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Preview – Desert Stealth

A New Three-Gun Division Gets a Cautious Reception

Photos by Iain Harrison and Steven Kuo

For the three-gun community, Rio Salado’s Superstition Mystery Mountain match (SMM3G) marks the start of the competition season, and in March shooters from all over the USA flock to Phoenix for a little desert sunshine. In a controversial decision, last year the organizers introduced a new equipment category to an already crowded field. The oddly named Stealth division gave competitors a fair degree of leeway when it comes to setting up their gear — so long as the guns fit certain dimensions. In doing so, they sought to introduce a little creativity to a sport in which using your everyday carry G19 with RMR ordinarily landed you in Open division, but using a shotgun that could double as a lance or fishing pole was A-OK. Rifles could now have multiple optics, shotguns could be outfitted with red-dot sights, but were capped at a 23.5-inch mag tube, and race holsters were prohibited.

According to Richard Bhella, one of the minds behind the new rules, “Stealth division rules are written around the kinds of weapons found in the hands of our warfighters and in the racks of our nation’s patrol cars. An M4 carbine with ACOG/RMR combo, a short semi-auto shotgun, and a service-size handgun should be capable of winning the division if the shooter does his part.” By restri8cting the overall sizes of the guns involved, the temptation to use a firearm in competition that would otherwise be impractical anywhere else is avoided, but there’s still enough wiggle room to get creative. Currently, the most popular division in the sport of three-gun is Tac Scope, but in recent years there’s been a drift toward ludicrously long shotgun mag tubes and very expensive variable power scopes in order to gain a competitive advantage. Said Bhella, “Rather than monkey with what is otherwise a very successful and popular division, we decided to create a completely new division that’s readily accessible to existing three-gunners with little or no equipment changes, and at the same time allows folks with more serious applications to be competitive with the equipment they carry into harm’s way.”

1911-three-gun glock-three-gun

Of the three guns in play, the pistol seemed to offer the most room for innovation. So long as it fit inside a box measuring 225mm by 175mm by 50mm, the world was your oyster, leaving room for a red-dot, compensator, and extended mags, though perhaps not all at once. On close-in, hoser stages a red-dot can be slower than good old irons, and adding one to a slide eats up room on the top end that could be used for more mag capacity on the bottom. On the other hand, if the match directors decided to include a lot of long-range shots on difficult targets, then sacrificing a few rounds in a mag would be a great tradeoff for increased first-round hit probability. Due to the “Mystery” portion of the SMM3G moniker, stage descriptions wouldn’t be published ahead of time, so the prospective competitor was forced to make their equipment choice at the match, and once made, there was no going back. Decisions, decisions …

The maxim of “when in doubt, get both,” seemed to apply here, so after signing up for a squad, (full disclosure: KE Arms offered us one of their spare sponsor slots) we decided to build two guns to cover all the bases, rather than the sensibly boring and practical option of simply picking one and training with it. Besides, who doesn’t like setting up gear?

KE Glock
The first build was a pretty straightforward affair, although using some of the best aftermarket components available. A Gen 2 Glock 17 lurking unmolested at the back of the safe was dragged into the sunlight and treated to an Apex trigger, as well as TTI disconnector and springs. The stock upper components were removed and in their place a KE Arms Echo skeletonized slide added, along with a Lone Wolf barrel. This combination of parts results in a pleasing, 3.5-pound trigger pull with short, tactile reset, so while leaving all of the factory safeties intact. It’s also about as light as you want to go, unless you’re OK with sacrificing a little reliability.

As this was to be the hoser pistol, the G34-length slide’s RMR cut was left empty of a red-dot and capped with a filler plate, though a gaping KE Arms mag funnel was added to speed up reloads, which hopefully were going to be few and far between due to the TTI mag extensions providing an extra 5 rounds over stock.

shotgun-three-gun

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