I'm a person that needs a challenge or reason to do things. This especially happens when I get motivated to improve my health. I was a minor athlete in my younger years playing team sports like Football, Baseball, and Lacrosse. As I got older and wanted to get into shape and improve my health after the disaster that college and starting my tech career did to me. A friend suggested we do a triathlon. I had never done one and didn't know what I was getting but needing a goal to motivate me I decided to register for a triathlon out on Catalina Island.
So I got a bike and a wet suit then trained as best I could for about six months. I had never done an individual sport where I was against the clock and myself. It was tough, I sucked, but I learned a lot about myself and then I was hooked.
Fast forward to today. For the last three years, I've been hooked on a new sport called a Run N Gun. I like guns and shooting so it sounds fun, but what is it? Instead of a Triathlon where you swim, bike, and run it's more like a biathlon that tests your physical fitness and endurance with a trail run and shooting skills of speed and accuracy with a pistol and rifle. You're under stress and the clock, testing your skills, physical and mental capabilities, and your gear.
So, like the first Triathlon, I didn't have a clue what I was getting myself into. I had a pistol, a rifle, and some gear but needed to get myself back into shape after years of well, life. This was the excuse I needed so I signed up for my first OED event which took place in the hills of Bandera Texas.
The month leading up to the event I was wondering how this thing was going to work. The events were, and still are, so new that there aren't many resources as to what to expect. Well, I just dove feet-first into it and learned quickly. There are Run N Guns happening in about 13 states this year. They are all different as there is not one governing body or set of rules but here are the general details on the Run N Gun format.
Let's start with the "Run" in a Run N Gun. First, events can be a one-day or multi-day event. The running course can vary in distance. Some can be 3-5 miles or longer 7-10 miles. The courses typically are unknown and they are trail runs. You can have some annual events that use the same course so the distance and obstacles or terrain can be known. Terrain can be hills or flats rocks or brush and very varied. Some courses might have obstacles like parts you have to climb or crawl through. To be competitive you can run for time which will help your score, the faster you do it the better your time. Many people don't run, but will ruck, hike, or walk the course instead. So, if you were feeling hesitant don't let it hold you back. It's something most people can do and should do, and you can push yourself as far as you want to go.
The fun part is of course the "Gun" and it can vary by the event. You will have 4-5 shooting stages on a shorter trail or 7-10 shooting stages on a longer trail. You won't know the course of fire until you get to the stage. You will usually get a couple of minutes to take it in, maybe catch your breath, and read the instructions. Then when you're ready you step up and do your best to remember the course of fire. Range Officers will be there to help guide you and make sure you're safe. After all the running, comprehending the course of fire will add stress and pressure, so that will need to be dealt with. The running is most of the physical part of the event but it's not the only part you will be testing your fitness. The shooting stages can have a lot of movement and aren't like being at your basic range. The course of fire will utilize the terrain, obstacles, ranging, and finding the targets.
You might think that all this sounds pretty intense. Well, it is. But it's as intense as you want to make it. At my first event, I expected to see just former and current military members participating. I was pleasantly surprised to see that only maybe 25% had an LEO or military background and the other 75% were some sort of civilian in varying degrees of physical shape, like me. Everyone was there to test themselves and their capabilities. Some would be running, others walking, or hiking. Some were competitive shooters with a bunch of experience and even more were new to this type of thing like me. While it's a competition with other competitors and scoring, you are ultimately competing against yourself.
So, what do you need to participate in a Run N Gun? My recommendation is to run what you got. At a minimum, you will need a rifle with a sling typically in 223 or 5.56, but I've seen 300 BLK, 7.62x39, and even 6 ARC. Everyone will run an optic like 2-10x scope or 1-6x Low Powered Variable Optic (LPVO) and some devils even use ACOGs.
You will need a pistol usually in 9MM but some shoot .40 or 45 ACP. For the pistol, you will need a holster with retention and a belt to put the holster on. You're going to need ammo for both guns so this means a load out of multiple magazines for both rifle and pistol. How much ammo you bring will be up to the event and your confidence in your shooting capabilities. You will probably want to stay hydrated, so 16 oz of water at a minimum or even something like 3 liters in a Camelbak if it's a trek. There is typically no reloading of ammo or refueling food and water on the course. What you bring on the course is what you have.
After these must-haves, this is where things start to become personal preferences on how you carry all that ammo, food, and water. Some folks will put it on their belt or a chest rig or plate carrier. I've seen a lot of folks use a backpack or a mix of all these methods. It really comes down to what works for you. I think that you should run what you have or how you might typically go within a SHTF or armed response protection situation.
My first event was a real punch in the gut. I had equipment malfunctions and I learned my fitness level was not great (more posts to come on these). And that was not counting how horrible my marksmanship was! But after my first event, I was hooked! This brings me to why I think everyone should do a Run N Gun. These events are a real test of your gear, your fitness level, your shooting skills, and a test of yourself in stressful and challenging situations.
The events are competition and so there is scoring involved, rankings, and prizes. Most events have sponsors with whom a lot of these wouldn't be possible. The scoring can vary based on who is putting on an event but in its simplest form, it's weighted based on a percentage of the time for both your overall run and stage shooting. Added all up and the person with the quickest shoot time and run time wins. Prizes from sponsors will vary but can be pretty cool like gift certificates, ammo, silencers, scopes, and even guns! AmmoSquared was even a sponsor for the Old Eighteen Defense 2023 season.
Let's be real here, while we like to punch holes in paper at a range the majority of people buy guns for protection, self-defense, or SHTF situations. Two Blue Screws, who blogs about his Run N Gun experience, puts it best when explaining his goal for participating.
"Increase my real world survivability and increase my potential to protect others."
This is the best way I've found to increase your survivability and potential to protect others in an intense and safe way without anyone shooting back at you. It's also a load of fun and you will meet some great like-minded people who are there to do the same and you never know... you might leave with a cool prize.
Where are these
Are you sold on participating yet? My state of Texas pioneered these events back in 2001 with the Pecos Run N Gun, and recently these events have started to explode in popularity. In Texas and some other southern states, these events typically take place on private land and ranches. I've seen smaller 300-acre to vast 5,000-acre ranches host events. In the Mid-Atlantic states and the North, I've seen events hosted good size gun ranges. It's still a relatively new concept and not available in every state yet so you may need to travel. I have two resources for finding an event near you:
There are so many details I skipped over. I'm looking forward to breaking down and highlighting specific things I've experienced or learned in future articles. Please post a comment or question and if I can help I will. If you have a favorite Run N Gun event I need to put it on my list, so please share it. Hopefully this was enough to get you curious so I see you out there at an event!