For those who are looking to put their shooting skills to the test, one of the greatest ways to prove your overall marksmanship is in 3-gun competitions. While many types of competitive shooting will require expertise in a particular shooting discipline, 3-gun competitions require a shooter to become proficient with multiple guns and shooting unique target presentations that are designed to push a shooter’s skills to their limit.
In a game where fractions of a second matter and a single missed shot could mean the difference between victory and defeat, it’s foolish to ignore the advantages the best 3 gun scope will give you.
Table of Contents
- What is 3-Gun?
- Divisions and Limitations
- 3 Gun Scope Considerations
- Red Dot VS Scope for 3 Gun
- Best 3 Gun Scope on the Market Review
- 1 Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO) - Best Red Dot for 3-Gun
- 2 Holosun 503GU – Best Prism Sight for 3-Gun
- 3 Primary Arms Classic – Best Budget 3-Gun Scope
- 4 Vortex Strike Eagle – Best 1-6x 3-Gun Scope
- 5 Swarovski Z8i – Best 1-8x 3-Gun Scope
- 6 Vortex Venom – Best Backup Red Dot Sight for 3-Gun
- 7 Burris Fastfire 3 – Best Shotgun 3-Gun Optic
- 8 Trijicon RMR – Best Pistol Optic for 3-Gun
- Final Thoughts
What is 3-Gun?
3-gun competitions are shooting matches that require the competitors to engage targets with three different guns; pistol, rifle, and shotgun. There is no set array for the targets to be set up in, so every competition is likely to challenge shooters in a new way. Often times the targets will be set up in a manner that will put the shooter in positions that they could potentially be shooting from in a defensive situation, but targets can vary in quantity, type, and distance.
Shooters should expect to be shooting from behind barriers or obstacles at targets ranging from steel plates, to paper targets, to clay pigeons. Part of the fun of 3-gun shooting is the variety of different engagements one will find as they compete in different matches. This is very unlike some older competitive shooting like trap where you shoot the same gun at the same three target presentations; not that something like that doesn’t have its own challenges, but for somebody who is looking for a more rigorous competition with greater margins for error 3-gun will be very appealing.
Divisions and Limitations
There are a lot of different categories found in different 3-gun clubs across the country that have different limiting factors on what guns, calibers, and accessories are allowed, but there are three that are used as a standard across the country.
3 Gun Scope Considerations
Choosing an optic for 3-gun competition has its own set parameters that should be considered. Rifles in 3-gun competition will likely get bumped and banged around, so they must be able to hold zero through a reasonable amount of abuse. They should be lightweight to help the shooter maneuver the rifle around obstacles and barriers. Rifle engagements can range anywhere from a few meters, up to a couple hundred meters, so when magnification is allowed it is advisable to have variable zoom with minimum magnification as close to 1x as possible. The shooter will also want the optic to have a slim profile to help improve awareness down range, which will assist in quickly transitioning between targets.
Red Dot VS Scope for 3 Gun
Red dots, holographic sights, and 1x prism scopes are all that is allowed for factory division, so if that is where you prefer to compete then you will need to use one of these. There are a lot of fantastic option to choose from that will help you improve your speed and accuracy, but if you are moving into the practical or open categories you will likely find yourself at a disadvantage without a magnified optic.
Quality magnified optics will absolutely help a shooter hit farther targets, but a poor scope can be a hinderance. If a scope has poor eye relief, too much minimum magnification, too narrow a field of view, or a power ring that is difficult to operate, the scope could slow the shooter down during competition. Cheap lenses found in some budget scopes will also distort the shooter’s view through the scope and create a fish-eye effect that is likely to provide unnecessary challenge.
Of course, there is the option of having both a red dot and a magnified scope when shooting in the open division. In open, it is not uncommon to see a scope mounted as the primary optic with an offset red dot mounted as a secondary optic for close range targets. This gives shooters the benefits of using magnification to engage farther targets and transition to point blank ranges without making any scope adjustments, and this also gives the shooter the advantage of faster target acquisition at close range than back-up iron sights.
Best 3 Gun Scope on the Market Review
While there are hundreds of great optics that can help you to improve your scores in 3-gun competitions, the sheer volume of options can make it difficult to figure out where to start. Below are some of our favorites for a variety of different preferences and budgets to help you get started.
1 Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO) - Best Red Dot for 3-Gun
If you are looking to compete in the factory division, this is the red dot to use. Aimpoint is a brand with military grade pedigree, and most shooters will agree that they produce some of the best red dot sights available. You will find that this sight gives you an excellent field of view with very little obstruction from the body of the sight, and the lenses of the sight give no noticeable distortion which makes shooting with both eyes open easy and natural. The dot on the sight is perfectly crisp and presents as a two MOA aiming point.
This sight comes with a riser so the iron sights on your AR will co-witness, though it is unlikely you will ever need to use them due to the extreme durability of this sight and the obscenely long battery life. Aimpoint advertises a battery life of over three years of continuous use which is great because having your optic’s batteries die during a match can be one of the most disappointing feelings ever.
2 Holosun 503GU – Best Prism Sight for 3-Gun
If you are looking to save some money on your optic, but also want something that is going to give you an advantage, Holosun may be the company for you. This prism scope will allow you to compete in the factory division as it is 1x magnification, but it has some features that might make it competitive with more expensive optics. As a prism sight, the reticle is etched into the glass rather than projected, and that makes it possible to create more complicated reticles. While it could be easy to go overboard, this reticle provides the shooter with more options than a simple red dot without being over-complicated.
