Stealth Division: A New Way to Run 3-Gun

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Do we really need a new division in 3-Gun? As you can imagine, there are arguments on both sides of the position.

I have not been doing 3-Gun that long relatively (and honestly am not that good at the competition aspect). I have a shotgun with a front fiber post, a pistol with iron sights, and a simple 1×4 optic on my rifle. Which puts me squarely in the Tactical (Optics) Division.

I do admit to having some envy seeing a number of the other people running sexy platforms with optics and multicolored bits of metal adorning their rigs. Does it make them better shooters? It definitely makes them better at running during a 3-gun match, and just like anything, the more you train with it, the more advantages you can reap.

The disparity comes for those that want to enhance their existing rigs, but don’t necessarily have the money to invest in going full “race”. And once you have added a couple of specific modifications, you are no longer able to compete in Tactical Division, but neither are you going to be competitive in Open.

Enter the creation of Stealth Division which has grown out of that disparity. Richard Bhella, of Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun at Rio Salado, efforted out the design of a division to bridge the gap. The Rio Salado 3-Gun Club has been running it for a number of their local matches, and it was successful enough that they incorporated it into the annual Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun competition (which KE Arms invited me to under a media sponsorship).

KE Arms is working on creating a number of upgrades to existing weapons to allow the to compete in the Stealth Division, from optics mounts for shotguns, to a full replacement slide for a Glock with a forward mounted Aimpoint. They already make a number of upgrades (and base platform components) for rifles.

KE Arms prototype Glock with forward mounted Aimpoint.

KE Arms prototype Glock with forward mounted Aimpoint.

So, you may ask, how does it work? Pretty simple, actually. There is a box for the pistol, and the pistol needs to fit entirely within the box. Basically you can have an optic on the pistol OR an extended magazine, but not both (unless you an exceptionally clever monkey). The rifle just cannot use magazines with a capacity greater than 31 rounds. Shotguns cannot be magazine fed, nor have ginormous tubes. Also, however your weapon is configured is the way it must remain. For example if you have a bipod on your rifle, it needs to keep the bipod throughout the match.

Rifle with optics is allowed in Tactical (Optics) Division, but not with pistol and shotgun also outfitted.

Rifle with optics is allowed in Tactical (Optics) Division, but not with pistol and shotgun also outfitted.

Rules

Here are the exact rules:

Handgun

The handgun holster must safely retain the handgun during vigorous movement. A semiautomatic pistol holster must completely cover the trigger, and must cover the slide up to 1/2” below the ejection port. A revolver holster must completely cover the trigger and the cylinder. The belt upon which the holster is attached must be worn at waist level. Shoulder holsters, cross draw holsters and “race” holsters are prohibited.

The handgun in its ready condition, with magazine inserted and all accessories attached, must fit wholly within a box with internal dimensions of 8.938” x 6.938” x 1.938” (tolerance +0.0625”, -0”). Measurement will be made with the slide parallel to the longest axis of the box. All magazines must comply.

Rifle

Maximum magazine capacity is thirty-one (31) rounds, and no magazine may be loaded with more than thirty (30) rounds at the start signal. Compliant magazines may be coupled together provided such coupling does not increase the capacity of any magazine.

Supporting devices (bipods etc.), if used, must be installed in the same location for every stage of the event, but may start any stage folded or deployed at the participant’s discretion.

Shotgun

Only a tubular magazine is permitted, and its length may not exceed 23.5” measured from the front of the receiver. Speed loading devices are prohibited.

Supporting devices (bipods, etc.) are prohibited.

Benefits

One of the biggest benefits is allowing for competitors to not be stuck in the flooded Tactical Division which sees more entrants than the other divisions. And at large matches with long prize tables it can take a while to get through it (which has even caused missed flights, etc).

Shotgun with optic.

Shotgun with optic using KE Arms optic mount.

