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The Texas Multigun Championship is coming up next week. It was the first match I shot with Team FNH USA last year, and it’s the first big match on my calendar for this season. But as the date gets closer, I find myself vacillating on a rather important decision – which division to shoot in . . .

3-gun uses divisions to keep things fair. Within a given division there’s a set list of standards that your equipment needs to meet, and at the end of the day the awards are issued within those divisions only — there’s no “overall” winner. It keeps the competition fair, no matter what you want to shoot.

Tac Optics is the most popular division. Last year there were over 220 competitors in that division alone, and most of the sponsored shooters chose to compete in that division as well. I came in about the middle of the pack, and while I’m confident that I’ll do a little better this time there’s a definite wall that I’ll hit somewhere around 70th place. That’s where the “serious” shooters start placing, and unless I quit my job and spend all day every day on the range there’s little hope that I’ll do much better.

There is, however, an alternative.


FNH USA was nice enough to send me one of their FN-15 rifles as soon as the production started. I’ve been doing some preliminary testing with it (Tyler Kee will be doing the full review) and I’ve found it to be of acceptable quality. Accuracy is about 1.5 MoA with okay ammo, which is close enough for competition use. And conveniently enough there’s a division called “Vietnam Light” in the rulebooks that calls for an AR-15 with iron sights, a single stack 1911, and a pump shotgun. Last year there were only a handful of competitors in that division, and remarkably few with any real experience shooting 3-gun.

I have all of these things, and my years spent doing NRA High Power competitions means that I’m actually more comfortable with an as-issued M16 service rifle than my Tac Optics configured PWS Mk114. So I can swap into Vietnam Light without any issues.

So here’s the question. Do I…

  1. Stay with what I know and shoot Tac Optics, compete against 200+ people including some of the best shooters in the world, and pray that the prize table still has something good on it my the time I’m called.
  2. Take the more challenging route of switching to Vietnam Light, compete against a smaller pool, and take my chances.

Honestly, now that I’ve found ammo the gun likes (hint: 55gr ain’t it) I’m leaning towards option #2. But if you guys were in my position, what would you do?

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    • I’m with Tom on this one. Shootin’ irons is a great challenge, and will likely improve your performance across any shooting division you compete in, in the future. You will tighten up in several key areas. Go for it!

  1. I’ve heard a recommendation in a lot of sports to start out dead simple, master the craft, then start adding the toys to make life easier. You might find that if you spend some time in the Vietnam Light division that “wall” might not be there when/if you go back to Tac Optics.

  2. That’s awesome. For the sake of manliness I think you should go Vietnam Light. You should also grow a beard.

        • Yep. Bushy aviator style that says “sure it’s too scruffy for regs, but dude, I’m in-country. You want me to shoot at people but you’re worried about my mustache?”

        • Yes, (Magnum PI) ‘stache is a must!

          Don’t forget the vintage boonie hat either.

          Another vote for Vietnam Light. It just sounds like a lot more fun too and that’s mainly what it’s all about, right? Hell, it is for me and I can’t quit my day job either.

  3. vietnam light sound like an amped up SASS course. i think that would be super cool, you can run basically stock stuff, or slick up your plain janes which i think is very nifty. go with #2 oh and get an older m37 that would be the way to role that scenario.

  4. Treat it like golf where the course is the same for everyone…………
    The only real competition is with yourself and go Vietnam Light

    You will have plenty of time to shoot with the “pros from Dover”

    Plus it would make a good “Everyman” type of article for TTAG

    Good luck

    • I have a “solely Soviet” 3-gun setup. It works pretty well at the informal 3-gun meets in my part of Oregon.

        • My setup consists of either an SLR-106 UR (soon to be shorter than 16-in., I hope) or an SLR-106 CR, the Bulgarian Makarov, and a Saiga-12 that functions flawlessly, if I set the gas adjust to the correct position. I hear that I’m really lucky to have a Saiga that runs as well as this one does.
          I feed it by means of 12-rd drums … all of the height of a 5-rd stick, and twice the kapow.

  5. Well, if you want to get better compete with people that will push you to perform more. If you just want to have fun stick with whatever floats your boat.

