3Gun ready AR-15?

20140317-104205.jpgWhen I built my tactical turquoise AR-15 last year, I had no idea that this year I would be preparing to use it for a 3gun competition. What I built is a fun, pretty gun, that is nice and light and easy for a beginner to pick up and try out. However, I have a feeling some changes should be made.

Currently, my AR has a 14.5″ gov’t profile barrel with a 2″ compensator pinned to it. The gas system is mid-length as is the free floating hand guard. I installed very little Picatinny, but now have backup front and rear, flip up sights and a tiny Burris red dot attacked to the upper reciever. The lower is billet with a deluxe LWRC kit installed. The Ergo grip and Mission First Tactical stock are still my favorites. I doubt those need changing, but I’m questioning almost everything else.

So what do you think? I’ve been told that a competition trigger is a must. What weight would you consider “best” and let’s talk “favorite” brands. I am questioning the need for a longer heavier barrel and a serious muzzle device. This would probably mean the need for a whole new upper, but I am looking forward to your input before I get started.


  1. Honestly, I wouldn’t change ANYTHING until you have done a competition. Why spend the money if you don’t have to? After your first competition, see if any of the people you meet will let you shoot their rifles and you can try their triggers.

    1. That’s helpful, thank you. I’ve tried a competition trigger and liked it’s crispness, but I wasn’t sure that mine was that much heavier.

      1. From what I have seen in 3gun matches, it seems the place to make up or lose time is in shotgun reloads. It’s the slowest of the 3 guns to reload, and the one you are more likely to have to reload due to capacity.

  2. If you know you will be competing at a match that will have longer shots, you might look at an optic with appropriate magnification. Otherwise, I’m in agreement with Wyfaggro. Go do the match first. That will tell you what you need.

  3. Pistol and shotgun are going to be the big things to do well on as it is. Last thing I would worry too much about is the rifle as long as it operates correctly.

  4. Personally, I wouldn’t change anything besides having a 1X variable power scope. Usually there are only one or two stages that require long range work. Most have short range stuff. The 14.5″ barrel will be fine, even better in the short range as it will be easier to maneuver. The same goes for the trigger. If you can’t hit a plate out to 300 yds or so with a combat trigger and a decent scope then you might want to look into a two stage. I ran a red dot with a magnifier for a while. While I was at a disadvantage at the long stages, I was really fast at the short stages. Everything is a trade off. Don’t spend your time/money chasing diminishing returns. I agree with the above comments to run a match with it first and see what you’re lacking. Besides the optics I would run that AR in a match no problem. I even like the color.

  5. As several previous commenters have said, shoot a competition or three, and ask other shooters about their rifles. They might even give you a chance to send a few rounds down range, assuming it’s kosher with the MD. For the relatively close, faster stages (like 3GN seems to love) a 14.5″ should do fine.

    (There can be considerable local variation – the club I used to shoot at in TX was run a a former member of the USAF rifle team, high power type, plus had lots of space. The close in rifle area, dubbed “Hoser’s Swamp,” ran from 150-225 or so. On on stage, the targets STARTED at 300 or so, out to about 400, with one long one at 5-600. 300 yard rifle targets were pretty normal there.)

    The most popular combination, in my experience, seems to be an 18″ 1:8 barrel with rifle gas, a comp of some sort (the Miculek is probably the best bang for the buck), and an 15″ free float tube. There are several good triggers out there, so it comes down to which one works for you. If you don’t like one, you can get another (when you’ve got extra $$) and sell the old one.

    (FWIW, I’m running a 20″ medium contour with a DD quad rail and a basic trigger kit. It was originally built as a DMR, and I’m slowly upgrading as I can afford pieces.)

  6. IF you change your trigger, honestly, go with Gissele. (Or their “el cheapo” ALG trigger, which is a “milspec” style semiauto trigger, only it is made with high precision – runs $65 or so.) Nothing cheaper than an ALG is better, nothing that falls between the ALG and the “premium” Gissels in price is anywhere close to Gissele performance, and only the tinest sliver of top shooters can make use of triggers better than the Gissele premium ones.

    PERSONALLY, I prefer their SSA (Super Semi Auto) trigger, which is a two stage that is still heavy enough to be safe for Serious Social Purposes. I like 2-stage triggers for speed, accuracy, and safety, but that’s ikely because my background is in 2-stage triggers on rifles.

    However, they also make a really nice, intended for 3-Gun trigger that is deisgned for a lightweight, single stage pull with a short reset, so a good shooter can make a brass fountain with teh shortest possible splits.

    I suspect that you (like 99% of even “good” shooters) will not end up fast enough for the super-duper Gissele 3-Gun trigger to make a significant difference in your final scores. If not, the SSA is slightly cheaper if I recall correctly, and actually still good for home defense or what not. (SSA runs about 4.5lbs — 2.5 1st stage and 2 2nd stage, IIRC. All I know is it feels really nice in my rifles, and I _wouldn’t_ want lighter for anything but a target rifle for static shooting positions.)

  7. I’m glad your giving three-gun a run… I like shooting it too…

    If you like the competition trigger… go with it to start… but leave the rest alone until you get some time with it in matches… some improvements might be with the shooter as opposed to the gear… so video yourself or have a trusted instructor/coach/friend provide some critique… I’m always amazed as an instructor how another instructor or observer can catch me doing things that can be improved or adjusted to make me shoot better…

    I had an instructor friend who used to jokingly say, “Aim high and shoot low, you’ll hit it in the middle.”… never did quite figure that one out… except avoid useless advice…

    Dann in Ohio

  8. Add my voice to the chorus of “Try it out first!” See where the improvement has to come from you, and where it has to come from your equipment.

    That said, a full length gas system is much softer, and is better than a good brake at recoil management. The tradeoff is a nose-heavy gun…

    For triggers, a lot of competitors are using the CMC drop-in, as well as the Geissele. The CMC flat triggers have a neat little nock at the bottom that helps ensure consistent finger placement.

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