Gear, Parts and Accessories

Choosing and Packing A Range Bag

One of the inevitabilities, and greatest aspects of our sport, is the accumulation of gear and accessories. Somewhere, deep down inside each of us, is a little devilish voice convincing us to get more stuff. I’ll be the first to admit it; I indulge that little voice often and without apology.


By Gordon Meehl

The quandary facing a shooter then becomes; what do I take to the range, and how do I get it there. From small pistol cases to truck bed-sized rollout boxes there are a myriad of ways to schlep your shooting sundries to the range.

For every bag on the market, there are 20 times as many considerations to take in to account before purchasing it. But what it all comes down to is simply, “Does the range bag fit my range plan?” To put it another way, is the range bag appropriate for what you’re planning to schlep to the range.

Any bag worth your consideration should have these basic features that will make your life a lot easier:

  • Pockets and more pockets. Your range bag should have plenty of pockets of various sizes to carry the wide array of tools and accessories you have. The last thing you want is a bag that is little more than a sack to toss your gear in. Soft, lined pockets for pistols, hard-sided inner pockets for ammo, and an exterior water bottle holder are all items to look for—in even the smallest bag.
  • Made to last. Range bags of all sizes need to be durable. They need to be able to withstand being tossed into the trunk, dragged from stall to stall without ripping or coming apart. Look for bags made from thick Cordura nylon with heavy-duty nylon zippers. Stitching should be doubled at the seams to keep everything on the inside where it belongs.
  • Shouldering the Load. It’s no easy task carrying around a bag load of metal, especially if your parking in the boonies and have to put in some cardio to get to your ready position. A wide and padded shoulder strap (or straps) goes a long way in saving your arms and hand strength for squeezing your rosco and sending rocks downrange.
Desert ta Voodoo Tactical Scorpion range bag
Access to main compartment is with two full length zippers connected with a rubber handle. This allows you to open it wide enough to load boxes of ammo, earmuffs, cleaning kits and other accessories. Of course, the bag also holds two handguns (both zipper compartments have lockable zipper pulls) and has exterior pockets for other gear. It’s a nice, compact bag that is easy to use and so popular that it is hard to keep in stock.

The Bare Necessities

Your Range bag should accommodate your most basic range essentials. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to cut your range day short because you forgot something. A few of the more basic items you need to make sure make to the range are:

  • Ammo (and plenty of it): You’d be surprised at how many people rush out to the range having left a box of ammo in the safe. Ranges aren’t known as bastions of cheap ammo, so make sure your bag is well stocked with the appropriate rounds for your weapons and range plan.
  • Extra Magazines: Don’t waste precious range time feeding hungry mags. Buy as many extras as you can. Fill ‘em up before you leave for the range ; keep them range ready and at hand.
  • Extra eye and ear protection: Eye and Ear protection are the most basic range requirements. Even if you don’t have a firearm you can’t step on to the range with out your ears and eyes covered. Break, scratch or lose your favorite sensory protectors and you’re stuck with the less than stellar range freebies.
  • Multitool: Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Who knows when and what you’ll need to pry, bend, pull, or unscrew something.
  • Knife: You actually should never leave home with out a blade.
  • Basic First Aid: A variety of elastic bandages, gauze, and saline will ensure you don’t have to leave your shooting lane to tend to small injuries such as slide bites.
  • Targets: Otherwise you’ll be shooting at empty space and that isn’t any fun. Buying targets at the range is the norm, but to save some cash try paper plates. Buy the generic bundle and you can get 250 for the price of a range target.
  • Double Sided Tape or Staple Gun: Targets (especially paper plates) don’t hang themselves.
  • Baby Wipes: After you leave the range, you’ll want to get rid of all that gunshot residue.
  • Water: Shootin’ is thirsty work.
5.11 Tactical NBT Duffle MIKE Nylon Double Tap
The Mike series NBT Duffle from 5.11 Tactical offers superior multifunctional capability in a compact and affordable package. Ultra-durable and weather resistant, The NBT Mike is a small duffle bag equally suited for use as a day trip carryall, a grab and go travel pack, or a rugged tote for a trip to the gun range. A removable padded shoulder strap and grab-and-go handles on three sides provide multiple carry options, while linking compression straps and a laser-cut internal web platform allow you to customize and secure your cargo space as you see fit. A removable mesh pocket bag acts as a toiletry kit or a see-through internal organizer, and a high performance waterproofing treatment keeps your gear clean and dry in any climate.

Range Day Essentials – Level 2

While not absolute necessities for a range day, here are some items that will come in handy and might just keep range time from becoming less than enjoyable.

