Three guns matches require, well…three guns. Except the MGM Targets Ironman match, where you need four. A long-range sniper stage is but one example of what makes this competition the toughest 3-gun match in the world. From zip lines to 100-yard shotgun slug targets to bone-breaking slides, the Ironman is tough on man and equipment alike. Just for fun, I decided to subject myself to the ordeal that is the three days of this demanding tournament. I wondered how I would do, but I never worried about the equipment. I knew my gear was up to the challenge.
I shot a borrowed rifle during the sniper stage. Next year, I am bringing my own gun. It's a DPMS LR308 chambered in .308 Win. with a 24-inch bull barrel.
My .223 Rem. competition rifle is also a DPMS model, with an 18-inch, 1:8-inch twist barrel. For most of the match, I used a DPMS 45-round magazine. In stages where I had to shoot prone, I used two Brownells 30-round magazines with a Safariland coupler.
The Ironman is unique in that a Scoped Class rifle can have two optics. I used a prototype of Safariland's new AR-15 scope mount, which allows the use of a scope on top and a reflex, red-dot on the side. I made a mistake by using a 1-4X scope, which was not enough magnification, as this match has a lot of long-range precision targets. Next year I'll have a 3-9X or larger scope. The use of a reflex sight for the close targets helps you go fast. Turn the gun, and it aligns perfectly with your eye and maintains a good cheek weld on the stock. Keep both eyes open and "hose them down."
This was the first match where I used the Benelli M2 shotgun. It was also the first match I competed in without a shotgun malfunction. You would have to beat me with a big club to get me to give it up.
For the record, I never cleaned any of my guns during the match. I would like to say it was an experiment to test their reliability, but the truth is I was too damn tired by the time I got to the hotel at night. All I did was give them a squirt of CLP now and then and, with that magic juice, they all ran without a problem.
The new custom handgun I ordered was not finished in time for this match, so I brought my Glock Model 34. It's a fine handgun, but the 9 mm is light for the spinner targets. The top guys use them, but my skill level doesn't match theirs. I want some insurance, so next year I am bringing a pistol chambered in .40 S&W for more smack on those evil targets!
My holster, mag holders and belt were all from Safariland. They even have left-handed pistol magazine holders for those of us who use the correct hand to shoot our pistols. The competition holster used the company's new QLS quick-release system, which allows the holster to be clipped on and off the belt in seconds. It permits the gun to be safely removed with the holster and replaced in seconds. The QLS also provides for easy removal of the holster for those stages where it's not needed, getting it out of the way and off the crowded belt. This modular system also allows switching from a belt-mounted holster to a thigh rig in seconds. The versatility of this design is incredible, not just for 3-gun, but also for carry and duty use.
My inside sources tell me Safariland will be expanding this system to include magazine holders so you can customize what's on your shooting belt for each stage.
I shipped my ammo ahead and, as I have in most of my important matches, I used Federal factory-loaded fodder. In this match I had a couple of notable exceptions to that rule, which cost me dearly.
The "Obama Inspired Ammunition Sales Stimulus Program" was in full swing when I was preparing for this match. Because of the demand, 9 mm ammo was as scarce as an honest congressman and I was unable to find any factory loads, or any primers. I did have a few thousand lightly loaded practice handloads that Matt Foster and I shared. But they simply didn't have enough power to turn the spinner targets. Next year I plan to bring full-power, 180-grain Federal factory loads for the .40 S&W. Or maybe a .454 Casull!
I shot American Eagle 62-grain FMJ ammo in my .223 rifle. I think next year I'll also include a few boxes of Federal Gold Metal Match, 77-grain ammo for the long-range targets.
My Benelli shoots Federal TruBall slugs best, but they were sold out, too. I settled for another brand of Foster-style slugs we found at a big-box store in Idaho. On the 100-yard precision targets, these slugs shot groups larger than the targets! Very disappointing. I am already hording TruBall ammo for next year.
I used Federal Gold Metal 1 1/8-ounce target loads for the rest of the shotgun stuff. It's simply the most reliable shotshell ammo I have tried for 3-gun.