Very few sports require the amount of equipment necessary to compete in a 3-gun match. By the time your wallet gets deflated from buying all the gear, you may even need to get a bigger vehicle just to transport it.
Each piece of equipment requires thoughtful consideration, as there are endless ways to accessorize each component in your loadout. First, you need to consider which division you plan to shoot. Sanctioned 3-gun events are usually split into three divisions: Limited, Tactical and Open.
Most 3-gun beginners start in the Limited or Tactical divisions. Selecting a pistol for either is a relatively easy task since equipment guidelines for pistols are identical for both classes. The rules for pistol equipment state they must be chambered in any caliber larger than 9x19mm, and cannot have any type of muzzle device or optical sight. Those broad restrictions allow shooters a number of opportunities to choose a handgun they can compete with comfortably.
A few main components must be considered when selecting a pistol for Limited or Tactical 3-gun divisions. The foremost consideration is to select a semi-auto that has a large or full-sized frame. Full-sized frames offer several advantages over their compact cousins—most notably a longer barrel and sight radius for more precise shots, and increased muzzle energy for knocking down steel targets. Full-sized guns are also great because of their generous magazine capacity and forgiving purchase on the grip, for effective weapon manipulation.
You also need to consider the availability of aftermarket and OEM replacement parts. Running any pistol in competition will result in normal wear and tear. On the occasion your gun breaks down, you need to be able to find replacement parts to get back in the ring.
The availability and cost of additional magazines is another important factor when choosing a pistol. Most folks find they need at least five mags. While you probably won’t use them all in one stage, having a couple extra will make it much easier to transition from one stage to another. Refreshing your gear between stages for all three guns is a timely distraction, and your thumbs will feel like you’ve been playing with legos all day if you’re constantly loading magazines.
With so many factors to consider, this list of quality 3-gun pistols for under $1,000 will narrow your options down to just eight out of the thousands of potential choices on the market.