Day 3: The Final Stages at a 3-Gun Match

With two days and eight stages done, Armscor's John McClain prepared to fight for a top ranking at the Zombies in the Heartland 3-Gun Match. Follow him through the final stages to see what he learned and how ranked in the end.

John's 3-Gun Match Lineup

  • ShotgunVR-80 with mag well, single chamber compensator, and magazine extensions from TaylorFreelance
  • PistolPrototype RIA TAC Ultra 9mm Minor Open Gun with a Vortex Viper Red Dot and shooting 124 gr 9mm Armscor Ammo
  • Rifle — TTI AR-15 topped with a Vortex Razor HD 1-10 shooting 55gr 223 Armscor Ammo


Day 3 — The Next Four Stages

I woke up bright and early, headed to the dining area for breakfast, loaded my gear into my car, and headed off to the range for the final day of Zombies in the Heartland. I had been looking at the results and noticed that the fight for third, fourth, and fifth place was going to be very tight, so if I could, I would have to try and push myself without overdoing it with a mistake that could cost me a penalty. With that being said, the competition I was up against at this particular match was very high. Since my primary focus had been pistol shooting for the last eight years, I was at a disadvantage as I was going against guys who shot multi-gun regularly. However, I was not one to back away from a fight, so I got my head on straight as I walked up to Stage 9.

Stage 9

Stage 9 required the use of all three firearms. I started with the shotgun, then my rifle, and finished the stage shooting my pistol. As I stepped up to the line with my shotgun, I realized that I wasn't entirely sure which choke I had in my barrel. I thought I had an improved cylinder, but there was the possibility that it was still a full choke.

I signaled that I was ready to shoot the stage, and once the timer went off, I engaged the first six steel zombie knockdown targets. After the third shot, I realized that I had the full choke in, as my second and third shots were not entirely centered on the steel target when I pulled the trigger and I had no pattern show up. This forced me to slow down to get my hits since I was now essentially shooting a rifle rather than a shotgun. Once I successfully knocked down all six targets, I dumped my shotgun in a safe condition, ran over to the second shooting area, and grabbed my rifle.

I had two options. The first was to pick my rifle up, charge it, and then engage the targets shooting from left to right. The second was to pick the rifle up, run to the right while charging the rifle, and shoot from right to left. I opted for option two. The first reason was that I was now covering ground while loading my firearm. I could not start shooting until I got the gun loaded, and to just stand in a position and load it meant that I was wasting time. I also enjoyed shooting from right to left because I would be completing my final target standing right in front of the dump barrel. From there, I could easily discard it and move forward instead of running and slowing down enough to get the rifle into the dump barrel safely.

After engaging 15 targets with my rifle, including several clay targets, I ditched my safe rifle and loaded my firearm while running to the last position. I engaged the plate that activated the falling barricade, exposing the final six zombie heads. I had a clean run with a final time of 30.59 seconds, which put me in third place for Stage 9.

Time: 30.59 seconds

Rank: No. 3

Stage 10

The final stage of the match was pistol-only. I began with my pistol unloaded and holstered, standing behind a door that had a wooden shim keeping it closed. In my hands, I held a door-breaching tool.

On the signal, I swung the tool to hit the door open, stepped through the door, and loaded my firearm to engage 22 targets through a maze of pallets assembled in the shape of a shoot house. Several targets could only be seen from certain areas on the stage. My primary focus was ensuring I executed my stage plan, which required me to be in the right spot, looking in the right direction to ensure that I saw the targets in the order I planned. A couple of things slowed me down on the stage. One of them was that I started with 23 rounds in my magazine, which meant I could get through the entire stage with one makeup shot without reloading. However, as I attempted to perform this feat, I slowed myself down as I tried to be overly careful about how many shots I shot. Once I got about 80% of the stage done, I realized 23 rounds were not enough, so I reloaded to my final position and engaged the final three targets. Because I ended up being too conservative, I finished with a final time of 29.53, which put me into seventh place on Stage 10.

Time: 29.53 seconds

Rank: No. 7

The FInal Ranking

Finished with all the stages of the match, all I had to do was wait for the afternoon squad to finish for the final results to be compiled. I packed up my personal belongings and load them in the car. I then headed back to the range and enjoyed a free lunch provided by the match. I sat with some squad mates and with a few people who weren't on our squad, and we all joked and laughed about the good moments, bad moments, and weird moments of the match that we all experienced.

After a few hours, the shooting wrapped up, and the final results were posted. As I suspected, the fight for third, fourth, and fifth place was extremely tight. The guy who came in first place, Nate Schmidt, finished the match with a final total time of 332.07 seconds. Second place was very close with a total time of 343.81 seconds. Third place was Josh Erickson with 375.18 seconds, followed by Wyatt Gibson with 375.30 seconds, and then I took fifth place with 378.07 seconds.

Three seconds was the determining factor between third place and fifth place. If you recall, at one point during the match, I took a 5-second penalty by missing a clay target. That single penalty meant the difference between third place and fifth place.

Final Total Time: 378.07 seconds

Overall Rank: No. 5

Final thoughts

What I can tell you about the Zombies in the Heartland match for certain is this: This match is very friendly for those who have never shot a multi-gun match before.

The stages are not overly complicated, the rules are very forgiving, and the range is a beautiful place to spend a weekend. Having not shot much 3-gun, fifth place out of 82 shooters in the Open Division wasn't too shabby, especially when the difference between fifth and third was such a tight race.

That's one of the things that makes this sport so much fun. It helps me understand the importance of executing my stage plan to the best of my ability and minimizing my mistakes. If you've never shot a multi-gun match, I highly suggest Zombies in the Heartland be one of the first you try.