I couldn’t find a lot of starter info on gearing up for 3-gun competition as practiced here in Canada, so I thought I’d put together a ton of info specific to Canada as I found it. Don’t care about shotguns and pistols? Check out my article on Canadian Service Conditions Competition. Disclaimer: I’m just an “internet expert” and don’t really know anything. But I like shooting. I also like turtles. Do you like turtles?
Pistols for 3 Gun in Canada
Pistols used in Canada closely mirror what is popular in the US. Even though we’re limited to 10 round magazines, aftermarket support and prices are still very similar to that in the US. Glock’s, M&P’s, SR9’s, CZ’s, STI’s, Tangfoglio’s and all sorts of interesting stuff on the higher end of the price range. One difference that you may see in a Canadian 3-gun match is that some competitors will be rocking inexpensive Norinco 1911’s and NP34’s. At around $300, these Norinco pistols are a very cheap way to get into pistol sport, though their fit and finish leave a lot to be desired. 9mm is clearly the most inexpensive and popular caliber used. The CZ SP-01 has a fantastic single stage trigger, but is slightly more complicated (with a safety & hammer) than a simple striker-fired pistol like a Glock, M&P, SR9, or FNS.
Here are some options across the price range, and their going rate in CDN$.
- Norinco 1911 Government: Around $300
- Norinco NP34: $380
- Ruger SR9: $580
- S&W M&P Range Kit: $650
- IWI Jericho Range Kit: $650
- FN FNS9 Long slide: $615
- Glock 17: $800
- CZ SP-01 Shadow: $840
- Glock 34 MOS: $1,300
- Tangfoglio Stock III XTREME: $1,800
When you’re picking a pistol, don’t forget that you’ll need 5 magazines (more if you’re running a 45acp 1911), a holster, and magazine pouches. Some of the more inexpensive or less popular handguns are difficult to get decent holsters and mag pouches for. Don’t buy a weird pistol and then try to run it with a shitty textile holster.
Shotguns for 3-Gun in Canada
There are some special considerations due to magazine restrictions here in Canada. Pump shotguns are not limited in magazine capacity, but semi-automatic shotguns are limited to magazines that hold 5 rounds of the length that the shotgun was designed for. That last part is important, and you’ll see why in a minute. So, you’ve got:
- Pump shotguns with no limits on magazine tube extensions
- Pump shotguns with no limits on box magazines
- Semi-automatic shotguns with limits on tube magazines
- Semi-automatic shotguns with limits on box magazines
Pump shotguns with tube magazines can be the cheapest way to get into the sport. Most commonly, these are Remington 870’s and Mossberg 500-series shotguns with extensions that crank up magazine capacity from 4 rounds to 6-8. (depending on your barrel length and how far you want to go) If you go with a bullpup, dual tube shotgun like the UTAS UTS-15 or Kel Tec KSG, you’ll have 15 rounds in your pump action, but reloading and jam clearing are a lot more difficult than with a typical pump action. Some stages also limit how many shells you can start with, eliminating the advantage of running a shotgun like this.
Pump shotguns with box magazines, such as the SAP-6 provide a much faster way to reload and a huge capacity with 11 round magazines. BUT, check your local club’s 3-gun rules, as mag-fed shotguns may put you into a higher class like open.
Semi-automatic shotguns with tube magazines are limited to 5 rounds, but that’s not the end of the story. Because if you’re using 2 3/4 shells in a shotgun designed to hold (5) 3.5″ shells (like a Remington Versa-max), you’ll be able to fit (7) 2 3/4″ shells in the tube, 1 in the chamber, and 1 ghost loaded and still be legal. It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s Canadian law. Generally, higher cost semi-automatic shotguns are more reliable.
Semi-automatic shotguns with box magazines are limited to 5 round magazines, period. Here in Canada, options include the non-restricted LA K12 Puma and the restricted Akdal MKA 1919. There’s also a Norinco (M1000?) semi auto, mag fed shotgun, but everyone I know who has had one has had issues with them.