The other large benefit is that a shooter that may need optics (e.g. for vision issues) is not penalized by being forced into competing in the Open Division.

Criticisms

The biggest criticism is that another division is not really needed–stay in tactical, or pony up and go to open. The issue with that, which I brought up before, is that optics on a pistol do make sense for some shooters–especially ones with poor eyesight, or depth perception issues. In order for them to compete, they would now be in open, but not really competitive against shooters that are running the latest race configurations.

And really this is only an issue for people that are in to the competitive aspect of 3-Gun (whether or not that should be your main focus). If you just shoot for fun (or are not fighting for prizes) this is a non-issue.

Conclusions

Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun was the first place I had experienced this division, and for that matter even heard of it. I, personally, am in the camp that sees the need and utility for this division at competitions.

I think with a Division that sits between Tactical and Open, there is a better likelihood of having new shooters come in and not be overwhelmed by a huge division, or dismayed by having to go against shooters that are configured for racing. It will also take some of the load from the Tactical Division (and really, if you are running in Tactical, you can move into Stealth with no issues).

What do you readers that play in 3-Gun think?  Needed?  Not needed?  Irrelevant?



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    I’ve never done a 3-gun match before, but the “stealth class” rules seems like a more practical, real life, you’ve-just-entered-a-gun-battle-and-these-are-the-tools-you- showed-up-with-and-you-won’t-have-time-to-tinker-with-them type of scenario.

    One question though, how in the world does one come up with these measurements (8.938” x 6.938” x 1.938”) for the box?! Did the organizers just grab some random drawer from a kitchen and measure it?

    • 8.938″ is the length of the USPSA box. The other two are close to the USPSA box demensions, because they probably extended it based on some model example.

      • BattleshipGrey

        Ok, but why the .938″? Why not 8, 8.5 or 9″?

        • They most likely had a couple of guns that they considered “practical” when they decided to make the USPSA box. And the dimensions of the box are just a hair big than those guns.

          I personally would’ve just rounded everything off.

        • Paladin

          because 0.9375 is 15/16ths of an inch, they just rounded up the thousandths. Likewise the +0.0625/-0.0000 tolerance works out to a variation of 1/16″. It’s basically just a more precise way of saying the box is 8, 15/16″ by 6, 15/16″ by 1, 15/16″ to a maximum of 9″x7″x2″.

  • TimothyT

    I was expecting a suppressors and brass catchers division.

    • mig1nc

      Me too!

    • Nicks87

      Is there a rule saying you cant run a suppressor or a brass catcher? Sorry I’m not sure if you are joking or not but I cant think of a reason why you would want to use either of those devices during a competition.

      • Jwedel1231

        No rule against, a lot of hassle to do so. That’s why (almost) no one does it.

      • Alex Vogel

        I see it a lot at one of the outlaw matches I shoot; there’s no real advantage other than not needing ears, but a lot of people put a majority of their money (best optics, best trigger) into one particular gun, that also happens to take a can. And if you’ve got a can, why not use the can? Those guys are shooting for fun though, not for competition.

      • Hal

        Same reason almost nobody runs chest rigs. It’s a lot of trouble and not as fast…

    • Bill

      That would be the Ninja Assassin Leave No Trace Division.

  • Duray

    If your shotgun can’t be “magazine fed” that pretty much just leaves double barrels. Every pump our auto I’ve ever fired had been magazine fed.

    • junyo

      “…Only a tubular magazine is permitted…”

    • They mean detachable box magazines.

  • ChierDuChien

    How about a Hillary Division with H&R single shot rifle & shotgun and Crossman BB gun for pistol ?

    That’s the future of American Firearms.

    • Matt F.

      While that is hilarious, it’s also really not funny.

  • TCBA_Joe

    Sounds like a reaction to open class gaming guns that are inappropriate or impractical for use as modern fighting guns.

