3-Gun is the Crossfit of the shooting sports

If you have an internet connection and have seen the inside of a gym at least once, you’ve heard of Crossfit. If you’ve never heard of Crossfit and exercise scares you, this post probably isn’t going to be for you, because it’s going to be heavy (unlike Crossfit lifts) on exercise metaphors. Similar to Crossfit, if you have an internet connection and own a shotgun, you’ve probably heard of 3-gun.

Caleb's Research Assistant
Caleb’s Research Assistant

I was talking to my research assistant the other day, when I had an epiphany. That epiphany became the title of this post, which is that in many ways, 3-Gun is to the shooting sports as Crossfit is to the fitness community. On the surface there are some obvious similarities, both sports/activities have enjoyed a sudden, recent, and meteoric rise in popularity, they use gear/lifts that you don’t see in other fitness/shooting activities, the people who are “in” the respective communities have a smug sense of superiority, and we all have that one friend who’s constantly telling us “go try Crossfit/3Gun” like he’s going to convert you to the faith. Now, before you crossfitters/3-gunners get your torches and frankenstein rakes out, there is a pro and con element to this. So chill out as I alternate back and forth.

Raising awareness of the general activity. One of the interesting similarities between Crossfit and 3-Gun is that they both have shows/events on cable TV. Crossfit has the Crossfit Games, and 3-Gun has 3-Gun Nation. What these have accomplished is raising awareness of the general activity. Crossfit has helped promote the idea that fitness for its own sake is a perfectly legitimate reason to work out. Before Crossfit, most people who set foot in the gym had a reason to be there beyond “I just want to work out.” The same effect is true for 3-Gun in many ways – it’s an action shooting sport whose only purpose is to entertain people and be a sport. Even USPSA has its roots in self-defense, regardless of where it is now. 3-gun is a sport simply for sport’s sake, and that’s also a good thing.

Glossing over the fundamentals. One of the greatest, and legitimate criticisms of Crossfit is that many of the trainers are not qualified to teach Olympic lifts, and that doing light weight Olympic lifts for high reps can greatly increase the chance of injury. Serious body builders and powerlifters are especially critical of this aspect of Crossfit. Similarly, have you seen a 3-Gun Nation paper target? They’re huge. How huge? 17.25 inches in diameter, and all you have to do is hit it twice, anywhere in its enormous 233 square inch area. Fundamental accuracy is sacrificed for “go-fast look cool”, just like good form is sacrificed for high reps.

3 gun nation target

Major industry support. Reebok sponsors the Crossfit games, and in fact have launched their own line of “pure fitness” gear. Last year their big marketing push was “The Sport of Fitness.” That’s pretty awesome. 3-Gun has picked up industry support and sponsorship like no other action shooting sport, people are THROWING money at 3-Gun Nation. Cash prizes for winning a shooting match? What madness is this, good sir?

High bar for entry. I suspect here is where I’m going to get the most stick, but it’s true. Just to play in 3-gun you need the rifle, the pistol, the shotgun, you need a good holster, spare mags, something to carry shotgun shells, probably a cart, and a youtube account to post dryfire shotgun loading videos. The same is true for Crossfit – not because you need to bring your own gear, but the average Crossfit gym (it’s a gym, not a f***ing “box” you nitwits) charges approximately $1,000,000 to sign up and then an additional $500 per class.

It really is a community. We make joke around about Crossfit being a cult, but having a sense of community is never a bad thing. We all like hanging out with like minded bros and ladybros, and knowing that you can walk into any Crossfit gym in the country and get that familiar stank of hot sweat and musk while being affirmed by people who share your interests is actually pretty awesome. 3-Gun? Same thing. Holy s*** everyone in the 3-Gun community knows each other, and it’s a very close knit group.

If you start doing Crossfit because you think you’re going to be the next Rich Froning, you’re wrong. If you started shooting 3-Gun because you think you’re going to be the next Danny Horner, you’re wrong again. Both Crossfit and 3-Gun sell you the image of elite participants, but the reality is the guys on TV flipping tractor tires or shooting 100 yard plate racks are the 1% of the 1% of their respective sports. Everyone else is a doughy, middle aged accountant looking for an hour away from his harridan wife and annoying kids.

Dude, it’s actually a lot of fun. I have done more Crossfit than I’ve done 3-Gun, and here’s the dirty secret. They’re both a pretty good time. It turns out that if you like working hard and sweating, Crossfit is a good way to get there. If you like running around and shooting guns…3-gun will scratch that itch in a pretty effective way. Plus, if you’re a specialist in a different sport like triathlons or power lifting, it’s a nice change of pace to do something out of your wheelhouse. Similarly, if you’re a Bianchi Cup specialist, it’s nice to not have to aim for the duration of an entire match.


If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, congratulations. Now you can get your torches and frankenstein rakes.


  1. It’s like that joke: If a vegan does Crossfit which do they talk about first?

  2. Another similarity – the folks who can’t hack it tend to talk the most shit about it. 😀

    1. Another similarity: the top competitors in Crossfit and 3-Gun are washouts from real sports who couldn’t win there. 😀

  3. How do you know if that guy at the range shoots 3-gun? Don’t worry he’ll fuckin’ tell you.

  4. I just want to do any shooting sport, only thing I have within an hour is a skeet range, closest USPA is 6 hours. I tried Crossfit, kind of, the Marine Corps had a program, that was kinda like a safer crossfit, and you did real pull ups.

  5. Nicely done Caleb. Trolls will read the headline and come unglued, or not, and anyone who reads the whole thing will say, “yup”. Now, would you say Cowboy Action is more, or less expensive than 3-Gun? Only costume you need for 3-gun is 511s… and, go!

  6. Pretty funny, Caleb! True, too. Back when I was a “serious” triathlete — 20 years and 30 pounds ago! LOL! — runners, bikers and swimmers used to sniff that, “Big deal…you clowns can do 3 sports…poorly.” I’ve been told by industry people I really respect that “3-Gun is the future of the shooting sports.” Not sure how that works. Barriers to entry are brutal…this stuff costs a lot! Even if you’re not paying MSRP. When I shot the “He-Mans,” the heavy metal championships, I think I burned through almost $400 in ammo for the event…of course, I missed a lot, too.

    Michael B

  7. Weeks…I challenge you to look at Tischauser’s video and tell me he’s NOT wearing a costume! I’ve been on a squad with him and it’s common knowledge that he spends more on his outfits than your average cowboy shooter!!!! He even asked me about corsets…no…wait, that wasn’t Jesse…

    Michael B

    1. Michael – But that’s Jesse, heck he probably spends more in hair products than I do on ammo. Yeah, the shirts are a costume, but generally those high falutin’ shooters get the sponsors to pay for those.

  8. You left out one thing Caleb, the true expense.

    I wanted to try 3 Gun, but its too expensive. I already have two or three suitable pistols, my AR isn’t long enough IYKWIMAITYD but a new 18 inch upper is affordable, as expensive as they are I can even afford one of those goofy looking longmag tube shotguns … barely.

    No, after a trip to watches an Area championship, I was informed by my spouse that I just can’t afford the trophy wife.

  9. Funny article, Caleb you have a way with words.
    For clarification those big ass targets are typical for three-gun nation matches, and not the typical for outlaw three gun matchs.
    A good portion of pistol shooting happens on 4-5″ knock over plates in the 5-25 yard range.
    Just an FYI if you give a shit.

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