The Most Epic Memorial 3 Gun Competition
Have you ever been part of something bigger than yourself? Have you ever been to a shooting competition that completely changed your life? Have you ever had both of those things happen at one event? I have and with this blog, I want to share my experience about the 2019 Memorial 3 Gun Competition so that I’ll see you at the 2020 Match.
The purpose of this competition was to honor our fallen heroes who were in the US military. Each stage of the match was dedicated to an individual who died fighting for our freedom. Because of this competition, their stories are now in the hearts and minds of hundreds, if not thousands, of more people across the nation. I truly believe that each stage I shot gave me the tiniest idea of what they went through, who they were, and what they fought for. We are lucky as Americans to have the freedoms we do, and I was reminded why the Second Amendment is so important for our country.
“Our mission is to remember, honor, and memorialize fallen Special Operations soldiers through the world of competitive shooting. We want the families to know they are not alone during and after this tragic time. During our competition, we share stories and remember who these heroes were and the life they led. Every person who competes walks away with a sense of who each of these men were. All proceeds for our events go directly to the families of the fallen soldiers we are honoring at the event. We will never forget and not let anyone else forget, the ultimate sacrifice these brave men made for this country.”https://www.memorial3gun.com/
Have you ever wanted to shoot a suppressed rifle out of a helicopter? I was one of 15 lucky shooters whose names were drawn to do just that. And who knows what next year’s match may bring, but you just may find yourself dangling out of the side of a helicopter spewing freedom seeds from the sky.
To see a recap of the 2019 Memorial 3 Gun Competition, Alexander with Jawfox Photography dedicated his time and effort to make this insanely cool video.
In all seriousness, let me tell you about the awesomeness of the side stages from this match. Each ticket to enter a side stage was only $5 and all the proceeds went towards the families of the fallen heroes.
- STI International drove in from Texas with a hoard of pistols, mags, and ammunition for shooters to plink for free or to pay $5 to enter the competition. Want to know what the winner of the competition got? You guessed it, a brand new STI pistol. The lucky 21-year-old winner, Nate Staskiewicz went home with a couple thousand dollars’ worth of a gun after shooting the side steel match with the fastest time. HUGE thank you to STI and especially Tony Pignato for the entertainment on this side stage. (Brutus was a difficult shot)
- Side stage 1 was a tricky course that only the most balanced of humans could tackle. The course was set up so that you shot two steel targets out of a Jeep, a plate rack, and then moved on to a wobbly suspension bridge to take down four large, steel silhouette targets. The fastest time was right around 20 seconds. I never quite figured out how to keep my balance on that bridge. Winner of this stage went home with a brand-new Glock!
- Shoot outs are one of the most exciting things to watch and participate in. The top two shooters went head to head in a best out of three battle for a Vortex 1-6 optic. And boy, did they put on a show. Both shooters started in the middle of the stage and ran to the end to start engaging targets with their shotgun. These shooters couldn’t have been more evenly matched. After knocking down steel with birdshot, they moved to their rifle to tackle a plate rack and then ran to their respective pistol box to complete the array. The final targets for shoot outs are falling poppers so that they’re angled outward to fall on top of one another. The target that goes down first is the winner. Nate and Garrett Dietrich battled it out and went three full rounds before Garrett was crowned the winner.
- The little bird side stage included the helicopter ride and a steel array using a staged PCC which, let’s be honest, I was all about the helicopter ride and not so much worried about the side stage. While in the chopper (all I could think about was Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger), you had four berms with a steel silhouette on each, that counted for 2.5 seconds off your time with a total of 10 seconds off if you hit them all. How does one top shooting out of a helicopter as a civilian? Let me know in the comments, not sure if I peaked or if there’s more to come. Once you landed, a staged PCC was loaded up and ready to go for a blind stage. Steel targets from knockdowns, static silhouettes, and a plate rack were scattered between four shoot houses that you had to shoot out of. The winner of this stage won a PCC built by Delphi Tactical who also sponsored all of the airtime for the shooters. HUGE SHOUTOUT to them for the best time of my life so far.
Shooting competitions are make or break depending on your squad. As one of my squadmates put it, once in a lifetime the stars align and you’re squadded with the best humans on earth. These bigger matches are where you meet people from all walks of life from all parts of the nation with lessons to teach us. And of course, we are all biased, but Squad 10, you guys and gals are the most stellar humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting with.
