One of the unique things about 3gun, is that each match, or each stage presents a completely new challenge. Rarely will you ever find one stage that is exactly like something you have done before. For this reason, you need you need to make sure you have all your bases covered when it comes to your equipment. In this case, rifle magazines.
Depending on the match you go to and division you shoot in, rifle magazines may be limited by the rule set. For this article, I will be referring to Tac Ops (aka Practical in 3GN) Division, since it is the largest division and the one I compete in the most. Most matches across the country have done away with rifle mag restrictions in Tac Ops. Needless to say, there are a lot of options out there for shooters. Options mean questions: What mag length do I go with? Do I worry about reloads? Plastic or metal? Drum or double stack? After shooting for a several years at matches all around the country, I feel like I have a pretty good system for deciding on what mag to go with.
Personally, when I go to a match, I always have the same gear with me, even if it some obscure mag or piece of equipment that I only need once out of a dozen matches. For rifle mags, I take two 30 round PMAG’s with +5 TTI base pads, two 30 round PMAG’s on a Springer Precision Coupler, four 40 round PMAG’s with +5 TTI bases, a 60 round Surefire Mag and a X Products 50 round drum. You may ask, why so many mags? First, I want to have a variety of mags for different shooting positions (more on that later). Second, I like to only carry one backup mag on my belt, usually one of the 30 rounders. Finally, I like to load all my mags the night before a match, so I don’t have to worry about reloading them after a stage. Just toss the used mag in the box and grab a fresh one for the next stage.
Now, the important bit of info- Variety in mag length. When I walk a stage, just like everyone, I count the number of rounds I plan on shooting. If a stage requires 20 rounds or less and they are easy shots, I run a 30+5 mag. Some people like to use a 40+5 or even a 60 for every stage, but I want to minimize weight if I don’t need it on the gun, so I opt for my shortest mag that will cover the number of rounds. If a stage approaches 30 shots, I plan on using a 40+5. I always plan on having about 1.5 times the amount of ammo required, just in case. If it is a big stage with over 35 shots required or lots of long range, I usually go with a Surefire 60 round mag.
Round count isn’t the only consideration for mag selection. Other important factors are the positions you will take while shooting and target location. For example, if a stage requires you to, or would be beneficial to go prone, I like the height and stability of my Surefire 60. Even if a stage is only a few rounds, if I am going to be shooting from prone and the targets aren’t at extreme angles relative to the shooting position, you will see me go with my Surefire. I mention target location because, sometimes you will be shooting at different angles. If a target is higher or lower than your prone position, you may need a taller or shorter mag to make it easier to get into a stable position. Occasionally, I like to be as close to the ground as I can, and still get a good sight picture. In those cases, I opt for a 30+5 round mag or X Products drum.
When you are breaking down a stage during your walk through, remember to take all the factors into consideration- Round count, shooting position and target presentation. If you can get away with using one mag for an entire stage, it can make a small difference in your time. Times are competitive at all levels of the sport so, if you can do that over 10 stages of a major match, it can mean the difference in winning and losing.