Post-Modern Pentathlon

Post-Modern Pentathlon

The Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon was created as a throwback to the original reason for the Olympics: Preparing young men for war.

“As the events of the ancient pentathlon were modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time, Coubertin created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers.”

The events of the modern penthalon are:

  • Fighting with a sword (Fencing)
  • Fighting with a pistol (Was 10m air pistol, now they use lasers)
  • Swim (200m Freestyle)
  • Ride (Show Jumping)
  • Running (3km cross country)

It’s not the 19th century, and we’re not fighting wars based on Edwardian tactics and equipment anymore. The needs of an ideal soldier have changed quite a lot in 200 years, and “modern” pentathlon doesn’t seem all that modern these days. If the IOOC were going to update the modern pentathlon to reflect the needs of today’s soldiers, what sports would they chose?

There are rigid guidelines that control which sports are and are not in the Olympics, so the chances of getting something new like 3 Gun into the games are mighty slim. Therefore, the post-modern pentathlon needs to use five previously-existing sports which have some application to the modern battlefield.

In other words, no rhythmic gymnastics.

My suggestion for the (really) modern pentathlon are:

Cavalry these days rides in light armored vehicles, not on horses, and they’re hasn’t been a need for swords in combat for quite some time. Rather than base the sports on a cavalry trooper, I chose sports based around light infantry or special forces. The rifle and pistol choices are obvious, and I chose Judo as a hand-to-hand sport because it’s the closest to the today’s mixed fighting arts I could find on the list of designated Olympic sports. I kept swimming as is (really tempted to swap it out for 200m Medley) and rather than a cross-country run, I chose the 3000 metre steeplechase because it adds in elements from obstacle courses to make things a little more exciting. My selections are a little heavy on the combat side, and if I had to swap one combat sport for a non-combat sport, I’d probably go with sprint kayak over pistol to reflect the needs of troops to infiltrate enemy regions over water.

Ok, your five?

Dear Sponsored Shooters

Dear Sponsored Shooters

Aside from my pre-existing recognition and affiliation with the brands you wear on your shirt, why should I take interest in your shooting abilities? Are you a compelling person on and off the gun range who advances the brand recognition of your sponsors? Are you the type of person who makes people want to buy the products named on your shirt? Can make me more likely to buy your sponsor’s products?

You can’t?

Then why are you wearing that shirt?

A Game-changer For Practical Shooting?

A game-changer for practical shooting?

How much fun would it be to watch a match using these interactive electronic targets instead of paper targets?

If hunting is a day’s walk followed by an autopsy, practical shooting is 30 seconds of sheer terror followed by three minutes of bookkeeping.


Think about how this changes things:

  • If you’re a spectator, you can watch hits in real-time. Rather than wait for someone to call out “Two Alpha!” (or in my case, “Charlie Mike!”), you can see the match play itself in real-time right before your eyes.
  • If you’re a competitor, you can see the target go down and if the app is hooked up to a decent set of speakers, hear the clang of the hit. All the benefits of steel, with all the benefits of paper. Cool.
  • If you’re a trainer, you can set up a course of fire that works with random amounts of hits on a target. “Shoot ’em until they’re no longer a threat” finally becomes a reality with these targets.
  • If you run a match, you can instantly reset a stage, making for faster matches and more options than steel alone.

It’s going to be really interested in seeing how big this product might become.

Here, Hold My Beer While I Try This.

Here, hold my beer while I try this.

There are a lot of extreme sports out there that will get you killed right dead if you mess up, but only a few are on TV. Almost all of us can understand what’s involved in a sport like downhill skiing, because due to our fear of and experience with falling down, we know that controlling yourself while plummeting down a mountain at forty miles an hour is an extraordinary thing to do.

However, not all extraordinary accomplishments make for good TV. Climbing a 200 foot high frozen waterfall is challenging and extremely dangerous, but you won’t find it on ESPN anytime soon because there are no “Oh wow!” moments where the showmanship of the sport can shine. Skateboarding, on the other hand, is comparatively safe, but has opportunities aplenty for showmanship, and therefore makes for great TV. Somewhere in between those two sports is BASE jumping, which is both extremely dangerous and makes for great visuals, but not great broadcast TV.

Practical shooting, as it stand right now, is behind the curve in both those accounts. Most people don’t understand how difficult it is to pull off a clean six second El Presidenté drill, and watching someone else shoot a match makes for boring TV because there is no opportunities for showmanship in a typical USPSA match.

One of the reasons why Top Shot succeeded so well was because it had difficult tasks filled with “Oh wow!” moments that almost anyone could relate to. Shooting a target a mile away is tough. Splitting a hangman’s rope with a rifle bullet is tough. Blasting away at exploding targets with a .30 cal from back of a half-track might not be tough, but man, was it ever an “Oh, wow!” moment.

