3-Gun Nation President Pete Brown talks with Joshua Haarbrink about changes to the organization, membership growth and international development for the exciting sport of 3-gun competitive shooting.

3-gun competition has come a long way from when it first emerged as a Soldier of Fortune event in the early 1980’s. Kids are running and gunning with the best of them and ranges can now be found filled with sponsor-laden jerseys worn by competitors boasting color-coordinated pistol-rifle-shotgun load-outs with flashy neon trim and performance-enhancing accessories that could put an Olympic air rifle team to shame. The purists need not worry however, there are still plenty of thrilling and impressive events to be found out there that hold true to the original guidelines that centered on mil-spec gear used in challenging and often exhausting courses.

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For those who have been under a rock as the shooting sports have grown dramatically over recent years and for those who are new to the industry, 3-gun competitive shooting involves the application of pistol, rifle and shotgun to a dynamic stage designed to test the speed and accuracy of a competitor across multiple shooting platforms in a high-energy, hard-driving environment. A quick search for “3-gun” provides a growing online collection of videos and articles offering explanations, general guidance, gear reviews, and of course a guaranteed reference to the leading organization in the field: 3-Gun Nation.

The National 3-Gun Association (doing business as “3-Gun Nation”) was originally formed by Pete Brown and Chad Adams to showcase and drive interest to the exciting yet loosely-organized sport of 3-gun across the U.S. Over the roughly 7 years since its inception, 3-Gun Nation has gone on to become the premier regulatory body for 3-gun competition and boasts a proud and varied membership that is growing by the day. While the growth of 3-Gun Nation in itself is an interesting story, 3GN President Pete Brown took the time recently to talk with me about some of the changes that are being undertaken by 3-Gun Nation as well as where it’s headed in the coming years.

3GN MEMBERSHIP: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

As groups such as the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation frequently demonstrate, there is strength in numbers, and Pete is quick to point out that the #1 goal for 3GN today is to create a strong membership organization by increasing membership numbers and encouraging participation. In a practical sense, membership strength creates solidarity in the industry and declares that the sport of 3-gun is not a passing fad or a fly-by-night operation. Pete also wants to use that membership strength to provide more opportunities to shooters, especially at a local level, in an effort to make the sport more accessible to those eager to participate while generating awareness for those who have never been exposed to it.

READY TO HIT THE RANGE RUNNIN’ ‘N GUNNIN’?

If you’re ready to step up to the firing line and start competing, whether for glory or just for fun, the process to join is pretty simple:

  1. Visit a local approved course
  2. Shoot a classifier course
  3. Upload your classifier stats into the 3GN database and determine your ranking

If your favorite gun club isn’t already on the list, almost any club can qualify to join and be listed for only $50 per year.

Despite the benefits of a well-organized and strongly-represented member base, there have certainly been some challenges to overcome in the effort to increase membership in 3GN. The first barrier to entry is probably the most basic: the initial financial investment in and maintenance of equipment, as well as the ongoing cost of training and competing. A starter competition setup can easily run thousands of dollars and registration fees, travel expenses and training ammo can be intimidating if not entirely prohibitive for a prospective competitor. For the 3-Gun Nation organization, the challenge has often been in reaching smaller local clubs and getting them involved, as well as finding volunteers to manage, officiate and generally help out at events. Despite these challenges, 3GN and its members are constantly pursuing efforts to welcome and encourage new and interested participants.

While there isn’t much that any organization can do to minimize the cost of participation from an equipment standpoint, almost any competitor or fan of 3-gun competition would be quick to attest to the supportive and communal experience that is rich throughout the community. Gear and supplies are frequently shared, borrowed and handed down and it’s often surprisingly easy to work one’s way up the ladder by buying used equipment from other competitors as they upgrade and adjust their setups.

