Shotgun? Rifle? Pistol? How about all three!
That's what one of the fastest growing shooting disciplines in the U.S. offers, a chance to engage targets with a variety of firearms. Targets consist of cardboard silhouettes, steel, clay targets or whatever else a particular match director chooses to offer.
The format is reasonably simple. A shooter demonstrates his proficiency with a multiple of firearms against a mixed array targets. It is as fast-paced as safety will allow. Shooters are scored based on the number of targets hit and the time they use to complete a particular shooting stage.
"There's something to say for a guy to be good with all three disciplines. You are kind of getting into the ultimate for shooting," said Erik Lehner, Minot, an avid shooter who has participated in multi-gun events. "It's better than firearms collecting dust."
At a multi-gun, or three-gun event, there is little time for dust to gather. Shooters at the line must make certain their rifle, shotgun and handgun are in working order and ready for competition. Competitors are allowed to hold only one firearm at a time. The remaining two firearms are placed in safe boxes where they can be reached as necessary.
"It takes some strategy. Three-gun puts a lot of people on an even playing field," said Lehner.
Even though all multi-gun events are carefully timed, the fastest shooters do not always win. Accuracy counts too and few shooters are equally proficient with all three firearms. All seem to have a favorite firearm that they handle accurately and quickly, but also one in which there is room for improvement. Putting all three together during a single stage of shooting is the challenge.
During a recent multi-gun event held at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club a total of 170 rounds were fired by each competitor during four stages of shooting - 60 rifle, 60 pistol and 50 shotgun.
Among the modern sporting rifles used for multi-gun the most popular caliber is .223, but larger calibers are used too. Rifle targets are set at whatever distances a match director or shooting range allows.
"Popular handguns are 9mm, 40s and 45s," said Lehner.
Shotguns choices for multi-gun include both 20 and 12 gauge. Depending upon the field of fire, a shooter can be called upon to use birdshot, buckshot or slugs. Clay targets, stationary or sometimes "popped" into the air, are common challenges for the shotgunner. Multi-gun shotguns are usually fitted with an extension tube that allows for as many as nine rounds to be loaded at a single time.
The Minot Rifle and Pistol Club and Bismarck/Mandan Rifle and Pistol Club are two shooting organizations in the state that promote and host multi-gun events. The next multi-gun match is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Bismarck.