Carbon Arms Intro to 3-Gun AAR

3Gun Training

3-Gun Training


Recently I had the opportunity to take a 3-Gun class taught by Mark Passamaneck and James Casanova.  For the uninitiated Mark and James are the owners of Carbon Arms, inventors of the TWinS Shotgun Loading Systems and a couple of very accomplished three-gunners.  When I saw an announcement on the local AR-15 shooter’s message board that they were holding a 3-Gun training class on Black Friday I was in.

The class was held at Colorado Rifle Club in Byers, the same range that hosted the 2012 Noveske Rifleworks Colorado Multigun Championship that I competed in this April.  Google claimed it was a two hour drive but I remember it taking significatnly less. Not one to be late I decided to err on the side of Google and wound up an hour early for the class.  That was just fine by me because I got to meet James and Mark early and help them set up the two practice stages that we would be shooting later on.

Michael Bane Rocking the Mossberg JM 930

Michael Bane Rocking the Mossberg JM 930

I also got to meet a bunch of very cool shooters that came out to learn about Multigun and better their skills.  While I was chatting with one of my shooting buddies that attended, I heard a guy talking to James and I recognized his voice.  I turned around and it was Michael Bane of the Down Range Radio podcast.  Michael is also the producer of nearly a dozen TV shows on the Outdoor Channel but I know him from the podcast.  He was there with his “sweetie” to learn about 3 Gun as well and they turned out to be the nicest, most down-to-earth people.  As it turned out Michael brought a 22″ Mossberg JM 930 T&E gun that was identical to mine save all the match scars.

When the stages were set up and everyone had gathered, Mark started out the class with a good 30 minute talk that covered the Four Tenants of 3Gun, gear they take to the matches, how they travel, stage breakdown and rules, divisions and gear.  It was very cool to listen to Mark talk about the things he does to prepare for a match, the tools and gear he carries with him to the match and to hear the stories of his match experience.


James Giving Feedback

James Giving Feedback

Pistol Group

Glock 17 Pistol Group

After the talk we were told to gear up with our pistols and mags and head to the firing line to shoot a quick group and get some feedback on our fundamentals.  We were aiming at a paster in the middle of the lower A-Zone on a Metric IPSC target about 20-25 yards downrange which was easily the farthest pistol group I’ve ever shot.  That said I did pretty good with the exception of one flier down low where I totally anticipated the recoil and dipped the muzzle before firing.  From the group we learned how accurate we are at typical pistol distance on a 3-Gun stage as course designers tend to put small steel at distances up to 35 yards requiring a perfect trigger press.

AR-15 Group

AR-15 Group

After we showed clear we grabbed our rifles, got back on the line and were instructed to put a five-shot group in the center of the head box and follow up with four rounds as fast fast as we could pull the trigger while aiming at the paster in the lower A-Zone.  What James and Mark were trying to teach us here was the mechanical offset of the AR-15 platform at pistol-distances, the importance of compensating for it and to be able to run the rifle like a pistol at close distances.  I did well at the mechanical offset portion of the drill as I have done drills before focused on compensating sight height over bore at close distances in the past.  I was pretty quick on the trigger for my rifle for the speed portion of the drill but not as quick as I’d like to be.  More practice is needed in this area before I can say that my gear (mil-spec trigger, mid-length gas system, etc) is holding me back.

Carbon Arms SSLP6 Pinwheel

Carbon Arms SSLP6 Pinwheel

Next we were treated to a shotgun loading demonstration where James and Mark traded off teaching us a myriad of different methods to load the shotgun.  We learned the weak hand reload, the Carlock Shuffle, strong hand TWinS, weak hand TWinS and the Quad Load.  Having seen the multiple ways the pros do it we geared up with our carriers (many students borrowed gear) safed our shotguns and headed to the line to practice what we had just learned.  I am a weak hand loader so I started off with what I already knew to get some feedback from the pros.  After multiple repetitions James hooked me up with an SSLP6 Pinwheel and I got the opportunity to try out a little TWinS loading on my own.  Rolling the shotgun over to have the loading port up took some thought and practice but from the very get-go I was able to load six shells of the Pinwheel way faster than I can load four weak hand from a caddy and I’ve been practicing that for 10 months!  I did not get the opportunity to try out the Quad Load with an SSLP8 Pinwheel or a TWinS FSL but my experience with loading two shells at a time with the SSLP6 tells me that I will be swapping over to a TWinS system as soon as possible.  I just can’t deny how fast they are. The only thing holding me back from snagging a couple right now is that one SLP8 is $97.  You’d need at least two but likely more for a larger match.


