In my ongoing attempt to master 3 Gun in the coming year I'm going to be running a series of posts on equipment and gear choices. In this first post I'll be covering starting out on a budget.
As you know my pump Remington 870 crapped out on me at my first match. I decided to upgrade to a semi and chose the modestly priced Stoeger M3500. 432 bucks out the door. But it's limited to 4 rounds in the tube plus one in the chamber. Insufficient. An extended magazine tube is really the only choice here. After doing some homework (no one makes an M3500 specific magazine tube extension) I found out that with some moderate work one for a Benelli Nova/Supernova would fit. I ordered one along with a reduced friction follower and barrel band from Nordic Components. 150 bucks total with shipping.
When you get the kit it comes with everything you'll need for the installation. For this application I had to take the shotgun down all the way. See that small unthreaded bit at the top there? That's the end of the stock magazine tube. According to the instructions I found that's supposed to be cut off. But I've learned. First I test fitted the tube extension and turns out it fit perfectly. No cutting or grinding required. Whew!
Screw the tube extension nut to the stock barrel. I test fit the new spring. There's a bit extra. They send a one size fits all spring and you must trim it for your specific application. Cool, I get to use tools after all!
Screw on the extension tube to the nut and put the spring in place. The instructions tell you to cut it off at 16 inches and then test fit it. Trim as needed.
Twasn't necessary in my case. The spring fit perfectly and it all went back together as advertised. I now have a 9 + 1 semi automatic 3 Gun shotgun. I'm into the entire thing 582 dollars. Not too shabby.
On to the rifle. I decided early on that some compromises were going to have to be made. Especially in the beginning as I'm first getting my feet on the ground. I have a 16 inch Bushmaster flattop carbine that I ran with a cheap 3x9. I've had it for years and I think I paid south of 600. Let's just call it 600 bucks for the sake of argument. Here's the before picture.
It's going to need a few things, starting with a new optic and a gas block with no front sight. At 3 power the front sight disappears but I'm going to be running a 1x4 and at 1 power it'll show. What to do? A new gas block is the obvious answer but we're running 3 Gun on a budget here. Let's get creative. That front sight has a gas system that runs under the A pillar front sight assembly. It doesn't reach upward into the sight base itself. Hmmmm...I wonder.... Yep, turns out you can "remove" the front sight without impinging on the gas system. Which leads to a decidedly redneck solution.
Yessir. Powertools and guns. Now follow my logic on this one. If I screw this up I was going to have to buy a new gas block anyway. If this works I can decide at any time to replace the gas block if I want to. The whole thing is nothing more than a gas block with a sight attached. I'm running an optic and if I decide I want back up irons I'll run some 45 degree offsets. The front sight in this configuration is superfluous. Screw it, off she comes.
You ever do something like this? It was invigorating. I cackled like a redneck mad scientist the whole time. Hey, in the end it's just a gas block. I hit it with the Dremel and a back magic marker (I did say on the cheap didn't I?) and we're defecating in lengthy cotton. I'll clean it up some more later on but for now she works just fine.
On to the optic. Remember when I mentioned that some compromises would have to be made? Here is the first. I'm a big believer in quality optics where and when you can. I went through a vast number of optic choices in the 1x4 category from Burris, Leupold, Bushnell, etc., ad infinitum. Everything I looked at was in the area of 300 to 500 dollars. I was decidedly in favor of the lower end until I got some of them in my hand and really looked at the reticles and glass quality. When I did that one scope stood out. The Vortex Viper PST. I got it in the MRAD reticle because I understand Mils and can convert them to distance in my head.
It's an illuminated second plane reticle. That means it doesn't change size as the magnification increases. You can only range with it in 1 power but for my purposes that's a non issue. I love the clarity of the glass and the overall quality of the materials and build. It's a 30 mm tube with finger adjustable windage and elevation knobs and a 10 setting illumination dial. At 500 dollars it's on the higher end of what I wanted to spend but compared to the top level scopes it's a bargain. The Burris Tac30 and Leupold were cheap by comparison and their reticles left a lot to be desired (My opinion only. No hate mail please). On this item being too cheap was contraindicated.
It needed a solid mount. I chose the P.E.P.R. one piece mount from Burris. It was 90 dollars. I looked at the Warne at $180 and decided it was a little better but not that much better.
The mount sets the optic at the perfect height for an AR. It came with 2 sets of ring caps, with a rail and without. My tactical ninja being curiously silent I went with the smooth, low profile caps. I went with the non QD mount because I hate QD scope mounts. Anything that can fail will do so at the most inopportune time. Plus it's an extra 30 bucks. Screw that, this is a Budget Build.
The end result. It still needs a longer, free float forearm and a compensator but for the time being she'll do nicely. It's a long way from what it was that's for certain. And cost effective. If you add in the price of the gun I already had we're at $1190. 600 + 500 + 90. Take away the gun that was just sitting around doing nothing and we're at $590. I'm going with that because, like I said, the gun was just sitting there.
My 3 Gun setup minus the handgun.
Grand total outlay is $582 for the shotgun and $590 for the rifle for a total to date of $1172. I anticipate spending a few hundred more on the rifle for the last few bits but I can run both right now, as they sit, and be competitive. If you take a look around at new 3 Gun specific firearms that's less than what one of each of these would run you. Makes me feel all warm inside. There may very well be new guns in my future but for now I'm satisfied.
Next up running in the new shotgun and addressing any feed issues with the new tube and sighting in the Vortex. I can't wait!