The Memorial 3 Gun Competition had world champions, sponsored, professional shooters, active duty law enforcement, active duty military, and first-time shooters. Here’s what I want to tell you. This match is doable even if you don’t regularly shoot 3 Gun Competitions or aren’t in the best shape to shoot. If I can do it, so can you! If you’re reading this and have never shot a 3 Gun Competition, the hardest part is getting started. When I first shot a 3 Gun Match, it just took me signing up to figure it all out and it’s so worth it in the end.
You won’t find extremely challenging stages with a lot of props/obstacles at monthly matches (unless your shooting club is doing some wickedly awesome things). While there is a lot to learn at monthly matches, major matches will test your physical and mental strength, your endurance, your ability to stay focused, the real quality of your gear and so much more. Let me share with you the ten epic stages that awaited us at the Memorial 3 Gun Competition.
To learn more about the 2019 honorees, visit the Memorial 3 Gun website.
- Stage 1 Dylan Elchin: This stage was a test of your endurance, stage planning, and really being able to master all three guns. The shotgun portion had an array of clays and steel knockdowns immediately after the beep followed by a nasty Texas star. The plates on the Texas star were so tough that having the right shotgun choke or having high powered rounds were in your favor. Next up, you and all your gear climbed up and over an A-frame where a hidden target and huge array of precision pistol steel awaited you on the other side. I say precision as the first steel target had 4 tiny poppers inside it you had to hit and swing out to count for score. The cool factor was definitely found at the end of this one as you shot on top of a Toyota Hilux! The final rifle portion had four small paper targets on the ground and then long-range shots out to over 400 yards.
- Stage 2 John Dunbar: Let’s call this stage the cluster… I’ll leave it at that. If you’re like me, having too many options is worse than being forced into a decision. This stage was set up with paper, clays, and steel to the right, left, and in front of you with two walls in the middle. Pistol and shotgun could be used on steel, clays were shotgun only, and paper could use slugs. This stage was a true testament to knowing where all targets were and having a plan of attack. After neutralizing all ground targets, you ran up a berm to retrieve your rifle to neutralize steel silhouettes and a plate rack. I was seeing red by the end of this stage and definitely had a few FTE’s.
- Stage 3 Eric Emond: This stage used two bays with the shotgun and pistol targets on one and the rifle on the other. You started with your shotgun loaded in hand with two clay activating poppers in both corners of the bay. If you didn’t shoot the flying clay fast enough, you could easily DQ by breaking the vertical 180. Steel and paper remained where you could dump your shotgun and move onto pistol. The next targets were broken up by walls and had to be shot while moving backward to get to the targets. This required excellent 180-degree training so as you moved to shoot, you weren’t ever pointed your pistol rearward to hit targets. Before dumping your pistol, paper and steel all over the corner of the bay remained to be shot at least 20 yards away. After dumping your pistol, you sprinted over to the next bay to smoke some close rifle paper targets, hop onto concrete blocks, and engage small paper and far steel in all directions.
- Stage 4 Andrew Ross: I’m a big fan of shooting a shotgun. It’s my favorite gun, but my strongest stage was this one… because it was pistol and rifle only. The best part of this match I think was implementing this 270-degree stage. Typically, all matches utilize a 180-degree fault line, but this particular stage you could shoot behind you within the boundary walls in one area and then in the other, utilize the 180-degree rule. This stage was all about finding “the sweet spot” where almost all the paper targets could be neutralized by your rifle. The starting position had three skinny sammies you had to engage from the starting box before moving to the array of paper that awaited. I shot two paper targets on the left before finding the main spot where you could neutralize almost all the 270-degree targets from. Once the rifle was dumped, only steel was left in the 270-degree zone and a couple of steel and paper targets in the 180-degree zone on the far right.
- Stage 5 Kyle Osborn: Our day two morning started off with smooth maneuvers in and out of vehicles. The starting position was seated in a VW convertible bug and after the beep, you had four paper targets to engage on the ground in front of the car as well as “skinny sammies” out at varying yardage to hit. You chose your exit from the vehicle with either opening the door and getting out or hopping over the side of the car. I chose the latter which made it that much more fun. The pistol portion was split up with a Cooper tunnel in the middle which is always fun to crawl through in full gear. Targets were scattered to the right and left of the Cooper tunnel and some steel that could only be seen from inside the tunnel. The final portion was shooting a shotgun out of a minivan at steel, clay targets, and one slug shot out to about 70 yards. Angles and learning to lean out of a car door to see all the targets was key here.