We broke up into two squads with one instructor each to attack the two stages that I had helped set up earlier in the day.  My squad first went with James to the shotgun/pistol stage.  James went through a quick stage brief and then asked for volunteers.  Of course I went first and the group got to learn from my mistakes.

Pistol Shotgun Stage

Pistol Shotgun Stage


The stage was what James called a “pistol-length stage” as it was fairly short and had one shooting position.  The stage was symmetrical from the center point with the first course of fire consisting of four clays, a close IPSC Metric Target, two MGM 4″ x 10″ Knock Over targets, and a Pepper Popper with a clay flipper on the left.  The right side was the mirror image.  We were instructed to start with Shotgun first which meant that I would start with nine in the gun and reload at some point.  Of course you’d only need to reload three if you hit all the targets but you might as well load four and have a spare since you’re going to your belt anyway.  You’d then abandon the shotgun either unloaded with no rounds in the tube or on safe and draw your pistol to engage the remaining targets.  The way I did it was to engage the four clays on the left, load four, engage the four clays on the right, engage the two poppers in front then the two aerials and then unload the last round (should have just safed it), drew my pistol and engaged the two IPSC Metrics and the four remaining steel.  During the intro discussion Mark told us a great Jerry Miculek quote that applies to time-plus scoring in Multi-Gun “See brown, jerk trigger fast two times.”  I tried to put this into practice but ended up with “two alpha” and “alpha charlie” which means I was not going fast enough.  It is difficult to break the “alpha-only” habits that I worked so hard to ingrain during 6 months of shooting USPSA-style matches at my local range.

The second string we shot removed one clay from either side of the array and allowed us to start with either shotgun or pistol.  James gave us a hint for the stage strategy saying that if you shot pistol first you could drop both poppers, abandon pistol and engage the two clays in the air with the shotgun.  Well of course I had to try just that and when I did, I dropped the first steel and had a Mike on the second.  I had a brain-hiccup for a moment trying to figure out if I should take a second shot or just abandon the pistol.  While I was deciding this, the first popper was falling, activating the flipper and tossing the clay in the air.  Luckily I made a decision in time, abandoned my pistol on the table, picked up my JM Pro 930 and destroyed the clay in the air.  I then engaged the three clays on the left, the popper, the flipper, loaded 1 extra shell and engaged the three clays on the right.  Afterwards James gave me a little feedback and instruction to the rest of the squad saying that if you were to choose that as part of your stage strategy in a match that you’d have to commit to taking two shots and abandoning the pistol no matter the result.  Good advice and great to hear first-hand from a top level shooter like James.

Multi Gun Stage

Multi Gun Stage

We broke for lunch and when we came back my squad hooked up with Mark on the 3-Gun stage.  The stage was again pretty simple, start from Box A or B, engage 5 Colt Speed Plates with pistol, abandon in bucket, load rifle and engage 10 IPSC Metric Targets, abandon on table, load shotgun and engage four Knock Overs and three Auto-Poppers.  What Mark wanted to teach us here was to save time while moving and to look for doubles on the shotgun.  The three of the five pistol targets were obscured by walls from the boxes but you could see four of five if you moved slightly.  Mark recommended that we move while drawing to save the time and to get in position.  This required only one move as you could engage four targets from one position and the fifth from a second position on your way to the dump bucket.  You then picked up the rifle, loaded off your belt and went to work on the 10 IPSC Metrics.  Abandoning rifle, loading shotgun and getting into position gave you an opportunity for a double on the Auto-Poppers.  I did very good on the pistol here cleaning the Colt Speed Plates in only five shots, I took some extra shots on rifle as I was going too fast and called some misses.  I loaded the shotgun fairly quickly and hit both sets of Knock Overs in one round per plate but was unable to get the double that Mark showed us.  I tried but I must have been aiming low or my pattern wasn’t tight enough.