    • Nicks87

      I totally agree. That’s the main reason I avoid open. For me, competitions are just another form of training and the guns used in open are just not something I would carry or use on duty. Plus I’m not able or willing to drop that kind of money on guns, optics, equipment, etc.

  • KestrelBike

    The IRS Tax Code is ~80,000 pages long because of the same type of behavior that hyper-competitive 3-gunners exhibit.

  • raz-0

    ” Basically you can have an optic on the pistol OR an extended magazine, but not both (unless you an exceptionally clever monkey)”

    Except IPSC modified had both in a smaller box for some time. One can view this new division as one of two things.

    1) A cheaper version of open. In which case it is going to fail. All the tricks to gaming the limits in place are known, and they cost decent money, and they WILL be done. Heck, they often had pricing on par or above the cost of open guns due to the PITA nature of fitting the box.

    2) A service to potential sponsors and industry partners. This means every big manufacturer with their optic capable pistol can now sponsor your match, run ads, etc. It also means your smaller companies that make go fast parts can get into trying to make modified division style guns and sell their services, accessories, etc. This may be more more successful than 1 above.

    I’ve run pistol matches, but not 3 gun matches. I can’t see one division dominating causing headaches other than it shutting out the divisions with marginal attendance from the prize pool and people whining about it. If your match has 300 people hitting the prize table, rearranging the separators between those 300 people isn’t going to speed up jack.

    As for the practicality, the slide riding dot on pistols may be good for older folks with less vision and who don’t have the cash to plunk down for a $3k open pistol. I’m not convinced a dot on a shotgun is really super motivating. I can tell you I saw lots of guys shoot open before tac optics showed up, and not a lot of dots showed up to the party. Lots of bipods got not used quite a bit though in the days of open. I can’t recall a single 3-gun match I have attended where they would be of any real use. However, I’m a right coaster, so that might not apply west of the rockies with lots of flat wide open land for sale cheap. Being bale to mount more than one optic on the rifle means you can have a real red dot and some decent but affordable magnified glass on the gun at the same time, which will bring prices down.

  • Alex Vogel

    I read “stealth class” and thought everything would need to be suppressed or concealed or something like that…

    Why not just allow handgun/shotgun optics in tacops? Or super-senior/bad-eyesight? It seems a bit superfulous; if we go this way, why shouldn’t I get a special historical class for when I run my Garand/1911/Winchester setup, so I’m not at a disadvantage to red-dot AR10s in Heavy? Or a special intermediate class for 7.62×39 or 300blk AKs and ARs?

    What’s the problem with taxops being overfilled anyways? If you find there are too many shooters, why not switch to limited or heavy or open if you feel you’d stand a better chance? If you want to be competitive and win in th most popular class, then you’d better be prepared to train to shoot better than the majority of your peers. Or if you’re like me, just shoot because it’s a fun activity with a lot of like minded people!

    • Don

      Because it’s probably like every other sport or hobby, people love feeling like they are the best at whatever they are doing. So they stay in an easier class where they know they can place and win free stuff. What they need to do is give everyone rankings for their local area, their regional area and their national area. And then they need to pick a number, let’s say the top 20 ranked shooters, and they need to establish some type of rule that if you are ranked in the top 20 for a full year in your area you must move up to the next class. So locally you could be shooting in the open class but in regional or national matches you could still be in the tactical class. That way shooters can hone their open skills locally which will help them progress regionally and nationally. That and it will make more room in the tactical class for beginner to intermediate shooters to advance and still allow the guys who shoot the matches for fun to have a chance of winning something every once and awhile. This would enhance the experience for everyone involved, well with the exception of the guys who play in a class below their skill level just to win free stuff 🙂 🙂 Problem solved…

      • Lt_Scrounge

        You mean rank and handicap everyone like in bowling and golf?

  • zak

    It’s not very “stealthy” if it actually prohibits mounting a suppressor on your pistol.