- Stage 6 Matthew McClintock: Oh, the all shotgun stage! So going back to the shotgun is my favorite gun, this stage was a really fun challenge. I fought tooth and nail to clean everything. On both the right and left side of the stage, you had 4 steel targets with two of them activating flying clay targets. On the far ends of both sides were two other steel targets, an activator for a paper slug target, and a far slug. In the middle of the stage was a far slug target with a hole in the middle of the target that gave it the extra “just because” factor. At the very beginning of the buzzer was a low port with another good ole Texas Star where if you’re smart, you shoot the top plate first, but if you’re me, you launch it into a spinning rage bottom up. Overall, I remembered to burn a birdshot, hit all the slugs, remembered to eject an unused slug, and cleared the stage. What I didn’t remember to do was not let my shotgun ever run dry. Loading that is never fun.
- Stage 7 Matt Lewellen: Even though I didn’t perform how I wanted to on Stage 7, it was one of those really fun, dynamic stages you got to choose your way of shooting it. In three sections there was a shooting box with the instructions that one gun can only be used in two of the boxes. Paper could be shot with rifle, pistol, or slugs and steel with shotgun or pistol only. Dump barrels and buckets were in different places and you could re-holster your loaded pistol if you chose to. It was all a blur, but I absolutely loved figuring out a solid stage plan for this one. I would love to see this in a match again one day!
- Stage 8 Alex Viola: Day two for Squad 10 ended here and the advantage definitely went to strong shotgun shooters in my opinion. At the start, a plate rack had to be engaged with your rifle while in the starting box. For tall people, this meant making sure your feet stayed in if you went to kneel. From there, small paper targets were located right at your feet with large no-shoots overlaid. Having a throw lever on your magnification ring allowed you to zoom out quick and not hit the no shoots. The steel array that awaited in the next shooting box area could be shot with shotgun or pistol. There were activators for swingers, knockdowns, and forward falling steel. The hardest challenge was on one end of an activator, a steel donut with the thinnest outer edge was attached. I watched two brave souls dump their shotgun before clearing this plate and actually hit it with their pistol. Bravo!! The final three targets were paper targets on a swinger that went back and forth that had to be shot with pistol only.
- Stage 9 Mark Forester: Major 3-gun matches are a marathon and not a sprint. Coming back for day three was a challenge. At this point, most of the squad was sunburnt, dehydrated, bruised, and yet, geared up and was ready to go. You know it’s going to be a good stage when the brief says “the shooter is reminded he signed the waiver…” Three diagonal ports were set up out of a shoot house platform with rifle targets at 50, 100, 150, and 200 yards. Each port required these 4 shots to be made at a variety of angles. Then, you climbed down a GIANT double ladder without slipping (key here) to hit the ground running. This stage was heavy on the pistol targets with 3 large steel targets at one berm, a vertical plate rack, horizontal 8 plates plate rack, and two Texas stars with two plates on the front one being penalties if knocked off.
- Stage 10 Chris Nelms: Our squad kicked off the whole match with this stage and it definitely had the “cool factor” and tone set for the weekend. You engaged a plate rack with your rifle out of a car window before getting in the vehicle to be driven downrange while neutralizing paper targets as they appeared. Then you got out, dumped the rifle, and pulled your shotgun out of the barrel. The shotgun array was a challenge for tactical optics division as it required a reload to knock all the steel targets down, so you felt like you were moving slowly as stood in place to load. Then you jumped into the backseat of the moving car, charged your pistol, and hit four knockdowns while moving and two steel targets from the “car” chasing you. EPIC.
At the end of the match, I left with more than a dozen genuine, lifelong, new friendships. It’s sad to think about how we’ll never be on the same squad with the same people again, but it was truly a highlight of my life that I’ll never get over. The comradery of the shooting community is really amazing.
The sponsors that came together for this match to donate shooting entries, insanely awesome raffles, prize table offerings, helicopter rides, and more were unreal. I have a lot of thanks to give to a lot of people, but in short, thank you to the Memorial3Gun board, the range officers for their time and effort running stages, my squadmates, and my best friend, Betsy for going with me on this trip of a lifetime. I’ve never laughed so hard or been so grateful before all of this!
Thank you to Grey Ghost Precision for the prize money for my Second High Lady. Very surprised and thankful for that!