Next Mark showed us how to do a mixed load in the middle of a stage where you were required to engage both bird shot and slug targets.  We loaded four bird shells into the magazine, racked one into the chamber, loaded a slug, shot a bird target, shot a slug target, loaded two slugs, shot a bird target, shot two slug targets, loaded a slug, shot a bird target, shot a slug target and then unloaded the last bird shell.  I was pretty skittish of this as I was disqualified from the 2012 Noveske Rifleworks Colorado Multi Gun Championships because I screwed up a candy cane load and engaged a bird shot target with a slug.  Mark talked me through it and was very patient while I called out the loads I was putting into my Mossberg and what target I was engaging for each round.  I did just fine and didn’t kill any of CRC’s targets, putting all of my slugs on paper.  I can see how this is a more effective method of shooting a mixed array of targets than I had tried in April and way faster than engaging all the bird targets on a stage first and then going back for the slug targets.


I thoroughly enjoyed attending Carbon Arms’ Intro to 3-Gun class.  Although my 3-Gun skill level was a bit higher than most of the other attendees (many had never competed in a 3-Gun match) I still was able to walk away feeling like I got a great return on my time and money investment.  Just being able to ask Mark questions on rifle/shotgun zero, ammo, holds, gear, etc and being able to get real-time feedback from James on technique, mechanics and strategy were invaluable.  Both are very obviously experienced instructors and each has their own style that will reach the individual shooter in different ways.  A very big thanks to Mark and James for taking the time to plan and host such an awesome class and for all their help in polishing my game.

It looks like Carbon Arms is now offering more advanced rifle and shotgun courses and I look forward to training with them again in the future.  James and Mark are stand up guys that have a love for the game and genuinely want to see their students succeed.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Multi-Gun Training Day: Long (ish) Range Rifle Practice

On the way back from a Colorado Multigun match at Weld County Range, I was chatting with my shooting buddies Ben W, Bill and Nate about how I have been shooting so many matches that I haven’t had time to practice and that we never get the opportunity to shoot a stage multiple times to see if we can improve on our time and score.  From that conversation we came up with the idea to pitch a club-sponsored event at my local range that would focus on drills and practice rather than a competition.  I came up with an event description, a safety brief and went to the club’s Board of Directors.  The Board was receptive and voted unanimously to approve the event.  That was the genesis of Multi-Gun Training Day.

Saturday was the first event and I reserved the 200/300 yard range.  It was a great day to be out on the range for some mid-range distance practice with our rifles and carbines. We had a small-ish group and the entire range to ourselves which allowed us to get a lot of shooting in.

We set up a full size IPSC steel target at the 300 yard and 200 yard backstops and a 2/3-ish IPSC steel target at the 100 yard backstop.  Our warmup drill was pretty easy and shot from prone without any time; get three hits on each steel taking as long as you need.

MGTD Target Map


The rest of the drills we ran and the results:

Standing at low ready, at start signal go prone and engage steel with one hit.

The next round of drills required our VTAC wall, shown here with the designators that I gave each position:

Standing with heels on concrete pad (approx 4 ft from wall), at start signal engage steel with one shot from each position, S4, H5, H7.

Standing with heels on concrete pad (approx 4 ft from wall), at start signal engage steel with one shot from each position, S3, H4, H8.

Unlike the matches we usually shoot, the results are for informational purposes only. We are keeping metrics of the drills we shoot to compare them when we shoot those same drills at a later date. The goal is to improve and beat yourself, not each other.

Bill engaging:

Even with the rifle and the shooter rolled over all of us to g0t our shots at 200 and 300 yards after a little discussion of where to hold on the target.

Yours truly grabbing sight pictures:

In the picture below I am supporting on the wrong knee, I always want to get down like I’m just kneeling rather than using my strong-side knee for a barrier support.  I need to work on fixing that bad habit.

