Lessons from the 2018 Victoria Day 3-Gun Shoot

At our 2018 Victoria Day 3-Gun Shoot, I directed a squad with a simple stage for new 3-Gun Shooters.

This stage was simply composed of 5 firing positions, marked by square shooting boxes, arranged in a trapezoid shape, shot in 2 strings in reverse order. Those positions were as such:

  • P1: Pistol shooting at 3 IPSC Classic C-plates and 1 A-plate at 10-15 yards
  • P2: Pistol shooting at 1 IPSC Classic C-plate and 1 C-plate at 11 yards
  • P3: Shotgun shooting at 4 varied size poppers at 11-13 yards with lead birdshot only
  • P4: Rifle shooting at 2 IPSC Classic cardboard targets at 15 yards
  • P5: Rifle shooting at 3 IPSC Classic cardboard targets at 11 – 15 yards

For the first string, the shooter started at P1 with their pistol loaded and holstered or at a low ready, pointed approximately 45 degrees into the ground (only shooters with acceptable holster training certification were permitted to draw). The shooter engaged the plates with 1 round per target from P1 than advanced to P2.

At P2, the shooter engaged the remaining 2 poppers, abandoned their pistol at condition 2 (unloaded and clear), retreived their mag-loaded (4 shells) shotgun and advanced to P3.

At P3, the shooter engaged the poppers until they fell, then advanced to P4.

At P4, the abandoned their shotgun at condition 2, retreived their mag-loaded (10 round) rifle, engaged the cardboard targets, than retreated to P5.

At P5, the shooter engaged the remaining cardboard targets.

For the second string, the order was simply reversed.

I recorded both my runs with my iPhone and GoPro 5, and caught several failure points.

Here is the full video:

String 1 Pistol -> Shotgun -> Rifle

For my first run between 0:00 and 1:31.

At P1 – P2, I had 2 stoppages with my Roland Special. While I cleared those stoppages quite rapidly, stoppages are killer on the timer, adding seconds to your time. I believe the source of this stoppage was by mixing 115 grain FMJ Federal ammo into my magazine cache, where as I know my Roland Special is far more reliable with 124 grain FMJ Federal (I tested this theory out at the end of the day by dropping 2 partial mags full of 124 grains at the steel plates – at the end of the video).


At 0:20, I induced a stoppage in my MKA-1919 by performing a bad reload at P3. This was entirely a practice thing. The MKA-1919 being an AR-platform rifle has one devilish nuance to it. That being the tendency to over-insert the magazine with excess force, causing it not to chamber a shell once the bolt-hold open was disengaged. This caused a catastrophic failure which added almost 7 seconds to my time. In highly competitive matches, that kind of a stoppage alone basically costs you the match. There is no recovery from that kind of a failure.

Regardless, winning isn’t everything and at least finishing safely is an accomplishment. I still cleared the stoppage, but in the GoPro footage at 1:13, it’s clear I had a hard pull of the trigger and jerked the muzzle down before I had fully readied the gun.

I attribute this to a simple lack of practice. I spent the entire winter months training on my Modern Varmint and Roland Special and barely shot 50 shells through my 1919. That pull could cost a missed shot if it was live, which either would have required a follow-up shot or taking a procedural for failing to engage.

At P4 I took a bonus shot on a cardboard target that was unnecessary. We are using USPSA Time-Plus score, which necessitates a single hit in the A-zone (or 2 in the C-D zones) and when scoring, it was confirmed I landed 2A’s, making the second shot unnecessary. I know I can consistently land an A-zone hit at that range, but under the timer, you second guess yourself and make mistakes that cost you tenths of a second.


Besides that, the remainder of my engagements with my Modern Varmint at P5 I was quite happy with.

String 1 Rifle -> Shotgun -> Pistol

My second run starts at 1:31 until 2:51.

Being in reverse order, starting with the rifle the format of the stage was a little different. All the targets previously engaged at P5 and P4 could be engaged from P4 and so I did. Being slightly further, the cardboards from P4, I took my time and an extra shot at the target at 1:36.

One of my major flaws especially when taking 2 shots, is I focus too much on landing quality, A-zone hits. That makes me much slower than other shooters who just focus on landing any hits anywhere through unaimd double taps. Unfortunately, in Time-Plus scoring, quality hits don’t matter nearly as much as it does with Traditional Hit Factor Scoring where C/D zone hits have a substantial penalty versus an A-zone hit.

At P3, I failed to disengage my safety when initially engaging the targets. A small mistake that costs quarters of a second.

