The first thing you need to consider when buying a range bag is how much stuff you plan to carry. Are you carrying two pistols or five? You don’t want a bag that’s stuffed to the brim where you can’t fit that one last thing and end up carrying two bags to the range. You also don’t want one that’s too big where everything is sloshing around inside.
The best range bags are the ones that have a pocket or section for every item that you need to carry, no matter how large or small. This is important so that you don’t have to constantly search for items you need. Plus, the bag should be sturdy enough to carry the weight. It’s better to get a bag that’s well-made from a heavy-duty fabric so that it lasts a long time and is durable enough to go where you need it to go.
Types of Range Bags
Range bags come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors and styles. Some bags are made out of coated polyester, making them water resistant, some bags are nylon and others are made of canvas, leather or a combination of the two. Then there are plastic and metal boxes. I personally think that the canvas or leather bag varieties are better made and stronger than the nylon or polyester versions. Although the polyester versions are great when you need something waterproof. The plastic box style can also be waterproof, but the inflexibility makes them unappealing.
That’s material, and after you decide on that, you then have to think about build style. Range bags come in box style, duffle style or backpack style. Some of the nylon bags even have hard plastic cases attached to them. If you get something like the plastic or metal box or something with hard plastic casings, you’ll need to make sure there are padded pockets inside them to protect sensitive equipment. You need a bag that is not only convenient for when you are hunting, on the range, traveling or even just storing your shooting equipment, but you also need to think about protecting that gear.
Advantages of a Proper Range Bag Over a Sports Duffel
With a sports style duffel bag, you simply toss everything into the bag every which way and have no idea where it all ends up. You then have to search for the items you need before you can use them. With a range bag, there are individually zippered pockets and velcro sections for all items that you are carrying, so you will know right where everything is at all times. The pockets are padded to protect those delicate instruments, so there are few opportunities for the instruments to knock against each other, getting dinged or scratched while being carried around. Not only that but many times the pockets have elastic bands incorporated inside to hold small items in place. There should be no sounds of metal clinking on metal inside that bag when it is fully packed. In an ordinary duffel bag that is not the case as nothing is contained separate from the rest of the items.
What About a Tackle Box? It Has Sections
Could the best range bag not be a range bag at all? Next time you’re in Bass Pro or some similar outfitters you could check the fishing section for a good alternative … and they’re often cheaper than bags marketed as “range bags.” I’ll be reviewing some of these options later. Make sure to bookmark this page or sign up for the email list so you don’t miss it.
Reviews of the 4 Best Range Bags
Allen Company Master Tactical Range Bag
This black vinyl multi-pocketed bag is perfect for just about anything you need it for. The Allen Master Tactical has a large main compartment with smaller compartments within to keep the larger components separate. The bag has an external water bottle pocket to keep you hydrated while at the range. It also has a special loop for carrying a flashlight with you for any and all emergencies and each pocket has two zippers that meet in the middle, which makes locking the pockets easy. This bag has two side pockets and two end pockets, one with an id tag holder and the other with the flashlight loop. Plus, the bag has two removable bags and a removable shoulder strap to adjust the bag to your specific needs.
Bulldog X-Large Deluxe Black Range Bag with Pistol Rug
This strong, all-weather bag is made from durable, water-resistant nylon and has one very large main compartment with three hidden pockets inside and three pockets on the outside of the bag as well. The Bulldog X-Large Deluxe features an adjustable and removable shoulder strap, double zippers on all pockets and plenty of padding to protect your delicate shooting equipment. This item is made in China but only ships within the United States. The Bulldog range bag has a plastic sheet that stabilizes the bottom of the bag though the bag is highly stable even when empty and doesn’t collapse easily. This bag easily fits, at least, three full sized pistols including the ammunition and features a nice removable pistol rug.
BlackHawk Pistol SPORTSTER Range Bag
Of all of the range bags I’ve seen, this is the one that most closely resembles a very high-quality duffle bag. The BlackHawk Sportster bag is made from polyester with wraparound handles which add durability to the bag and has two exterior flat slash pockets that are perfect for storing magazines and anything else you need for a day at the range. Made in Vietnam, this bag easily stores 2 pistols, 2 or 3 sets of eye and ear protection and several hundred rounds of ammo for each pistol. This bag doesn’t have corner protectors or foot pads so it can’t be dragged around on pavement as it would probably tear, but the convenient shoulder strap and hand straps make that irrelevant.
Uncle Mike’s Law Enforcement Side-Armor Deluxe Range Bag
This water-resistant polyester bag with polyurethane waterproofing, has lockable zippers, foam padded walls, including a padded pistol rug and a pistol pouch. The shoulder strap is also padded and removable, and the bag has a double zippered flap covering the main compartment. Uncle Mike’s Side-Armor Deluxe bag features two side pockets with lockable zippers and a removable handgun pouch and is capable of carrying 2 to 4 handguns at the same time. It also fits cleaning gear, ear and eye protection, ammo and just about anything else the shooter could need. This bag is very easy to clean if it gets dirty, thanks to the waterproofing, which helps keep mud or dust from sinking into the fabric.
What To Carry In Your Range Bag
Now that you’ve selected a bag, what are you going to put in it?
Your guns and plenty of ammo is obvious, but there are a few things new shooters forget to carry to the range that make a big difference in your day.
The number one thing is a first aid kit. And I don’t mean something “tactical” with tourniquets and MREs inside. The most common injuries at the range are not gaping chest wounds, it’s small cuts that need a little Neosporin and gauze. Don’t be the guy who’s bought a kit that “could allow me to survive indefinitely,” but has to ask his buddy for a band-aid.
A multi-tool, something like a Leatherman, would be good. You never know when you’ll need a screwdriver or a file and better to have the basics in your pocket than all the way in the parking lot.
And for the love of God, don’t forget your targets.
You’ll figure out over time the things you need and use most on the range. There are other articles on the web with great info to help you get started. Take this article in Field and Stream from David Petzal. It’s worth a look.
If you’re looking for even more, Sarah has written an article about what she keeps in her bag. It’s called What I Carry to the Range. She goes into more details than I think is warranted in a review about the bag itself.
One Last Thought About Tactical Bags
You’ll notice that there’s nothing in this review about backpacks. For the average shooter on an average range visit, a bag like the ones reviewed above is ideal. It protects your gear and it sits on the bench allowing you easy access. But what if you’re doing movement training or some tactical training course like the ones offered at Front Sight? (Be warned, that link will start playing audio, turn your speakers down before clicking.) In this case, a backpack would probably be better. It’s not better in that your stuff is harder to access, but carrying a duffle style bag like the ones above are cumbersome when doing movements and impossible when doing obstacle courses. So if you find yourself doing tactical movements, make sure you sign up for our mailing list as I’ll be doing a review of my three favorite tactical bags soon. Just add your email in the box below and we’ll keep you updated.