3-Gun 101: A Look inside Pistol Caliber Carbine for 3-Gun

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) has taken the competitive shooting world by storm and for good reason. It’s a quick, easy, down and dirty way to get running and gunning behind a timer. Grab a PCC rifle, a few mags to keep in your pocket and you’re off to the races.

With anything, once your up-and-running there’s a few great ways to go from beginner to intermediate with a few simple acquisitions to your PCC gear collection. As you add these things and become comfortable with their use, it immediately parlays into becoming a bonafide practical shooter. Once you get going with PCC, full-blown 3-Gun competition is not far behind. 

3GN’s Director of Competition (and pro 3-gunner) Rob Romero was featured in a video series touching on important topics within the sport of 3-Gun. Here are a few observations from him, as well as 3GN Regional Series Director Charles Sole, when considering PCC for 3-Gun. Their insight is from both the Match Director and Competitor side of the equation and will help shed some light on this rapidly growing segment of competitive shooting:

Do you feel the need … the need for speed? “The PCC division minimizes reloads, transitions and most importantly, confusion,” said Romero. “With one less gun to worry about your stage process is significantly more simplified than a 3-Gun stage.”

With just your PCC rifle and shotgun, you relieve the confusion caused by pistol, plus rifle paper; pistol, plus rifle steel engagements – allowing clays and steel knock overs as your only shotgun targets. Additionally, your shotgun ammo requirements will be less as you can engage many of the steel targets presented with your PCC.

This offers a faster course time, an easier feel and more confidence as you grow into the sport of 3-Gun.

Engaging pistol knock overs at close range. (2016 Southern Regional)


Have you shot competitive pistol? Or do you know someone who does?  Nowadays you can most likely run your PCC rifle at most pistol matches. 3-Gun Nation and USPSA both offer PCC divisions at the club level. In addition, the 3GN Regional Series, presented by NRA Sports, has featured a PCC division over the past two seasons. Each Regional stage features long-range target presentations within 100 yards max distance for PCC shooters.

“As long as the match is built for 3-Gun you can host a PCC division,” said Charles Sole, 3GN Regional Series Director. “PCC shooters will create stage plans completely different than the 3-Gun shooters from the very nature of the division.”

“As a PCC shooter in a Regional – or any 3-Gun match – you will be embedded with regular 3-Gun division shooters. This in itself is a great training session to make that leap into 3-Gun shooting. Fortunately 3GN has had the support of NRA Sports over the past two seasons so that this gateway program could be developed and implemented into both Club and Regional events” said Sole.

FM9's on display at the Foxtrot Mike PCC Challenge, presented by 3-Gun Nation (July, 2017). 

Within the 3-Gun Nation Club Series program there are pre-designed classifier stages where your PCC Carbine can be used in place of a rifle. They were developed in mind to be set-up and ran at your local outdoor or indoor range, regardless of centerfire rifle restrictions. 

This also helps a new shooter get involved in the sport and track their progress specifically through the PCC division. Just like the 3-Gun divisions, PCC within 3-Gun Nation allows classifications in Unlimited Pistol Caliber Carbine (UPC-P), Optics Pistol Caliber Carbine (OPC-P), Irons Pistol Caliber Carbine (IPC-P) and Practical Rimfire Carbine (PRC-P).

“PCC rifles have a tendency to get dirty quick,” said Romero. “These guns get twice as dirty in half the time as my AR. If you run your own reloads, there are some dirty powders out there. I typically use brand new ammo with my PCC rifles on the upper-end of the power factor. Most pistol ammo is designed to burn all the powder in the first six inches.”

When it comes to optics in the PCC game, the match you’re shooting will dictate which optic is best suited for the job.

“In my experience a variable or magnifier is extremely helpful when using a PCC in a 3GN match, with the 100-yard max distance,” said Romero. “When participating in a pistol event like USPSA I prefer dual non-magnified optics and daylight lasers for extremely fast target transitions and offset shots where the single-optic rifle will struggle. The laser helps with lightning fast shots from the buzzer and close targets that don't require full use of your optic to engage.” 

“When designing a PCC course of fire, match directors have the option to use smaller targets that can be used at less than max distances, creating extremely difficult target presentations that equal centerfire shots out to 300-400 yards,” said Sole. “This includes traditional pistol-only targets like spinning plate racks and stars.”

3GN Regional Series Director Charles Sole

As many are aware, 3-Gun Nation released an updated version of its Club Series target last year. This update allows the target to be used for both 3-Gun as well as single-gun disciplines. The target features a 4-inch diameter bonus ring in the top right and center portion of the target face, giving shooters an opportunity to reduce their score by .25 seconds off their time. As for single-gun events like PCC, the target can be used to reward accuracy, while at the same time offer a speed-based game that many also enjoy. 

Practical shooting seems to be limitless when it comes to the firearm type and style of shooting you prefer. Whether long-range rifle, fast-action pistol, high-octane 3-gun or even sporting clays, there is something for every taste. PCC competition is a great entry point into the world of practical shooting, most notably 3-Gun.  

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