It’s easy to understand why 3-gun is one of the most popular competitive shooting sports. Participants dash through complex courses, shooting targets from different positions and transitioning between a rifle, handgun and shotgun.
“It’s a first-person video game come to life,” says national and world champion shooter Taran Butler.
And there’s no better guy to tell you how to break into the sport. Butler has a long list of championship wins in 3-gun and other shooting competitions, and when he’s not doing that he trains shooters in his style of high-speed firearm manipulation, with clientele such as big screen directors and actors like Keanu Reeves.
“It’s a first-person video game come to life.”
Because 3-gun requires multiple dependable firearms and you shoot a lot of ammunition in training and competition, Butler actually advises beginning with one discipline, such as shooting local pistol matches.
“Just work from there. When you get to the point you feel good about it and want to try something new, then get into 3-gun,” he says.
Once you get to that point, you’ll need the right gear to make it happen and truly compete.
“You want to get decent equipment,” he said. “You invest in training and travel to competitions, so it doesn’t make sense to skimp on your guns and other gear.”
Most commonly used by 3-gun shooters are modern sporting rifles chambered in 223 Rem., semi-auto 9mm Luger pistols and 12-gauge semi-auto shotguns. Of course, firearm choices can be as varied as the thousands of 3-gun participants.
Since you travel to competitions, sometimes by plane, you want to be able to buy ammunition upon arrival, rather than battle weight restrictions to take it with you, Butler says.
For most shotgun stages, he recommends Federal Premium Gold Medal or Top Gun trap loads, in particular 1 1/8-ounce, 3 dram, 7 ½ or 8 shot loads, which are readily available most anywhere.
“I’ve used those loads my entire career and have won 13 national titles and a bunch of world titles,” he says.
Some shotgun stages, however, require more precision. One example is when shooters are expected to hit a target while avoiding a nearby “no-shoot” target. Those stages call for Federal Premium Buckshot with the FLITECONTROL wad, he says.
“FLITECONTROL is standard now,” he said. “There’s nothing else like it. You have to have it.”
For most of his competitive rifle shooting, much of which takes place at ranges of no more than 50 yards, Butler prefers American Eagle 55-grain full-metal jacket 223 Rem. He goes with Gold Medal rounds loaded with 69-grain Sierra MatchKings if targets are at longer distances.
For pistol, he prefers American Eagle 124-grain full-metal jacket ammunition in 9mm Luger to pack the punch needed to knock down targets without uncomfortable recoil.
If you are going to get into 3-gun shooting, Butler urges you to get into it right.
“Spend the money one time. Find out what people are saying is good equipment. Ask around. It’s easy,” he says. “Look on YouTube, find the top four or five shooters and see what they are using.”
“Spend some time watching videos. Look at what they’re doing, namely their footwork and how they move. And practice—do a lot of dry-firing and dry-runs.”
Along those lines, study the top shooters themselves.
“Spend some time watching videos. Look at what they’re doing, namely their footwork and how they move,” he says. “And practice—do a lot of dry-firing and dry-runs. Make sure your guns are zeroed—they have to hit at point of aim.”
Little details, like zeroing your firearms and proper scope mounting, make a difference. “I’ve lost more matches than I’ve won by overlooking the littlest details.”
But Butler’s most important advice is his simplest. “Have fun!”
Butler’s Top Picks For 3-Gun
Champion shooter Taran Butler knows what it takes to make it in the 3-gun game—practice. Lots of it. But the right ammo plays a big role, too. Here’s what he chooses when prizes and bragging rights are on the line.
Syntech: Keep Your Cool In Competition
Having a shot at the podium in 3-gun or any other competitive shooting discipline requires putting a lot of rounds downrange—not only in the events themselves but also in training. And high-volume shooting can be hard on your gun in terms of fouling and barrel wear. That’s why new American Eagle Syntech is such a game-changer. In place of the usual copper jacket, it features a slick polymer coating that prevents metal-on-metal contact between the bullet and barrel. This reduces friction 12 percent and heat 14 percent to extend barrel life, and it eliminates copper fouling to keep you shooting more and cleaning less.