To combat the ever-increasing costs of travel and as a big step in advancing membership efforts, 3GN turned their focus to local markets and started their Club Series 3 years ago which makes it easy for clubs to host local 3GN-sanctioned competitions and, even more importantly, provides a platform for local individuals to compete with others in their class at a national level without having to go any farther than their local range.

BEHIND THE SCENES TECHNOLOGY

There’s certainly no argument that one of the biggest and, for many, most entertaining components of 3-gun competitive shooting is the ever-growing (and always very cool) variety of customizations and new firearm platforms and accessories on the market. Behind the scenes, however, 3-Gun Nation has deployed a few gadgets of their own.

The scope and volume of the 3GN Club Series would not be manageable without the implementation of a robust membership system, and for this 3GN turned to RangeLog. Through this platform, 3GN clubs and competitors are able to enroll, upload scores, monitor standings, receive updates and notifications, and network with each other. As another effective solution for efficiency and accuracy, 3GN also uses the mobile app PractiScore which is available on iOS and Android and allows for instant updating on the range.

Much of the tech on the actual range has undergone very little change with the standard targets still consisting of clays, steel and paper. One interesting adjustment that 3GN has adopted recently has been the replacement of humanoid silhouettes with plain, square cardboard. Pete explains that this was done to avoid the appearance of shooting a humanoid figure and clearly demonstrate that 3-Gun Nation competition is a game, not a training tool for self-defense.

3-GUN NATION GOES INTERNATIONAL

One of the most exciting elements of the growing firearms community is how global it has become. Firearms have of course developed in many different regions around the world, but technology has united the global community and we are able to interact and share the fun of firearms with others from almost all corners of the planet. Unfortunately, local laws and culture limit the growth of the industry in many countries, but competitive shooting continues to expand through even regulated regions. In the face of governmental restrictions and as a unique step in competitive shooting, 3-Gun Nation has increased its efforts to develop the sport and make it available to all by now forming a 3GN Airsoft League in Hong Kong that may set the standard for establishing the sport of 3-gun in other countries that have tight firearm controls.

With strong supporters in Southeast Asia such as Adrian Tan in Malaysia, as well as the possibility of loosening of regulations, Pete is confident that there is much room for growth in the region and he predicts that 2017 will see serious participants from Asia competing. One of the most promising countries right now is the Philippines which will be hosting its first sanctioning match on August 28th. Only a month ago, 6 representatives from the Philippines participated in the 3-Gun Nation Range Officers Safety Program in order to take the curriculum back with them and in preparation for the match and to help develop the formula on a local level.

INCREASED SAFETY, A NEW FORMAT AND 3GN ON TV

The 3-Gun Nation Range Officers Safety Program is another new program now offered by 3GN. It was developed by Rob Romero (3GN director of competition) with Chris Palmer (club series match director of Atlanta 3GN) in an effort to standardize the safety regulations and practices across 3GN-sanctioned matches, as well as make a clear statement that “3-Gun Nation is the governing body of 3-Gun Nation”.

3GN has also adopted a new format for their programing that Pete describes as “a descendant of American Ninja Warrior”. In this format, each episode will feature 6 competitors that will have to work their way through 4 stages of fire to reach the end and get to the championship. Advancement through each stage is a process of elimination and while this is sure to increase tension and excitement for viewers, the over-riding theme that 3GN wants to convey is that this is not reality TV – this is real competition with real competitors.

Ultimately, network television is exactly where Pete is headed with 3-Gun Nation. The show is currently presented on the Sportsman Channel and has just started the new season broadcasting Mondays at 22:00(EST), Tuesdays at 09:00(EST) and Sundays at 02:00(EST). If you haven’t tuned in to a match before, you don’t know what you’re missing!

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Joshua Haarbrink is a consultant and traveler with a diverse background including more than 10 years of experience in loss prevention, surveillance, security services and fugitive recovery, as well as various creative writing and editing projects and other unique professional adventures. He is a shooting enthusiast and regular contributor to Guns & Tactics Magazine.