My 3 Gun Rifle Build
Like most who get involved in the sport of 3 Gun, I “brought what I had” to my first local matches to see if I enjoyed the sport. Enjoy it I did, but I quickly came to the conclusion my Colt 6940P was not an optimal rifle to successfully compete in 3 Gun. So I began looking for a rifle more suitable for 3 Gun.
Not really having the time or the experience to do a ground-up build, I first looked at ordering a rifle that was “out of the box” set up for 3 Gun competition – the Colt Competition CRP-18 looked like a very good choice for me, and I placed my order…and waited. And waited. And…well, you get the idea. When I lamented the fact that the season might well be over before my CRP-18 arrived, my buddy and Semi-Pro 3 Gunner Arlie Branham, he suggested we do a build that he could put together for me. The project came out quite successfully, so I thought I’d share about all the components that went into my rifle. Here’s the finished product:
The basis for the build was the premium-quality HM Defense HM-15 – you can read all about the rifle in the review I did, but suffice to say, it made for a great starting point. The first thing that was changed on the HM-15 was swapping out the flash hider for a proper compensator to help reduce recoil and muzzle rise. For this task, I chose the Armalite M-15 Tunable Competition Muzzle Break. Arlie recommended this one to me, but even if he hadn’t, I would have ordered it based on what I’ve read and seen – it’s a very popular choice for a compensator for 3 Gun. It also is an excellent match to the finish of the stainless steel barrel on the HM-15. A good muzzle break/compensator is only one factor in reducing recoil and muzzle rise – the other is adjusting the gas flow in the rifle with an adjustable gas block. To this end, I chose one of the most tried-and-true, reliable sources in this category is the Seekins Precision Low Profile Adjustable Gas Block.
Next came a replacement for the stock Mil-Spec bolt carrier group (BCG) in the HM-15. The chosen replacement was the EVO Enhanced BCG from Iron City Rifle Works. Iron City Rifle works makes several different models of competition ready BCG’s, which have different coatings that generally speaking make them more wear resistant and give them a slicker surface than that of standard BCGs. I chose the EVO not only for its performance advantages but also because the finish was similar to both the barrel and the muzzle break I chose. Iron City Rifle works claims their NiB(EXO) coating is twice as durable as a standard BCG and has a coefficient of friction of 0.08. I’ve also found the EVO to be very easy to clean, which is a nice added bonus.
Triggers are an intensely personal choice, and there’s about a million to choose from for the AR-15. In past AR-15 projects, I’ve chosen two-stage Geissele triggers, but for this race rifle I opted for the single-stage Elftmann Tactical Elf 3 Gun trigger. I was concerned there would be a huge learning curve going to a single-stage trigger, but that wasn’t the case. I’ve used this trigger in practice and in matches, at close range and long distance targets, and it’s absolutely perfect for 3 Gun.
The Elf 3 Gun trigger is so good I actually replaced the CMC Match Trigger in my Colt Competition CRP-18 with the the Elf 3 Gun trigger. They both have the virtually the same break, feel, and weight but I can “out run” the CMC Match Trigger when shooting quickly – something that doesn’t happen with the Elf 3 Gun.
The choice of optics for a 3 Gun rifle is another difficult one filled with compromises. Price, weight, and capabilities are all factors that have to be weighed. The optic I chose was the Leupold VX-6 1-6x Multigun. You can read my review of this fantastic scope, but it strikes a nice balance for me. In terms of a scope mount, I chose the Aero Precision Ultralight 30mm Scope Mount – it’s not only one of the lightest weight choices out there, but it’s also one of the least expensive.
Moving rearward on the rifle, the components get less exotic but nonetheless effective. For a buttstock, I chose the tried and true Magpul CTR. It’s lightweight, inexpensive, and has a proven track record. I’ve used it on several rifles in conjunction with the Magpul Enhanced rubber buttpad which adds much comfort for very little money or added weight. For the grip, I kept the same Hogue rubber AR-15 grip that I’ve been using for several years on AR-15’s. Now, one of the more interesting parts used on my build was replacing the Mil-Spec buffer spring with the JP Enterprises GEN 2 Silent Captured Buffer Spring. This is a must-have part replacement for many AR-15 rifle builders – it eliminates both the sound and the grating, scratchy-squeaky feel of a standard buffer and spring setup.
Total price for this race-ready rifle comes in at about $3000.00, optic included. The weight of my rifle comes in at just 8.2lbs, which is a full lb. less than the Colt 6940P I used previously weighed. I feel like I’ve stepped up from a Chevy to a Ferrari – everything on this rifle works extremely well for the purpose it was built. Many, many thanks to Arlie Branham/Branham Tactical for recommending all the components and doing all the heavy lifting!
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.