(Dakota being the poster child for miniature or “mini” 3-Gun is completely coincidental)
As winter melts into spring, the season is drawing near for the beginning of Wednesday Night Thunder. While week night pistol matches are fairly common place, few-if any- week night 3-gun leagues exist. While the opportunity is ripe with possibilities, it is also laden with restrictions- most notably time. The narrow window of time between when folks can rush to the range after work and when the sun goes down greatly restricts the scope of what we can do compared to a weekend event. This leaves many folks with questions as to what they can expect from this sort of event and whether it’s worth their time to participate. With that in mind, this is my philosophy when putting on the Hawkeye Ignite Mini 3-gun matches.
Aside from the obvious, I would guess the primary reason folks venture out to shoot during the busy work week is to practice. A frustration I have had over the years is that it is nearly impossible to replicate match conditions in practice. Certainly there is a time and place to gather the tissues and work out your issues with a true “practice session,” but after a time I ran into a diminishing return on investment with that sort of practice. Also for many years, until very recently, I had very limited range access to engage in open format practice even if I wanted to. Eventually I arrived at the strategy of seeking out as many matches as possible. It may have only been a small pistol match, but the opportunity to interact with a stage on the clock, for score, always seemed more productive.
Therefore, the primary goal of a mini 3-gun match is create a practice environment where folks can increase their exposure to, and become more comfortable in, real match conditions. Ironically, the only way to replicate a match is to hold a match. Every Wednesday night we will have three real stages with one chance for romance, and wide open to gamer interpretation. However, we will also run one stage exactly the same all summer which will be an El Pres inspired standards type stage involving two guns. This way folks can experiment, compare strategies, and track their progress over the season. The other two stages will be the organic field courses we all know and love.
My stage design style has somewhat followed the evolution of the 3-Gun Nation style of shooting for bay style matches. Shooters can expect a start position, a shooting area, abandonment receptacles, and targets. With a few notable exceptions, such as clays and pipes, all Ignite targets are optional to engage with any appropriate firearm. All paper targets are rifle, pistol or slug eligible. All knock over steel plates and poppers are pistol and shot optional. This gives shooters open ended possibilities for competitive strategies, the ability to play to their strengths and/or work on their weaknesses. We do have some very gifted stage designers in our community who can build very good scenario or drill style stages that are a lot of fun, but my preference is to add complexity through ambiguity. If the description doesn’t say you can’t…then you can.
This style of match gives the shooter various practice options too. The obvious choice would be to step up to win the night- always a sound practice tactic. You could also work on something you know to be your weakness. You could measure yourself against other folks- say you have a buddy who shoots pistol at about the same level as you do for example- maybe run the same stage with a shotgun plan and see if you can keep up with them. Of course it is also possible to shoot the whole match with a shotgun. Should a shooter choose that option, they get a 20 second “Like a Boss” bonus…go ahead try it…bring lots of slugs though.
I hope this provides some insight into what we have in store for the Mini 3-guns this season. Of course we look forward to gathering everyone together and having a mid-week jam session at the range. We also hope to create a productive practice environment with match pressures and fresh stages for interpretation. Starting in April, if you are free Wednesday night, come on out to Forest Lake Sportsman’s Club and shoot of the 3-guns with us.