Ask Foghorn: Best Optic for 3-Gun Competitions

Enzo asks:

Which optics should I purchase for Stag Arms 3g? One of the stages I see for my club is 3-shots at 10 targets gauntlet style then a run to a berm where you need to put shots down range at 25, 50 , 75, 100 & 200yrds. Outside of this friendly competition which they may do more of (I hope), I will use it at my clubs 100 and 200yrds range only. What would be a good optics choice or should I just get some iron sights?

Excellent question, and the answer will be different depending on your body and what division you want to compete in. But I think I can help…

First and foremost, there is absolutely nothing wrong with iron sights out to 200 yards. One of my friends ran the FNH 3-Gun National Championships last year with iron sights and was perfectly fine on the long range steel. But for 3-gun, if you have the option, you really should look into having a red dot at the very least.

A red dot is usually classified as an “unmagnified optic” and typically lands you in the “limited” division, alongside people using iron sights. But thanks to the holographic nature of the red dot it is far faster to put on target than iron sights which in turn brings down your time. And even though its unmagnified it still is accurate enough at longer distances — see above video of me getting bored with a steel plate 250 yards away while using a red dot.

The best part about the red dot is that it gives you options. If you see people like Daniel Horner and Jerry Miculek pulling into the parking lot you can stay with the non-magnified optic and compete among the other “limited” shooters instead of trying to lock horns with the big boys. And if the targets seem impossibly far away you can throw a magnifier onto your gun and move into the Tac Optics division with the other guys with scopes, something like this one from Lucid. The point is that its not only cheaper, but more versatile.

If your eyes just aren’t what they used to be and you really do need a little help to be accurate at long range, the #1 scope I can suggest is a Trijicon Accupoint 1-4x variable power scope. Because its a dedicated telescopic sight it will place you squarely in the Tac Optics division, but the nice thing about this scope is that it gives you the same options that you had with the red dot. You can zoom all the way out for a true 1x optic for quick close-up target acquisition, and you can zoom all the way in for a 4x magnification on long distance targets.

There is another option for scopes, however. When I was kitting out my 3-gun rifle (top) I went with a 3-9x scope which lacks that 1x close range capability, as I was part of a 3-man team and was going to be the designated marksman of the group. I never really needed to be able to engage close range targets until I started competing on my own, and to remedy that lack of capability I threw some offset iron sights on that puppy and have been happy ever since. I like it, mainly because the match directors out here seem to like 200 – 500 yard shots in the middle of a match, but if I were to change one thing on my rifle it would be to swap the 3-9x for a 1-4x scope. Its heavy, and I don’t get as much use out of the full magnification as I originally thought. But it does work amazingly well in those rare instances when you absolutely positively need to make a 500 yard shot.

So what’s my opinion? If you’re just getting into 3-gun I would recommend you start with something like a Primary Arms red dot. Its cheap (so you don’t invest a lot in something you might not enjoy) yet accurate and durable, and gives you a lot of options in terms of which division you want to compete in and how you want to set up your rifle. But if you’re looking for something with a little more magnification a Trijicon Accupoint 1-4x is perfect.

[Email your firearms-related questions to “Ask Foghorn” via guntruth@me.com. Click here to browse previous posts]

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

6 Responses to Ask Foghorn: Best Optic for 3-Gun Competitions

  1. avatarCory says:

    What do you run for irons on the side? I’ve looked at the Dueck Defense and XTI versions…not sure what would be the best choice when performance and cost are weighed?

    • I too went with the Daniel Defense offsets and a pair of old iron sights that came with the upper. They’re Troy sights and they work well, but really any old irons will do. You don’t need them to be pinpoint precise, you just want to have enough of an indicator of where your barrel is pointing to get an “A” instead of a “C” hit.

  2. avatarVolkho Mashchenko says:

    OV-10 Bronco at the first pic?

  3. avatarPascal says:

    Thanks Nick for the great post!

  4. avatarNR says:

    When are you going to do a review of that Noveske, Nick?

    Is a 1x scope like the Trijicon as fast as a red dot? Or do you need more time to get your eye lined up with the scope?

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