Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

From No Guns to Rocky Mountain 3-Gun and 3GU

Denise Johnson is no stranger to AG & AG 3-gunners. For the past two years, she has been the Match Director of AG & AG’s 3-Gun UniversityTM and she and her husband, JJ, run the Rocky Mountain 3-Gun matches. Denise tells us all about how she transitioned from competitor to RO to match director, and what that has been like for her.

Nancy Keaton: Tell us about your background. How long have you been shooting/involved with firearms? How did you get involved?
Denise Johnson: I was born into an anti-gun family. I couldn’t even have a squirt gun when I was young. Then in the mid ’90s a boyfriend took me to the range, and I ended up shooting USPSA pistol. It was exciting and fun. Then in 2003 a friend took me to a 3-gun match. I borrowed long guns and 3-gun is so dynamic. I was addicted.

NK: Tell us about Rocky Mountain 3-Gun. When did you start with it, and how did you move into being Match Director?
DJ: The year I started 3-gun was 2003. The guys running the local match were starting Rocky Mountain 3-Gun. They had run the last couple SOF (Soldier of Fortune) matches. One of them was in my math class when he was back in Junior High. Finding out his teacher was a shooter was a bit shocking – but that’s another story. Anyway, the kid asked my friend and I to help RO. We did. And so I started with Rocky Mountain 3-Gun. I think I was so lucky. I have always shot rifle out to 400 yards. I have always run long distances, run around rocks, shot from awkward positions, some quite painful. That’s 3-Gun to me and I think it’s the coolest kind.

Anyway, in 2006, the group that started it had divided. The one guy left had some personal problems and was an absentee match director in 2006. My husband (I married JJ at USPSA Multigun Nationals in 2005.) had also RO’d the first Rocky Mountain. In fact, we RO’d together in 2004, and were in LOVE in 2005 were overbooked and weren’t going to work in 2006, but he needed us, so we did our best.

There was concern it could die out, and we didn’t want to see that happen. So we asked to take it over in 2007. The Natural Terrain nature of the match…the dynamic nature…anyway, I stepped in as match director and the rest is history!

NK: How many women usually participate?
DJ: As the years have passed, women attendance has gone up. I think there were five of us in 2003. Last year, we had over 25. Still a small number but climbing. It’s a big match in the middle of nowhere. Most women travel with family.

NK: What has been the most fun for you as match director?
DJ: Seeing how much fun people have. When someone says they wouldn’t miss our match, it’s the best part. I love designing stages and figuring out ways to get turn-around time down.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?
DJ: Sponsors. I hate begging for sponsors, but as we’ve learned from Johnson 3-Gun (a mid-size match we threw for 3 years from 2007-2009). Matches without a real prize table do not fill up! We are lucky to have a big core of amazing sponsors and of course our match sponsor JP Enterprises that have sponsored us from the very beginning. But, I just hate working people and begging for stuff!

NK: Any big surprises? Things you really didn’t expect?
DJ: I guess just how much I like it. It’s just an organizational thing, and I really enjoy having people have fun. I also like seeing other matches copy our dump barrels, or certain rules that I think are a step forward! I also am surprised that some people think just because I run Rocky Mountain and a couple other big matches that I can just step in and fix things at matches I am just shooting!

NK: What (if any) mistakes have you made running Rocky Mountain 3-Gun and what did you learn from them?
DJ: So many…Don’t put low targets near mud puddles, they turn into brown muddy things that no one can see. Don’t use low quality pick-up guns, they can slam fire and scare everyone. Always be cognizant of reset time and flow of the stages so there is less waiting. People do not like to stand around. Always recheck scores and data entry – everyone makes mistakes. (We’ve had more than a few and we now recheck and double-check!) Take the time for a thorough stage briefing. Don’t ASSUME people know which are no-shoots, certain penalties, etc. Short briefings lead to misunderstandings. Be careful about how many sponsor slots you give out! (I often give out too many – so I haven’t learned much!) Staff are volunteers. They do their best so be supportive and sometimes you just find something for people to do that may not be what you really need.

NK: What accomplishment has made you the most proud?
DJ: Bringing Rocky Mountain back from a horrible year in 2006 to a World shoot every year. We have nine countries this year. It’s so cool having a World reputation.

NK: What would you like to see in the future, for yourself and for the Rocky Mountain 3-Gun?
DJ: For me, a bit more time to relax and practice. For Rocky Mountain, continued success and even more sponsors asking to sponsor instead of me looking for them.

NK: What should someone do to prepare if they wanted to participate in Rocky Mountain 3-Gun?
DJ: Honestly, run a lot – with weight. Be sure you can navigate on rocks. Try jogging at high altitude. Make sure you know your dope on your rifle out to 400 plus. Bring water and sunscreen and bug spray. Have good bags to keep your guns out of rain and wind and dust. Be prepared to shoot a LOT longer than you are used to at berm matches and don’t beat yourself up when your times are slow. Winning stage times are rarely under a minute. (That’s just Daniel Horner and Jerry Miculek – once in a while.)

NK: Any advice for other women who may want to be match director of a competition some day?
DJ: Go for it! It’s multi-tasking at its best (and worst) so it’s right up women’s alleys. I have never felt any prejudice about me being a women, except everyone assumes JJ designs all the stages and that I just do paperwork. You just need to be prepared to accept some silliness like that!

NK: Any other thoughts you would like to share?
DJ: Always remember ladies, there is no best “ladies rifle” etc. We are all different and different things work for different people — ladies included!

2 Responses

  1. Denise is great! I feel so honored to have met her at 3GU 2015 at Whittington NRA Center. She is a tireless supporter of shooting sport and 3G matches. I’m sure that every one going to 3GU this May will be glad that they did!

  2. How do I find out the details of the 3-Gun University training competition May 26-29, 2016. Where, what time you have to be there, times, what you need to bring, cost…..etc. Thank you, Lyla

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