There is a whole lot of various training that can be had for firearms usage in the US, and one type that is growing in popularity is simulated exercises of tactical situations using a military rifle and a sidearm involving rapid movement, reloading, and multiple targets. Styled somewhat after today’s military tactics and adding a shotgun makes up the most popular version called 3 Gun. I was able to attend a rifle and pistol only 5k race, shoot, and obstacle course event this past weekend, so here are 10 things I learned while taking part in a Run N Gun 5k.

1. Running is not the same when you’re loaded up.

I had been running a few times a week, fairly slowly, doing some six miles or so at a time. Add in my 28 pounds of rifle, pistol, magazines, water, miscellaneous stuff and belt and chest rig to hold it all, as well as poor terrain with a lot of hills and mud, and my endurance was pretty close to zero. I managed a good jog over level ground, and barely above walking on hills.

This dude hauled 140 lbs of extra ruck weight with him just to be a badass and win the mule award.

Although this event had five shooting stages and a few obstacles, all the rest of the time, with the exception of a little bit of easy cave climbing, was spent moving outdoors. There was 3.5 miles of running that I could have gone much faster on, so there will definitely be much more running, with gear, up hills, and over broken terrain when I train for another one of these.

2. Bring the right footwear

I committed a cardinal sin and strapped on an old pair of sneakers that I had previously left at my dad’s house to fish in, and brought them back home last year. Although I do like my New Balance sneakers, and I had run some on gravel at my gun range, I noticed immediately running on pavement the first time that these guys were flat and dead.

However, the worst was yet to come. After the mudpits and tube-climb before the first stage, I noticed that both sneakers were blowing out and losing their soles. This turned into a full on separation (I shot stage two missing a sole) that had to be corrected with Gorilla Tape before I could continue. Due to the broken terrain, a good set of boots, while they may be heavier, is the right way to go.

Your author’s dead footwear, held together by duct tape and some dread game.

3. The loop sling is outdated

My only real expertise, other than hunting and shooting all my life, is that I teach three position field shooting with a couple organizations. Those use the USGI nylon loop sling, which is what I brought. Although you can do some nastily accurate shooting in field conditions with one, a loop sling does not allow any sort of carrying other than over your shoulder.

Pistol in the baggie was a good, but unneeded, idea for the mud pit. Loop sling is great for 3 position field shooting, but not so much 3 miles of running.

Most everyone at this event was running some form of multiple attachment two or three point sling that allowed your rifle to either hang over your back, or across your front, or both, without hands. Although I was rocking the Vietnam era iron sights with carrying handle (and that was how I carried the rifle, other than port-arms with both hands in front of me), I slung the rifle for carrying it all of twice.

4. So are iron sights

I was running a Colt Law Enforcement Carbine model AR-15, a M4 semi-automatic that has been out of production a few years as it has been replaced by newer models, with the only modification being moving the front sling mount to under the barrel. It has the M4 iron aperture sighting system, and is reasonably accurate.

A few problems arose, the worst of which being that I simply could not find a steel target at 50 yards because it was shaded. I nailed it doing an X drill with one shot right handed standing (I’m right handed and right dominant eyed), got the left handed kneeling in one shot oddly enough, did fine with the right handed kneeling, but lost it left handed standing. I had to shoot multiple times to hit it once, and timed out of the stage.

Irons are classic, rugged, and work well for accurate shooting, but sometimes you want or need a little extra edge.

While I do need much more practice shooting weak handed / weak eyed, most people run optics these days for a good reason. Considering that there was a somewhat ranged stage (300 yards, and at least I DID clear that one), I am not sure that a red dot optic is perfect for this, but it is better than irons. I think a variable power, low magnification, wide eye relief scope might be best.

5. Bring the right stuff

My thinking, after a very small amount of training for this where I realized how awful my shooting was, was to bring a LOT of ammo surmising that I would just shoot until I hit something. Problem is, these stages had 3 minute time limits, and there was simply no way I could shoot that much ammo in three minutes. I went with 120 rounds of 5.56 and ended up shooting about 80 of them. Pistol wise, I had 87 rounds with me and shot 51 or so of them. I did clear both pistol stages.

