You need a bunch of extra gear to ensure quality trigger time when you head to the shooting range, which means you need to kit up a range bag.
What makes the foundation of a range bag?
- Range Bag
- Ear & Eye Protection
- Cleaning Rod
- Shooting Rests
- Spotting Scope
- Gun & Scope Tools
- Duct Tape
- Pen & Note Pad
A beautiful day or even a crappy one, the conditions are always ideal to head to the shooting range. All you need is your guns and ammo and you're ready to roll, right?
If you’ve spent any time around firearms, you know a day plinking away at paper, poppers or tin cans requires quite a bit more gear than just the bare necessities. There’s safety, maintenance and even a shooting setup to consider.
That’s where the tried and true range bag comes into play. These all-purpose marksmen satchels are the ticket to make a day behind the trigger enjoyable, safe and right on target. As an added benefit, it gives you the appearance of actually knowing what you’re doing.
With that in mind, here are 8 Pieces of Gear To Build Your Own Top-Notch Range Bag. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list, but it should get you on solid footing to make the most of your shooting time.
We know we’re not infallible, tell us in the comments what you think are the foundational pieces of gear in a range bag.
Yeah, when you’re putting together a range bag, it’s pretty obvious you need a bag. And for all intents and purposes, anything short of a plastic grocery bag will tote your gear (if you don’t mind being pointed at and mocked). But if you’re serious about shooting, you should spend a bit of coin on your range bag and get something that suits your needs and will last you a few trips.
A couple considerations when you shop for a range bag are space and durability; you definitely want both in spades. And there are many fine brand-spanking-new examples tailored just for the range from BlackHawk, VooDoo Tactical and G Outdoors.
But don’t think you’re hemmed into a piece of gun luggage specifically engineered for that job. If you’re willing to hunt around a bit at the military surplus stores or sites, you can typically scratch up a first-rate range bag, even if that wasn’t its original purpose. For 20 years or so, an old gas mask bag has toted my cartridges, tools and what have you fairly nicely and on the cheap.
Ear & Eye Protection
Unless you hate yourself or your head holes, you’ll need to kit up with some shooting glasses and ear protection. Besides, any self-respecting shooting range west of Uzbekistan isn’t going to let you within a country mile of its firing line without this essential safety gear.
As for the hearing protection, earplugs and earmuffs are both viable options and, like concealed carry holsters, you’ll have to experiment to find out what’s right for you. With either option, what you’re concerned about is their NRR rating. By law, all hearing protection equipment must have this rating, which is typically printed on the package. The highest you can purchase is 33 NRR. The CDC recommends using earplugs and muffs in conjunction, which can increase the effectiveness of hearing protection an additional 5 to 20 dB of peak protection.
Concerning eye protection, there are plenty of ranges that will let shooters get away with just sunglasses. But that probably shouldn’t be your standard. A good set of shooting glasses that meets or exceeds the ANSI z87 + standard is your aim.
Tested for impact resistance, these will take the worry out of having to invest in eye patches in the future. Besides, you can literally purchase glasses that are up to that level of protection for less than a dollar. Wrap around frames or lenses are also a good idea — you know what I mean, if you’ve ever had a Mini-14 shooter a lane over.
From there it’s all about comfort and what will suit your needs. That said, if you plan on doing a lot of indoor shooting, perhaps smoked lenses shouldn’t be your top choice.
In our imperfect world, stuck brass happens. And few things can bring an enjoyable day behind the trigger to a screeching halt quicker if you don’t have the right tools.
A good old cleaning rod is just the medicine to remedy the situation and, no matter if you’re shooting pistols, revolvers or rifles, you should definitely have one in your range bag.
A single-piece rod is the best for cleaning, but not for range work. A solid takedown cleaning rod is just the ticket for stubborn brass and convenience. But shoot small when outfitting your kit — .22 caliber is always a safe bet. This ensures the rod is universal, an especially important factor if you plan on taking multiple guns to the range.
Though if you’re a precision shooter and have a slew of perfectly tailored handloads begging to rip apart the 10-ring, then something caliber specific to swab your bore is perfectly acceptable. Of course, if that describes you, you already knew that and probably have one in the metric ton of gear you drag to the range.
I am a strong advocate of getting off the bench to shoot. Deer and bad guys rarely set themselves up for a precision shot off a benchrest, so you might as well get use to shooting (if your range allows it) in different positions.
Even with this in mind, there are times you require the bench — sighting in a scope, working on trigger control, lethargy. For these situations, you should have some sort of rest to help you get into the most stable position possible. Many ranges provide something, but being prepared is better than discovering they have nothing.
Of course a HySkore Dual Damper Machine Shooting Rest isn’t practical for a range bag. Instead, something simple such as a fabric or leather front and rear rest will do the job nicely. Caldwell, Protktor, Champion and many others make a full range of portable shooting rests that are far from a burden to load up into your bag.
Pro tip (if there was actually anything remotely close to that anywhere near where I’m writing): Make friends with someone who reloads for their shotgun. They’ll have a ton of canvas bags their shot came in. Add a bit of sand to an empty one and you’ll have a dandy rest that costs next to nothing.
Honestly, you needn’t go SEAL Team Six on this bit of gear. You aren’t ranging for a sniper team.
Your aim is to save yourself time and energy, not to mention giving yourself instant feedback on the shot you just took. Otherwise you’re looking at a lot of waiting and walking just to find out how you’re grouping. Even if your range has spotting scopes, owning your own is a heck of a lot more convenient.
The best news, there are plenty of decent offerings in the spotting scope market that fall under the $100 price. Barska, Konus and Simmons (there are others) all have great entry-level models at entry-level prices
If you can’t live without top of the line, you can always upgrade to $1,000-plus glass later.
Gun & Scope Tools
Ever seen a scope come out of its rings? Not a pretty sight and one heck of a way to ruin a day. How about being around a rifle that has an action screw come lose to open its groups as wide as a canyon? That happened to a buddy of mine on a brand new, out-of-the-box rifle. It goes without saying, he was not too pleased about the situation, but didn’t stay steamed long since he had the tools for the job.
Yeah, these screws should be checked before heading to the range. Again, this is an imperfect world and screws come loose. Better a boy scout and prepared, than sulk home two rounds into a session because your scope is rattling like a diamondback.
Hanging targets. Fixing recoil pads on the fly. Remounting your tailpipe savaged from the parking lot’s speed bump.
Honestly, you never know what life will throw at you — even at the shooting range. But if Duct Tape can’t fix it, well you’re in real trouble. I’d throw in baling wire as a necessity, but that’s harder to obtain in some of the more tony corners of the country.
Pen & Note Pad
If you’re serious about shooting and shooting well, you should be serious about note taking. Accuracy and precision is about controlling variables, and you’ll never remember them all without spilling a little ink.
I prefer steno pads and mechanical pencils for convince, but whatever works for you works for you. Knock yourself out. Just get into the habit of recording the factors (conditions, ammunition, etc.) to figure out what’s going right and wrong. You’ll thank yourself later when the former outweighs the latter.