I’ve shot a fair amount of matches, and while I’ve seen some extraordinary feats of shooting, there hasn’t been any that I can talk about as an “Oh wow!” moment to people outside the sport, and until that sort of thing becomes commonplace, practical shooting will remain a sport that’s focused on it’s competitors, not on it’s audience.

How Expensive Is 3 Gun?

How Expensive is 3 Gun?

Have you checked out how much it costs to compete in airsoft? $4000 a year per player? If people are willing to shell out $4k to run around and shoot plastic pellets, how much would they be willing to pay to blast away with a real gun in their hands?

The problem is that four grand is just the cost of the guns needed to start into 3 Gun. Match fees and ammo (especially ammo) are going to cost you much, much more. The question remains: How much will you actually spend the first year shooting 3 Gun matches?

A typical four-stage 3 Gun match requires approximately 100 rounds of rifle ammo, 100 rounds of pistol ammo, 50 shells and a half-dozen slugs. You may shoot more, you may shoot less, but that’s a good amount to take to the range on match day, and you can use the leftover ammo for practice or plinking.

Guns: $3500
Match Fees: $180

Shooting one match a month, that means you’ll shoot 1200 rounds each of rifle and pistol ammo, 600 shells and 70 slugs. Match fees vary, but figure $10-20 each time you show up as good benchmark, meaning you’ll pay $180 to your local clubs for the matches you shoot during the year.

Ammo: $880
1200 rounds 9mm: $275
1200 rounds .223: $360
600 12ga shells: $185
70 12ga slugs: $60

First Year Startup Cost: $4560
Subsequent Yearly Cost: $1560

The subsequent yearly cost is based on a year’s worth of ammo cost and match fees, plus an additional $500 each year for gear tweaks and equipment upgrades. To be honest, I was expecting the yearly cost to be much more, but sticking with inexpensive ammo like PMC and Armscor dropped the price significantly. Ammo costs would be even less with remanufactured ammo, reloading your own rounds or going with even cheaper brands like Wolf and Tula.

Is 3 gun more expensive than USPSA or IDPA? Obviously yes, because you are spending more more money on more guns and more expensive ammunition than a pistol-only competition, but it’s not out of reach of the average U.S. household. The startup cost is high, but the enjoyment factor is very high as well.

Shooting Teams Are The New Blue Angels, Part II

Shooting Teams Are The New Blue Angels, Part II

Let’s pick up from where we left off last time.

The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team has a YouTube Channel, and the most popular video on that channel has over 1.2 million views.

Not bad, until you realize that the most popular video on Hickok45’s channel has over 10 million views, and the most popular video on Jerry Miculek’s channel (a relative newcomer to YouTube) has over 2 million views, and it’s just him and his family cranking out the content, not the full weight and power of the United States Army.

All is not lost, however. Aside from the world-record stunts and two celebrity tandem jumps, the average views for a Golden Knights YouTube video is less than 40,000 views. However, the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) has more videos of over 40,000 views than the Golden Knights, and their content has consistently higher engagement as well.

So the people want to watch people using firearms on YouTube. The question is, who is going to give them content to watch?

Product Review: TacCom Quadload 8up

Product Review: TacCom Quadload 8up

Advantages: Quick to set up, easy to use
Disadvantages:  Needs a little TLC to work with TekLok
Rating: 5 out of 5

When I first got into 3 gun, I avoided as much “gamer” gear as I could and competed in Tac Limited because I harbored the illusion that I could use it to improve how I ran my AR-15 and my home defense shotgun.

To quote a modern-day philosopher-king, “Yes on one and no on two”. I learned how to shoot an AR fairly well, but my shotgun reloads were slow, slow, slow. The fact is, when you game, game, and when you train, train. Using 3 Gun to learn how to run a defensive shotgun is one (small) step above using Call of Duty to train how to run a defensive shotgun.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

So I’ve switched from loading three shells at a time from a California Competition Works shell holders to hold my spare shotshells to loading two at a time from TacCom 8up Quadloads. The Quadload holds 8 shells in two groups of four, making it usable for people like myself who dual-load and also for people who load four shells at a time. The TacCom Gear mounts onto either Blade-Tech Tekloks or Safariland ELS mounts and is easy to put together. One thing I did notice is that I need to leave off one screw on the bottom mount to allow it lock properly onto my belt (minor thing, but still…).

I’m still in process of getting them placed properly on my belt: Because I’m cross-eye dominant, finding the right combination of location and place for running long guns with my left hand and pistols with my right is a challenge, and I’m still working on the best way to sort out all my stuff on my belt.

