AR15.com Pro/Am 3-Gun Match: A Minor Rant

The AR15.com 3-gun match in Kentucky is billed as a “pro/am” match. Shooters are divided into two groups, with the shooters themselves self-selecting their preferred association, either “Pro” or “Amateur.” I had expected that the competition would run like the Hornady zombie match in Nebraska, which I thought was brilliant. Instead, the AR15.com match was more like a recreation of 1950’s era segregation . . .

The shining example of how to integrate pro shooters and amateur shooters is the Hornady match. The two groups shoot side by side in the same squads and running the same stages, but the amateur shooters have their own equipment division to make sure that they get a shot at some good prizes. That setup, where pro and amateur shooters mix, allows the newer shooters to absorb the tips and tricks of the pros on their squad, watching their runs and learning from their example. It’s like a free 3-gun clinic, which lets the amateur shooters come away from the competition not only having had a good time but also having learned some new skills to work on and better themselves.

The AR15.com match is the exact opposite. Not only are pro and amateur shooters segregated on different squads, but they run two completely different sets of stages. This sucks for multiple reasons.

First, the amateur shooters don’t learn anything. There’s no pro shooters to absorb tips and tricks from, and the segregated format means that the two classes of shooters don’t ever really meet. For someone hoping to be able to shoot with their idols or learn some new techniques to improve their game, it’s a huge let-down.

Second, not only is it impossible to learn directly from the pros, but the use of two completely different stage designs for pro and amateur shooters means that there’s no way to learn from videos of the pros posted after the competition and no way to compare their scores to the pros. Some of the amateur shooters would have definitely placed favorably when ranked in amongst the pro shooters, but because of the divided nature of the competition they will never know where they stand and may be intimidated into avoiding some of the larger matches.

To bring my minor rant to a close, the format of the AR15.com match sucked. It segregated the newer shooters from the more experienced shooters, encouraging a divide among the groups and keeping the newer shooters from learning as much as they could. 3-gun competitions should be about encouraging those newer shooters and helping them along, not about keeping the “great unwashed” away from the “chosen few.”

The counter-argument is that there are simply too many shooters who want to compete to have a unified match, and to that I say “tough shit.” Change the number of stages, drop the number of slots for shooters, lengthen the number of days it takes to shoot the match… whatever it takes. The Hornady 3-gun match is proof that it can be done successfully, and anything less is unacceptable.

comments

  1. avatar Internet Guy says:

    Yes, a divided shooting competition is comparable to racism in the ’50s. Nothing wrong with that comparison at all, nope.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Please take your false indignation elsewhere. The implication is that it was supposed to be a “separate but equal” setup, but it really didn’t turn out that way. Y’know, just like segregation.

      1. avatar Hal says:

        You’re grumpy this morning.

    2. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

      I see a godwin coming

      1. I’m surprised they did not pull out the Swastikas and hang them up for all to salute at this match!!!

        [there you go, Pie].

        : )

  2. avatar Fug says:

    ARFCOM elitist? Perish the thought good sir!

  3. avatar Hal says:

    Hooray! An ARFCOM on TTAG flame fest! I’m getting some popcorn…

  4. avatar Emfourty Gasmask says:

    To be fair, It is ARFCOM. Land of the $3000 Mil-spec or its garbage.

    1. avatar Hkfan says:

      You can build a quality AR for a lot less than 3k. And ARFCOM elitist? Have you read their general discussion forum? There’s more bubba guns there than you can shake a stick at.

    2. avatar Tomy Ironmane says:

      Well, if you have to pay for your targets, sure…. the guy *I* usually pay attention to is the old fart who shows up with a well-worn old rifle at a place where everyone else is bringing some $3,000+ special built thing. I hear a story every now and then about some old sheriff who showed up at a tactical carbine class where everyone pretty much had an AR-platform, with a 94 Winchester 30-30, and pretty much owned the course.

