3-Gun Shooting Tip: Treat It Like A Sport


I can remember very clearly one of the first conversations I ever had with Erik Lund of FNH USA’s pro shooting team. He took one look at my footwear and looked at me with an inquisitive look, obviously disapproving of my dapper Danner boots. I knew I had done something wrong, I just wasn’t quite sure yet. Never fear — he quickly let me know that apparently my footwear was proof that I wasn’t taking this whole 3-gun thing seriously.

3-Gun is a completely different beast from most shooting we do on a daily basis. Show up for a defensive handgun class in your latest “tactical chic” operator-wannabe outfit and no one bats an eye — mainly because they’re wearing the same thing. But if you show up for a 3-gun competition in that same outfit you would be most decidedly out of place.

The difference is that while most shooting focuses on the actual shooting, with 3-gun shooting is a secondary consideration. The ability to put rounds on target is the result of your mastery of the first challenges of 3-gun: movement and planning. The ability to move your body around a course and plan your shots is what 3-gun is testing, and for those who master those first two challenges the shooting comes much easier.

The reason why Erik disapproved of my boots was that they didn’t give the proper grip needed to catapult my… er… “large frame” around a 3-gun course. We’re both big guys, and it takes a lot of energy to get us moving as well as get us stopped. Boots like my pair of Danner footwear were great for hiking and farting around on the range, but for 3-gun they just don’t cut the mustard.

Erik’s idea of the perfect footwear is a set of football cleats. In his mind, the way they are set up is perfect for the stop-and-start of a 3-gun stage. Personally, I like the flexibility and light weight of trailrunning cleats. They were also blue, which matched my fetching outfit at the time. But then again, to each their own.

The same mentality applies to more than just footwear. Solid shoes are a start, but moving on to gear selection and even firearm selection the first thing you should be thinking is how that piece of kit will impact your ability to manuver around a stage. A Browning BAR is a great gun, but it might not be “the one” for 3-gun just due to the weight. A chest rig sounds like it would fit the bill for holding your loaded magazines, but the awkward position of the mags makes it difficult to use in the middle of a stage.

Like I said, 3-gun is not primarily a shooting sport. 3-gun is a sport about movement, and if you want to be competitive you need to adopt that mindset and use that principle to guide you in everything from firearms to footwear. 3-gun is a sport, and those who do well treat it as such.


  1. avatar Ken says:

    “. . . 3-gun is not primarily a shooting sport.” I would take issue with that statement. I have a friend who competes and does well in triathlon, “iron man”, and other such extreme activities. He can run, swim, bike, and jump circles around me. (I don’t do any of that stuff). I can shoot circles around him. He might beat my time to the first position but I’ll be at the next position while he’s still trying to knock down the first steel plate. I would say that 3-gun is primarily a shooting sport that requires the proper supporting equipment beyond the firearms in order to be competitive. A couple of the top 3G competitors look like they’ve eaten a few too many cupcakes in their time and if they couldn’t shoot they wouldn’t be at the top of the heap. My take anyway.

  2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    I don’t know why people wear boots to “tactical classes….”

    Most people live in urban and suburban centers. It’s all concrete and manicured grass.

    You’ll be able to move better and faster in light weight, flexible shoes than in heavy, thick sole boots.

    It’s not tactical, it’s tacticool.

    1. avatar Brian says:

      Try Danner Tachyons. Lighter weight than almost any shoes and super flexible soles. Great boots.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        I’m sure they’re better than any boot out there, but they still aren’t as good an athletic shoe when it comes to mobility.

        1. avatar DavyJones says:

          I like Brooks True Grit series as they are very grippy and in addition to running in them, ive done classes in them amd thier great. I also like the Saloman brand but havent tried them out yet.

    2. avatar Skyler says:

      Boots give you support in your ankles and sissy running shoes don’t protect your feet if you have to kick a piece of urban debris out of the way.

      1. avatar Scrubula says:

        If you have to jump off something in sneakers and you roll your ankle, you won’t be running away any time soon.

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          Jump off something?

          Yeah, I forgot about the combat rolls and backflips that people do on an average day.

        2. avatar Scrubula says:

          I don’t know how jumping off a 4+ feet ledge onto a slope suddenly turned into combat rolls.

        3. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          I don’t know why you would need to do that about your daily life.

          Let alone, have it govern your apparel choice for the day.

        4. avatar Scrubula says:

          Tactical classes aren’t daily life.
          Boots are useful. They might not be comfortable or great for sprinting (so they suck for 3 gun) but there are many situations, combat related or not, where they are superior to normal tennis shoes.

        5. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

          While I am a college student I prefer workbooots to shoes, I just find them more comfortable.

        6. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          I wear work boots everyday of my life for my job and I wore boots in the military, I think they are over rated. But, the each his own.

        7. avatar Shandower says:

          I once stepped off a 3″ curb and rolled my foot, fracturing 3 metatarsals and permanently (without surgery) tearing a tendon. Some years later, I stepped out of my car onto a marker, rolled the foot again, and re-broke two of the already weak (and now unsupported) metatarsals. I’ve also torn up both ankles (over the handlebars motorcycle accident), smashed a pinky-toe’s bones to dust (industrial accident), and my big toe is a deformed and un-moving mass of calcium (psoriasitic arthritis plus repeated mashings)

          So, much like I don’t wear a gun TO the grocery store (I go to the grocery store and my gun is on me like it always is), neither do I wear boots TO any training (or 3-gun): They’re just always on, and no amount of gamesmanship will get me into cleats like that. Will I suffer in movement? Probably. But having cleats on isn’t going to seriously improve my time running on the worn out stubs that are my feet. And it’s certainly not worth the risk of stepping on another marker!

