Heading to the range is always a good day … well, maybe not always. There’s nothing worse than taking off work, getting to the range and not having the items you need. In this article we’re going to take a look at putting together the ultimate range bag:
Putting together a good range bag is really just putting together a list of the things you need to make your shooting experience smooth and easy. I have forgotten targets, I have forgotten ammo, I have forgotten magazines—some of the most critical parts of being at the range. Having the items you need together is really important and it’s not really that difficult, just keep everything in your range bag. If there are things that you used outside of your range bag have a separate one of the things that I typically do is keep some items in my vehicle, in my truck for example, like targets or ammunition.
Speaking of ammunition, you know that can be a problem in some states so you need to check your local also the first thing you need to do to put together your ultimate range bag is to check your local laws. (You can start your search for such information at the NRA article Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms.)
So the first thing you want to think about is probably the bag itself (check our reviews here). One of the most important things is that it has a shoulder strap. When you’re carrying a lot of gear having a good shoulder strap can save your grip and make moving from position to position much easier.
This would seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you have the firearms you need. If you forget a smaller piece of gear it just makes for a bad day at the range, but if you forget your weapon you can’t shoot at all.
Next are you magazines for the firearm you’ll be shooting. One time I was doing a ballistic test with my CETME rifle and I forgot all my magazines. I had to load one bullet at a time to do the test. That is not something you want when you’re going to the range and all you want is to spend a good day shooting. So having your magazines is definitely important. (Of course, if you’re shooting a revolver or a bolt-action rifle, that’s a different case.)
Make sure you have all your ammo available, and all the calibers you’ll be using. Don’t get to the range with a 9mm weapon and .45 caliber bullets. Not only will your buddies make fun of you years, you’ll miss out on a day of training.
Protecting Your Eyes, Protecting Your Ears
This is very important when it comes to the shooting sports. One of the things you don’t want to do is shoot in reading glasses. Regular glasses are not ballistic protection. You really need to have some good ballistic glasses. There a lot of different ones out there, so get something that can preserve your eyesight. No glasses will save you if you get hit directly with a bullet, but fragments and gases can damage your eyes if you are shooting without protection.
Hearing protection is also very important. Some people have very sensitive hearing and might want to use in-ear plugs and earmuffs. You can find our reviews of hearing protection here.
Another critical element to safety is having a first-aid kit. A trauma kit is probably overkill for most outings. I’ve seen people at the range with kits designed for war—tourniquets, chest seals and the like—but without simple band-aids or gauze. Don’t be that guy. Accidents can happen and you definitely want to be able to treat those things, or have yourself treated, but it’s unlikely to be life-or-death. Don’t forget to carry the small stuff also.
When shooting rifles is really nice to have some kind of rest to be able to get your accuracy and make sure you know where your rifle is hitting. I typically carry bean bags like in the picture. These are great and they fit in my range bag.
For the more serious sighting, I also use a CTK precision gun vise. A vise is really good for adjusting scope settings and such when you’re working on accuracy. Of course, a gun vise is not going to fit in my range bag, but it’s part of my range kit.
I’ve mentioned this before on the website, do not forget your targets. You don’t want to be rummaging through the dumpster at the range trying to find cardboard or something you can use as a target. And even if you remember your targets, don’t forget that you’ll need some way to secure them. Depending on your environment, you might need a staple gun or clothes pins if you want to attach your targets to something like chicken wire.
Target pasties can be very useful if you are running low on targets. These will allow you to cover the previous round’s holes and extend the life of the target.
Having a target stand can be vital. One of the places where I shoot has 100 yard-stands already set-up, but if I’m trying to do something at closer ranges, a stand made from PVC pipe with some chicken wire and clothes pins works great. You could opt for something like the CTK precision target stand, and at $60 it might be better than building your own.
If you’re working at longer ranges, having a spotting scope is important for checking your points of impact. I’ve been the range a number of times where guys would shoot a couple of rounds and then call for a target check. For those of us who have spotting scopes, it’s really annoying. Having a good spotting scope allows you to check your shots without waiting; take three shots, look through your spotting scope, adjust your reticles, done. And everyone else on the range who did bring a scope won’t hate you.
Next up is tools. Having the right tools to maintain a problem you’re having can make or break a day at the range. A multi-tool, Allen wrenches, or similar small adjustment tools are easy to carry, don’t take much room in your bag, and can be very handy.
A bore snake is really great to be able to keep your bore clean and various cleaners or solvents can be worth space in your bag.
Solid steel rods can also be worth carrying. If there is an issue with a round ejecting it can be good to have something strong to clear your weapon.
A Sharpie is excellent to be able to mark your targets and to write down information.
A ruler to check your shot groups.
Bore sighting should probably be done before you head to the range, but carrying a laser boresight will add no weight and take up almost no room in your bag, but on that day when you’re shooting and your rounds aren’t hitting anywhere near your target, a good boresight can be valuable.
A quality shop cloth is really good for clean your weapons, but can also be used for resting your elbow on a hard bench, especially if you are shooting high powered ammunition. I usually keep a couple handy.
A large zip-lock bag to pick up your brass is infinitely better than dumping all your spent casings in your range bag. This is easy to forget but makes for a much easier clean-up after a long day.
As I mentioned about grip earlier with the shoulder strap, a Lula Loader can keep your fingers from becoming sore and your hands shaky.
If you are sighting your weapons, you’ll want to avoid any type of shaking of course. However, if you are doing drills trying to simulate real-life, having sore fingers might be a good thing. When shit has hit the fan, you won’t be 100%. You might have an injury, an adrenaline dump, or any number of other external factors. Training with sore fingers now and then might be a good idea.
Having a good holster and mag carriers can be important, especially if you are doing movement drills.
Having a good belt is important if you’re using a holster. A quality leather or nylon webbing belt can last for a long time, better to invest in a good one.
All these little tools could potentially turn a bad experience into a good experience if you just think ahead a little. Don’t rely on your buddy to have this stuff, you have it and let him rely on you.
A special note for AR and AK users (or any rifle with long, extended magazines), having short magazines to be able to get your gun low on the bench is important. Having a 30 round magazine can make it difficult to get into a comfortable position when shooting from a bench. So I always keep either Magpul or standard GI 20 round mags for shooting these types of weapons from the bench.