The reticle on the optic is a 65 MOA circle with a 2 MOA red dot in the middle. This helps the shooter acquire and engage close targets more quickly while remaining precise out to further ranges. This sight also features battery life measured in years, rather than hours, has a slim profile, and comes with a riser appropriate to co-witness with back up iron sights. The durability of this relatively new brand has not yet been fully proven, but many users report excellent performance from many Holosun products.
3 Primary Arms Classic – Best Budget 3-Gun Scope
For those who are either on a budget, or those who are just not sure they want to invest a great deal into 3-gun competition equipment this scope will help get you into the game. Primary Arms is known for making high end, consumer grade optics at reasonable prices. They have lens quality that is better than their prices typically suggest, and their adjustments track well and accurately.
This scope is a great 1-4x magnification scope that will help you to compete with others in the practical division without breaking the bank. The scope offers a simple duplex reticle with an illuminated dot at the aiming point that will be sufficient for most competitions and has an easy to operate power ring. Shock resistant, waterproof, and fog proof, this scope will handle the rigors of competition with ease. This is likely the best 3-gun scope you can have for under $150.
4 Vortex Strike Eagle – Best 1-6x 3-Gun Scope
Vortex is a very popular brand name in the competition circles as they make some of the best consumer grade products available. The Strike Eagle is one of the most popular tactical/practical scopes available due to its balance between performance and price. This scope seems to be purpose built for 3-gun competition. This scope does away with exposed turrets, which some competitors try to include as a feature on similar scopes, but they are completely impractical for 3-gun matches. The scope as a true 1x magnification on its lowest setting, and the power ring easily rotates to assist the shooter in making quick adjustments; this is made even easier with the available throw lever.
The reticle on this 1-6x scope is simple, yet provides bullet drop compensation information for 5.56/.223 caliber shooters and it is illuminated for use in less than perfect lighting conditions. Waterproof, and shockproof, this scope will serve many competitors very well, and is likely the best 3-gun scope you can have for under $500 even if you add the Vortex optic mount and throw lever onto your order.
5 Swarovski Z8i – Best 1-8x 3-Gun Scope
The price tag on this scope is not for the faint of heart, but if you are truly looking to take your rifle optic to the next level in 3-gun competition this is the scope you want. The lenses on this 1-8x scope are absolutely perfect and provide a super clear image with zero distortion, even at the edges of the lenses where even great scopes tend to have a fish-eye effect. The power ring moves like silk, giving you maximum control when transitioning between ranged targets.
The reticle is designed with the competitor in mind. There is an illuminated circle around the intersection of a duplex reticle; this is helpful as it creates a simple aiming point with a larger reference for quickly engaging near targets.
As you would expect at this price point, the scope is waterproof, fog proof, and shock proof.
6 Vortex Venom – Best Backup Red Dot Sight for 3-Gun
If you want to compete in open class, you are going to find that having a back up red dot sight offset from your LPVO is going to be necessary to keep up with your competitors. These types of sights work well with an offset mount that will allow you to switch to your red dot sight for close range targets by simply tilting the rifle in your hands.
The Vortex Venom is small, lightweight, and has a very thin yet sturdy outside frame that will take up as little of your field of view as possible. The sight features a precise 3 MOA red dot, with the option of a larger 6 MOA dot if you prefer, which will allow you to accurately place rounds on target at close range without touching your scope. An auto brightness feature will help keep the dot at an appropriate intensity when moving from bright to dark areas as you traverse the course of fire. The wide field of view this style of sight offers will greatly help the competitor in transitioning between targets with some practice.
7 Burris Fastfire 3 – Best Shotgun 3-Gun Optic
There are many competitors, even in open division, that feel either a traditional front sight or a fiber optic front sight on a shotgun is adequate because shotgun engagements are typically not very far targets. There are those of us though that prefer every advantage available to us, and any time we only need to line up one aiming point with the target instead of a front and rear aiming reference, you are going to be able to get on target quicker.
The Fastfire 3 is a great shotgun optic because it is available at a reasonable price and will fit on most shotguns. The optic comes with an integral picatinny mount but has an optional mount that can be used for many shotguns that have weaver rails. The sight gives the option of a 3 or 8 MOA dot and is shock proof, so you won’t have to worry about the heavier recoil of a 12 gauge destroying the sight.
8 Trijicon RMR – Best Pistol Optic for 3-Gun
The RMR was one of the first pistol optics to become available on the market and is so widely recognized that many shooters will refer to all pistol red dots as RMRs. Learning to shoot a pistol at a competitive level is a challenging task, and mastering a pistol is possibly one of the hardest shooting disciplines there is. Using an optic like the RMR is like using a cheat code though; once you use a red dot on your pistol you will wonder why you ever shot without one.
The ability to make extremely accurate shots cannot be done as quickly with traditional iron sights, and it can be challenging just to get the iron sights in your field of view as fast as you can with a red dot sight. What makes this sight one of the that best money can buy is the track record and the warranty. Trijicon backs this product up for life from any kind of abuse you can hurl at it, so you can be confident that your light will be on every time you draw down on your target.
The optic features a crisp 3.25 MOA dot that is easy to acquire quickly and is plenty precise for man-sized targets, and has an optional auto-brightness to help manage the intensity of your reticle in changing light conditions.
There are probably hundreds of capable rifle, shotgun, and pistol optics available that will help you to elevate your level of competitiveness in 3-gun competition. These are some of our favorites, and a great place to start if you are just looking to get into 3-gun or wondering how you can upgrade your current system.
Regardless of your preferred division, there is always the best 3 gun scope that can help you to improve your speed and accuracy, but keep in mind that no amount of equipment can replace training and practice.