FNH 3-Gun Championship Wrap-Up

The FNH 3-Gun Championships are over. I placed 101st out of 174 in my division (Tac Optics), and while it’s nowhere near where I wanted I still picked up a gun off the prize table at the end of the day. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk about what went wrong, what went right, and ways I need to improve.

Stage 1

Stage 1 went fine, in general. The FN-303 Less Lethal Launcher was a neat addition to the stage, and I picked up a couple seconds taking down almost all the bonus targets. I hit them all, but one failed to fall. I could have taken those rifle shots at a quicker cadence, but that falls into the “move your ass” category of things I need to work on in general. One thing I can actually fix physically is my shotgun – the gun was staged loaded with an empty chamber and I ghost loaded a round in order to hit all of the clays without reloading. When I went to load it jammed in the front of the lifter when I racked the action. The solution is to take my 7+1 Mossberg 930 SPX and swap out the barrel and magazine tube to bring it to the 8+1 standard for division capacity, or even 9+1 to give me some room. I had to rack the action because the shotgun was staged on an empty chamber, the way all “staged” guns were set.

 

Stage 2

Stage 2 illustrates that my pistol work still sucks. The small poppers took far too long to take down, spending 18 rounds to hit 10 targets. For the rifle, I thought I hit that last target but it turns out I hit slightly above the target. Unfortunately I had already dropped the magazine in preparation of moving on to the next box, but I still had a round in the chamber so I took a little extra time to line up the shot before firing and moving on. For the shotgun portion I completely forgot to look at the setup of the steel plates before the stage so I didn’t realize those steel poppers were lined up behind each other. That added a couple seconds, and then the final plate failed to fall after two strong hits so rather than standing there and pumping round after round into it I decided taking the miss was faster. Another instance where having an adjustable choke might have helped. Or, alternatively, some high brass ammunition.

Stage 3

Stage 3 started off so well. I only had a couple misses with the shotgun (but hit the slug targets in one shot each) and cleaned up the pistol plates quickly so by the time I got to the rifle stuff I had plenty of time left which I then squandered by trying to fire from the kneeling position instead of bracing the gun against a stump like a smart person. There were trees between me and the targets blocking my shots from almost every position except the one I planted myself to kneel, but it turns out that with my heavy breathing after running down the hill that position was unusable. Just before I timed out (at 200 seconds) I threw two rounds at the last two targets just to make sure I didn’t get a “failure to engage” penalty in addition to the “failure to neutralize” penalty that was justly coming my way. This was the first time I had used a sling in competition shooting since Tiger Valley oh those many years ago and I hadn’t practiced since then, but what I learned from that competition helped me figure out the best way to sling the gun.

Stage 4

This stage I am genuinely embarrassed about; I even considered not posting it. I had never fired a PS-90 before, and for those who are unfamiliar the safety is located on a rocker just below the trigger. To disengage it you need to move your trigger finger in a motion identical to pulling the trigger. There were 10 rounds in the gun, and I only fired 9 at the bonus targets. I planned to flip the safety back on and continue downrange, figuring taking one more shot wasn’t worth the extra second. As I went to engage the safety my finger slipped and pulled the trigger, lighting off the last round without aiming at anything and without the gun shouldered. I had an accidental discharge. What made it even worse was my shotgun was staged downrange in the line of fire, but only by sheer luck did I miss hitting it. As I stepped away from the table and continued the stage I fully expected to be disqualified for unsafe gun handling, but just in case I continued on. The RO took pity on me and decided to let it slide, understanding that I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t argue, but in my mind I should have been DQ’ed.

Stage 5

This stage went almost perfectly, which is fitting as it was the last one I shot (although the stages are presented here in numerical order). I fired all 10 rounds with the SCAR-L (remembering the PS-90 incident and not wanting a repeat) and then hit every shotgun target on the first shot. Some people tried to game the stage and hit two targets with one shot (some targets were almost touching) but I thought that I could be faster firing two hurried shots instead of one well aimed shot. I was right, and every target fell. One of the guys who got cute and tried the doubles wasn’t as lucky, as he turned a target 90 degrees and forced him to take a miss on it. After the shotgun targets the stage required a magazine with “no more than 28 rounds” to engage 14 targets but I decided to only load 4 rounds, take 2 targets with the rifle, then continue with the pistol. The ports were quite small and I was afraid that if I didn’t get close to the port that I would miss some targets. As I fired the last shot at the right hand popper I knew that I was firing my last round of the competition so I slowed down a tad and enjoyed it, hitting smack dab in the center with the first round.

Stage 6

Stage 6 was interesting. This was the only stage you were allowed to start with all 3 guns “hot” with a round in the chamber – the other stages were “magazine inserted, bolt closed on an empty chamber” which meant racking the action to load the gun. I started with the shotgun going one-for-one with the targets, then transitioned to the pistol to take out the rest of the steel. As I started to run the poppers I noticed that I was being more accurate than usual and started to speed up, which worked for most of the run. Near the end of the poppers I started missing again so I slowed down to get my hits. The paper I shot using the rifle, which went fine except for the reload. I had to slow down and wait a second before ramming the magazine home because my adrenaline was making me shake too hard to accurately insert it. I shot the stage clean and in a respectable time, but it’s another illustration that my pistol work needs work.

Stage 7

The last three stages all involved some kind of long distance shooting, which was very cool. But this one was a pain in the ass at the beginning. I had planned to hit the four slug targets then run the shotgun dry, do one reload from the sidesaddle while moving, and take the rest of the close targets with the pistol. One of the slug targets refused to go down and loading in another slug ruined my count and threw off my game. From that point I did the one reload (standing, not moving, big mistake) and then winged it. The distance targets were slightly problematic for me due to the shooting position, but I still nailed most of them.

Stage 8

This stage I was very happy with for the most part. I moved quick with the shotgun, dumped it after running it dry, then switched immediately to the pistol to take out the rest of the steel targets. I had an issue with the pistol where the magazine didn’t drop free when i went to ground it so I ran back to the dump bucket to fix that issue before getting too far ahead. Then, when I grabbed my charging handle the bolt didn’t quite snap back into place like I wanted. What happened was the round was just too tight in the magazine, but my brain went “DOUBLE FEED MALFUNCTION!” and started clearing the gun. After that I hit all the steel from one of the most beautiful shooting positions I have ever seen.

Stage 9

The last stage numerically but the first stage I ran. You start behind a Barrett MRAD with the sights on target for a 500+ yard shot at a steel IPSC silhouette. When the buzzer goes off you break the shot, and then skedaddle. You only get one shot so waiting for confirmation of a hit is not only a waste of time but illogical. Next up is skinny steel targets at unknown distances out to 300 yards, which the RO missed calling hits for a couple targets. After the stage was over a couple fellow competitors and I had a talk with the RO who gave me the hits he missed back. I did completely miss one shotgun target, and while I should have taken a follow-up shot I forgot that the scoring was time plus instead of comstock and let it stand.

Overall Thoughts

The competition was fantastic. This was the first time I’ve had to make challenging long distance shots and it was an absolute blast – something more competitions need to include. I really hope they bring this competition back next year, and hopefully the range will have a couple between now and then. What it made me realize is that in order to place better I need to work on shotgun reloads, pistol shooting and gaming the stages. All things I can practice in the off season, and hopefully next year I’ll break 100.

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