3-Gun Tip: Don’t Use Your Sights

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Match directors for 3-gun competitions are always trying to dream up ways to exploit the weaknesses of the shooters. For shotguns, stages will force the shooter to reload over and over again since keeping the scattergun full is the hardest part about shooting it. For handguns, long-distance targets and one-handed shooting are the bane of a competitor’s existence. But for the rifle, there isn’t much that the gun can’t do. The scope, however, is another story altogether. . .

Especially in the Tactical Optics division, the toughest part of rifle shooting is the transition. Some stages will have you start with some extreme close-range targets (like, 5 yards) and then immediately transition to targets at 200+ yards. The point of the exercise isn’t only to heat up your barrel (quickly shooting close range targets and then needing accuracy at distance, which is more difficult with a hot barrel) but to force the shooter to have to adjust their optic. The recent explosion of 1-4x scopes allow shooters to accurately shoot both close and long range targets with different magnifications, but switching from one to the other can be tough under pressure.

My recommendation: don’t.

In general when a match director does the whole “close range to long range transition” schtick, the close range targets are absurdly close. As in, if I could fit my rifle with a bayonet I could probably get them. It’s damn near impossible to miss the targets, even just aiming along the top of the rail and not using the scope at all. When I first started seriously competing, I thought offset iron sights were the way to go — they didn’t count as a second optic, and gave me an aiming point for those close range targets. Those offset iron sights allowed me to set my scope for the long range targets and still engage the short range ones with ease.

The problem: offset iron sights are bulky and annoying. They add weight and width to the rifle, and can make sticking it in a dump barrel or on a drop table tough. They also take a couple of seconds to use, lining them up on target before pulling the trigger. There had to be a better way.

Over the last year I’ve been trying something new. I removed the offset iron sights, but I’ve still been rolling the gun over to the side for the close range targets. Instead of using sights, I’ve been using the handguard rail like a shotgun rib and aiming along it to find my target. It works surprisingly well, allowing me to very quickly pick up the target and hit it with surprising accuracy and speed. It’s faster than adjusting the optic, and faster still than using offset iron sights. It’s so fast, in fact, that I’ve removed all offset iron sights from my guns and exclusively use this method for close range to long range transitions.

It works for me. It might work for you, too.