How to Build the Ultimate Range Bag
What do you take to the gun range besides a gun and ammo?
You want to make the most of your range time, right? Not spending it flagging down range officers to help with stuck cases or stopping because your gun jams up. There are a few essential items that seasoned shooters know to stuff in their range bags to keep things running smoothly.
From the basic range kit to the advanced—here’s what gear you should have in your range bag.
Lugging Your Gear Around
Start with a high-quality bag designed specifically for shooters. It should be padded to protect your firearm while transporting, have plenty of pockets to keep gear organized and durable enough to handle weight…ammo’s heavy y’all! Speaking of which, this means you also have to carry it. A range bag, whether for pistols or rifles, should have multiple ways to carry it for maximum comfort and ergonomics. Most have handles and a shoulder sling. Even some rifle cases have dual shoulder straps to carry your long gun backpack-style. If you are shooting long guns, you might need a separate range. Rifle cases tend to not have enough room to fit everything you need. On very short trips to my indoor range, I manage to fit an AR-15, one handgun, two different types of ammo, extra magazines, and targets in my double rifle case; however, I do not recommend this! My case is overloaded, I put too much stress on it and things can spill out. Ideally, you have a case for your firearms and a second bag for your gear. Usually, I do bring along another bag that holds all my gear.
Safety First—Protect Those Peepers and Your Ear Holes!
If you stumble across a range that does not require ear and eye protection, then stumble right along… This range doesn’t care about safety and you’re better off not shooting there. A legit shooting range will require ear and eye protection while on the range. And that’s smart. Ear and eye protection are the two most important pieces of safety equipment you need when shooting guns.
Shooting glasses need to be rated for impact. Only purchase shooting glasses that are ANSI Z87-rated. This means that they can withstand a 0.25 steel ball traveling at 150 feet per second. Now, obviously, this speed is okay for flying brass and debris, but will not stop a bullet shot straight at you. Your prescription glasses and sunglasses are NOT impact-resistant or meet ANSI Z87 +1 standards, so cover your eyes with the appropriate eyewear!
Shooting glasses range in price from super cheap to very expensive—depending on features and brand. Cheap works, but not very well or for very long. I’ve failed to replace freebies from shooting clinics that were so scratched, I was forced to purchase over-priced lenses from the range. (Don’t worry, I invested in a good pair since.)
A good pair of shooting glasses will not only provide protection but should also fit securely and comfortably.
Look for glasses that have the following features:
- Side shields
- Nylon, rubber or polycarbonate frames
- Spring hinges
- Fit over prescription glasses or sunglasses
- Wraparound temples
- Scratch- and impact-resistant plastic or polycarbonate lenses
Any noise above 85 decibels can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss. Gunshots measure from 140 to 150 decibels. It is imperative to wear hearing protection—even if you are the only one shooting at an outdoor range. Hearing protection comes with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) from 0 to 33. The higher the NRR, the more noise is reduced. For the gun range, 28 to 31 NRR is recommended. You can buy hearing protection in the form of earplugs or earmuffs. Like shooting glasses, they range in quality and price significantly—from disposable plugs to high-end electronic. Word to the wise, skip the disposables—they are ill-fitting and won’t provide as much protection as custom molded earplugs or reusable. Passive earmuffs provide plenty of hearing protection, while electronic earmuffs amplify softer sounds like range commands, as well as reduce loud noises. Some electronic earmuffs have fancy features like MP3 jacks, radio reception and even two-way communication!
If you are especially sensitive to sound, you can double up on the earplugs and earmuffs.
You don’t necessarily need to tote along your entire gun cleaning supplies, but you will want to keep a few essentials in your range bag—mainly a rod and gun lube or gun oil.
In some gun malfunctions, a bullet can get stuck inside the barrel of your gun. It is completely unsafe and dangerous to fire the gun after this happens. To remove it, you will need a cleaning rod in the caliber of your firearm. (A .22 caliber rod should work for most calibers.) Believe me, a squib can cut your range time short if you have no way of getting the stuck bullet out.
Gun lube and gun oil will help your gun run smoothly. I’ve experienced plenty of malfunctions running a dry AR-15.
Accessories, optics, small parts—all these things can become loose, fall off, wear out and get lost. My friend went to shoot her Bersa Thunder .380 for the first time and the sights went literally flying off—lost on a hot range. A firearm multi-tool will adjust and tighten sights, as well as remove and mount optics and perform basic maintenance.
A few years ago, I headed out to a friend’s property to partake in some plinking. I took targets, but no stand. We also didn’t have a stapler. We ended up taking some old beer cans and just placed them on the ground. That was fun for a minute but lost its appeal quickly.
Usually, your local gun range will have targets for sale, but you run the risk of being offered very little variety for a big price. Taking your own targets gives you the opportunity to use paper plates or print-at-home.
Don’t forget tape, paper clips, or a stapler and staples to hang your targets!
First Aid Kit
If you have spent any time at the range, undoubtedly you have experienced being hit with hot brass. Hot brass is hot and can cause a bad burn—I’ve gotten welts. Besides burns and blisters, there is the chance of a horrible accident happening at the range. Your first aid kit should—in the very least—include band-aids, burn cream, antiseptic wipes, Quik Clot and bandages to treat hemorrhages.
Extras: pen and paper, a red marker to circle and write on targets, hand wipes, bottled water, hat, sunscreen, bandana, bug repellant, lens cleaning cloth, towel and extra magazines.
For the more advanced or longer range times:
- Bench rest
- Shooting sticks or bipod
- Spotting scope
- Brass catcher
- Magazine loader
- Shot timer
- Extra batteries
- Flashlight or bore light
- Spare gun parts (ejectors, firing pin, recoil spring)
Some of these things might not be appropriate for all ranges. For example, if you don’t have a cleaning rod and you are at an established indoor range, the resident gunsmith or Range Officer will have the tools to help you fix malfunctions. But if you are at a primitive range, where there aren’t range officers, bathrooms or clubhouse, you will need to take a lot more gear with you.