Just a quick note on chokes: try to get a shotgun that has some kind of choke. Cylinder-bore on a short barrel makes birdshot spread quick and you may have problems knocking down plates on a Texas star if you’re rocking a tactical shotgun with a short, cylinder-bore barrel.
Some sample pump action shotguns and prices
- Maverick 88: $260
- Mossberg 500: $360
- Remington 870 Express: $450
- Benelli Nova: $560
- Mossberg 590 Tactical: $570
- Dagger SAP-6: $699
- Benelli SuperNova: $750
Semi auto shotguns and prices:
- Norinco M1000: $400
- Hatsan MPA: $440
- Mossberg 930: $630
- Stoeger M3500: $800
- Remington Versa Max Sportsman: $1050
- FN SLP: ~$1000
- Beretta 1301 Competition: $1400
- Benelli M2: $1800-$2000
Rifles for 3-Gun in Canada
AR-15. Done. It’s restricted, but so is your pistol. If you want a rifle that is going to serve as a hunting/bush rifle as well as a competition rifle, you’re going to need to pay a lot more. The AR-15 is clearly the most popular rifle used in the sport and for good reason:
- Ammo is inexpensive
- They can be had for little money ($530 for a Norinco M4)
- It’s easy to add optics
- Magazines are very inexpensive, and can be had with capacities higher than 5 using LAR15 mags (10 rounds) or Beowulf mags (13-16)
- Ergonomics are easy to learn and fast
- Aftermarket part selection is HUUUUUGE
Beyond the AR15, there are a few other rifles that can be seen at a Canadian 3-gun competition:
Robinson XCR rifles are a lot more expensive and are a decent choice if you want something that feels similar to an AR-15 but non-restricted.
IWI Tavor’s are OK, but the height over bore of optics can make shooting a barricade with smaller ports difficult. It can be more difficult to access magazines from some tighter prone positions compared to non-bullpup rifles but if you train for it, you can be quick. Tavor’s are costlier, and benefit greatly from adding on an expensive trigger pack if you need to do longer distance shooting.
CSA VZ58’s in .223 with the magwell adapter that let you use AR mags can be more competitive. They’re still a bit more involved to mount optics on compared to an AR, but at least they’re non restricted.
Mini-14’s, SKS’s, Norinco M14’s, SVT-40’s, etc are generally poor choices due to ammunition cost and/or magazine cost and restrictions. The Mini-14 is limited to 5 rounds per mag in Canada and those magazines are god-awful expensive. SKS’s and SVT-40’s are limited to 5 rounds and can be fed by stripper clip which is going to be a lot slower. Also, check if your local range allows for the type of ammo you’re using (some don’t like when you use steel-core ammo on metal targets.) M14’s would be OK except for the cost of feeding the beasts. They’re also a bit more painful to add optics to.
So, here are some example rifle options for Canadian 3-gunners:
- SKS: $200 (if your range allows)
- Norinco AR-15: $550
- Norinco T97: $1000
- CSA VZ58 with magwell adapter: $1100
- Daniel Defense M4 Mk18: $1500
- Benelli MR1: $1900
- Robinson XCR: $2400
- IWI Tavor TAR21: $2500
- Bushmaster ACR DMR: $3300
That all said, an AR-15 of some flavor is easily the most pragmatic choice you can make.
If you’re in an irons-only class, your choice of optics is already made for you but if you’re in Tactical or above, you’ve got some choice. If your local club is limited in range, a red dot will be fast and easy to use. If your range has some longer distances available, you should look at a red dot + swing magnifier combo or a 1-4 scope. An illuminated 1-4 with a lever on the zoom ring for fast changes, plus a ballistic reticle of some sort that offers bullet drops at set ranges will be the most flexible. If you’re having trouble picking one, I’ve got a whole article on 1-4 scopes here.
Belt vs Tactical Vest vs Battle-belt
To carry your gear, there are a few options.
