One of the things that was hard for me to accept about 3-Gun was the proclivity within the sport to drop magazines. Training in the Canadian Army in the early 2000’s, dropping a mag was a push-up worthy sin and I’ve seen it where an 150 soldier Company would spend days combing through a training area to find a missing one (your tax dollars at work).
I think 3-Gun primarily borrows from the USPSA/IPSC tradition with little to no consideration given towards magazine retention.
I attribute this to the fact that 3-Gun is primarily an American sport and in the American mindset (which is correct, I might add), magazines are expendable, consumable commodities.
Up in Canada, however, in the Armed Forces, competitive shooting community, and I suspect in Law Enforcement this is not so much the case.
Magazines are EXPENSIVE in Canada, if they can be acquired at all.
In particular, for anyone considering running a magazine fed shotgun, such as a Derya, Typhoon, or MKA-1919 – it’s not inconceivable for a magazine to cost around $40-$50.
Aftermarket magazines can cost more (much more in some cases).
Perhaps the worst example, one that I think is truly bad for the sport, are pre-ban .50 Beowulf magazines which simply cannot be purchased retail anymore because after the RCMP prohibition, no business will import or manufacture them domestically.
Among hush-hush circles of private owners, the price of these magazines among serious competitors looking for the capacity advantage is fairly high.
Personally, I don’t agree that some competitions allow these magazines. Besides the questionable legality (which puts owners of such mags in very real danger of an arrest, criminal charge, and/or lengthy legal battle) is the fact that the enhanced capacity (13-15 rounds of .223) gives the shooter a very real advantage.
Unless there is intentional planning by the Stage Designers to force the Beowulf shooter to reload, limit their capacity to 10, or give a LAR-15 shooter a chance to do a multi-task reload – the 13-15 round Beowulf shooter will have a huge leg up over the 5-10 round non-Beowulf shooter.
That all said, I do believe because no more of these mags are being imported or produced, the Beowulf advantage is a self correcting problem.
The Americans are correct. Magazines ARE expendable commodities. With enough hard use, any mag will fail.
I predict in a few years, no one will be using pre-ban Beowulf magazines in competition even if the Feds don’t crack down on them because they will all simply have been too badly damaged to continue to be used.
10 years ago when I was shooting a lot of IDPA, it was a procedural penalty to drop a magazine with loaded rounds in it. While there were all kinds of tactical considerations behind this, I think an unintended (or maybe intentional) reasoning was that dropping a loaded magazine on a hard surface is very hard on the magazine.
Given that IDPA was themed around self-defense, it made sense that shooters wouldn’t want their defensive pistol to have a stoppage because of a magazine damaged in training or in a competition.
If you think about it, when dropping a loaded mag, you’re basically dropping a polymer, aluminium, or stamped steel box, 4 feet. Add 10-14 rounds of .223 or 9mm, or 5-shots of 12 gauge birdshot, you’re adding a lot of weight.
Considering how (especially with magfed shotguns) spring tensions, feed lips alignment, or follower tilt are essential for proper functioning, such drops are almost guaranteed to fatigue, misalign, or break vital components over time.
Sometimes to the point of rendering the magazines unusable.
For Americans, this is not big problem.
An order from Brownells, CheaperThanDirt, Midway, etc. and they’re back in business as soon as they can have a new mag or part shipped to their doorstep.
For Canadians, not so much.
There are great Canadian businesses that fill the gap, but it can take weeks to months to get certain parts over the border, sometimes at extremely high cost with duties and import fees.
Regardless, I don’t know if 3-Gun will incorporate the mindset of IDPA in regards to dropping mags, which (again) leaves us Canadians with the challenge of trying to enjoy the sport in completely different economy and culture from which it was created.
So what can we do about it?
Here’s a short list of things I think sensible shooters should do:
Buy as Many Mags as You Can Afford
This equally applies to ammo, because you never know when the supply will just evaporate.
During the Presidency of Barrack Obama, there were 6-9 month periods where 9mm and .223 ammo were almost unattainable commodities in Canada, and the same was true of many gun parts.
As we have seen in Canada, a notice from the RCMP is enough to effectively cut off import or production of any types of magazine, even though, as is evident in the Canadian 3-Gun community, some organizations permit them for competition.
While the first scenario is annoying, the latter creates a dangerous limbo for Canadian gun owners. The RCMP prohibitions tend to be their interpretation and opinion of regulations but Crown prosecutors or individual agencies often may not bother pressing charges knowing how pointless and wasteful of resources it would be to do so.
In this regard, I think every individual has to consult their own conscience about what to do, but personally, I gravitate towards the side of “better safe than sorry.”
Rotate And Test Your Mags
One of the reasons to buy as many mags (also many different models) as you can is so that you can rotate through them.
This is very important to allow you to be able to troubleshoot problems. For example, if your gun is having frequent stoppages, it may be a result of a problem with the gun, the ammo or the mags.
Being able to rule out the mags by testing the gun out with different ones allows you to better troubleshoot other areas.
Moreover rotating magazines is a good way to extend the life of your mags, as you will reduce the overall strain on the mags over a prolonged period of time.
Dropping a single mag 50 times will likely cause it to fail. Dropping 5 mags 10 times each likely won’t cause any of them to fail.
Don’t Lose Your Mags
This sounds obvious, but often times I’m surprised how many competitive shooters don’t take it seriously.
Ranges are often dark, on gravel or in grassy or forested areas.
Magazines are generally a dull, matte color and finish – often black, grey, or some subdued natural color.
I get that it’s neat to look “tacticool” and rock tan or olive colored mags, but the fact is (and I’ve seen it happen frequently as an SO), someone drops a mag during a stage, it disappears, and they spend the next hour looking for it (or don’t find it at all).
Personally, this is why I wrap orange duct tape around the bases of all my mags and write my name or initials on them.
Glock and AR-15 magazines are easy to pick up and walk away with if there’s no way to tell them apart.
One other advantage of making your magazines highly visible is that it speeds up the stage reset and helps improve the flow for SO’s and Match Directors.
As an Match Director, SO, and Stage Designer, please don’t be “that guy” wandering in front of the line looking for his mags (or picking up brass), while the next shooter and SO are getting ready to shoot.
Protect Your Mags
Something unique that I do, especially with my shotgun mags, is add foam padding to the bases of some of my harder to replace magazines.
It looks a little goofy and may be a touch idealistic, but the fact is these mags will hit the ground – hard – and over time, that drop will cause them to break. The idea behind padding them is to stretch that span of time a little bit longer.
Another way to protect your mags is, when practicing with them, to lay down a piece of foam on the floor and practice drops with them unloaded or partially loaded.
The weight may not be right, but it’s better to practice with slightly different weights than to have them fail on you during a stage because it broke while you were practicing with it.
Another component of protecting your mags is to make sure you source quality retention equipment (magazine pouches, cases, etc.) to prevent your mags from being damaged (or lost) during transportation or routine use.
Maintain Your Mags
Mags don’t require a lot of maintenance, but they do require some.
Depending on your level of shooting and wear, it may be a once a year sort of activity. Magazines and magazine springs generally shouldn’t be lubricated, but if they are, a dry lube is best.
The most important part of mag maintenance is to make sure there isn’t any foreign dirt or debris within the magazine body.
One VERY important consideration for Canadians with magazine maintenance is that because many magazines are pinned or lanced to a certain capacity, there may be no way to fully disassemble a magazine to perform such maintenance without removing the pin/lance/rivet, therein rendering the magazine into a prohibited device.
Again, I don’t advocate anyone take the law into their own hands, but one consideration for those seriously concerned with magazine maintenance might be to consider taking their magazines to a certified gunsmith to do it for them.
I don’t know of anyone personally who does this (I tend to buy so many mags, I don’t do much in the way of routine maintenance on them – opting to just rotate through them instead), but it’s an option to consider.
3-Gun is an American sport. As Canadians, because of the prevailing anti-gun culture, it is a challenge for us to get into and stay with it, in particular since critical firearms parts (like magazines) are so difficult to get, and even when we do get them, there is often regulatory complications that range from a nuisance to an outright legal danger.
For Canadians to get into American style 3-Gun shooting takes a significant level of forethought and pre-planning.
Personally, I hope the sport continues to grow and in particular, grow in such away to avoid many of the complications with the Canadian laws and market.
In the meantime, I hope these tips help you get out to the range and get shooting!