  6. Why is this even an article? I mean seriously. This and the article about boo hoo no one wants my over priced AR? This is just freaking awful.

    Instead of the article just explaining the division types it had to, yet again be about Nick Leghorn desperately seeking approval and attention.

    Just ugh.

    • I liked this article. Especially since Nick has been publicly sharing his 3 gun “career” on this blog for the past however long. A lot of his stuff has been about neat pieces of kit that help a Tac Optics rifle (offset sites, different glass, load 2, etc), for him to ponder going au naturale is interesting, since he strikes me as a bit of a gadget guy.

      If I can ever get enough time away from the fam to shoot three gun, I think I would shoot Vietnam Light simply to keep costs of gear down.

    • For the WWIII division, I use a Phased Plasma Rifle in the 40 Watt Range. But I do it with iron sights, because I’m old-school.

      • You just went and set off the wattage wars. Everyone knows that 40 watts is a bastard wattage from when the FBI wanted to dumb down their 10 megawatt phasers. Sack up and use a 45 watt like a real man or go back to playing with dolls.

        • 9 megawatts has less pulse ionization and with proper shot placement is more than enough to vaporize vital organs.

  7. I would go irons. I shoot production or production limited because I don’t have the time or pocketbook to shoot open. When you start shooting against race guns you have to have money. When shooting stock you just have to have skill.

  8. Does anyone else think that a colonial era 3-gun would be fun as hell? Reload times would be horrible but frantic. Maybe even have a stage with a saber involved. Period costumes would be a must.

  9. Go old school.

    Just do me one favor. Dress correctly, that means period correct uniform and helmet (bonus points if you attach something to the helmet like an Ace of Spades, pack of cigarettes or a small flask). Also for the love of God I hope the shotgun is a Ithaca 37 or Remington 870.

    • There were 2 little plastic squeeze bottles carried on the old steel pot. Bug juice and sun burn oil. Also Savage Stevens pump guns were heavily used in 12 bore and some model 12 riot guns from winchester where hanging around.

      Never saw it myself but a cousin of mine in the navy said they used full length model 12’s for ship security while they were anchored in any possibly hostile port on SE asia. Double ought buck with all brass casings is what he said. I always saw plastic and brass cases issued out in my neck of the woods.

      He was there in 68. I was much later and for a shorter period of time.

      • Read about that on Wikipedia. The Stevens Model 77E was the most used, I wonder why Savage/Stevens hasn’t capitalized on that?

        I would presume all brass shells are more reliable. More resistant to getting squished or something.

        Regarding the bottles, it makes sense. Those two things are pretty useful and you would want to have them with you all the time. Personally I would attach a Six of Spades somewhere there, Carlos had his feather I have the Six of Spades (and the Fleur de Lis, but that is more a national symbol).

  10. Although I haven’t tried 3-gun yet, I originally became interested seeing guys doing plain-jane service rifle runs, or doing 3-gun with oddball rifles, shotguns, etc.

    I find that what 3-gun has largely evolved into appears to be very boring, and not something I’d be interested in getting into at this point.

    Frankly I can’t understand how you could stay entertained with everyone doing the same thing, basically: AR-15 with optics, Glock/1911, and generic shotgun.

    It sort of reminds me of NASCAR with guns. Where’s the “stock” aspect of everyone shooting basically the same super hopped-up AR?

    Maybe pick something that will get you away from that formulaic environment.

  11. Yea my AR shoots the 55gr ok but put some 62gr or the 69gr stuff Ive been using for pigs and its much happier.

    • Hoping that it embeds this video.

      Vietnam Light seems pretty interesting, man I need to get these grad loans paid off so I can shoot more.

      EDIT: Damnit it wont let me link this Tracks of My Tears video, BAH!

      • I wasn’t expecting classy music like Tears of my Miracles and the like.
        The Doors, CCR and Rolling stones was expected.

        Thumbs up.

  12. As the only writer on staff to run a Garand in competition, I encourage you to be a man and run Vietnam.

  13. Heavy Metal!.308,.45 acp, and 12 gauge pump.

    Vietnam light sounds like a great place to practice fundamentals. As long as you push yourself to improve you will get something out of it.

