Question of the Day: What Division Would You Choose?

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?


  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Go old school!

    1. avatar BDub says:

      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!

    2. avatar B says:

      Iron sights! Don’ need no dots roun heeya.

  2. avatar peirsonb says:

    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.

    1. avatar Dan A says:

      That’s what I was thinking too.

  3. avatar Renegade Dave says:

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

    1. avatar John Thomas says:

      i approve of this comment.

      1. avatar Xavier Caceres says:

        Vietnam era, you got to go with a mustache

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          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?”

        2. avatar RobGR says:

          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.

    2. avatar Robb says:

      Requires flannel too.

  4. avatar Cameron B says:

    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.

  5. avatar Jim R says:

    I say go with Vietnam Light. Going back to basics will make you a better shooter.

  6. avatar wu chang says:

    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

  7. avatar Gene says:

    Go where you’ll spend more time shooting than waiting to shoot.

  8. avatar John Phelps says:

    Which one will be more fun for you to to shoot? That’s what I’d pick.

  9. avatar Casey says:

    I would go with whatever division gave me the best advantage.

  10. avatar James R says:

    Option 3: Go cowboy action shooting instead YEEHAW!

  11. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

    Use an AK47 instead.

    1. avatar Cameron B says:

      or an m1a(m14 if you could)

    2. avatar GeeSmith2 says:

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

      1. avatar Mandy says:

        What do you use for the handgun portion?

        1. avatar GeeSmith2 says:

          Currently a Bulgarian Makarov and a buttload of magazines.

      2. avatar Mike says:

        More importantly, what do you use for the shotgun portion? Saiga-12?

        1. avatar GeeSmith2 says:

          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.

  12. avatar darkstar says:

    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.

  13. avatar BeepBeepRichie says:

    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.

    1. avatar Renegade Dave says:

      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.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I don’t have a great interest in 3 gun. But I found out about Viet Nam Light because of this article. Something new to me.

        1. avatar Taylor TX says:

          Exactly, I thought Vietnam Light was neat as well.

    2. avatar KOB says:

      Seems like the easiest solution would be to not read the article….but perhaps that option escaped you.

  14. avatar Heretical Politik says:

    Needs a WWII division. Garands and 1911a1s.

    1. avatar TommyinKY says:

      There currently is a WW2 division. Enjoy.

  15. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    Take the road less travelled. It will make all the difference.

  16. avatar GeeSmith2 says:

    How about a WW III Division?

    1. avatar Steve in MD says:

      You push one button. Everyone loses.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        “I don’t know what weapons we’ll fight WW3 with. But we’ll fight WW4 with sticks and stones.”

    2. avatar Peter says:

      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.

      1. avatar KOB says:

        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.

        1. avatar Mike says:

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

  17. avatar Chad says:

    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.

  18. avatar KingSarc48265 says:

    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.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Hang around the mountain man types. Close to what you’re talking about.

    2. avatar JeffR says:

      My dad was into pre-Revolutionary War recreations for awhile. They had competitions in flintlock rifles and pistols and tomahawk throwing. Not for me, but he seemed to have a blast.

    3. avatar Jacob W says:

      That sounds like an excellent idea! Bayonets required!

  19. avatar lolinski says:

    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.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      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.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        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).

  20. avatar Jeff says:

    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.

    1. avatar GeeSmith 2 says:

      Agree. That’s why I use Soviet stuff.

  21. avatar Taylor TX says:

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

    1. avatar Taylor TX says:

      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!

      1. avatar lolinski says:

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

        Thumbs up.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        That guy humping past the burning hootch had what looked like the old 90 mm recoiless rifle on his shoulders.

  22. avatar Tyler Kee says:

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

    1. avatar Great Scot says:

      Garand? I like it!

  23. avatar B.Malloy says:

    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.

  24. avatar PhoenixNFA says:

    Tyler threw the gauntlet down.

  25. avatar Eric says:


    Rick Flair

  26. avatar SigGuy says:

    Go Vietnam Heavy: China Lake, Claymores, and Napalm

  27. avatar Great Scot says:

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

  28. My .o2

    You recognize you have hit a wall so you may have more fun doing Vietnam Light

  29. avatar maynard b says:

    “Vietnam Light” should allow snubby revolvers…

  30. avatar Accur81 says:

    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.

  31. avatar bgreenea3 says:

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

  32. avatar JAS says:

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

    1. avatar Renegade Dave says:

      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.

  33. avatar sixpack70 says:

    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.

  34. avatar Ralph says:

    Choose the most challenging option. Whichever one is more difficult, that’s the one to pick.

  35. avatar ropingdown says:

    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.

  36. avatar Culpeper Kid says:

    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.

  37. avatar Shakey says:

    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.

  38. avatar Michael B. says:

    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.

  39. avatar Pashtun6 says:

    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.

  40. avatar Model66 says:

    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!!!

  41. avatar Southern Cross says:

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

  42. avatar BluesMike says:

    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.

  43. avatar Excedrine says:

    I’ll take Vietnam Light for $200, Alex.

  44. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    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.

    1. avatar GeeSmith 2 says:

      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 …

  45. avatar Jacob W says:

    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.

  46. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

    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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