TacCom 8up Quadload

Size-wise, the 8up takes up more space on the belt, (4.25″ vs. 2.75″), but it does hold two more shells than the caddy it’s replacing. The Quadload makes up for that extra space with speed, however. While I’m not at fast as a Miculek (yet), switching from one-at-a-time to two-up has made a big difference in my reload times. I did a quick test comparing how long it took to load six dummy shells with the Quadload versus the caddy, and the results were pretty conclusive.

Shotgun Caddy
1st try: 14 secs
2nd try: 13.6 secs
3rd try: 10.8 secs

1st try: 8.9 secs
2nd try: 8.7 secs
3rd try: 7.9 secs

Even without much practice with the system, on average, the Quadload is over four seconds faster to reload six shells into a Mossberg 930.

Can that four seconds make a difference over the course of a 30+ round shotgun stage? You betcha.

What’s not showing in the numbers is the ease of use between the two loading systems. With the caddy, I was always fumbling around with the shells as I loaded them, and it always seemed like disaster and/or a bunch of dropped shells was lurking just over the horizon. With the Quadload, the shells slide into the tube quickly and without fumbling, leading to faster movement as I load and better stage times.

I still want to learn to run my home defense scattergun with more proficiency, but for now, I’m looking forward to getting this new ammo rig out onto a stage and putting it to the test in a match. Two thumbs up for the TacCom Quadload.

71.5 Million People Are The Market

71.5 Million People Are The Market

Now, what are we going to do to reach them?

In 2013, it was estimated that approximately 71,500,000 people worldwide watched competitive gaming. The increasing availability of online streaming media platforms, particularly, has become central to the growth and promotion of eSports competitions. Demographically, Major League Gaming has reported viewership that is approximately 85% male and 15% female, with 60% of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.

That is seventy one and a half MILLION people who play video games and sit and watch other people play video games, . What if 10% of them shot? What if 1% of them shot practical pistol? Are we even capable of thinking what 70,000+ new, excited, MOTIVATED new shooters would do to USPSA/IDPA/3 Gun?

3 Gun Teams Are The New Blue Angels.

3 Gun teams are the new Blue Angels.

Or rather, they should be.

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Video games are driving an interest in gun sales. What video games are NOT doing is driving an interesting in competitive shooting, and that’s hurting the sport.

Why not make 3 Gun more like Call Of Battlefield Honor, or whatever the kids are playing these days? I can say from personal experience that some of the most enjoyable three stages I shot were ones that had a heavy military influence. Hanging from a rappel harness or moving through the fuselage of a helicopter is FUN, so it follows then that it’s easier to show how much fun it is on TV if the experience itself is fun.

These days, recruiting centers use posters of Tier One operators decked out in full battle rattle as much as they do shots of their their formation flying teams and pictures of strapping young men in dress uniforms. Maybe it’s time for a shooting competition that appeals to the people who join the military because of the desire to be a “elite operator” that lurks within the hearts of every teenage video game player.

What if 3 Gun Nation ditched the Armalite sponsorship and went after the AMU as a sponsor? A 12 episode series with stages based on videos games would cost WAY less than just one Blue Angels performance and it’d show off the capabilities of today’s warriors much more than a bunch of smoke trails in the sky would, plus it would give the Army a seat at the Blue Angels / Thunderbirds PR table way beyond the Golden Knights jump team they have now.


In Order To Prosper, 3 Gun Needs To Go Back To Its Roots.

In order to prosper, 3 Gun needs to go back to its roots.

I watched the first episode of the new season of “3 Gun Nation” this month, and I was struck as to how pared-down and repetitive it’s become. The stages no longer feature awkward shooting positions, shotgun reloads or feats of athletic splendor: It’s pretty much a 25 yard sprint with one vaguely interesting target, the Death Star. I guess trading FNH for Armalite as a sponsor has a negative effect on what whiz-bang stages you can run. On the plus side, it looks like they’ve set things up to work on a 100 yd bay, and that’s a good thing, because not every range has a 300 yard rifle course.

3 Gun started out as the Soldier of Fortune match and it was very heavily influenced by tactical and military shooting of the day. Since then, 3 Gun has moved away from the “tactical” world (except for Trooper division) and evolved into more of a pure sporting event.
But does it need to be a pure sporting event in order to succeed? Let’s consider two of the more popular shooting shows in the last few years, Top Shot and Shooting Stars Stars Earn Stripes.

We all know about Top Shot: The show proved that personalities + athletic shooting prowess = $$$ and ratings, and it probably did more to unite shooters and non-shooters alike than any other show. It was FUN to watch, even if you weren’t a gun owner, and it launched the careers of at least a half-dozen participants on the show.

Stars Earn Stripes was a wholehearted, full-bore military training show, and it was on a major network. It was, in essence, “Battle of the Network Stars” with more firepower, and it was popular enough to get the usual crowd of anti-gunners in a tizzy and have it cancelled before it got a second season.

What if 3 Gun were more about the tactical and less about the gaming? More thoughts on that later.