        8. avatar Anonymoose says:

          I have flat feet, so I really value ankle support when running.

      2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        “Urban debris…”

        You mean like litter and dog sh*t?

        Cause like time I checked America isn’t a war zone… Well, maybe Missouri.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Broken glass, nails, etc.

        2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          I have a scar on the bottom of my foot from a nail that says boots don’t stop debris.

      3. avatar Leighton says:

        You don’t have to kick things out of the way when you are competing in 3gun, as far as I know.

        1. avatar Skyler says:

          The implication I was responding to was that boots are not useful in an urban environment.

    3. avatar Dev says:

      Most people who wear boots wear them for work. Not just the typical construction, but most trades require them, most service jobs require them, trucking jobs may require them, etc., etc.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Exactly. I wear boots, most of the time all day, every day.

        Most days, I’m’ wearing either White work boots (packers) or Lowa hiking boots when I don’t need steel/hard toes in my boots.

        Men who do real work (defined as “hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, occasionally with real disk of severe or mortal injury”) wear boots, and boots made of leather at that. In most shops where this work is done, OSHA requires these boots to have a certain type of sole and steel toes.

        At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a man and you’re wearing flip-flops, you might as well turn in your man card when you put them on. By wearing flip-flops, you’re neither running away danger from nor into dangerous situations. I cannot believe how many kids want to show up into shops where machining, welding, wrenching are done, or on farms/ranches where there are large animals about in flip-flops, sandals, sneakers, etc.

        1. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

          Wear your “mans boots” in a situation where to may need to shoot and move (hopefully any situation where you need to shoot unless you are a fully untrained gun owner). I’ll be in my Merrell shoes laughing at you.

          Flip flops…well unless I am on the beach they sot in my closet, I’ll agree with you there.

        2. avatar FoRealz? says:

          I wear combat sandals made out of old tires. Just like the Viet-Cong.

          Sometimes I wear large overshoes that leave Sasqutch tracks. I do this to throw off pursurers such as bloodhounds and ex-wives.

        3. avatar The Brotherhood of Steel says:

          @ForRealz, hahahahahahaha! yes! I personally also love to go barefoot all the time like the Zulu Warriors until the bottoms of my feet turn as hard as bone. That’s how real men do it.

        4. avatar Steven says:

          Real men wear whatever they like and don’t worry about the status of their man card. If you’d like me and every other man who doesn’t work a physical job can take a couple months off and leave the world to real men. I hope you don’t like the newspaper, or TV or the internet or this website or reading or buying anything, or having power or any number of things.

    4. avatar The Brotherhood of Steel says:

      I have to disagree only because I wear the Altima ExoSpeeds. Those things are amazing. I picked them up while I was in the military and prefer them to any shoe I’ve ever worn for anything. Except maybe full on distance running. Great support and tough like a boot should be, should you need to kick or break things, but also extremely light weight and feels like a running shoe.

    5. avatar DrewN says:

      I thought this as well until I got a pair of 511’s for work. I’m doing facilities maintenance at the moment and commute on a motorcycle so I needed something more than sneakers and less than heavy duty work boots. These boots are as light as sturdy sneakers, flexible right out of the box, decent abrasion resistance and the ventilation actually works. Seriously, I can feel the air blowing thru ’em on my ride home, which is pretty awesome here in the OC. They seem to wear pretty well too, but for $100 and some change on sale I’ll happily replace them every 18 months.

    6. avatar Paladin says:

      In two words: ankle support.

      Shoes are fine until you step in a pothole and twist your ankle. Just because you live in suburbia doesn’t mean you can always expect the terrain to be optimal, and when the lead is flying you won’t have much time to watch your step.

  3. avatar esitue says:

    When one is beholden to others for gear, ammo, transport and all the rest, one does what one is told, how one is told, when one is told.

  4. avatar Leighton says:

    USPSA is the same way. Cleats are the best for taking off and stopping fast, but they are uncomfortable so it seems that most shooters have decided on the happy medium of knobby trail running shoes. It’s hard to learn to do fast transitions while shooting, but everyone already knows how to run. I figured out fast that the best shooters shoot fast, but actually RUN between shooting spots. Even the overweight guys. If you don’t take off fast, run fast and stop fast, you could shoot like Rob Leatham and your still going to get beat.

  5. avatar Jeff says:

    Don’t you need to be in shape for most sports?

    1. avatar FoRealz? says:

      Most, but not all. For instance, Whore Mongering, Fishing and Lying are three sports where it’s 95% mental agility versus physical.

      1. avatar Matt in TX says:

        I thought that fishing and lying went pretty much hand in hand. 😉

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s only two sports.

    2. avatar Fuque says:

      Round is a shape.

      1. avatar John Smith says:

        …just as purple is a fruit.

  6. avatar archangel187 says:

    I’m a dapper Danner man, goddamit! Great reference. Never thought about shoes being a consideration in 3 gun.

  7. avatar Lolinski says:

    I wear leather shoes, does that make me unserious?

    I find them to be a good compromise between speed and ruggednes.

  8. avatar Fuque says:

    Not me.. It’s Bermuda shorts,a wife beater T-shirt, and my flip-flops if I’m “runnin and gunning” I take my Tac training VERY serious.

  9. avatar I'm A Better Shooter Than You says:

    ” 3-gun is not primarily a shooting sport”.

    LOL. People who say this primarily suck at shooting.

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