There is always a lot of discussion out there about equipment, particularly in 3 gun. While I am still in the process of figuring out what works best for me, I have come to some conclusions particularly regarding accessories.
For this post let’s talk about the belt, and it’s assorted gizmos. 3 Gun takes a lot of equipment. That’s just the plain and simple fact of the matter. By definition you are shooting 3 different weapons, that have their own characteristics and unique uses. Each one requires different manipulation, techniques, and supporting equipment. As a result, you need to be carrying all kinds of different things during the course of a stage.
Each stage is different and may require a different approach to reloads depending on the need of the weapons used, and in some cases the distances and target types to be shot.
The question then becomes what equipment is going to work best for your body style, your athleticism, and your shooting style. Let’s start by defining requirements.
To shoot a course of fire you will need:
- A holster for your pistol.
- A magazine pouch to support reloading your pistol, and in some cases more than one.
- A caddy of some sort to allow you to reload your shotgun.
- A pouch to hold spare rifle magazines.
- A load bearing system of some sort to support all this stuff.
- You need to be able to reconfigure your load from stage to stage.
It doesn’t sound like much until you start to physically work through, where do I put all this stuff? How do I reach it, unload it from its spot and reload my weapon quickly and often either on the move or in an unusual body position? I still have to maintain my muzzle awareness, I cannot put the rifle down on the table and fiddle for a magazine. The demands of 3 gun can place some awkward physical demands on your body.
There are a number of different approaches to solving these requirements. If you look to a combat load out, you will see everything festooned around a load bearing vest. This vest often includes plates and other body armor. This is not generally the best approach for 3 gun, although I have seen folks take this approach. Either they have some additional requirements that drive them this direction (i.e Saiga shotgun mags) or they have duty requirements that drive them to not confuse their approach to work with their approach to competition.
For most folks, the approach is to use some kind of belt system. Over the years the belt systems have changed but the common denominator is stiffness. You are going to wind up hanging a bunch of weight off this belt, and moving through some physically challenging stages. Your belt needs to support that, and not come off your body. There are a couple of primary types here. There is the “riggers belt” which is a broad belt that is very stiff, very strong and will thread through your belt loops. The other is a double layer competition belt. These double layer belts have an inner layer that runs through your belt loop, and an outer layer that you hang your gear from. The outer layer is extremely stiff, and has an inner side that “velcros” to your inner belt. Most of the competitors out there today will run a belt system. A large percentage of them favor the double layer belt approach, as it provides a bit more flexibility to locate your equipment, and change it around from stage to stage.
So let’s focus on a double layer belt system for a moment. There are a lot of them out there, and for the most part they are pretty consistently made. Take a look around at your next match and talk to folks about it. I think that you will find a variety of brands from Safariland, Double AA, CompTac, and Blade Tech all being used. Each has some unique approaches to how their gear works and you will need to evaluate what works for you. I have looked at both the Safariland ELS compatible belts, and the more traditional double layer belts and prefer the more traditional approach.
Holsters: Here again personal preference comes into play, and there are a lot of different holsters out there. The primary requirement of your holster is that it holds your handgun safely and securely during movement, and that you are able to reholster safely. There are a number of “retention systems” and connection styles out there on the market. In my mind your holster must be rigid. To accommodate this, a plastic injection mold holster is your best bet. Your holster must cover the trigger. If you choose to have a SERPA, or other retention system built into the design you should expect some extra scrutiny from the Range Officers as there are schools of thought that see these systems as a safety hazard. Remember you are going to try and be racing here.
Speaking of racing, there is an entire class of race holsters out there. If the class that you are shooting in allows these race holsters, go for it. I just cannot offer you any advice on them.
At some point you need to connect that holster to your belt too. There are a number of different systems out there. I started with a paddle holster that allowed me to wiggle the positioning as I need to. Since then I have switched over to the Tec-lock system by Blade-Tech.
Next Up: Pistol Magazine Pouches, Rifle Magazine Pouches and Shotgun Caddies.