3 Gun Competition Targets

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A three gun match is structured by several stages that are all unique. Stages vary by competition but typically include run-n-gun scenarios that are based on shooting problems that involve strategy and require the use of one or more guns. These stages are scored based on speed and accuracy of the shooter minus penalties. Different types of targets are used for different stages. The target will dictate the rules and criteria for each type. To introduce you to the types of 3 gun competitiontargets you will be exposed to at a 3 gun match, below is a basic overview. Keep in mind this is not an overview of every target and rule but an introduction to the basic types of 3 gun targets.



Pistol Targets


The majority of pistol targets are paper and steel targets.




There are two types of paper targets the classic IPSC and the metric IPSC or torso targets. (As seen in picture below)




Generally a metal pistol target would include either the metal popper targets that fall back when hit or the steels that you have to shoot off of their stands.

Rifle Targets


It is easiest to classify rifle targets by short range, mid range, and long range.


Short Range


Mainly in the short range you will find paper targets. Like the pistol targets, paper rifle targets include the classic and metric IPSC targets.


Mid Range


Around the 50-75 yard range you can expect to find the fall back poppers in differing sizes and the IPSC steel torso targets.


Long Range


For long distance shooting, there are flashers that when hit swings back and have an orange flash at the top that indicates you hit the target.

Shotgun Targets


Mainly seen for shotgun shooting are metal and clay targets.




Like the pistol targets, you will often find the steels that you knock off stands.




For shotgun shooting, they also have clay targets on stands that will explode when shot.




In addition to the knock down steels, there are combination targets where you knock down a steel from a stand and that will fall over and shoot one or two clays in the air for you to engage.


Target Rules


Paper– All paper targets must be “neutralized” meaning it needs to have at least one hit in the A or B zone, or 2 hits inside the scoring area.


Steel– Steel targets must react in some way whether that be to fall, swing, flash etc. USPSA rules indicate that sound alone will not count as a hit.


Clay– Clay targets must have a significant piece missing to signify a hit.


No Shoot– Must be clearly marked or be a different color than scoring targets. A hit on a no shoot target will count against you.


Hopefully this was a helpful guide of the type of competition 3 gun targets you will encounter in a match. Although this is not a complete list of 3 gun targets, these are the basics. Interested in beginning 3 gun? Read our 3 Gun Getting Started blog here.

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