It is risen! For years since its hostile political shutdown at the Del-Tone Luth range, there has been a cry to resurrect one of the first, one of the original, major 3-gun matches. I have no personal connection to the original Tri-gun. I was just coming out of my vested IDPA cocoon the year it was canceled, but I have often heard the wise and respected elders of our community reminisce of Randy Luth’s infamous Tri-gun. While the bi-product of the demise of the Tri-gun was our beloved 5-time Shotgun Championship, there has always been a cry to “bring back” the Tri-gun.
As I have watched the sport grow and evolve in my short time participating, I have always been skeptical if the Tri-gun could truly be resurrected. A big source of my doubt was that some of the rosiest of memories were of the prize tables…the cold, hard truth is that there are exponentially more matches with their hands out milking companies for prizes these days. Any new match, no matter how great, would be hard pressed to live up to the yesteryear expectations of Tri-gun veterans where the prize guns went 30 places deep. Secondly, and more importantly in my opinion, did we (Minnesota) have a facility that could host a match of a caliber that would have national draw? It’s a three-gun match, right? To have a “real” match, we need to challenge all three in a fun/challenging/interesting way. We have cooked up some pretty crafty ways to push the pistol and shotgun skills…but the Achilles heel with the facilities we have is the rifle.
Right or wrong, love it or hate it…the real draw for most people to 3-gun is the rifle. Truthfully, most national matches can screw everything else up and still get rave reviews if they have interesting rifle shooting. For example, the only reason anyone really travels to Kentucky is to shoot little grey steel targets, in shadows, across a valley, while lying in an inverted fetal position, through a hole in the wall of a structurally questionable tobacco barn. Whole matches in Texas have reputations built upon being “rifle heavy.” Two stages at the Ironman, that pretty much make or break your score, have vast and technical rifle components. Rifle is important to a viable major 3-gun match. Many of us travel vast distances to shoot these matches and would adamantly agree it was worth the trip. The question was, could we hold a match that would draw our distant friends from Kentucky, Texas and Idaho here and have them say the same thing of our match. It was unquestionably accomplished with the shotgun match…but this is 3-gun.
If there was anybody up to the task of resurrecting the Tri-gun, it would be none other than the masterminds largely responsible for the rebirth of 3-gun itself in Minnesota…the Minnesota 3-Gun Group. Now, resurrecting someone else’s match is pretty much impossible in a literal sense because everyone has their own style, so a match is going to be different as soon as a new personality is involved. MN3GG was definitely up to the task. Born out of limited resources and range restrictions in the early days, MN3GG has become masters of forcing a shooter into the position they don’t use, and doing the thing they don’t want to do…whatever it may be. In this fashion, they have also perfected a style of match that is fair, consistent and won by the best marksman.
If I were to try and summarize the match, that statement is pretty much how I would describe it too…the best marksman wins. I certainly wouldn’t say it is a “hoser match”, which to me is a good thing. I wouldn’t say it was a match won by the most cunning shooter either. Formulation of some crazy stage plan was not the road to glory. There weren’t really any “why didn’t I think of that” opportunities or magic spots where all the targets were visible. The Tri-gun was pretty rigid in how it was to be shot and placed the emphasis upon execution and use of interesting props. Go hard and hit all the targets fast…that’s how you win the Tri-gun. Of course there were some hard choices and options here and there, but the Tri-gun was certainly not won on scouting day…which I’m fairly confident was MN3GG’s original intent and they did it well.
I chose to shoot Limited division at this match. I was also shooting the match as a staff member, which means shooting the whole thing in one day. It is generally accepted that the staff shoot is a handicap on one’s score, so what better time to play in another division. I am somewhat of a closet Limited shooter, knew with almost certainty what the long range would entail, and I had some new toys to play with, so I got out a fresh set of contact lenses and had some fun. Despite the curse of the RO shoot, I actually think it’s a lot of fun because there is no down time like there is when shooting as a competitor. Given the choice, I’ll take the binge shoot every time. I was definitely dragging energy wise by the last stage, but I felt pretty solid with my scores…and it was a lot of fun! If nothing else, one is certainly guaranteed to have a great squad on RO day! I ended up being slightly edged out into second place when it was all said and done. Does that prove or disprove the RO curse? It could probably go either way, but I have one of these new Nordic rifles to show for it…so I’ll chalk it up as a win.
A closing thought as the match ecstasy has faded into gossip. One opportunity cost of the resurgence of the Tri-gun was that there was not a 6th Shotgun Championship in 2016. There are many reasons for this. I’m savvy to some of them…but it is not my story to tell here. Anecdotally, I do find it interesting that during the shotgun matches all the talk was about binging back the Tri-gun, and now that we have a Tri-gun all the talk is about bringing back the shotgun championship…but I digress. I can with certainty say that it is all being discussed, and all the necessary parties are involved with the best of intentions at heart. I will also say, however, that it would take a lot of help from a lot of people to make that happen. A lot of local folks would need to trade their jerseys for Staff T-shirts. This year, the match was under staffed- for a variety of reasons, but it’s worthy of pointing out that the match which materialized was a much abbreviated version of what was actually planned. If the upper Midwest wants a Tri-gun and a Shotgun Championship, then time to stand up and be counted is now…this is your call to action.