For people just getting into competitive shooting, a 3-gun AR-15 setup can be a little intimidating. Thus, we’re going to walk you through some basic ideas you help you set up your AR to begin training and competing in 3-gun matches.
First and foremost, you’ll need an AR: we recommend building your own from that’s light and has any special features you might need, like an enlarged charging handle, or parts that are left-handed friendly.
Taking the time to build your own rifle is a great start to getting familiar with the platform and eventually getting your ideal AR-15 rifle setup.
Tips And Tricks For Setting up your 3-Gun AR-15 for Competition
From there, we have some general principles to keep in mind. First and foremost, keep things light: a heavy gun might be more accurate at extreme ranges, but here we need rounds on target, fast. Second, no unnecessary gizmos: a light worth a mortgage payment will not make you a better shooter.
A few thousand rounds downrange, though, absolutely will. Finally, in terms of setup, we follow the rule: simple is better. Thus, we recommend only a few changes from a totally mil-spec AR-15 upper receiver to get it ready for competition.
Optics are a must in the 3-gun world. Depending on the ranges your local matches are held at, we make one of two recommendations.
How To Choose The Right 3-Gun AR-15 Optic
First, a simple dot sight. Some people much prefer green over red dots. For example, people with astigmatism see red dots as splotches, so those people typically prefer green dots. If you see your current red dot or red lights as a splotch rather than a dot, visit your optometrist for a better diagnosis.
After all, you can’t, or a least shouldn’t shoot what you can’t see.
For longer ranges, a variable-power optic can be a boon to people who need to connect at 100 or more yards. While using the mechanism to change between powers takes a little practice, the ability to zoom in within a second can be a major benefit at the competition range.
Some people recommend having two optics, both a variable power and a red dot. For us, this just adds unnecessary weight, and for most people, most of the time, one or the other will do just fine.
For instance, I have a green dot with a magnifier on my home-defense AR, and I can make hits at 3 yards, and 300 yards, with the same rifle. No need for more weight where it doesn’t need it.
With the popularity of low power variable optics (LVPO’s) you really don’t need both because the LVPO’s have such good eye relief and often times even have illumination built right into the optic.
Getting your 3-Gun AR-15 Rifle Ergonomics Right
Second, get a comfortable grip. If you’re building an AR, we recommend getting two grips with vastly different profiles, trying both in your hand, and returning the one you like least. I had a pre-built AR, so I did an old trick to my A2-style grip.
The A2 grip has a little nub that hits me in just the wrong spot, so I hacksawed it off, and, based on the recommendation of a few historians who researched folks like Delta Force and the Seals, wrapped it with black duct tape to both make it smoother, and give me a few yards of duct tape in case I need it.
For a competition gun, though, just feel out a few grips at the range and keep the one you like. They aren’t extremely expensive and it’s a lot less work and cleaner than hacksawing your A2 style grip.
Considering this is for 3-gun, you’re going to have to transition to a pistol at some point. So, a good sling is vital. You will definitely prefer old-school two-point slings for shooting 3-Gun with your AR-15.
With just a little practice, you can get them adjusted to not only be awesome shooting aids from kneeling and standing positions, but you can get your rifle on your back in a second and have the pistol out.
A lot of the ‘tactical’ crowd these days like one point slings, but they don’t exactly mention that if you drop the gun to switch to the pistol, the hot barrel of the rifle is likely to make hard contact with some bits you’d rather not smack with a smoking barrel if you get my drift.
So a two-point dedicated sling is usually your best bet. There are a ton of really good options on the market today for two-point slings and a lot of them will even have adjustment and tension options for you.
Buying a Gun Case for your 3 Gun AR-15
Depending on the overall length of your 3-Gun AR-15 you’ll have a number of gun case options. We have compiled a solid list of cheap gun cases if you spent most of your funds on building the best 3-gun setups you could.
Plano Gun Cases are an extremely popular hard gun case option for flying and keeping your guns safe on long-haul trips.
If you want a top-of-the-line gun case cut specifically to your gun setup using HDPE foam, check out Patriot Cases.
If you are okay with pluck and stuff foam options you can buy nearly any clause from the Savior Equipment of Plano Gun Case lineup.
3 Gun AR-15 Setup Conclusion
A lot of other folks will also recommend various grips, etc. to get your 3-gun rifle dialed in, and I’m not opposed to any of that. I might prioritize the grips and optics over any of the other accessories that may just be for aesthetics.
That said, I think I’d rather spend the money on a ton of ammunition and some spare magazines: a rifle with a good grip and an optic goes a long way to performing well. The training you put in will be the important part here of your 3-Gun experience.