While plinking at the range is fun, few things can compare to competitive shooting, and the big game in town these days is 3-gun competition. These matches involve the high-speed use of a pistol, rifle and shotgun at point-blank ranges out to 300 yards (and sometimes beyond), at cardboard silhouettes, reactive steel targets or both.
Up until a few years ago, it was almost impossible to find a rifle specifically made for practical shooting competition by a major manufacturer. Things have changed.
The folks at DPMS are no strangers to competitive shooting and have held more than their share of 3-gun matches. So it seems only natural that they would be the first mainstream rifle company to introduce a rifle purpose-built for 3-gun competition: the DPMS Panther 3G1.
DPMS started with the same button-rifled 18-inch stainless steel heavy barrel its uses on its DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) models. Eighteen inches has been found to be short enough to maneuver quickly through courses of fire but long enough that the bullets still retain the velocity needed to knock down heavy steel at 300 yards.
This barrel has a 1:8 twist, which means it can handle anything from varmint loads to the heavy bullets favored by a lot of competitors. The barrel has a full-length gas system, which makes it very soft shooting.
At the muzzle, the 3G1 sports a Miculek Compensator, designed by famed shooter Jerry Miculek. While he is better known for his skills with a wheelgun, Miculek is a successful 3-gun competitor as well.
The barrel is coated with black Teflon and is free-floated inside a VTAC (Viking Tactics) handguard. I liked the VTAC, as it is slender (two-inch outside diameter) and doesn’t add a lot of weight (151⁄2 ounces).
The 3G1 doesn’t come with sights, but the gas block has a rail, so bolting on your choice of iron sights isn’t a problem. The VTAC handguard comes with two pre-installed QD sling swivel mounts, so you can use a sling and mount a bipod if so desired.
Inside the lower receiver sits a JP adjustable trigger, which was a pleasant surprise. The single-stage trigger was set at a crisp four pounds, which is heavier than I’ve seen on some competition rifles but still much better than the average factory trigger. It will probably lighten up with use as the bearing surfaces smooth out.
The pistol grip on the rifle is an Ergo Sure Grip, which is made from a slightly tacky rubber, and the selector switch is ambidextrous. The charging handle has DPMS’s oversize Tac Latch for positive manipulation under stress.
The 3G1 comes with a Magpul CTR collapsible stock with a rubber buttpad. The CTR looks simple, but like most Magpul products it’s well-designed and very tough, which is what you want on a competition gun.
A review of the 3G1 wouldn’t be complete without shooting it at some 3-gun matches, and for that I equipped it with Nikon’s new 1-4X M-223 scope, designed specifically for use on AR-15-type rifles and budget priced. It features a duplex reticle with a tiny dot at the center of the crosshairs, has a one-inch tube and flip-off scope covers. I also used Nikon’s M-223 ring/base mount, which places these scopes at the right height on flattop ARs.
The 3G1 is heavier and longer than M4-type rifles and will really come into its own shooting at speed at longer distances. The extra weight of the rifle keeps it steadier while shooting, and the longer barrel will give you the few extra fps you’ll need if you attend a match with falling steel targets out past 200 yards. Off the bench, the 3G1 was capable of sub-m.o.a. groups with the right ammo.
I’ve shot a lot of 3-gun matches, and while I wouldn’t have chosen all of the exact accessories on the 3G1 if I had built it for myself, I can’t deny it’s a heck of a package for a suggested retail of $1,499–and even more impressive when you consider that buying the VTAC handguard, CTR stock, JP trigger and Ergo grip separately would cost a minimum of $430.
Even if you have no plans to shoot a 3-gun match, the 3G1 proved itself a great all-around rifle: accurate enough for distance shooting while still being quick-handling enough for close targets. The rifle performed flawlessly, and I doubt you’ll find a rifle with the combination of features that the 3G1 offers for anywhere close to the same price.