1.5″ competition belts come in a few different styles:
- Plastic buckle quick connection. Easy to put on, but can’t be easily run through your pant belt loops to hold on your pants unless you thread on your holster and mag pouches at the same time.
- Inner/Outer belt hook and loop style. Inner belt can be worn like a regular belt, outer holds your gear and can be put on or taken off pretty quickly. Double Alpha, CR Speed, etc.
- Safariland ELS Belt has set spots for gear. Very secure and easy to index gear locations and have them never move.
These belts are generally a better option for competition and gear that uses 1.5″ belts is generally optimized for cost and competition. That said, these belts suck in winter as they don’t work well when you’re wearing a jacket. That can be a consideration if you’re in a part of Canada that gets snow in Spring when the first matches start to occur.
It’s generally trivial to find great holsters and magazine pouches that work with 1.5″ belts, but it can be a bit tougher to find AR15 mag pouches at a reasonable price. Blade-tech AR-15 single mag pouches are $50 each from most places in Canada, which is kind of pricey. Competition shotshell carriers are generally built to use 1.5″ belts.
Tactical Vests, Plate Carriers, Chest Rigs, and other Load Bearing Equipment
Vests and other LBE come in a million different flavors. Many come with more AR pouches than you’ll ever need, some also come with pistol mag pouches. These rigs can be more comfortable to wear all day compared to a belt setup. The textile pouches that are used are usually just a bit slower because they use bungee cord or velcro to retain magazines. Most use MOLLE straps so that you can add or configure them to suit you. Shotshell holders built for these tactical vests aren’t generally built for speed. But, if you want lots of AR and pistol mag pouches for a relatively low price, a tac vest or chest rig can do the job and are readily available in Canada or ordered online. Vest-mounted, cross-draw pistol holsters aren’t allowed in some competitions. If you treat 3-gun as training for SHTF, I guess this is the gear you should run. Just be sure to shout “Wolverines!” before you start every stage.
A battle belt is a kind of a mix of the two systems above. It uses MOLLE attachment points, and some even offer 1.5″ belt attachment points for a drop holster. These give you access to the textile style pistol and rifle mag pouches like the TACO and can be easily worn outside a jacket in cold weather. Many are padded and are not meant to replace a pant belt.
Inexpensive 3 Gun Loadout
Here’s the cheapest setup I could think of:
Pistol: $500-600 + 2 more mags: $100
Pump Action Shotgun: $250
Norinco AR15: $600
AR Mags: $80
Shotshell holders: $100 – $300
2 AR mag pouches: $80
At minimum, it’s like $1700 to fully gear up. It will be cheaper if you already have some of the firearms or gear.
3 Gun Gear
I had a heck of a time sourcing 3 gun gear, so I thought I’d document where I found things along the way.
Brownells | US | ships to Canada and has a huge inventory. Crappy exchange rate between CDN and USD right now.
MD Gardner | Port Coquitlam, BC | Big focus on competition gear. Lots of Double Alpha (AA), Blade Tech, timers, mag wells.
CTC Supplies | Vancouver, BC | More tactical parts, good selection of shot shell carriers, lots of Magpul, AR mags, AR-parts,
Select Shooting Supplies | SW Ontario | Some unique magazine pouches, APEX parts for M&P pistols, Glock parts, mag and gun storage systems, all kinds of interesting stuff.
Freedom Ventures | Halifax, NS | All sorts of competition gear. Good selection of upper end competition pistols.
The Shooting Edge | Calgary, AB | Mag pouches, competition pistols,
Questar | Barrie, ON | Glock parts, AR parts, AR’s, Magazines
Calgary Shooting Centre | Calgary, AB | Firearms, optics, mags.
Tactical Products Canada | | Magazines, AR parts, Magpul,
Frontier Firearms | Magazines, slings, AR parts, firearms, holsters, tactical vests,
One Shot Tactical Supply | | Mag pouches, firearms, AR parts, slings,
SFRC | Harrowsmith, ON | Excellent inventory of all sorts of stuff
Did I miss a dealer or grossly mess up something in this article? Let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it!