I brought those with me to the event, and took 7 of the 9 pistol mags with me (used 5), and the three 30 round AR mags, 2 20s, and left the 10 behind. I used 2 30s and 2 20s.

I did bring some water, a pen and notepad I did not use, and a headlight and spare, of which I did not use the latter, but the vast majority of my stuff was ammo.

6. Have the right carrying system

Future articles will get into chest rigs versus plate carriers versus battle belts, but, suffice to say I knew jack and shit about all that, and went with a cheap-ass chest rig off MidwayUSA and the inner belt without the big pad of a battle belt that I cocked up with some mag pouches and a Bianchi holster.

Ghetto as all hell, but the damn things actually gave me no issue at all. I did not need my dump bag, which is a pouch you unroll and drop your empty mags into as our stages were small and we had to run unloaded, which meant you could simply put your empty mag back from whence it came.

This guy chose a chest rig and a couple items on his belt to go mudding in.

I did not care for the chest rig thumping up and down as I ran, but it surely carried everything nicely. My friend had a nice belt system with an H harness suspender setup, so I may go that way in the future.

7. Wear the right clothing

Other than shoes, I almost got this one right. Nothing beats your basic military tactical rip stop pants, but a lot beats the shirt of the same style. Most of the dudes running had an UnderArmor style long sleeve shirt with a t shirt over it, and that is what I should have done.

This guy had good clothing choices, and I think this is where my shoes started to die.

I did start with a hat and a cheapie Walmart synthetic thermal top under the Army field shirt, but I overheated and ditched those fast. The debate was over overheating while running, or getting chilled while waiting to shoot if there was a line. I went for the latter as a concern, but should have gone for the former.

8. Be fast in everything

I ran slow. I shot slow. I got my gear ready slow. My run time was bad, and I did not complete the first two shooting stages in time, with the first one being because of the sights, and the second being because it was tough.

One way that you can see proficiency is being able to do something complicated fast and instinctively. I can do most of the tasks that my company’s car builders do on the line, but I can’t do them fast enough to keep up with the line. Same with this Run N Gun; I was able to DO all the things required, but had not practiced enough to do them within the time allocated.

9. Be humble and learn

This event was great for me; I learned a lot. Part of what I learned is that there are whole levels of this stuff that I do not know and that I can improve upon for the next time. I was woefully unprepared, although I did finish, and had a few moments of respectable performance.

The rope on the left was coiled near the top when I got there. Humbling indeed.

Part of what helped is I did not talk a big game. I joked about my shoes even before they blew up, and I calmly admitted knowing very little about gear carrying systems or the various tactical rifle slings out there. I did get some props coming across the finish line, two handing my rifle, with duct-taped shoes still (barely) functional.

10. These things are a lot of fun

I got to stay at the Park Mammoth Resort’s Rockcastle Shooting Center, which is an old lodge in a side park to Mammoth Cave that was bought and turned into a shooting facility. You can, and I did, walk straight out the lobby door with a bunch of firepower strapped on, and they have good food.

I got to shoot in a fucking cave! One of the pistol stages involved running in an underground dry creek bed and double tapping IDPA targets as you go by. I even one handed gangsta style sideways shot a target since it was right there while in the middle of a tactical reload with my other hand.

Stage 3, the cave.

I had a wonderful time in spite of doing badly at it, and I will do other events of this kind in the future.

Conclusion

Main thing I learned is that this type of shooting requires its own skills (including a LOT of cardio) and its own type of gun and accessories as well as its own gear and clothing selection. I think, if I practice a lot more, upgrade my rifle with some bolt on goodies, and get some damn boots, I shall do much better next time. I’ll be sure to put down what I learn in future articles so you can learn from my mistakes. Until then, be safe.

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