Initially we were a little concerned that the forecasted wind may make for a bad day of chasing rounds all over but I think the wind ended up helping us in the end. I know that I learned my shots are not affected nearly as much as I thought by what seemed to be a pretty stiff wind. I also confirmed that I am in love with the 200 yard zero on my 1X magnification Aimpoint Comp M2. I was able to zing the IPSC Steel at 100, 200 by just aiming center mass and nail the 300 target by holding just at the line between B and C zones. Bill and Ben had it even easier with their 4x scopes making those teeny little targets out at 300 look like they were up close and personal. I got the opportunity to check out Bill’s Burris XTR or Tac 30 (I believe) and can say that the glass is super-clear and that Bullet Drop reticule is almost like cheating. I estimate that a determined marksman could get solid hits on the IPSC steel at 300 from kneeling with little trouble and possibly off-hand with a bit of practice.

One of the big benefits of making those hits in unconventional positions, at distance and in the wind on Saturday is that each of us has now been there/done that. The experience we gained in hitting targets during practice in those types of conditions prove that in can be done and will give us the confidence to attack a stage and make those hits under the clock when faced with a similar situation at a match. Awesome!  Next time smaller targets…

I was very excited and encouraged by the discussions of physics and technique that came about during our shoot. This type of open, collaborative dialog is exactly what I had in mind for MGTD and would love to see more of it going forward. Each of us has a wealth of knowledge and a diverse point of view on shooting topics and I hope that we can all use each other as a resource to get those tips and that feedback to help us become better 3-Gunners. Along those same lines I would like to keep the drills we do open to community choice as well so if there is something you read/heard about or saw in a match that you suggest I work on, comment or email me and we will work it in.


The Match of Malfunctions, Colorado Multi Gun, September 2012


Saturday the 22nd of September was the monthly Colorado Multi Gun shoot at Weld Country Fish and Wildlife Range.  Coming off of a #5 class finish and some good progress on my ankle rehab I was excited to get back out and compete in this match.  I headed out bright and early with my regular match buddies Bill L. and Ben W. along with a new shooter, Nate.


We started the match on the shotgun pistol stage again and I had a dang good run.  Of course I have no proof as I forgot to give Ben W. my camera before the run.  Dang!  The course was pretty similar to last time with some key changes.  Again, we started in a box and engaged a full size IPSC target with two slugs (I had one Miss, need to get a rear sight for my JM Pro 930).  From there we were free to engage eight poppers on the right and eight poppers on the left as they became available with the caveat that we needed to fire one shot from each of four ports, two on right, two on left.  I did pretty decent on the poppers, but had two misses there too.  And I forgot my reloading scheme and actually went to slidelock once.  But I ended with an empty shotgun and did not have to burn any rounds before abandoning in the mandated condition.

I quickly drew my pistol and began engaging a whole mess of steel targets, 32 ish rounds for record if I remember correctly.  I had some stupid misses but shot the course fairly well.  One problem I had that is becoming more bothersome is that I ran two mags dry and the slide on my Glock 17 did not lock back.  This caused two dry-fires under the timer which are killer!


The rifle stage was very similar to last time, engage four steel targets ranging from a 12″ steel square to a 6″ x 8″ plate from five different positions at 100 yards.  The first position was a shooter’s box (had to have any part of shooter or rifle inside), second was a rickety wooden table frame (had to touch any part with shooter or rifle), third was through a cinder block (flash hider must be through one port), fourth was through a barrel (must shoot through) and fifth was another shooter’s box (had to have any part of shooter or rifle inside).

I chose to engage in the first box offhand and did fairly well.  Second I braced on the table which I should have either gone prone or taken a knee as it was just too unstable.  Third position I went prone and shoved my muzzle, sight and forend through, taking rested prone shots.  Fourth I backed up so my muzzle was behind the barrel but I was still shooting through it to avoid the blast.  Fifth and final position I began shooting offhand but had so many misses that I ended up taking a knee.  I need to know myself better and realize that the fifth position should have been either from a knee or prone from the start as my heart rate and breathing would have been up super high after shooting and moving.


