Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational: First Time Experience

Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Banner MG3I

I was lucky enough to attend the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitiational last week in Bend, Oregon. The match takes place over five days, with 10 unique stages that highlight the challenges of shooting at night.

The Midnight Invitational gathers some of the top dogs in the shooting world. Top Shot winners, national champions, media writers, and industry professionals make for a unique 3 Gun shoot.

You are on the range shooting all night: from sunset right till 4:00am, and its some of the best fun to be had with a firearm.

My RO Scott Springer shooting at Midnight 3 Gun

For the un-initiated: 3 Gun is a competitive race through a course where the shooter must engage targets with a handgun, shotgun, and rifle. Stages involve obstacles, targets that can react or move, and a fair bit of running. It’s massively popular, and if you haven’t tried it: you should.

This wasn’t my first 3 Gun match, but it was my first time shooting seriously in the dark, and my first time employing lights and lasers outside a static range.

Best Moments:

The first thing most people want to hear about is the grenade launcher. Their eyes swim while imagining massive fireballs illuminating the night sky. That’s a little over the top, but it is pretty cool for a 40mm virgin.

Crimson Trace 40mm FNH Grenade Launcher

No rusty M203 for the Crimson Trace: we were using an FN MK 13 EGLM ambidextrous launcher with chalk rounds to engage a vehicle. You’re barely at the 40 yard line, so this is more novelty than marksmanship, but still plenty of fun. The pull on the launcher is like nothing I’ve ever used before: more christmas cracker than trigger.

Another highlight was Stage 3, which involved an FN AR-15 outfitted with a FLIR Thermosight RS 64. Shooters targeted “heated steel” downrange that was almost invisible in the dark, but glowed hot through the optic. An on-target hit would spark nicely, and a bright green glowstick would swing into view. Its the sort of reactive system that feels good to hit: you get the crack of the rifle, the thwack of your round hitting steel, and a little glowing flag waving back at you.

NVGs and Silenced Glock at M3GI

Being Canadian, I’ve spent some time with night vision, but we don’t get much hands-on time with suppressors or full-auto guns. Stage six, a cooperative effort between Gemtech, PWS, and i2 Technologies was a great close quarters scenario where each shooter would be fitted with dual night vision goggles, then clear the house using a suppressed Glock 17, a suppressed select-fire PWS, and a semi-auto Mossberg.

Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun
Full-auto is fun, but adding a vehicle to the mix really ramps up the excitement. The furthest stage on the range involved a Polaris MRZR 2 vehicle, a M249 SAW, a green laser, and 4 steel silhouettes. In daylight they were woefully close. But at night, with just the vehicle headlights and dazzle from the laser: they were a challenge.

M249 SAW on Stage 10 Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun

I like shooting my own guns too, but part of the fun of the M3GI is getting to use unusual firearms in more than just a range context.

I’ve attended 3 Shot Shows now: and while I don’t mind media day at the range, there’s generally little more to do with a demo gun other than point it down-range and pull the trigger. The Midnight 3 Gun definitely steps outside the “try this” box and invites shooters to “use this.” You’re given a course of fire, and the clock is ticking.

Lessons Learned:

I came away from the M3GI with a new appreciation for shooting in the dark, and a few key lessons.

Bring lots of lights, but use them sparingly. You need to see what you’re shooting, but in the wee hours of the morning all the smoke, dust, and condensation can really catch that light: forming an obscurant between you and your target. A headlamp is crucial for resetting and getting from one stage to the next, preferably with red-light if you want to be polite and not blind your squad mates.

Flash lights and head lamps for 3 gun

Name brands exist for a reason. Immediately following the first stage, after struggling fruitlessly with a plate-rack, I removed my lightweight Chinese red-dot and multi-mode no-name flashlight. I replaced them with the equipment I should have been using from the start: a Vortex Optics Razor 1-6 and a Surefire Defender. I’ve always believed budget accessories can be fine for the range or “great for plinking” with the argument that they’re not being used in a military or survival context.

But when the lights literally went out, the limitations of my low-cost off-shore equipment became painfully apparent.

Tavor TAR-21 3 Gun Setup


In the same vein: a custom holster is worth the cash. My frankenstein’s pistol meant none of my conventional holsters fit, and no major manufacturers were likely to produce something specific to my Jericho 941 & TLR-4. I found Soley Canadian, a local kydex-blacksmith who was able build me something on short notice that was specific to my gun. The light & laser are a big part of this match, and having a proper holster meant one less thing to worry about.

Jericho 941s Compact with Custom Kydex Holster

Over-all it was a great experience with some awesome company. Name dropping means different things to different people, but I was pretty excited to watch Daniel Horner and Jerry Miculek shoot, and pleased to meet good natured media folk like Caleb Giddings and Chris Cheng. The M3GI is not your usual 3 Gun event, and that’s part of its charm.