  • Erik Davis

    I personally compete in the “World War II field gear division” (Patent Pending) with all USMC mid-war field gear, M1 Garand, M1897 Shotgun, and M1911A1. So far, I’m the only one doing so that I know of…

    • Nimrod

      I’ve seen 3 gun matches done with vintage military weapons including the ones you mentioned. That includes using vintage accessories/gear. Not that unusual some clubs do that once or twice a year.

    • Hal

      I’ve done this. It was a blast. There’s another guy that does it occasionally in my club – we’ll coordinate so we can compete against someone else. It’s fun.

  • Michael

    If they want to lower cost barriers, get rid of the shotgun
    limitation for magazine feed. A $700 Vepr 12 is a blast to shoot, but it puts you into the open money game with the pistol and rifle.

  • WildPackOfFamilyDogs

    How about for the wheelchair using folks? I want to play too

    • Hal

      You’re in brother. C’mon out. We’ll take care of you.

  • DW

    How about “Hobo” division, in which you can only run Hi-point pistols and carbines and Maverick/Chinese/ RIA shotguns? That’s be fun and hilarious.

    • Lt_Scrounge

      It would also be reasonably affordable for new shooters. Maybe open it up just a bit but put a top end limit of $900 MSRP on all three guns combined. No additional accessories except for slings, holsters, magazine pouches and magazines. That would keep everyone to pretty much entry level firearms. I ran a Tristar C-100 that I got used for $259 at a pawn shop at a Four Day defensive handgun course at Front Sight last May. 600+ rounds without cleaning, lubrication or a single malfunction. I started off with my full sized CZ 75, but by lunch on the first day decided to go with the much lighter to carry Tristar. It hadn’t failed me during my CHL class and it didn’t fail me at Front Sight either. I got a few laughs when I told people that I was carrying a $259 pistol. They wanted to see more of it when they realized it was shooting as well as their pistols costing over twice as much.

  • I’m okay with the 3-gun rules. If it were up to me, I’d be changing the IDPA rulebook. I understand the purpose of reloads with retention, but to do them on the clock doesn’t make sense, and I don’t understand why you get procedurals when doing reloads while moving from out in the open to cover.

  • Jeff82

    Allow 1x optics on pistols and shotguns in tacops and call it good.

    • Hal

      Limited class with the addition of USPSA Carry Optics pistols and a 1x optic on the shotgun. Call it Limited Senior. Lol.

  • Geoff

    I like this idea, but have to ask why no box magazines allowed for shotgun? I am new to 3 Gun, so perhaps these are allowed in another division, but not that I’ve seen.

    • Jesse Foust

      I think they’re allowed in open. They are a HUGE advantage, and I think the idea is to balance the division so more people are competitive.

    • port

      Only allowed in open division since reloading the shotgun is considered a fundamental competition skill to be mastered.

  • Hal

    I like the idea. I’d suggest amending the rules for the pistol to make them identical to USPSA Carry Optics pistols. That minimizes cost even further for those of us that participate in both sports. In fact, I’d make the rules for running the pistol identical as well which also maximizes training time for both sports. Nothing sucks worse than running dry on a 3 Gun stage because you dropped a mag with ammo in it because the last three matches you ran were USPSA matches… I’m with you on the optics thing. My vision has gotten to the point that I can’t really see iron sights anymore. I just switched to open because of that and I’m trying like hell to make my Carry Optics pistol competitive in this division. I see a Trubor in my future though, I’m afraid.

    • Jesse Foust

      Nothing is stopping you from using your USPSA gun. Dropping mags prematurely is a training issue that you should probably remedy anyway.

  • David Weller

    Why not call it what it is, “Tactical Limited”?

    • Jesse Foust

      Doesn’t sound as cool

  • Markbo

    Can anyone post a pic of a pistol in the box? Im a visual thinker. 😉

  • tommypaine

    As long as it helps one shooter from missing his/her flight due to long prize table lines, well then it’s worth it. Think of the children.