  5. avatar Craig says:

    If you’ve ever used the power of Google and found an AR15.com thread, you shouldn’t be surprised. But I don’t have a problem keeping the “pros” and everyone else separate.

  6. avatar Atticus says:

    So did you shoot Pro or Am?

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      Pro. Finished almost exactly middle of the pack.

  7. avatar Aran says:

    FLAME DELETED

  8. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Oh poor baby…you mean everyone didn’t get a trophy? Oh, the horror !!!

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      The point was not that everyone didn’t get a trophy, but that there was an unnecessary separation between two groups. I can’t really fault his logic, competitions like this are about everyone having fun and improving their skills. Making sure that your best shooters are unable to demonstrate for your less experienced attendees is more than a bit silly.

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        Competitions are for COMPETING. Plinking at the range is for having fun and improving your skills. Placing the pros in the same que with the ams just makes the process drag on unnecessarily. If you want to compete with the pros, sign up as a pro, or be a spectator and ask questions afterwards. Next thing you know, there will be people whining that they couldn’t hop in the arena with other pro sports players.

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          I think you misunderstand the concept of a Pro/Am. It’s that the amateurs play alongside the pros, thereby to learn from them. If they aren’t playing alongside, it’s not a Pro/Am, it’s a competition with two divisions.

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          It’s not the Olympics, if you’re not having fun, I’m sure you can find a much better way to spend a weekend. As mentioned elsewhere, if the event was not billed as Pro/Am and run the exact same way, I doubt anybody would have cared. However, the issue is that it was basically two separate courses that sort of defeats the purpose of having a Pro/Am event.

      2. avatar Bunsen says:

        http://www.rock3gun.com/

        From the main website second to last paragraph:

        “Don’t forget the free Pro Clinics, where you can learn the tricks of the trade from the best in the business, which will be held both Saturday and Sunday of the match. The classes will fill up fast, so make this a priority upon your arrival at the Rock.”

      3. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

        Sorry I expected that most everyone is familiar with the phrase “everyone gets a trophy”. It doesn’t actually mean a “trophy”. Its a phrase that conveys the whiney, feelings protection, and everything has to be so fair, thinking of today. I guess that Nick never played stickball on the streets of NY. There, phrases like “grow a pair”, and “what are you going to do, tell your momma?” are probably more relevant. I guess next will be to make the targets bigger.

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          I think you misunderstood Nick’s comments. The issue is not that he got nuked. The issue is that the event was billed as something which it was not. That’s, at the very least, disingenuous.

  9. avatar Bill says:

    AR15.COM and the people that run it are idiots anyway!!

    1. avatar Rambeast says:

      Those “idiots” are probably the largest repository of gun knowledge on the planet. Blanket statements like yours just serve to make you look like a fool.

      1. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

        And that is the typical opening argument of an AR15.com thread. Glocktalk and most linux forums fall under the same category.

        ..It is possible to be correct and an idiot at the same time. The wholesale consensus is that they are a bunch of toolbags

      2. avatar Bill says:

        You my friend could not have validated my statement better.

      3. avatar Hkfan says:

        Protip: stick with m4carbine and you’ll thank me later.

        1. avatar Mike Whiskey says:

          M4Carbine is starting to try to make the downward spiral toward AR snobbery and elitism. Very troubling indeed.

        2. avatar Hkfan says:

          most m4c posters believe in using high quality parts over aesthetics. Many have actual field experience, something that cannot be said for ARFCOM. I’ll take a little snobbery that goes along with that any day.

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Agreed. Back in the day, being able to shoot along with guys in the super squads really was an eye opener. How they choose to attack a course of fire challenges you to maybe shoot outside of your comfort zone. Some of them will even let you pick their brain. (after they shoot).

  11. avatar Bunsen says:

    The AR-15 Rock Castle Pro-Am has always been two seperate matches conducted concurrently over two different CoF’s (Pro and Amateur). That is how they are able to be the largest3-gun match and accomodate the high number of shooters they do, in the time frame that they do. Maybe you should have researched the match more in depth prior to the event so as not to have false expectations.