One movement I am happy with was how to avoid performing a Bold Hold Open reload, I fired one shell then performed a tactical reload. I could not index the mag on my belt, so instead I rapidly transitioned to the mags on my thigh rig. It looks very smooth on the replay, although a mixup like that still adds tenths of a second to your time.VD2.png

As part of the stage setup, we started without a round in the chamber of our holstered handguns, and when I reached P2 at 1:55, I acquired my sight picture before chambering a round. That’s a critical mistake that adds seconds to your time.

To make matters worse, I had another 2 stoppages, one at P2 and one at P1!

One general point I was happy with in both my runs was my foot work. Later in the day, we did a fun shoot off stage with all the match competitors (which I accidentally did not record). In that stage, we had 3 lateral shoting boxes where we had to engage arrays of targets with rifle, shotgun, and pistol. While moving from a rifle to shotgun position, I stumbled inside the box because of some bad footwork.

If you watch my foot work as I move from point to point during my first two strings, you’ll notice I decelerate before getting into position. You really want to put the brakes 1-2 paces before you get into a position, otherwise you risk stumbling or slipping, which at best adds time or at worst could cause you to fall and potentially DQ yourself.

The Actual 3-Gun Stage

After all shooters in the New Squad had completed the orientation stage, we moved on to an actual stage setup by the competative squads.

This stage comprised of a 8 steel poppers engaged with a shotgun loaded to capacity at start. Then there were 6 IPSC classic targets partially obstructed by walls. It was shooters choice how to engage the cardboard targets (either with rifle, loaded to condition 1 or pistol, holstered and also loaded to condition 1, if certified to do so). One stipulation was once a shooter had advanced past the initial wall, they could not move rearward of the wall.

The shooter could then engage a 6 steel target plate rack (with pistol only) and engage any remaining cardboard (if any).

For my shotgun, I opted to shoot 4 and reload between the lateral transition as I was loaded to 5+1, I figured before hand that would give me enough rounds to make up for any M’s on the steel. I also wanted to avoid a BHO reload. Once again, I stumbled to index my shotgun mag and opted to load from my thigh rig, although I did make first shot hits on all the steels.

One other small mistake I made (very typical of me being a former Canadian army soldier) was I double racked my shotgun to prove it clear before abandoning it. Abandoning Condition 1 where Condition 2 is required is a DQ’able infraction, so it makes sense to be sure, although that extra rack still added a few hundredths to my time.

After the steels, I chose to engage all the cardboard targets with my rifle from the far most right wall, with a bit of reaching.

My decision to do so was that the rifle drop box was about 1 yard staggered to the right, making that direction of travel the shortest route.

I think it was a solid plan EXCEPT for the fact that I dialed my optic up to 2x magnification, which noticeably added to my engagement times.


The cardboard targets were approximately 10-20 yards away and at that range there was no reason I couldn’t confidently engage them with 1x magnification.

One big slip up I made as well was after engaging the first set of 4 targets, I paused to check that my foot placement was not out of bounds. The SO ribbed me that I was close, but was willing to let it go. For each shot taken out of bounds, there is a 5 second penalty, so that isn’t the sort of mistake you want to make.

I think my abandon was reasonably clean, but not perfect, and my transition to handgun was reasonably smooth.

I needed 8 shots to take out the 6 plates on the popper, but without any stoppages, the Roland Special really shone for recoil and muzzle rize management.

Other General Thoughts

To be honest, I was both sick and tired the whole match. SO’ing the “New Shooter” squad, effectively worked out to about 35 minutes of sprints, spread over 6 hours of also standing, walking, and resetting. Add in heatstroke from an unseasonably hot day as well as the lingering affects of a bad head cold and a restless prior night, I was definitely not in my prime.

I think I performed well. I topped the New Shooter Squad, although that’s not much of an accomplishment given that I shoot open and many of the new shooters had never shot 3-Gun before.

I don’t know how I would have placed against the competative squad, although anicdotally, I was about 75% of the fastest time among the competative squad for the one stage we overlapped with. (The competative shooters did not shoot the New shooter stages)

I will say for certain, overexertion takes a toll on your shooting performance and with SO’ing being extremely physically demanding, I don’t expect when I SO to shoot my best (and I SO most of the time).

All in all, I say it was a good day on the range with plenty of learning opportunities for the future.

What I am especially content with was that we had 12 shooters in the New 3-Gunners squad who shot mostly without a hitch. I think they all learnt a lot too, which I consider the greatest takeaway!

One other note I’ll elaborate on later is that this was the first match shooting while on keto, and there were definitely some major advantages.  More on that later, though!

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