History Lesson: Bringing Back Minnesota 3-Gun


What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

That's the story of 3-Gun in Minnesota over the last seven years. Our sport was almost a dead article here just a few years ago. Now, we have one of the most active shooting communities in the Midwest that's growing every year.

JP has been a great supporter of 3-Gun over the years and of our Minnesota 3-Gun Group (MN3GG) in particular. When they asked us if we'd share our story, we were happy to oblige. It doesn't do any good to keep success a secret if it can be a help to others.

We're very proud of what we've built, but it didn't just happen, and it wasn't easy. If we had been passive, the whole thing could have fizzled out many times over. Every new challenge 3-Gun has faced here, we've tried to use as an opportunity.

Like JP, we see the shooting sports as a great investment. Getting more people involved and getting them educated on firearms use and safety is obviously great for the sport. But it's also great for gun rights as a cause.

If 3-Gun or whatever sport you shoot isn't doing well where you live, we hope there's something for you here.

From the Jaws of Defeat

At one time, only one range in Minnesota was capable of hosting 3-Gun matches of any reasonable size. When they were no longer able to do so in 2010, 3-Gun in Minnesota became almost non-existent.

The resources of other ranges were already stretching the seams with events. These ranges operated with only a handful of volunteers who would spend hours before an event setting up and planning for it. Finding willing ranges with the support needed to host 3-Gun matches was critical to keeping the sport alive.

The MN3GG formed in January 2011 to provide this support.

Our goal was to cooperate with host ranges specifically to facilitate 3-Gun competitions. MN3GG would design and set up stages, provide a match rules set and manage the match within the range's parameters. The MN3GG would also bring in a workforce of volunteers.

We could see that these ranges were stuck between a rock and a hard place. It was to their benefit to host events like ours, but if they didn't have the staff, it was a non-starter. Cooperating with them and sharing the load worked to everyone's benefit.

The first range to partner up with MN3GG was the St. Cloud Area Practical Shooting Association (SCAPSA). They were followed shortly by the Minnetonka Game & Fish Club (MGFC).

In March of 2011, MN3GG held its very first 3-Gun match at SCAPSA. We came with a volunteer workforce of shooters the size never seen at such an event. And this workforce came match after match with 3-Gunners who made the setup process just part of their match day.

Growing Pains

When we started, normal attendance at a Minnesota 3-Gun match was in the thirties. Within a year of our first match, we were seeing attendance in the sixties. This was the beginning of the 3-Gun popularity surge that we're still enjoying today, and we had to adapt.

Greater attendance meant that matches were bogging down. Stages were taking longer, and shooters spent more and more time waiting around instead of actually shooting.

As a response, MN3GG changed up the match format by increasing the number of stages and shortening the target engagements. Yet, we were careful not to sacrifice the challenges 3-Gunners wanted in a match.

We also invested in more steel targets to replace the paper IPSC targets so often used. Less time spent stickering between stages cut our reset time considerably.

Success can be its own curse sometimes. Adapting to success can be as important as adapting to failure.

It wasn't long before the MN3GG grew a reputation for hosting quality matches. In 2012, we took control of running the Nordic Components Tactical Shotgun Championship. Year after year, the match's reputation grew until it was the premier shotgun event in the nation.

MN3GG also partnered with a third local range, the Forest Lake Sportsmen's Club (FLSC). New and continuing grounds development of FLSC provided a much more suitable facility to host larger matches. Just this spring, the MN3GG consulted on further improvements to help the FLSC better accommodate events like ours.

Finally this year, Minnesota will see the return of a major 3-Gun match. Hosted at the FLSC, MN3GG will be running the Nordic Components & Vortex Optics Tri-Gun.

We haven't seen the likes of a match like this in almost a decade. It's a testament to how far we've come in this state.

The Next Generation

Beyond match logistics, the growth in 3-Gun shooters in the last few years has brought another unexpected challenge to be tackled. Namely, we noticed a decrease in overall ability of the average new shooter.

Many of these shooters had seen some 3-Gun shooting on the internet. They already had or recently purchased the guns they needed and tried to step right in. This led to increased DQs and slowed down the entire flow of a match, not to mention the frustration and hard feelings.

To address this, MN3GG started offering a 3-Gun Intro / Skills Builder course in 2013. This course was designed to introduce new shooters to the sport of 3-Gun without the added stress of a match setting. By utilizing some of our veteran 3-Gunners as volunteer instructors, we kept the course fee very reasonable at $50 per shooter.

The purpose of this class was not necessarily to teach beginners how to shoot. Rather, we covered the important elements of shooting a 3-Gun competition:

  • Operation of all three guns
  • Equipment setup
  • Weapon clearing
  • How to abandon guns
  • Overall safe handling

This class was very well received. In 2014, we had 36 shooters in attendance. The next year, the demand for the class was so high that we held two classes for a total of 70 shooters.

With the success of the 3-Gun Intro / Skills Builder course, veteran 3-Gunners wanted in on the action. We got requests for an advanced course to help further develop their 3-Gun skills. In response, we began offering an advanced 3-Gun skills course as well.

This year, the MN3GG has even put efforts towards growing participation and competence in other shooting sports. In response to mounting requests from action pistol shooters, a skills-based handgun development course was added in spring of 2016.

This handgun-specific course filled quickly upon opening with many attendees from the USPSA and IDPA discipline. It really gave us an opportunity to own up to our principles about building the shooting community.

That's where we are today. Staying true to its mission, MN3GG is committed to the growth and promotion of 3-Gun and the shooting sports. It's our hope that shooters across the country will opt in, get involved and achieve the same success where they live—everyone wins.

MN 3-Gun Group

The MN3GG brain trust consists of Team JP and Nordic Components shooters Brian Payne, Chris Cazin, Jay Schmitt and Jomar Villamor. All four have extensive firearms and 3-Gun experience. They regularly attend many matches across the country and consistently rank near the top in their respective divisions. Each also has extensive law enforcement experience and has served as firearms instructors in their respective agencies.

In addition to their website, you can follow the MN3GG on Facebook.


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