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5 Must Have Targets for 3 Gun practice 3.67/5 (3)

So you’ve shot a couple of 3 gun matches and you’re tired of getting your butt handed to you by 14-year-old kids, so you decide to start practicing.  The first question is “Where do I find ammo?”  The second question is, “What do I need for targets?”  I can’t help you with the first one, but I’ve got you covered on the second.  

One of the questions lots of people ask me at the 3 gun classes I teach is very similar.  “How do I practice for 3 gun?”  Even with youtube and all the other websites out there, it seems like DETAILED information on how to practice for three gun is difficult to come by.  Most of us have jobs so time is valuable and setting up complete courses of fire to practice on isn’t realistic.  Some people can, I’m not one of them.  Basically, what I suggest is practicing one skill set at a time.  Long range rifle, close range rifle, pistol, and shotgun.  Here’s an idea on how to do it.

Long Range Rifle

For long range rifle practice, I usually set up the following targets.  One Colt Speed Plate Auto Popper at about 200y, an IPSC Auto Reset at 300’ish, and a Flash Target at 350y-380y.  Spread them out left to right as much as you can.  Once you have them all set up, practice engaging them from left to right, right to left, near to far and far to near.  After you’ve done that from the prone position, do it off of a barricade in the reverse kneel position.  This will cover just about every position you’ll ever see in a match (with some slight modifications of course).

targets, auto popper, ipsc auto reset, flash target
Left to right: Colt Speed Plate Auto Popper, IPSC Auto Reset, Flash Target

The other thing to practice that will keep you from getting thrashed by small boys and tweener girls is shooting offhand.  No one likes to do it because it’s hard, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll notice that you’re able to use some of the offhand techniques in the other positions.  It’s a great tool to have in your bag.  The Flash Target and IPSC Auto Reset work great for this at 150y-200y.  They’re both roughly 12” wide and due to the design of the target, you don’t need to reset or have a spotter to call your hits.

Close Range Rifle

Close range rifle is where you’ll need the cardboard target stands and 3GN cardboard targets.  Another skill that separates the men from the boys is shooting the rifle on the move…fast.  Lots of people can shoot a rifle on the move, but doing it accurately and quickly is the key.  It’s a pretty forgiving gun (unlike a pistol).  Set the targets up so you have to transition left to right and vice versa.  The good thing about the 3GN cardboard target stands is they’re lightweight, they’re small, and they don’t fall over in the wind.  Just pound them into the ground and you’re ready to go.  The other good thing about them is you can twist the target to get different angles without having to pull out stakes or move sandbags.  Quick and dirty…

cardboard target holders

Shotgun

Shotgun practice is another place people tend to neglect.  Lots of people have the mindset that if they’re shooting 7-1/2 shot at a plate 10y away, they’ve got roughly 650 chances to knock it down (650 bb’s per shell).  You’d be surprised how often people miss close targets with a shotgun.  The other problem with a shotgun is it’s always empty.  Spending .5 seconds to make a hit is better than spending 1 second to load the shell for the shot you missed and ANOTHER second to pick the shot up.  Take your time and make the hits count.

When I head out to work on the shotgun, I take two sets of targets.  The first one is Clay Pigeon holders, and the second is a set of 5” knock over plates.  I use the clay holders to work on my speed to see just how fast I can transition and still have one bb hole in the clay.  These are also good for patterning your loads and checking chokes.  Do you know how big you can go on your choke and still get a hole in a clay at 35y?  How about getting two or three clays with one shot at 12y?  Having the peace of mind when you go to the match, instead of hoping you’ll get hits, is always a good thing.

The 5” Knock Over plates and stands serve double duty.  They’re good shotgun and pistol targets.  In shotgun practice, I use them in pretty much the same way as the Clay Pigeon holders, but you have to be a little more accurate.  One or two bb’s on a 5” plate won’t get the job done.  Similarly to the clays, I’ve seen lots of close plates missed with the shotgun.  Even with a cylinder bore choke, the pattern is still pretty small at 12y.  The Knock Over plates are also nice because they’re reusable…and they don’t break when they get wet or bounce around in the back of your pickup for two weeks.

targets, clay pigeon holders, knock over plates

 

Pistol

Last but not least is the pistol.  Other than the long-range rifle and shotgun loading, pistol is the most perishable skill.  It requires constant practice to maintain a strong skill level.  This is where the 5” knock over plates and cardboard target stands come in.  Putting six 5” knock over plates and four or five cardboard targets out will really work a wide array of skills.  It makes you focus on the tough shots as well as pushing your speed for fast doubles on the cardboard targets.  I usually put the knock over plates between 10y and 15y, and I’ll intermingle the cardboard targets in with them from 2y to 25y.  The good thing about paper targets is they force you to call your shots.  You don’t get the “ping!!” when you hit them.  You’ve got to be sure of your shot and move on.

So as you’re reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, “Travis Gibson?….that name sounds familiar…  wonder if he’s tied in with MGM Targets…”  Well, the answer is, “yes I am”.  I’m Mike Gibson’s son and have been working with him for about 13 years now.  BUT, don’t think just because I work at MGM, I’m trying to upsell you on targets.  Below are some of the reasons I picked this specific gear.  The main one is the value (for those of you that don’t know, “value” and “price” are not the same, and rarely is “price” the better option).  

3 gunners have a lot of expenses.  If I can get you set up with a relatively inexpensive target set, that means you’ll have more money for ammo and match expenses.  I’m all about growing the sport, so if NOT selling you the most expensive gear we have means you’ll be able to shoot more matches, I’m all for it.  I figure when you’re on the 3 Gun Nation Pro Tour and we’re all making $25k just for showing up, you’ll remember how MGM supported the shooting sports before it was cool to be a 3 gunner.  Then you’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars with us!!

Top five reasons I picked these targets:

  1. Best value
  2. Easy to set up
  3. Easy to see hits on reactive rifle targets
  4. Easy to transport

With all of this being said, don’t take my word for it.  Go to a match, find a shooter that’s better than you, and ask them what they do for practice.  Heck, for all I know, I’ve been doing it wrong all this time!  If you come up with a better plan, do me a favor and send some info my way!!!

Good luck in your practice and I hope to meet you at a match sometime!!

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The Author

Travis Gibson

Travis Gibson

I started shooting at 32 after deciding there was just too big of a chance for an ambulance ride with motocross and bull riding. Shooting is so much safer! Other shooting disciplines I regularly compete in, besides 3 gun, are long range rifle, USPSA, and Steel Challenge.