  14. Vietnam Light, definitely. Less gear cost, shooting irons will improve your accuracy to no end. Plus, you can rock some really cool period gear.

  15. I say Vietf$&@ingnam! I’ve got a de-milled M16A1 in my patrol car. Still. It’s seen better days, but olde school irons are still cool. Good luck.

  16. I traded my surplus m16 (nota1) for a carbine about 2 years ago for my patrol rifle…. that sucker would shoot…

  17. Suck it up and shoot with the pros. If improving and winning is the goal, going light is a step in the wrong direction.

    • If he shoots for fun, not to “be the best”, and he can have fun in either division and he has a reasonable shot at the prize table in one division, then why not? He’s going to continue improving either way, but one may have a “pay day” and the other won’t. He’ll likely still get squaded with monsters, and it’s not like the skills aren’t portable from one division to the other. If he gets his irons running good, logic would suggest he’ll run his optics even better.

  18. Vietnam light sounds like fun. It’s sort of like the class I have read about where you carry all of your gear with you and only download for stages. If it’s not on you or in your bag, you can’t use it.

  19. Clearly Vietnam Light isn’t light, but just right.

    Suggest, when you have a chance, that all competitors hump a pack in. Arrange for that little hog-hunting chopper to come. Require that all guns and competitors stand in dusty rotor-wash for two minutes prior to competition.

  20. In the ‘Return Of The King’, the third volume of the LOTR series, when some of the soldiers of Gondor became faint hearted on the march to the gate of Mordor, they were sent to capture an island, where the effort was more equally matched to their ‘lesser manhood’. So, I guess you go Vietnam Light.

  21. You have *seven* categories – Open, Limited, Tac, Tac-Heavy, WWII, Vietnam-Heavy, Vietnam-Light?!?!

    You should enter the “Me” category. Only you can enter, and you get first place. Congratulations.

  22. Are you gonna use an A1 upper for Vietnam Light?

    I feel like an A1-style AR as a primary, GI-style 1911 or S&W Model 66 as secondary, and a pump 12 gauge would be awesome for that division.

  23. As you stated your choices are stick with what you know or try something new. What it should come down to is what you want out of the competition. If your looking to do well and potentially win then go with what you know. If you want something new and what sounds like fun, go with the Vietnam light. In all honest the old school comp sounds like fun and it’s a great way to level the playing field.

  24. If you’re not relying on prize money to get you through the year, then challenge yourself to something new. You’ll gain new skills and become a better competitor.

    Plus, if Vietnam Light is anything like Keystone Light…..then it’s gotta be awesome!!!

  25. Go with the iron sights. You will be surprised how effective they are out to the 250-300 metre mark.

  26. For the 1911, would it be in .40? Are there any limitations (like in USPSA) for that particular match? If .45, any mag limitations? 10, 12 rounds? Can’t win 3-gun with the pistol but you can lose with it.

  27. Just me, but I found trying to keep up with the arms race, I did OK, but having a tough time breaking into the top 20.
    I started shooting my H&K 91, kept my Les Baer single stack and Benelli M-1.
    I had to pay attention to my shots, so I slowed down and concentrated on smooth.
    Smooth is fast.
    A .308 is killer on plates, even with marginal hits.
    So is a .45.
    I switched to #4 buck. More pellets. Less recoil.
    Broke into the top 20, then the top 10 in short order.

    • Hello Tom,
      Whereabouts in Oregon is there any competitive 3-gun shooting? I know there’s an informal match held monthly in Canyonville, and have heard of a couple of others …

  28. Go option 2. Since you are competing against other people, compete on equal ground. Besides, you yourself said “I’m more comfortable with iron sights.” Sounds like you’ve already made your choice.

  29. I didn’t know about the Vietnam Light class. Does the gun need to be an AR, or can it be any fixed-stock semi-auto in .225 / 5.56 with iron sights? I am thinking of buying my dad’s Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, I already have a pump shotty, and I’ve been itching for a plated or two-tone 1911 as an open carry piece…might put those to good use in such a division.


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