Air­gun­ning US

Stephen Archer in­forms on ‘three po­si­tion’ shoot­ing, pop­u­lar in the US

Airgun World - - Contents -

Com­pet­i­tive air­gun shoot­ing in the USA takes a num­ber of forms, and this month we’ll take a look at the most pop­u­lar of them. It may not be quite what you would ex­pect!

By far the largest struc­tured, com­pet­i­tive air­gun dis­ci­pline is three-po­si­tion, air ri­fle tar­get shoot­ing. This is way, way more pop­u­lar than field tar­get, sil­hou­ette or benchrest shoot­ing in the US, although we’ll see these other dis­ci­plines in fu­ture sto­ries.

There are no big-bore air­guns and none of the ‘zil­lion FPS’ air ri­fles that fill the shelves of Amer­i­can stores, of both on-line and bricks and mor­tar va­ri­eties. In fact, the guns are low power, .177 cal­i­bre pre­ci­sion PCP air ri­fles pro­duc­ing lit­tle more than 6 ft.lbs of muz­zle en­ergy.


Three po­si­tion shoot­ing is fired at 10 me­tres range. Those three po­si­tions are stand­ing, kneel­ing and prone, as you might have guessed.

Three Po­si­tion, or ‘3P’, one of the in­evitable ab­bre­vi­a­tions that abound through­out the Amer­i­can-English lan­guage, is highly-or­gan­ised and struc­tured. It’s pri­mar­ily based on clubs that are as­so­ci­ated with the mil­i­tary, like the Bri­tish Cadets, or Scouts, and even in some schools. Just imag­ine that; air­gun shoot­ing can be on the cur­ricu­lum in sec­ondary schools in some states, and there are even a few uni­ver­si­ties that of­fer shoot­ing schol­ar­ships to at­tract stu­dents.

For many youths, this can form their first in­tro­duc­tion to shoot­ing, par­tic­u­larly if they come from urban back­grounds. Mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits are cred­ited to 3P shoot­ing, in­clud­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, co-or­di­na­tion, pa­tience and self-con­trol, all of which were ex­em­pli­fied in the com­peti­tors I saw, but miss­ing in so many other young peo­ple. Yes, that cer­tainly shows my age, doesn’t it?

Not only this, but it’s also about the safest sport that there is! No one has heard of an in­jury caused by tar­get shoot­ing. Com­pare that to the huge num­ber of in­juries sus­tained an­nu­ally by those play­ing foot­ball – al­ways called soc­cer here, for some rea­son – Amer­i­can foot­ball (called ‘foot­ball’), base­ball, rugby and other more phys­i­cal sports.

3P shoot­ing is also open to both boys and girls on an equal ba­sis. In fact, it seems like more girls than boys are get­ting in­ter­ested in 3P shoot­ing – and these girls re­ally can shoot!


To see junior 3P shoot­ing at the high­est level, I vis­ited Camp Perry. This, of course, is the home of US high-power ri­fle shoot­ing. It’s mil­i­tary-run and, just like Bis­ley, there’s a huge num­ber of long-dis­tance ranges for shoot­ing out to 1,000 yards. Any­one who knows Bis­ley would feel at home at Camp Perry. Just think of a ‘Bis­ley-on­sea’ and you’ll be right there, although, to be fair, it’s rather big­ger and smarter than I re­mem­ber Bis­ley.

Camp Perry is in Ohio, about 300 miles west from my home. That’s pretty close by US stan­dards. It’s right on the south­ern shore of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. Camp Perry is home to the Civil­ian Marks­man­ship Pro­gram

The shoot­ing hall of the Gary An­der­son Com­pe­ti­tion Cen­ter has 40 tar­get lanes on each side. Spec­ta­tors sit in the mid­dle, to­gether with the el­e­vated ‘com­mand cen­tre’ for the Chief Range Of­fi­cer and con­trol over the scor­ing sys­tem.

The day I vis­ited, it was ab­so­lutely pour­ing with rain, so the CMP sup­plied this pho­to­graph of the Gary An­der­son Com­pe­ti­tion Cen­ter build­ing.

You can re­ally see the con­cen­tra­tion on the faces of the com­peti­tors dur­ing the stand­ing event.

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