You Should Be Shooting Two-Gun

March 26, 2017  
Categories: Guns

Yes, two gun matches, not the three gun matches you normally hear about. Russell Phagan breaks it down for you.

There Are Many Reasons to Shoot Competitively – Here’s Why We Like Two Gun

The number one reason people tell me they don’t want to shoot 3 Gun is that they don’t have/don’t want to buy a shotgun just for shooting a game. I’ve heard this more and more often since the mid-2000s. There are three major things I believe contribute to this:

1) A large pool of people came back from the Global War on Terror. They bought carbines similar to those they were issued, and want an outlet to practice the martial skills they learned and used. Very few of these people actually used shotguns, and those who did will admit their limited utility.

2) The focus in commercial defensive/tactical shooting schools as a whole is largely geared around rifles and handguns; there aren’t as many tactical shotgun classes anymore.

3) Expense: one less gun makes it that much more affordable to compete in terms of initial equipment investment and ammunition costs. While people may own shotguns, few are optimized for shooting 3 Gun. Competitive 3 Gun shotguns are somewhere between home defense and hunting shotguns. 21″-24″ barrels with chokes and full length or longer magazine tubes are the norm. The ammunition carrying equipment to be competitive is also increasingly impractical for anything other than competing. The shotgun is consequently viewed as much more specialized equipment than rifles or pistols.

With these things in mind, there is an untapped market of potential competitors. There are two matches in Arizona that cater to this demographic: the 2 Gun Action Challenge Match in Tucson, Arizona, and Arizona 2 Gun in Peoria, Arizona. Both are strictly a rifle/pistol match. Many of the stages combine physical challenge elements. The more complex stages are often based around real-world incidents. The mean age of competitors is younger than in other venues. More active-duty military, veterans, and law enforcement members attend them. There are also more people attending who paid for commercial training and want a monthly event to keep their skills sharp.

Physical Challenges

Including physical challenges in stages changes the tone of the match. Shooting these matches feels more like a training session with friends than a serious competitive event. It also helps keep away the whiners and complainers who can ruin the experience. The fewer targets on the stage, the harder the stage is physically. Physical challenges can include: 100-200 yard sprints, kettlebell throws, carrying heavy objects, crawling under obstacles, or going through obstacles. The end result is more challenging stages with less ammunition expended.

Inclusivity Fosters Success

The match has wisely chosen to remain inclusive in the sense that it allows any equipment allowed at other multi-gun matches. Arizona has a large action shooting population, and those action shooters can use the same rifles and pistols in 3-Gun if they want. Prohibiting equipment simply gives people a reason not to participate. There is crossover from other local competitive venues as a result. Armored division is available for people who wish to compete with body armor on as it does tend to make one slower and the physical challenges harder.

Stage Design Defines Everything

2 Gun Matches distinguish themselves by stage design and shooting/physical challenges. Events that try to distinguish themselves through equipment restrictions invariably prohibit equipment with real-world applications. Stage design alone determines how useful something is in reality, and how martially applicable the match itself is.

We often see that traditional match equipment is a liability at 2 Gun. At the basic level magazines fall out of pouches because the match is more physical. Typical competition rifles are too long to maneuver in confined spaces. Short Barrelled Rifles can, in fact, be advantageous. Limited eye relief optics are slower, due to the more times the shooter has to reacquire the sight picture or from awkward positions. Muzzle brakes can kick up dirt/dust, obscuring targets downrange.

Run Your Own Match

The rules for these matches are open source; all you need to get your own match going is a 50-100 yard range, shot clocks, and two or three steel targets. If you don’t like what your own local clubs offer, get your own match started. Even if it’s just five or ten guys at first, you can grow it over time and make more complex props and acquire more advanced target arrays. You don’t need the backing of a national organization to make your event happen. There will be a learning curve in match logistics and how to set up and run your match in a timely manner, but as long as you have a range to run your match, none of the challenges are insurmountable.

“Winning, while nice, need not be your goal; bettering yourself through the pursuit of excellence is something we all can achieve.” back Breach-Bang-Clear

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Russell Phagan

Russell Phagan

About the Author

Breach-Bang-Clear contributor Russell Phagan has been working in the firearms industry since 2001 when he was introduced to action shooting sports in general and 3 Gun in particular. He views competition shooting as a valuable activity not only for personal development and gaining professional knowledge but also how to improve firearms products and make them more user friendly and effective. Combining the practical use of firearms with testing out new product ideas and technology is one of the things he enjoys most about 3 Gun. Phagan also believes anyone can become reasonably good at it if they devote the time and resources to do so. "Winning, while nice, need not be your goal; bettering yourself through the pursuit of excellence is something we all can achieve" Russell Phagan Though is his demeanor usually ranges somewhere between taciturn and staid, Phagan is nonetheless a good man to know and listen to. Sometimes he even smiles, or so we hear. Find the Sinistral Rifleman online here or follow him on the Instergramz (@sinistralrifleman). He's on the Book of Face at /SinistralRifleman/.


