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Getting Started in 3 Gun Part 2: Scoring

By 27 August 2009 No Comment

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Part 2:

Scoring Systems:

Part 1 | Part 3

The active 3-Gun competitor has to contend with several different scoring systems. Three-gun matches are put on by a wide variety of groups. There are organizations such as USPSA and IPSC who put on matches. Industry groups such as LaRue, FNH-USA, and DPMS put on matches. Dedicated individuals put on such matches as Rocky Mountain 3 Gun and Blue Ridge 3 Gun. Even the U.S Army hosts a major 3 gun match at Ft. Benning.

There is no single governing body for 3-Gun competition. Each match has its own set of rules and scoring system. This can be confusing for new and experienced 3-Gun competitors alike. The competitor must understand the equipment rules and the scoring system of each match that he or she will be attending.

Scoring systems tend to fall into 3 different categories: Comstock (USPSA), Horner scoring (Ft. Benning and Blue Ridge), and International Multi Gun Association (most of the others).

Scoring systems attempt to balance speed and accuracy but each system falls somewhere along a continuum. In our experience, the Horner system tends to favor accuracy while International Multi Gun favors speed. Comstock scoring falls somewhere in the middle.

Horner Scoring:

The Horner scoring system was devised by Andrew Horner. It falls along the lines of IDPA or Vickers scoring. Scores are determined on a time plus penalties system. Stages are worth a certain number of points based on the number of guns used during a stage. A stage involving 3 guns is worth 150 points, 2 guns 125 points and 1 gun 100 points, regardless of the number of targets.

Multiple-gun stages are worth more points due to the complexity of the stage. The competitor’s stage score is determined by the time it takes to complete the stage plus any penalties incurred along the way.

Typically, “A” or “B” zone hits incur no penalties, “C” zone hits add .5 seconds and “D” zone hits add 1.5 seconds. Steel targets must fall or be activated to score. A paper target with only 1 non A or B hit adds 5 seconds if the target is under 100 yards or 10 seconds if the target over 100 yards away. Targets over 100 yards with no hits incur a 20 second penalty. Failure to hit frangible or reactive targets such as steel or clay targets incur 10 seconds if the target is inside 100 and 20 seconds if over 100.

The Horner system specifically rewards targets at greater distances. The shooter with the fastest time takes all the available points and the other competitors scores are calculated as a percentage of the winning time. No power factor is involved in Horner scoring, however your ammo better be able to knock over any steel targets.

Comstock Scoring:

Comstock scoring is the traditional USPSA/IPSC scoring system. Each competitor’s score is determined by a hit factor calculated as the number of points earned on the targets, divided by the time it took to earn those points.

Each stage is worth the number of “A” hits available. Paper targets require 2 hits, steel must be knocked down or activated. A stage consisting of 5 paper targets (10 hits) is worth 50 points, a 10 paper target (20 hits) course is worth 100 points, etc. The shooter with the highest hit factor will receive all the available points on that stage.

Comstock scoring recognizes power factors, Major and Minor. With a Major power factor firearm, “A”s are worth 5 points, “B”s and “C”s are worth 4 and “D”s worth 2. With a Minor power factor firearm, “A”s are still 5 points but “B”s and “C”s are worth 3 and “D”s only 1. A Miss costs 10 points.

Clearly, Major power factor guns have an advantage, particularly handguns but as yet minor power factor rifles (such as .223) rule the roost. This is largely the result of the use of reactive steel targets instead of paper targets at the mid to long range targets.

Comstock is the most complicated Multi Gun scoring system and requires a real analysis of each stage’s hit factor. Higher hit factor stages tend to favor a speedy approach whereas low hit factor stages tend to favor a more accuracy oriented approach. Note that most multigun stages have low hit factors.

International Multi Gun:

International Multi Gun scoring is based upon a theory of target neutralization. Another variation of the time plus penalty system. Each stage is worth 100 points regardless of the number of targets presented to the shooter on the stage. The shooter’s score is based on the time it takes to complete the stage plus any penalties incurred on the way.

Target neutralization requires one “A” hit or 2 hits anywhere on paper targets. For example; one “A” hit or two “D” hits will neutralize a target. A paper target with one non A hit will result in a 5 second penalty. Reactive targets such a steel flashers and clay pigeons add 10 seconds for failure to break or activate. No power factor is recognized, however steel targets must fall or be sufficiently activated.

Scoring System Strategy:

These scoring systems can have a significantly different impact on match strategy. Let’s say, for example, that a shooter engages one paper target with an AR15 and earns two “D” hits. Using International Multi Gun rules, the target is deemed neutralized and no penalties are added.

Under Comstock scoring with a Minor power factor, the shooter would only have earned 2 points, 1 for each “D”, out of the possible 10 points. Each of the 2 “A”s available are worth 5 points. The 2 “D” hits earned the shooter only 20 % of the available points on the target.

Under the Horner system, each “D” hit adds 1.5 seconds, adding a full 3 seconds to the shooter’s time. That’s 3 seconds for just this one target!

Clearly International Multi Gun scoring favors speed, while Comstock can be more balanced as long as you shoot for “A”s and “C”s, while the Horner scoring favors accuracy as each “C” is worth .5 seconds and “D”s fully 1.5 seconds.

Another example is a typical 200 yard rifle target such as an MGM swinger. A miss under Comstock would cost the shooter 15 points lowering the hit factor. A miss under International Multigun scoring would add a 10 second penalty to the overall time. Under the Horner system, a 20 second penalty would be added. You had better be prepared for targets at greater than 100 yards under the Horner system! 


The crux of the difference in scoring systems is that the shooter must prepare to deal with the different strategies that will benefit the shooter the most based on the scoring system that he or she is shooting under.

When shooting under International Multi Gun scoring, the shooter must focus more on speed as getting hits on the target anywhere quickly is what is required. Under Comstock scoring the shooter must learn to play the hit factors that each stage presents. Under the Horner system, the shooter must focus on shooting “points”, not incurring time based penalties. Shooting “D”s at 1.5 second per can really rack up the overall time for a stage.

In Part 3 Kelly gives advise on training and what to focus on to improve your 3-Gun shooting.

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