Retro WON: Tips from the Barnes Twins

Runnin’ and Gunnin’ with the Barnes Twins

3-gun, or multi-gun, is one of the fastest growing shooting sports in the U.S. With its ever-changing style of competition, fast-paced action, and a tantalizing mix of speed and accuracy, it’s no wonder shooters of all backgrounds are falling in love with this exciting sport. We’ve been competing in 3-gun competitions for three years now and we wanted to share with you a few tips we’ve learned along the way.

Tracy Barnes with pistol. Photo courtesy of Barnes’ twins

Sports and rules

3-gun matches are based on multiple stages that combine rifle, pistol and shotgun. All three firearms are not necessarily used in every stage. A single stage could use the shotgun and the pistol or the rifle and the pistol. Each stage is usually completely different from the next. The one thing they have in common is that you’ll engage in both steel and paper targets, as well as the occasional clay target.

Twins’ tip: One way of learning all the ins and outs of 3-gun and its extensive rules would be to go the US Practical Shooting Association webpage and read through the rules. We also highly recommend going to the Brian Enos Forum, Match Screw Ups.  At this site, you will get real accounts of people learning, mostly the hard way, the rules of multi-gun. Hopefully by learning from others’ mistakes, you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself. Another way of learning the ropes would be to go down to a local 3-gun match and watch and learn. The more you watch, the more you learn. It’s a whole lot easier than just throwing yourself into a match and drawing a blank once the beeper goes off.

Lanny Barnes. Photo courtesy of the Barnes’ twins

3-gun gear

3-gun is a technical and gear intensive sport. In a lot of ways it’s all about having the gear that functions properly and fits you the best. It is only a matter of time in this sport before you will have some sort of equipment malfunction. With three firearms, it is bound to happen. You can make these malfunctions fewer and far between if you have the right equipment and also maintain and clean your equipment.

Twins’ tip: Before you go out and buy all the most expensive 3-gun equipment you can find, we recommend going to a local match and asking people what they use and see if they are willing to let you try it out. Most people in this sport are very friendly and will be happy to show you the ropes. Remember, something that might work for the top 3-gunners in the sport might not necessarily work for you. It is all about what is the most comfortable and will allow you to shoot fast and move fast.

And even more Twin Tips:

Here are a few things we use and recommend that will help you get your foot in the door until you figure out what works best for you.

• Guns – no matter what rifle and shotgun you choose you are going to have to make sure it fits you and is set up to run a 3-gun course. Check out Advanced Technology International (ATI),  as they offer every possible stock and accessory you’ll need to trick out your firearm so it fits you like a glove. Let’s face it, we all come in different shapes and sizes, our firearms don’t … But, with ATI, you can fit your stock and accessories to fit your frame and improve your shooting. Tracy and I are 5’4″ and most stocks are too long for our short arms, but ATI’s adjustable stocks help us compensate for that. They have everything you need to get you started.

ATI shopping list

1. For your .223 – ATI Strikeforce adjustable stock, ATI Shotforce adjustable cheekrest, ATI 8-sided aluminum forend, ATI Picatinny Rail, ATI Deluxe Halo Heatshield.

2. For your shotgun- ATI Saiga Talon Tactical Shotgun Stock System.

3. We also recommend HiViz sights for your pistol. They allow you to easily acquire your target.

Lanny Barnes on a pistol at a 3-Gun match. Photo courtesy of Barnes’ twins

Don’t forget … a clean gun is a happy gun 

We all hate to clean, no matter what it is – the dishes, the house, a gun, but it is a necessity and a very important part of the sport to keep your gun functioning properly and shooting well. If you don’t maintain and properly clean your firearm you’ll have equipment malfunctions more often than you’d like. Semi-automatic weapons require more cleaning and care than other firearms and we recommend the Otis 3-gun cleaning kit. It has everything you’ll need for your pistol, rifle, and shotgun in a compact kit that you can take with you when you go from stage to stage. Try it out, don’t get caught on the line with a jam or malfunction because of a dirty gun. And if you do, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Competition tips and more advice

• Learn from the best: Chances are you have some pretty stellar 3-gunners at your local matches. Watch and learn from them. Everyone we’ve met in this sport has been incredibly helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are lucky enough to go to a big match, then watch some of the top competitors, the likes of Jerry & Kay Miculek, Daniel Horner, and all the other 3-gun Nation competitors.

  •  Take a deep breath & relax: We all have a tendency to get nervous and start forgetting all the basics of shooting when the beeper goes off. We tend to start rushing, jerking and “spazzing out,” even though it is no different from what we do in practice. When you get up to the line, before the beeper goes off, take a deep breath, relax, and most importantly don’t rush. Most people don’t have to worry about going fast when the timer starts, it’s a natural reaction for us to speed up and go for it, but most of us tend to panic. Relax and enjoy the event, if your having fun, your going to shoot better.
  •  Even if you have to, take a deep breath after the timer goes off. The second it takes you to take a deep breath and calm yourself can be made up later in a smooth and relaxed stage instead of a rushed, frantic stage where you fumbled with your clips or forgot to shoot a target. Relax and have fun!
  •  Take notes on the walk through and watch how other competitors run through the stages. It’s a good idea to write down and keep track of the round count for each stage and any magazine restrictions that the stage may have. That way you won’t miss any targets or have any no shoots. Also watch how other competitors run through stages and make a decision as to how you are going to run your stage, based off your skills and ability. Remember that just because the top guy or gal runs a stage a certain way, doesn’t mean you should run it the same way. Base the stage off your skill and the best way for you to successfully complete the stage.


Tracy Barnes. Photo courtesy of the Barnes’ twins

Finally, 3-gun can be a very intimidating sport for beginners, so don’t get frustrated your first couple tries. It takes a while to figure out how to run and gun smoothly and accurately. We guarantee that if you give it a try and stick with it you’ll be hooked.

What tips would you add to the Barnes Twin’s Tips?

Runnin’ and Gunnin’ with the Twins is sponsored by Advanced Technology International

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This Retro WON first appeared August 8, 2012.