with the same gun with an upgraded trigger, quality optics, an upgraded muzzle brake, and smoothed out internals. Almost guarunteed, someone with your skill level will have that tricked out gun and steamroll you during a match.
Even if you are pretty good you still stand almost no chance against equal skilled shooters with deeper pockets (and looser spending habbits).
That can be VERY dangerous to your financial health, because the desire to beat someone can quickly lead you to rack up credit card bills that will have your life-partner doubting your state of mind (unless you are a young, MGTOW, this should worry you deeply).
3-Gun is the one of the most expensive shooting sports there is both from an equipment and ammo perspective, and shooting already isn’t a cheap sport to begin with.
In 2018 dollars $2000 could get you a IPSC Black Badge course, a decent race gun, lots of mags, ammo, and match fees. For the same price, you might be able to get a low end, stock pistol, shotgun, and rifle.
For the average new shooter, if you expend $2000 you’re still likely going to get your ass kicked at a match. If you can’t accept that, you should not bother getting into 3-Gun (the same holds true with most other action shooting sports).
You might be tempted to ask: “Why do this if I’m just going to lose?”
If you want to get into and stick with 3-Gun, that’s the wrong question to ask. The RIGHT question is:
“How can I accept losing without being a loser?”
Rule #4 of Jordan Peterson’s Book “Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos” has the answer.
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
(Great Book. Buy it. Watch Dr. Peterson summary here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz2tYGt0_As)
How do you do that with 3-Gun shooting? Here’s a start with some tips that will help you get better, maybe saving you some money in the process:
Commit to a regular training regimen to hit the range with a clear objective in mind. Treat that range time like gym time. That is the only time you will get better. During your training sessions, don’t dump ammo senselessly with any expectation you will improve.
Isolate fundamentals. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz2tYGt0_As).
If you are new, your fundamentals will be very simple: Target acquisition, first shot hits, follow up shots, reloads. Determine a baseline for those fundamentals. Study that baseline. Meditate on what you can do, either to improve your technique or improve your equipment, to improve that baseline. Be sure you have sufficent data to assess the reliability of that baseline.
Your baseline level of competency will show itself when you shoot a scored stage. Only once you’ve mastered those basic fundamentals should you even consider mastering more advanced fundamentals (things like shooting on the move, stage strategy, transitions and so on).
Don’t get discouraged when someone has a better baseline than yourself, be it as a consequence of their greater skill or finances. Instead, meditate on how you can improve your baseline, ASPIRING to hit that level.
The difference between aspiration and covetousness is to aspire is to strive for self-actualized improvement. To covet is to lust after what isn’t yours. To aspire is noble and worthy of respect. To covet is to sin against God.
Victors aspire. The vanquished covet.
And what if you are that guy who’s always 100%? Always 1st place? Always the winner?
First, accept my congratulations. Your combination of skill and equipment gave you a (or several) well deserved victory.
Celebrate your win, but be on guard against complacency and arrogance. Celebrate with humility, not hubris. Recognize the fact that your win qualifies you for greater challenges than the one you overcame, and consider pursuing them.
To my mind, a great challenge is to compete against others to (or higher than) your level of skill.
A GREATER challenge yet is to train such people yourself.
After all, the only way any of us know we are good at anything isn’t when we win. It is when we are challenged where victory is uncertain, defeat is possible, and we are confident enough to accept the challenge.
See you on the range soon!