  1. Ben K

    I’d love to shoot 2-gun, but since I’m in Tucson and the match you shoot always fills up instantly, I haven’t been able to yet, lol.

  2. Joe Crea

    I’ve been shooting quite a bit of IDPA matches and my first 2-Gun match is coming up this Saturday in SW Va. Thank you very much for the article and affiliated videos. I’m really looking forward to broadening my horizons.

  3. Joe Cox

    Great stuff sir, was trying to get some thing like this going in my area. Appreciate the info.

  4. Salvatore

    I do wish there was more two gun. I primarily do handgun only competition, primarily IDPA. I would like to do more two gun and the reason I am not into 3 gun is, as the author points out, the use of the shotgun. I think the shotgun is a great defensive weapon but from a competitive angle it is the most demanding to set up and run and it is also the most outlandish setup. Who would use a harness that holds shells that way in the real world? The pistol and carbine equipment can be quite realistic and still be competitive. I hope to see more two gun come on the scene.

  5. bill carson

    And making these matches a physical challenge also excludes an awful lot of folks who may not be up to the phoney-baloney standards the match directors believe everyone should meet. Cant sprint 200 yds with a kettle ball, sorry, go home. Some people want to learn to manage two-guns for fun or self defense. Not everybody needs to be a gym rat to learn/practice those skills. To tell a 65 yr old man he’s not able to participate because he has medical issues, or that 35 yr old single mom that she should find another means of self defense in the home because she doesnt have the upper body strength, is, well, a bit arrogant. I hate it when old men and moms whine.

    • Russell Phagan

      At least in my State you can shoot some form of action shooting discipline almost every day of the week. Not all matches need to be all things to all people. Shoot USPSA, IDPA, or regular 3-Gun if that flavor of competition suits you better.

      • bill carson

        Cant shoot a pistol and AR in any of those venues. As you stated in the beginning of the article, many people simply dont want or cant handle a shotgun. Thats what interested me in your article, but you lost me soon thereafter with some rather suspect logic; “Prohibiting equipment simply gives people a reason not to participate.” How many people are we talking about being so concerned about losing? Then you go on to intentionally exclude what I think may be a significant number of possible attendees by saying in effect “man up or go home”. Then you confirmed it by saying that in your reply.

        Dont misunderstand my position; I would very much love to participate and I am qualified. But my family probably cannot given the requirements, and more than likely wouldnt want to because of them. If you already have special categories for armor, how hard would it be to offer a “fun shoot” category? If the point of the article is to generate interest and participation in this discipline you need to start out by opening it up to as many possible participants as possible. Then you can split off the non- “whiners and complainers” if you want into a special class.

        • Glen Stilson

          We run the monthly AZ 2 Gun match at Cowtown Range, and I can tell you that every month we have old guys, young guys, old gals, young gals, soccer moms, amputees, physical enhanced persons and just about every other type of shooter show up. They select a division to compete in based on their gear and what they want to do, and then have a helluva good time shooting and learning. If they come up against a physical event they can’t do for whatever reason, then they take a pass, accept the penalty and focus on the shooting element. We also run the annual Independence Day Action Rifle Match (July 4) and the annual Out With A Bang Action Rifle Match (Dec 31) – same type of crowd shows up, a mix of various types of shooters. All kinds of guns show up, from modern carbines to WWII rifles and everything in between. All kinds of gear shows up, from people running in plate carriers to shooters reloading from their pockets.Go out to a match and see what they have to offer. Most of the shooters we work with are there to have a good time, compete against themselves, and get better at their craft, for all kinds of reasons. Instead of saying “I can’t do it and you should do something special for me and those like me”, come on out and shoot with the other 65+ age crowd and 35 year old single moms that have fun every month at our matches.

        • Andy Logan

          I was an RO at the match today and I ran at least a dozen older men AND women. I often shoot this match battling injuries and now with armor handicapping me further. If you don’t want to throw the kettle bell or do a physical exercise that you aren’t capable of, there is generally an easy way to opt out- often written in the stage description. All shooters were able to complete the course today. And the compliments came from the older crowd that didn’t have super times. I’ve been shooting this match for 10 years and never seen us discriminate against people who aren’t able to do things……but they do have to show up. Come on out, squad with me, and we will work with you. No one wins a truck and there are divisions for all shapes and sizes.

  6. EvanTV

    The fellas from Hard as Hell are putting on a 2 gun match in May (6th?) in Utah.

    The folks from Tactical Performance Center will be there.

    Good bunch of folks!

  7. PC

    That settles it.

    I’m local and have been lurking on some YouTube channels. I need to get out there and get after it.

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