Competitive shooter Dillen Easley shares with ShootSteel.com his thoughts on 3-Gun rifle setups for competition:
I want to break this up into “wants” vs “needs”, but let’s be honest, those “wants” are what can be really attractive to those amongst us who could never just build something with Legos and leave it alone! I want to explain what you need to do well, some things you might want in order to make competing a little easier, and then I’ll explain what I use.
Numero Uno – NEEDS
In all reality, almost any rifle will have the ability to hit 4 moa targets commonly seen within 3-gun and multigun competitions. The AR platform dominates for multiple reasons from ergonomics and ability to customize, to the variability in caliber choices. The most common setup is going to be in .223 with a 16-18″ barrel. You don’t want to sleep on rifles like the IWI Galil when it’s in .223 with a free floating 16” barrel now available in it’s 2nd generation, I’ve used one to podium in my division! Once you have the rifle, you’re going to need at least one optic and mount if shooting anything other than TacIrons /
Limited division. There are budget offerings in 1-4x, 1-6x, and even first focal plane 1-8x scopes like the new Strike Eagle. You can arguably be competitive with what you now have!
WANTS….these are more fun for guys like me, so let me lay them out in the order I find them the most beneficial! I’m going to assume you already have your rifle with an entry level optic mounted and zeroed in a quality scope mount, so don’t hate me for not initially mentioning my favorite rifle upgrade.
Muzzle devices can make a MASSIVE difference in felt recoil, but more importantly in how much your rifle moves during recoil, which can be seen when watching the reticle through your optic.
Compensators start from very affordable with the old school Miculek comp to the more expensive versions many of us run. They are ALL noticeable improvements over an A2 flash hider tho!
Trigger. If you’ve ever felt a quality trigger with a light pull, crisp break, and short reset, you likely find yourself now being a trigger snob who hates mil-spec triggers. Welcome to the club my friend!
Stock and grip that fit YOU and your shooting style. Getting a consistent cheek weld on my long guns improved my shooting ability with long range and offhand shooting as much as anything. You might need something with an adjustable cheek piece and length of pull, or maybe you are fine with stock that sit right at buffer tube level.
Upgrade your optic…I know, the Vortex guy who hoards Razors is mentioning this LAST. Well, great optics don’t guide a bullet onto steel better than a budget optic…they make it easier. Just like with triggers, once you experience good glass, it can be hard to go backwards, so don’t pretend like I didn’t
That’s your low hanging fruit when it comes to “wants” and those are the “wants” that make the largest differences in 3-Gun rifle setups for competition.
So, what do I use? I have 3 primary rifles for TacOps, Modified, and Open divisions and 1 rifle for Heavy TacOps. They’re all nearly identical for a reason, so any differences will be noted. There are some WANTS listed that are not exactly low hanging fruit and that you may find you do not like as much as I
Rifle: American Defense Manufacturing and Black Fire Forge (new 2023 lightweight rifle)
Barrel: 18” rifle gas barrels. 1x Bartlein heavy stainless barrel in .223, 1x Bartlein heavy stainless barrel in .308, 2x Proof carbon fiber wrapped barrels in .223. All use SLR Sentry adjustable gas blocks. I like the recoil impulse and added velocity with longer barrels.
Handguard: 1x ADM 17” with Area 419 Arcarail with .308 AR, 1x 17” IWI arca handguard, 2x 16” Geisselle MK18 ….I prefer Arca compatability over pic rail, but you may not.
Compensator: Area419 Hellfire 3-port compensator… PRS style, directional, and times without tools.
Trigger: TriggerTech Diamond with ProCurve profile
Bolt Carriers: Rubber City Armory M16 bolt carriers….thats right, full weight. Outside of some bay matches, I do not prefer lightweight carriers anymore. Reliability > Feel
Stock and Grip: I have cheekweld issues, so I use a Magpul CTR stock with RISR attached to it for a taller cheekpiece that recipricates when using the charging handle. I am also using the Magpul K2XL grip with larger diameter and more vertical angle.
Optics: Vortex Razor Gen 3 1-10x’s on all but one lightweight (Proof Barreled) .223 rifle where I will use a Vortex Razor Gen 2 1-6x for matches with more bays. I have them all in 1.9” tall Warne X-Skel mounts and have Warne offset/45 degree mounts with Razor 6moa dots when I want to shoot open.
I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a setup more competitive than what I use for 3-Gun rifle setups for competition, but don’t let that stop you from testing various parts, barrel lengths, and more. You may find that something works better for you.