Equipment for Multi-Gun Beginners
By Greg Severson
Sandy, Utah PD
Where to Begin
First things first. Before we get into what gear you need, you must find a match. There are hundreds of clubs across America that host shooting matches on a weekly or monthly basis. Most of those clubs use a popular, user-friendly, free scoring and scheduling program called Practiscore. By going to Practiscore.com you can find hundreds of matches, spanning all disciplines of the shooting sports, at your fingertips. Finding a match in your area and registering can all be done in a matter of minutes on your smart phone with Practiscore.
Now that you know where to find a match, you will need to pick a division. The United Multi-Gun League has steadily become the standard scoring system for multi-gun in the western U.S. With the arrival of the UML, the divisions were expanded to include 2-Gun, 2x4, and PCC divisions. The addition of these divisions has made it easier to jump directly into multi-gun or transition from other organizations like IDPA or USPSA. While different organizations like 3 Gun Nation will refer to these divisions by different names, the equipment restrictions are mostly the same across the board.
What You’ll Need
Unless money is no object, don’t go out and drop a bunch of coin on gear you may not need. Instead, sign up and head to a match with what you have. You are not going to win your first match and you are not going to look like a fool if you don’t have the latest and greatest set up. I have found that competitive shooters are some of the nicest people around and most will bend over backwards to loan you gear and put you on the road to success. With that being said, let’s discuss the basic setup.
Your pistol must be a 9mm or larger caliber. Out of the box, every day carry guns like Glock 17’s, Smith & Wesson M&P’s, or Sig Sauer P320‘s are commonplace. While you will see many $2,000 plus pistols on the range, a good Glock 34 and lots of practice will get you a long way.
One of the most important and often overlooked pieces of gear you will need is a good holster and belt. The sport of multi-gun incorporates a significant amount of dynamic movement. You can expect to run, climb and even crawl, while carrying a holstered pistol.
Retention is a key and if you choose to go with some $10 knock off, plastic holster with a single level of retention you can plan on your pistol eventually spilling out and hitting the ground, resulting in your early exit from the match via DQ. There is a saying about DQ’s; there are those that have and those that will. That may be true, but disqualification by losing your pistol is totally preventable, yet it continues to burn competitors time and time again. A quality holster with multiple points of retention like a Safariland coupled with a sturdy belt will keep you in the match and away from the nearest Dairy Queen.
While you can get away with standard magazines, adding extended base pads can up your magazine capacity to 22-rounds. Just keep in mind you must not have an overall length of over 141.25mm for staggered magazines. Base pads manufactured by Dawson Precision and Taran Tactical Innovations seem to be popular.
While pistol optics are not allowed, except in Open and 2x4 Open, many competitors will switch out their factory iron sights for something more competition friendly. This is a personal thing for most shooters, so I would recommend linking up with your fellow competitors and getting an idea of what they run and find what works best for you before buying.
Most competitors typically compete with an AR-15 semi-automatic style rifle, chambered in .223. The sheer volume of AR manufactures, availability of reasonably priced drop in parts, accessories and its proven accuracy over AK’s and other variants make the AR-15 platform ideal for multi-gun competition. However, if you own an AK, know that the minimum caliber is 5.45x39mm and just like with AR-15’s shooting steel core ammunition, is against the rules. The AK market is saturated with steel core ammo and shooting it at a multi-gun match will result in you going home early and possibly result in you having to pay to repair damage to steel targets. So, turns out if AK’s your way, then it’s A-ok!
All the multi-gun divisions, except limited, allow you to equip your rifle with a variable power optic. Most competitors use anything from a 1-4x to 1-8x. However, 1-6x optics from companies like Vortex Optics seem to be the norm. There is a large amount of quality optic companies out there with different glass and reticles and much like handgun sights, look through as many as you can before making the investment.
Rifle magazines for the AR-15 are currently plentiful and cheap. Magpul magazines are the standard and can be found in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 60 round capacities. If you are just starting out, grab a couple 30’s and a 40-rounder. If you couple those with +5 based pads, which can be found from multiple manufacturers on the web, you will be good to go on most stages.
For all the divisions except for 2-Gun, you are going to need a shotgun. 20-gauge is the minimum, but most competitors are running some brand of a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun with an extended tube and opened loading port. Benelli, Breda, Stoeger, Remington, and Browning can all be seen competing on any given Saturday. In most divisions, you can start with nine shells in the gun, so a tube extension from Taccom or Nordic Components will serve you well. While you won’t see many pump guns, if that’s what you have, use it until you can make an educated decision on which semi-auto to go with.
When you get that semi-auto shotgun, you are probably going to have to load it on the clock. You will find that shell caddies are a must and the quickest way to keep your shotgun up and running is by learning to quad load. Like most other things in multi-gun, there are several manufactures of shell caddies like Taccom, Invictus, Safariland and Carbon Arms. You will probably find all of the above caddies floating around the range on match day, so don’t hesitate to ask your squad mates why they run what they run.
Moving three guns, ammo and spare gear between stages can be cumbersome to say the least. Add to that many ranges are dusty, windy places which wreak havoc on firearms. Investing in a good range bag that can carry three guns, ammo and gear will be worth the price. While the bag will protect your firearms and gear from the environment, it will also provide you an opportunity to pack water, a small first aid kit, including a tourniquet, spare parts, extra eye and ear protection and cleaning supplies.
This is a great marksmanship drill that came from David Blinder at personaldefensetraining.com.
Start at 3 yards. You have to get all 50 hits to pass. Once you can shoot the whole drill without a single miss, either increase the distance or add time pressure. For instance, try to finish the entire drill in under 5 minutes while maintaining 100% accuracy.
- Dot 1 – Draw and fire one string of 5 rounds for best group. One hole if possible, total 5 rounds.
- Dot 2 – Draw and fire 1 shot, holster and repeat X4, total 5 rounds.
- Dots 3 & 4 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #3, then 1 shot on #4, holster and repeat X3, total 8 rounds.
- Dot 5 – Draw and fire string of 5 rounds, strong hand only, total 5 rounds.
- Dots 6 & 7 – Draw and fire 2 shots on #6, then 2 on #7, holster, repeat X4, total 16 rounds.
- Dot 8 – From ready or retention, fire five shots, weak hand only, total 5 rounds.
- Dots 9 & 10 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #9, speed load, fire 1 shot on #10, holster and repeat X3, total 6 rounds. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD DRILL
See you on the range.
About the Author:
Greg Severson is a 24-year law enforcement veteran and competitive shooter. He has served his community as a patrol officer, detective, SWAT officer, firearms instructor, and active shooter instructor. He has taught building clearing and response to active shooter for Peace Officers Standards & Training (POST) and Salt Lake Community College since 2008. Greg has competed nationally in multi-gun and PCC matches and has spent way too much money on useless multi-gun equipment and gimmicks.