The human mind is a complex piece of equipment but it has limitations, at least my mind has limitations. I was on the second stage of M3GI, the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational, and along with 144 other participants, I was probing the darkness in the high desert outside Bend, Oregon in search of success. Stage 2 was a fairly simple one that began with four shots at plates 200 yards away, with a thermal sight-equipped AR-15. From the rifle, there was a run to a shotgun in a drop box and eight clays on pegs, then another short run to eight plates of different sizes and finally on to a conventional plate machine with the FLIR Systems logo and letters as the targets. After the clays, I had the option to shoot either pistol or shotgun.

During the walk-through, I agreed with Jorge, my Range Officer, that shooting the shotgun at the random metal plates was a good idea. Some of the plates were quite small and the additional time of reloading the gun would be made up in speed, since blasting them with my Mossberg JM Pro would be faster than aiming and shooting my XD(M) pistol. There would be a time penalty in having to reload the shotgun but we figured the shooting time saved would offset the loading time.

I shot the rifle and gained nine seconds in bonus points with my three hits. Running to the shotgun, I tried to remember the configuration of the clay targets on both sides of the shooting lane. I thought I had it down, but as I shouldered the shotgun, it was as if my memory of where the targets were was wiped clean. The well-planned-out sequence evaporated into the darkness. Such are the problems of those who shoot 3-gun competitions in darkness.

As important as scores are in a $10,000 3-gun competition, scores and even dollars are insignificant when compared to the value of your life, and the objective of Crimson Trace has been helping citizens, law enforcement, and military be more effective at saving their lives since Lew Danielson came up with the idea of mounting lasers on guns and started the company. My daily carry gun has sported a laser since the first day I got it, but after this experience, I have a whole new respect for lights and lasers. While I didn’t complete all the stages, I certainly spent enough time to recognize the difficulty of shooting without the aid of light or enhanced sighting capability.

Crimson Trace came up with the idea of an in-the-dark 3-gun match last year. The idea was to bring media and competitive shooters together to see the benefits of light and laser products under conditions that replicate dark and stressful situations. This year’s event was much larger than last year, with many more sponsors and a staff with more experience at running a night time shooting event.

Crimson Trace doesn’t make products specifically for competitive shooters, but competitive shooting is a great way to simulate stress. Obviously, a competitive event doesn’t generate as much stress as a real life-or-death situation, but there is stress involved. When issues of reduced light and stress are combined, the likely result is impaired shooting performance. The ability to see the target clearly and where the gun is pointed are tremendous advantages under such situations and lights and lasers provide that advantage.

Of the nine stages of the M3GI, almost every possible low-light situation was covered. There were thermal image shots provided by FLIR at ranges of as much as 200 yards away and a night vision shoot house scenario. There were stages that required serious accuracy and some that were more speed-oriented. Some were thrown in to make the event more fun to shoot, like shooting two close-range targets with a full-auto FN SCAR and dusting a car with a 40mm grenade launcher. In broad daylight most of the stages would have been quite simple, but the lack of light created a whole series of challenges you simply can’t imagine without experiencing them. Any malfunction became a totally different situation in darkness. Negotiating the stage required concentration normally reserved for updating the strategy of shooting the stage and locating the next targets to engage required a much higher level of orientation than in daylight.

The winner of this year’s Crimson Trace M3GI was Daniel Horner, who walked away with a hefty check for $10,000, but no one went home empty-handed. The prize table was loaded with great products from an elite list of sponsors and Colt Competition Rifles donated two CRP-18s as door prizes. The Crimson Trace staff, the sponsors, the cadre of Range Officers, and Mount Bachelor Conference Center made the second annual M3GI a fun and pleasant experience in spite of dust and darkness.

Image courtesy Crimson Trace

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