Author’s Note: The shooter you see in the animated night vision gif isn’t me. It’s Greg Fiddes, a sponsored shooter with MTG Firearms. He’s much much faster than me. The fellow shooting the pistol is my RO, Scott Springer. Also miles faster than me.

Edward O

Edward is a Canadian gun owner and target shooter with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Crawling over mountains with tactical gear is his idea of fun. He blogs at TV-Presspass and tweets @TV_PressPass.


  • Editor

    Next time you should do an “All-Chinese run”–all Chinese guns, all Chinese accessories. You might get held up at the border, of course, but using a T97 in a nighttime 3-gun would be worth it, right?

    -Matt Korovesis

    • TV-PressPass

      Well we do get Norinco Cz75 knock offs, and Chinese box mag shotguns. I’ve never owned either, but it’s never too late! Heck, if we’re trying to piss off the ATF: I could try to temporarily import a Norinco 10.5″ AR-15 SBR!

      • Blastattack

        Apparently it is doable. One of the guys on CGN brought his M-305 across the border without any issue. He had “Made In China by Norinco” on the form and everything.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    Dude as soon as you said “more Christmas cracker than trigger” I immediately thought “this guy is from the UK”, then I saw you’re from Canada and it made sense. I didn’t know what a Christmas Cracker was until I read Harry Potter (and I still had to look it up on the internet)!!

    • TV-PressPass

      Man, the little language differences I never expected! One of my fellow shooters in Bend was mentioning “binkys?” Turns out they’re a baby soother or pacifier! Never heard that word before.

      • Michael R. Zupcak

        haha I know “Binky” from the American childrens cartoon “Rugrats” from the 90’s.

  • mackattack

    Hey Edward, cool post and great setup. That IWC Tavor looks crazy man. Makes me want to pick one up at the Gun Show this weekend…so for that, damn you. Small question. Why are the glow sticks so ow on your profile and not center mass? I would think it would be more intuitive to have it a little bit higher on the body. I’ve haven’t taken any night courses so I have no idea and this is definitely not a critique, just a question.

    • TV-PressPass

      The glowsticks are a required safety feature on everybody. Shooters wear blue, RO’s wear red, media wear green etc. But they’re surprisingly bright when they’re on you. Even on my belt, I could feel the glow affecting my natural night vision when I looked down. If you had it on your chest you’d feel like someone was beaming you in the face. I’d never have thought of it either until this experience!

      • mackattack

        Very cool. Thank you for the reply, and I can see what you mean by possibly washing out your night vision if it where any higher on your front. Sorry for the terrible typos I made in the last post. Need to look over my comments before sending them. Very cool IWI Tavor man, as well as the sidearm!

  • Guest

    I mention light being an obstacle sometimes with the smoke and condensation at night? This is exactly what that looked like for me.

  • TV-PressPass

    I mentioned light being an obstacle with the smoke and condensation at night? This is me shooting Stage 5, Lew’s Saloon.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    An almost universal tendency during a night engagement on the battlefield is to aim and fire too high relative to the target’s position, given the exigencies of intermittent illumination and shadow effect ( caused by parachute flares, trip flares, explosions, tracer fire, blooming of night-vision device sight pictures, etc., as well as the negative effects thereof on one’s night vision ). Did you try to simulate this problem during the match, and if so, what possible solutions did you come up with ( outside of direct illumination from a weapons-mounted light or light carried on your person, which will probably get you shot very quickly by an alert enemy soldier )?

    • TV-PressPass

      Honestly: no. This is 3 Gun competition, not a low-light training course. At the end of the day its still a game. But: lots of scenarios did involve varying levels of illumination. One involved a simulated cruiser stopped with lights flashing, where the shooter must disembark: engage with pistol, retrieve a carbine from the back of the vehicle, engage targets, then retrieve a shotgun from within the vehicle and finish the stage.

      As a general rule: this was about developing a night specific set of equipment. Lights, lasers, nvgs, etc. Not about using a daylight system in the dark.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Thank you for the prompt clarification. Please note that I was not referring to usage of a “daylight” system in the dark — I was simply describing the broad range of varying scenarios one might expect to encounter on the battlefield caused by artificial illumination as well as incidental illumination and possible issues with the use of night-vision devices even without these anomalies. Although your experience with this 3-Gun Match was obviously not centered on resolution of this long-standing problem, I was thinking that there would be some findings that might help. As you already know, solutions, or partial solutions, to many issues are often the by-product of incidental discoveries. One never knows until one looks into them a little further.

  • USMC03Vet

    Damn that looks fun.

  • gunslinger

    that one picture…reminded me of the movie the watchmen…