    If you didn’t like the format or your experience at the match don’t shoot it next year by voting with your wallet; or did FNH foot the bill for the match fee as your sponsor? It’s a good match and a good thing for the sport! You come across like a spoiled child considering everything you’ve been given (equipment and access) by Team FNH.

    1. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

      Did he not make valid points?

      Perhaps you didn’t see where he mentioned that they were minor gripes obviously intended as constructive criticism.

    2. avatar Rambeast says:

      Nick hasn’t gone in depth about how he managed to get on to FN’s team. I will reserve judgement on wether he earned the gear, or if it was given to him until I read how it went down.

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        He was invited to join as an embedded reporter, and that invitation acknowledged both the fact that he’s a reporter for a popular gun blog as well as a good enough shooter that he would acquit himself favorably, not just be a dead weight poor shooter there only for the purposes of publicity.

        1. avatar Rambeast says:

          I appreciate the info.

  12. avatar 505markf says:

    I think Nick’s point about people getting a chance to work with their betters is a great one. I remember asking a tennis coach many, many years ago “what was the fastest way to improve” and he simply said “play people who are better than you.” Same with a martial art I studied – amazing how fast you progress if you willingly seek out black belts to practice with.

    It does help, though, to leave the ego at the door as seeking out your betters is guaranteed to help you experience in living color exactly how inexperienced you are.

  13. I much prefer the saner confines of M4Carbine.net

    All the great info, sans the high stupid factor.

    1. avatar Hkfan says:

      Well said.

  14. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I honestly don’t remember the last time I ventured outside the Florida Hometown forum and a select few manufacturer forums on arfcom. It’s probably been a year since I’ve been in GD.

  15. avatar Tokamak says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Nick.

    In the shooting sports, If you cannot as an “amateur” compare your results with the top shooters you miss a great opportunity to learn as well as the chance (however slight) to feel good about your performance. No, I’m not a whiner. Just think that if you put that much money and effort into something like that you should be able to get the most out of it.
    Last year they had televised coverage of a match run this way. I thought it sucked then too. They showed both sides and it was “apples to oranges”. As a competitor there is a lot to be gained by watching the top guys (and gals) and comparing it to your performance. Being able to actually squad with them is a dream come true for most of us.

  16. avatar Butch Hylton says:

    I shoot the Pro/Am every year and I must disagree with you. To your first point they hold Pro clinics everyday and you get 1on 1 instruction. The way the schedule is laid out I spent many hours watching pro shooters run stages. I also spent many hours after the shooting was done bench shooting and drinking a few adult beverages with many different levels of shooters (pro shooters included). I must say that you must not shoot many major 3 gun matches as it is a very tight knit community and I have never run across anyone (beside you) at this match that did not love this format. The amateur prize table is a random draw and is twice as large as the pro table,thus ensuring just about everyone a good prize.I would posit that many amateur shooters would have timed out on several of the pro stages as the difficulty level was much higher than the am stages. Respectfully Butch Hylton

  17. avatar BluesMike says:

    I know this is an old thread but I just found this and couldn’t avoid commenting. I think that Nick is classifying all amateurs the same way. There exists a type of amateur that would simply not consider even going to this match if they knew they would be forced to shoot in the same squad as pros. There are also the more advanced type of amateur (more competitive, experienced) who would greatly benefit from shooting alongside pros. If the format of this match were changed, I believe a lot of that first category would stop coming. Since the match is in such high demand, you wouldn’t see a difference in the numbers. A lot of people go on a waiting list and never get a chance to go. The first category I’m talking about are people who would love to get into the sport but are easily intimidated. Should we make a way for those people to try it (and eventually become the second type of amateur) or should we adopt the more exclusionary opinion of Nick who thinks there is only one way, his way? I think that we need both type of matches to allow the largest number of people to try out the sport and to also allow amateurs who would benefit to shoot alongside pros. What I’m saying is especially true for women trying to get into 3-gun.

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