The third stage for us (4th in the match) was a rifle hoser stage similar to the pistol stage we shot last time; first shot must be taken in uprange box, last shot must be taken in downrange box..  I thought I had a pretty decent strategy and had plenty of time to run through it many times dry.  I was going to engage all the targets I could see from the uprange box save for the two on the left which I was going to hit while shooting on the move.  I’d move up to the corner, engage the two targets obscured by no-shoots and then engage the one turned target on the move and finish in the downrange box.  Then I had malfs…

My rifle had a failure to extract on my first round.  I had to go to the next bay and clear it out with a cleaning rod.  I fired 4 test rounds and went back to wait for a do-over (local match).  I got up and the damn rifle extracted the first round but would not eject it.  Instead it shoved it up between the upper receiver and the gas tube.  Luckily Bill L. grabbed his rifle for me to use.  Bill as a sweet rifle no doubt but it has a few things on it that I was unfamiliar with, specifically the Magpul BAD lever, and I ended up screwing up my reload by not completely seating the magazine, wasting a ton of time trying to figure out the BAD lever and lock the bolt back.  I totally hosed that hoser stage up bad.


Continuing on to our last stage, Stage 1, Bill L. again let me use his rifle and I did alright on the close-range head shots but when I transitioned to pistol I cleaned up pretty darn well.  It is hard saying that you did well on a stage when you are shooting with guys like Drew Boldt (#2 overall in match) and they make your clean and fast run look like you’re out for your first match.  🙂



Tactical Class Results

Overall Results


If it doesn’t go bang every time it does not deserve to be in competition.  And if I am going to run in Tactical Optics, I need some magnification.  Getting placed in with the guys that have 1-4x scopes to my 1x Aimpoint kills me on the long range stuff.  The carbine gas system and mil-spec trigger kills me on the short stuff.  Basically what I’m saying is that my skill level has reached the point where my rifle setup is holding me back.  Unfortunately I don’t have the cash right now to go out and pick up a new Larue, JP, Noveske or even a Stag so I am going to have to do some lower-cost tweaks to get the most out of my current setup.  In the mean time I have a new bolt coming from Brownell’s and my old bolt is being sent back to the manufacturer for inspection.

Summer 3-Gun Drills Day, 2012.09.14

Friday’s Summer 3-Gun Match at my local range was a drills day which meant that we had short courses of fire and were able to run through them multiple times.  It was an exciting day for me because it was the second day out of my walking boot due to my ankle sprain.  My ankle was quite tender,  super-stiff and I actually ended up going back to the boot while I was helping with stage reset and waiting for my turn to shoot.  To make things even better the drills that we were practicing for rifle and pistol all involved shooting while moving and the hitch on my right foot caused the sights on my Glock and the dot on my Aimpoint to bounce around quite a bit.  I have 4-6 weeks of physical therapy in front of me and I’m looking forward to getting better so I can move more quickly and with more confidence on the range.  As it is right now just watching YouTube videos of shooters cutting (like this one of Colt’s Clint Upchurch) makes me wince.


Our first drill was pretty simple, 6 targets, 3 on the left, 3 on the right.  Engage with rifle while moving.


The next drill was the same but with pistol.


Our third drill of the day was shotgun, 7 rounds for record, engage in any order but the star was flanked on either side by hardcover which were two full-size IPSC steel targets.  I had more than my fair share of issues on this one and I would like to place the blame on my HD Mossberg 500 but I must admit that I am out of practice with it.  The 18.5″ pump holds 5 in the tube plus 1 in the chamber for a total of six which would leave me with only one “oh crap” reload and then done with the course.  As you can see from the film, it never quite worked out that way.

I would like to get the opportunity to shoot this one again when I get my usual Mossberg 930 JM Pro Series back up and running.  I’ll have to have a talk with our match director to see if he’d want to shoot it again in the future.


All in all a great day as it usually is when I’m at the range.  Things I learned Friday were that I need more practice.  I shoot a lot of matches but I rarely practice.  I think setting up a few 1/3 IPSC targets in my house and dry firing on the move would be very helpful.  I know from previous matches that I have never shot my shotgun well on the move so good practice on all three will do worlds of good for my stage times.

The other big take away is that I need to get serious about physical therapy on my ankle if I am going to be competitive in this sport.  Like I said, the hitch in my stride from the atrophy and lack of mobility in my right leg caused the dot on the Aimpoint and the sights on my Glock to bounce around terribly while attempting to shoot on the move.  Getting my ankle back up to running and fighting strength should be the top priority in my life right now.

For an example of how quick movement can be check out this video of my friend Ben rocking his AK-74: