3-Gun – What Is It? – Part 1

Shooting a Competition, like 3-gun, is one of the best ways to improve your skills and comfort with firearms. But getting into competition shooting can be nerve racking. You could be questioning the gear you have or skills you need. This could be causing you to avoid competitions all together. Sometimes you just have to jump right in with the gear and skills you have and learn as you go. Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll be encouraged to do just that.

What is 3-Gun?

3-Gun is a type of shooting competition where you use three different types of firearms during a course of fire. Typically most competitors use an AR-15 style rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun, and a 9mm full-size handgun.

Each 3-gun match will have a rulebook to follow. Within the rulebook, there will be a list of applicable divisions that you can compete in. Your division is dictated by the gear you choose to use. The most common 3-gun divisions are Open, Limited, and Tactical Optics (Tac Ops). Some matches may include Heavy, 2×4, Modified Optics, 2 Gun, or Ladies divisions. For simplicity, I will only discuss the three most common divisions.

Please read and review the rulebook before heading to a competition.

Open Division

Typically there are no restrictions on the gear you use in Open division. You may use the largest capacity magazines, multiple optics on one firearm, and bipods without concern. You may load your tube-fed shotgun to capacity or use a magazine fed shotgun. You may have your red dot mounted to your handgun’s frame.

Limited Division

Out of the three most common divisions, the limited division has the most restrictions or limitations, hence the name. Typically in this division you may not have a red dot installed on your handgun. Compensators and ported barrels are prohibited from being used on your pistol. The pistol magazine length is usually restricted. Your rifle may only have one non-magnified optic. Bipods and monopods are commonly prohibited from being used on your rifle. Rifle magazine capacity can sometimes be restricted as well. You may only use tube-fed shotguns in this division. The shotgun cannot have an optic on it. Supportive devices, like bipods, along with ported barrels, and compensators are prohibited from being used on your shotgun. The capacity of the shotgun is commonly restricted to a specified amount and must be adhered to at the start of your course of fire.

Tactical Optics Division

Tactical Optics, better known as “Tac Ops”, may be considered the most popular division within the 3-gun sport. Tac Ops restrictions fall in between the Open and Limited divisions. The restrictions on your handgun and shotgun usually follow the limited division restrictions. The restrictions on your rifle commonly follow the open division restrictions with exception to the use of support devices. They are typically prohibited.


Each 3-gun competition will have a variety of stages. Typically each stage will require you to use at least two of your three firearms. A mix of long-range and short-range targets will be presented and you will work through each stage’s course of fire as efficiently as possible. The target and barricade layout will vary stage to stage. Each stage will have a stage brief. The brief will provide pertinent information to help you plan how you’ll complete the course of fire.


Each stage is scored separately. A total score will be provided after the completion of all stages. A stage is scored with a combination of the amount of time it takes to complete the stage and any penalties you may have acquired during the course of fire. The penalties are dependent on the stage layout. Some typical penalties are missed targets, failure to neutralize, and penalty targets. Penalty targets look different from the typical targets either by painting them or by presenting the opposite side of a cardboard or paper target.

Please read and review the rulebook before heading to a competition for further information on scoring.

You Don’t Need All the Latest Gear and Gadgets

Keep in mind, you do not need to have all the latest gear to enjoy a 3-gun competition. It is easier for you to learn the details of the competition with the gear you are most comfortable with. I encourage you to go to a local match with the gear you already have and learn from other competitors. You will see what gear works for others that you may want for yourself. You do not need to invest a ton of money in all the latest gear and gadgets in order to have a great time at a competition.

Your Skills Will Develop and Improve Over Time

The more frequently you handle your firearms, the more your skills will improve and develop. Going to a local match once a month will help you to maintain the required muscle memory for handling a firearm. You do not need to be the greatest shooter of all time in order to enjoy a 3-gun match. Consider setting some personal goals if you are looking to move up in the ranks. For example, if you’re in the bottom ten percent at your first competition, set a goal to move up ten percent at each competition until you’re competing in the top ten percent consistently. 

Note, an article is coming soon on ways to improve your skills to get to the top ten percent.


3-gun is a great sport to get into for many reasons. Besides improving your skills with firearms, you’ll also improve your health and wellbeing by competing in a shooting sport. You may also have the opportunity to travel and meet many amazing people within the firearms community. It’s never too late to head to the range and learn a new skill, or improve on an existing skill, at a 3-gun match.




Meaghan Roble is an anti-gunner turned gun activist. She is a USCCA-certified instructor and an NRA-certified range safety officer. Meaghan is an A Girl & A Gun Chapter Facilitator and the Wisconsin State Director for DC Project. She owns her own Firearms Training & Education business, Roble Defense, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others.






You may also enjoy these popular articles:
OWB, IWB, CrossBreed Holsters, hybrid holster, best holster, gun belt, open carry, responsibly armed, guns, carry gun,    holster maintenance, holsters, hybrid holsters, cleaning holsters, IWB, OWB, CrossBreed Holsters,   IWB, OWB, concealed carry, open carry, best holster for, CrossBreed Holsters, holster, holsters, hybrid holster, most comfortable holster, responsibly armed

Follow us on Social Media:
Facebook, share, article, crossbreed holsters, handguns, concealed carry, hybrid holsters, blog    Twitter, share article, share, article, crossbreed holsters, handguns, concealed carry, hybrid holsters, blog 

CrossBreed Holsters, OWB, IWB, best holster, concealed carry, carry gun, SuperTuck, MiniTuck, best holsters for
©MTC Holsters, LLC and CrossBreed Holsters Blog, 2023.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the CrossBreed Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

3 thoughts on “3-Gun – What Is It? – Part 1”

  1. Pingback: 3-Gun - Gear - Part 2 | CrossBreed Blog

  2. A nutritious diet is crucial for strong teeth. Include foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds. Calcium helps strengthen tooth enamel. Also, consume foods high in vitamins C and D, as they promote gum health and aid in the absorption of calcium.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *