Crimson Trace’s Midnight 3 Gun Invitational: Enlightened in the Dark

   08.20.13

How does a company prove that they have absolute faith in their products?

If you’re Crimson Trace, and your products were designed to help our warfighters, peace officers, and armed citizens protect themselves more effectively, you might…

  • Invite a bunch of folks to the middle of the desert.
  • Tell them to be sure to arrive in the middle of the night.
  • Encourage them to bring not one gun, but three. And plenty of ammunition.
  • Ask them to use your light and laser products.
  • Then, after all that, have them run around and shoot stuff as fast as they possibly can.

In today’s risk-averse society, that sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it? Somehow I can’t see the gutless leadership teams of Fortune 500 companies having that much faith in the capabilities of their products–and their customers. But that’s what I love about the shooting industry. Not just the sense of absolute faith and pride in the products, but the inherent trust that individuals involved will assume personal responsibility for safety and fun–in that order. Hats off to Crimson Trace for putting their money where their mouth is!

For the second year in a row, Crimson Trace invited members of the media and some of the best 3-gun shooters to participate in the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational. Set at the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association in the high desert about 30 miles outside of Bend, Oregon, this match is a back to the basics affair. Electricity? Nope. Running water? Nope. Absolute darkness? Yep.

Don't see much do you? That's exactly the point! Lights and lasers ruled here.
Don’t see much, do you? That’s exactly the point! Lights and lasers ruled here.

The event ran from Wednesday, August 14 through Sunday, August 19. Media and Range Officers shot the match Wednesday and Thursday nights while the big guns shot for big money (a $10,000 first prize if you’re using Crimson Trace products on all three guns) on Friday and Saturday.

I’m not a competitive shooter, but I am a student of shooting and can handle a gun safely and competently. I’ve used lasers and lights for years. I shot the “children’s match” on Wednesday and Thursday nights. And I learned a lot. Some lessons were shocking epiphanies, and some were reinforcements of concepts I already kind of understood. Until you shoot on the move, in the pitch-dark, in a competitive environment, and under a little bit of pressure, you don’t really appreciate abstract intellectual concepts that you’ve only read about or watched on YouTube.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

When you’re moving, and having to both acquire and hit targets, in the dark, lasers are fast. My match pistol was a Glock 17 Gen 4 with a Crimson Trace Lasergrip and Crimson Trace Lightguard. Both light and laser activate when you grip the gun. While I could easily see the night sights on my Glock, I found that I instantly and subconsciously defaulted to using the laser for aim. Here’s why. At the match, I had to move and LOOK for targets in the dark, so my eyes and feeble brain had two distinct tasks: find the target and then line up sights in order to engage the target. With the laser, when I found the target, I was already lined up to shoot as the laser was on it. I didn’t have to move my focus away from the target and back to my sights. I didn’t think about this process. It just happened, hence the increased speed of engagement.

A rifle makes one heck of a home defense weapon. I used a Crimson Trace MVF-515 mounted on my Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC AR-15. The MVF-515 is a vertical foregrip with both a green laser and a 200-lumen tactical light. That’s bright enough to illuminate 73 percent of the skeletons in Hillary Clinton’s closet. I found this to be a shockingly useful setup for night shooting. Why? A couple of reasons. The rifle is more stable than a pistol so the laser is fairly steady as you move. There’s very little erratic dancing of the laser dot on target. The combination of light and laser allowed the light to provide target confirmation while the laser provided point of aim. The combination couldn’t have been more intuitive. The standard capacity of an AR-style rifle is 30 rounds, so even the most unusual of scenarios are addressable with the standard magazine. One stage of the match involved wandering rooms of a shoot house and finding and engaging 10 different targets with multiple rounds each. No magazine changes required! And yes, that was incredibly fun! The confidence I had with a laser-equipped rifle was incredible. I had no concerns about hitting small targets, while on the move and doing it fast.

This 30 second run, captured in a single frame, shows how much movement was required... in the dark! Headlamps were most helpful to avoid tumbles.
This 30-second run, captured in a single frame, shows how much movement was required…in the dark! Headlamps were most helpful to avoid tumbles.

You have to learn how to count. OK, so at a couple of stages, I got so caught up in the excitement of blowing things up in the dark that I forgot to engage a target or two. Yes, in a match, you can walk through the stage in advance and set up a plan to count targets as you engage them, thereby making sure you complete the stage and avoid time penalties. Obviously this isn’t the case in real life, but there is a learning concept nonetheless. Don’t ever assume you’re finished. Keep looking for threats. There may be more than you thought!

Lasers and iron or optics are complementary. This falls into the category of something I knew, but my understanding was taken to a new level as a result of the match. As the green laser is highly visible in daylight conditions, I set up the zero for the laser to coincide with point of impact at less than 25 yards. My Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5x optic maintains point of aim/point of impact consistency from maybe 50 to 250 yards, give or take a couple of inches. At short ranges, I need to remember to aim a couple of inches higher than I want to impact as the optic is about 2-1/4 inches above the bore. So with the combination of optic and laser I was able to instantly address targets at any range without worrying about holdovers and shifts in point of impact. I found throughout the match that I subconsciously engaged near targets with the laser and far targets with the optic. Hey, if you can have the best of both worlds, why not?

I’m thrilled and thankful to have had the opportunity to participate. The things I’ve learned from this event were astounding. Perhaps the idea will catch on and local clubs will host more nighttime events.

Oh by the way, in addition to sponsoring the world’s greatest learning experience, apparently there was a big competition amongst the world’s best 3-gun competitors. Daniel Horner of the Army Marksmanship Unit took overall top honors, besting the nearest time by 11 percent. That’s fast! Top Lady went to Lena Miculek. This was quite a feat considering I saw Lena lose her entire shotgun light mount mid-stage. Quickly hurrying back to retrieve the light, she held it loosely against the shotgun forend and finished the stage. Nice recovery Mav! Top Junior honors went to Wyatt Gibson of Team Colt. Congrats all!

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