3-Gun shooting is a great way to hone your skills with a variety of firearms, as well as to just have a whole barrel of fun at the range with your friends and fellow competitors. That said, it is a very gear-intensive sport, and if you’re just starting out with 3-Gun it can be difficult to know what to spend your hard-earned money on.
Well, I’ve been shooting multi-gun events like 3-Gun about as long as the sport has been in existence, and during that time I’ve been fortunate enough to get my ass kicked by some of the best shooters around. During that process, I learned an awful lot about 3-Gun, including how to pick the best guns.
If you’re just starting out, or looking to upgrade your guns and gear a bit, you’re in the right place. We’re going to go over the best options for your 3-Gun set up to ensure you not only get a good value for your dollar, but also give yourself a fighting chance against your fellow competitors.
Let’s get to it.
Choosing Your First 3-Gun Rifle
If you’re just starting out in 3-gun or want to upgrade your gear, your rifle is a pretty good place to start. It’s going to influence what classes you can compete in, and will have a big effect on your stage times.
Here are the best options for a 3-Gun rifle for beginners.
Build Your Own!
There is no better option for an AR-15 rifle than the one you built yourself! Its surprisingly easy to build an AR, and can be done in your living room with simple hand tools, most of which you probably already have on hand.
Building an AR allows you to choose just the parts you want, and you can also space out the expenses a little bit so you’re not dropping a large amount all at once. You’ll also get a much higher quality AR than you otherwise would be paying a similar amount for a pre-built option.
For a complete parts list, check here.
Best Value: Ruger AR 556 MPR
If you’re not willing or able to build yourself a rifle, no need to worry! There are a huge number of manufacturers that make fantastic entry-level AR’s that will work great as a 3-Gun platform right out of the box.
The Ruger AR 556 MPR is my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a good value on an off-the-shelf AR. Ruger has a reputation for building high-quality, budget-minded firearms, and in my opinion, they offer a better value for your dollar than almost any other company out there.
The MPR has an 18-inch barrel in 1:8 twist and a free-floated aluminum handguard that is M-Lok compatible. You also get a Magpul MOE grip and SL adjustable stock. That barrel is also a special tapered design that starts out thicker towards the chamber and then narrows as it gets towards the muzzle, so you get some of the heat benefits of a heavier barrel without quite so much weight.
The rifle is more than accurate enough for 3-Gun, and mine has printed some sub-MOA groups at 100 yards. A large part of that is the Ruger Elite 452 trigger which is, while not as good as many of the aftermarket competition triggers, definitely a huge step up over parts kit triggers or your typical factory AR trigger at this price point.
Finally, you get a well-designed muzzle brake as standard equipment, which is a huge bonus over rifles with a standard A-2 flash hider. All in all, for around $600, you get a solid rifle that you can learn and grow with, which is what you probably need if you’re new to action shooting sports like 3-Gun.
Best Overall: Savage MSR 15 Competition
What if you have money burning a hole in your pocket and want to get something a little more high-end?
Say no more, the Savage MSR 15 Competition version is here to take $2,200 of your hard-earned dollars and give you one of the best AR shooting experiences money can buy in return.
For a long time, JP rifles, Noveske, and a few other high-end names were all that you could count on for a competition-grade AR that would run with the big boys shooting full-custom guns right out of the box.
Now, Savage has released a revamped and retooled version of their MSR line in a competition format. You have two AR-15 choices (.223 Wylde and .224 Valkyrie) and an AR-10 option in .308, with a 6.5 option coming soon.
At around two grand, this rifle comes packed with features you don’t get on most factory rifles, and it still comes in well under what you’d pay for a similarly-equipped custom rifle.
The heart and soul of this gun (and the bulk of the expense) are in the 18in, 1:8 twist Proof Research carbon fiber barrel. Carbon fiber is both stiffer and lighter than steel, and it dissipates heat much more readily, so you have a gun that can handle much longer strings of fire without heating up and losing accuracy.
This also means you can push the barrel life well past what you’d normally get out of a heavily used competition rifle. That excellent barrel is tipped with Savage’s excellent tunable muzzle brake so you can further customize your rifle to suit your ammo and eliminate even more recoil.
You also get a really well-designed side-charging upper that makes running and gunning and clearing inevitable malfunctions, much easier, and a really pleasant two-stage competition trigger that will help you keep those split times down.
Finally, Savage designed their own custom-length gas system that’s fully adjustable and tuned to minimize recoil as much as possible so the gun is incredibly stable with virtually no felt recoil, meaning you can stay on target much easier.
Choosing Your First 3-Gun Pistol
A sub-par pistol can really hold back your shooting, so I always recommend a little extra care when choosing one for competition. Your pistol you want to be something that’s full-sized, with a good trigger, and easily-reachable controls.
Best Value: Walther Q5 Match
The Walther Q5 Match is a go-to favorite among competition shooters of all types, so it’s easy to see why it would make a good choice for 3-Gun.
For around $700, you get a pistol that’s been designed specifically to excel in a competition setting, with all the lightening cuts and aggressive slide serrations you’d have paid several hundred dollars extra for just a few years ago from a custom shop.
The Q5 match, which is an upgraded version of the Walther M2 and uses the same magazines, also features some really excellent adjustable sights, including a fiber optic front post to help you get on target quickly. You also have a slide that is milled to accept several red dot optics in case you want to shoot Open or Carry Optics matches. I have a Trijicon RMR on mine and I absolutely love it.
The grip is comfortable and really helps the gun to point intuitively, which is great when drawing from a holster and trying to get on target, or when you’re transitioning targets. I have shot several hundred different pistols at this point, and the Q5 Match is far and away from the one that I found the easiest to get used to shooting out of the box.
Finally, and for our purposes most importantly, you get easily the best factory trigger on any handgun at this price point. The reset is .1” so your followup shots will be lightning-fast, and the break is as crisp and clear as you could ask for from a factory gun, especially one that’s so affordable.
Best Overall: CZ Shadow 2
Once again, if you have a little extra money, you can get something a little nicer if you’re sure you’re going to stick with this 3-Gun thing. If you’re on a tight budget but still want to dip your toe into the waters of high-end competition gun, I recommend spending your extra cash on a pistol because there are so many great pistol competition sports like USPSA, IDPA, and Steel Challenge.
And the pistol I recommend you get is the CZ Shadow 2. The Shadow 2 was specifically designed to beat the brakes off of every other factory production pistol in USPSA Production Division, and in a lot of ways, it succeeded.
It is by far one of the most popular choices for Production class shooters, and it has done much to force other manufacturers to improve their competition-ready offerings.
As far as actually shooting the thing, it’s hard to ask for better. You have a heavy, steel-framed 9mm that is just about as soft-shooting as any handgun you’ll find, and a slew of excellent competition-focused features to help you run with the best wherever you’re competing.
You have 17+1 rounds on hand, and since it takes the very solid, and very easy-to-find CZ 75 mags, you’ll have no problems getting your hands on spares, though you get three in the box. The sights are fully adjustable, and the grip and beavertail are designed to basically force you into a good grip, and the aggressive texturing helps your grip even further.
Finally, the trigger. Oh my sweet lord, the trigger. You cannot get a better factory trigger in a pistol at this price, and I’m willing to fight anyone who says otherwise. You definitely won’t be held back by the gun, if you pick one of these up.
Oh, and it’s reliable as all hell too. I just did a spring change on mine at 10k rounds, and the only issue I have has been precisely two stovepipes, and both of those were around 3k rounds without a thorough cleaning.
(Yes, it’s totally fine to leave your guns dirty for that long. Clean when you have a problem)
Choosing a 3-Gun Shotgun
Shotgun-heavy stages are by far the place I see new shooters struggle the most, so picking up a 3-Gun-ready scattergun is a great way to put yourself ahead of most of the other new shooters out there.
A good 3-Gun shotgun will be quicker to handle, easier to reload, and have a higher capacity than most other shotguns.
Best Value: Stoeger MK3
I’m going with another easy recommendation here that anyone who has done their research is sure to recognize: the Stoeger Mk3. The MK3 is an upgraded version of their M3000 shotgun and comes with a few features to help you cut down those stage times.
First, you have oversized controls, including a larger bolt handle and bolt release, as well as an enlarged loading port so you can reload much faster (which is what slows down most inexperienced shooters).
Next, you get a fiber-optic front bead and the option for a factory magazine tube extension which will bring your capacity up to 8 rounds from the standard 4.
As far as shooting goes, the Stoeger MK3 comes with several extended choke tubes so you’ll be prepared for all situations, and it’ll run reliably with any quality ammo, even low-brass birdshot (though you may have to run a few boxes of shells through to break it in, as you will with most semi-autos).
For 90% of beginners, this is the shotgun to get.
Best Overall: Benelli Performance Shop M2
If you’ve got the cash and want to get something a little nicer, the Benelli Performance Shop M2 3-Gun edition is just about the best shotgun around.
Not just the best shotgun for 3-Gun, the best shotgun period. I can’t put into words how much I love this gun, and I guarantee you will too if you have the extra funds for one.
For the extra money, you get a shotgun that has been designed specifically to kick all kinds of ass on a 3-Gun stage, featuring an excellent front sight and rear dovetail, the fastest loading port West of the Mississippi, and an Inertia Drive system (imitated but not copied by Stoeger in the M3k) that will ensure the most reliable function you could ask for.
You also get a few special extras, including enlarged controls, and a sweet “match saver-esque” shell holder right next to the ejection port that will hold one extra shell that could potentially be the difference between burning down a stage and having to go back to your belt for a reload.
If you’re new to the world of 3-Gun, choosing the right firearms can be a bit daunting, but hopefully, now you have an idea of what to look for. With any of the firearms on this list, you can be sure that you have equipment equal to the task at hand.
Now you just have to practice, practice, practice.