  • Flashlight: low light conditions at indoor ranges can create a lot of wasted time looking for things in your bag as well as help you take a peek at an empty breach
  • Extra Batteries for Electronic Ear Pro: One of the worse things to happen is having you favorite active ear protection die; relegating yourself to orange foamy ear plugs
  • Black and White Masking Tape for Targets: your money will be better spent on Ammo and weapons than on replacing targets. With A roll of black tape and a roll of white tape you can reuse target almost infinitely. I have targets that are probably more tape than actual paper.
  • Sweat Towel: Never let them see you sweat, especially when shooting outdoors on warm days. Sweat is the enemy of positive grip.
  • Sharpie: marking your shots on the target can help you keep track of your progress within drill or when you’ve decided to share a target.
  • Pen and Log Book: Shooters are data junkies. Recording how many rounds a certain weapon has sent down range can help you maintain a regular cleaning schedule, recognizing patterns in your shooting can help you improve and help you avoid repeating mistakes of the past. For long range shooters a log or DOPE book is essential (DOPE= Data On Previous Engagements)
  • Gun Mat: Having a soft dedicated surface to field strip and/or rest your weapon and mags will save a lot frustration from dropped parts and mags sliding off a shooting bench.

Luxury Items

  • Spotting Scope: A good spotting scope save a lot of squinting and guess work figuring out where or if you hit paper when your
  • Range Finder: For the long distance shooting range calculation is an essential skill but using a range finder helps you confirm your math.
  • Wind Gauge: Again for a long range shooter wind calling is an essential skill, but an Anemometer (fancy word for a wind gauge) will confirm your call and help you with your estimating skills.
  • GoPro: Just like golfers recording their swings , recording yourself shooting is a valuable tool for improving and can help you figure out where in the firing sequence you may need help. For practical shooters this should be considered an essential item. Who knows you could become a YouTube star in the process.
  • Target Camera: The Bullseye Target Camera system is one of the hottest things in the world of shooting. From up to a mile away you can set the camera on the target and see exactly where your shot lands. The smart phone/tablet software allows you to see your shots in sequence. Again, Shooters are data junkies and this more than satisfies the compulsive desire for more information.

Cheaper Than Dirt! offers a wide array of range bag to fit your range day plans. Whether you are taking one gun or several, practicing a few fundamentals to practicing for an upcoming match, Cheaper Than Dirt! has everything you want or need.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (17)

  1. I carry a pen for marking targets with the gun, date, ammo, distance, etc. But I also takes photos of my targets and mark them up using the pen on my Samsung Note 4. You can also take notes on note apps. The smartphone is a wonderful range tool.

  2. Unfortunately, I live in a state that does not allow firearms and ammunition to be transported inside the same container, even if it is inside its own locked container within a larger one. I am also not permitted to travel with loaded magazines. I have read countless postings about folks who have a collection of holsters because they’re trying to find the right one. Well I have a collection of range and gun bags instead. I’ve got the hard sided GPS pistol case that carries everything I need for a single pistol practice session; except I found out at my local range that I cannot open it to get at my eyes and ears because the firearm is considered “un-cased”. I thought it was a great design, but apparently only for gun-friendly states. The only case I consistently use is my Bulldog Tactical Case Extra Large. CTD carries it. This thing is a beast. I’ve dragged it, tossed it and buried it under loads of other stuff and it still holds up. The only bad things that have happened with it have all been user error – like the wonderful aroma of Hoppes whenever I open it up. I would buy this bag again as it is a bargain compared to other brands the same size. I think a range bag is much like a BOB – you need to load it up and use it and then keep tweaking it. I am 3 years in and I’m still reworking this bag every few months. I think the range bag is the most underrated and overlooked piece of shooting equipment. Thank you for a great article and great comments!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation on the Bulldog Tactical Case Extra Large. I checked it out on CTD and it looks well designed and constructed. I I didn’t already have about six range bags, none of which does everything, I would be in the market for it.

    2. I’ll second that recommendation of Bulldog bags, based on my experiences with their XL MOLLE range bag, and a pair of discrete rifle cases. I have yet to have any significant issues despite routine use, and even some hard use by overloaded pockets to the point of straining zippers (at times), and having even used it as an impromptu shooting rest for some extended strings of AR firing.

  3. Just a few years into shooting, but I’m currently running a single general purpose range bag to support shooting a variety of firearms at very basic level (primarily adjusting sights).

    Other than 10/22 magazines, I rarely use my range bag for transport of ammunition or magazines. Loaded magazines (excluding 10/22 magazines) go into the pockets of respective gun cases, thought on the rare occasion I take boxed ammunition it travels in an ammo can (likely the same one used for storage).

    There are a few items I’ve used on multiple occasions which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere: mason twine (or some other cheap cordage) for restring target holders, and an impact-style bullet puller to disassemble rounds that turned out to be duds, and a box/bag of disposable ear plugs (these are in addition to the reusable spares I carry for myself) for when new, or unexpected shooters/spectators are around.

    Any troubleshooting that can’t be resolved by hand or with the limited allen wrenches, small plier set, and micro-screw driver in my range bag waits until I’m off the range. I’ve learned (the hard way) that large open areas are not conducive for keeping track of small parts that may escape when breaking down a firearm. Which also means (with the occasional exception of bore snakes) cleaning also waits until I have a more controlled environment in which to work.

    If I’m doing something more specialized on a given day the needed equipment (e.g. chronograph) gets placed next to my range bag the night before I go shooting so it’s not forgotten when loading up the next morning. I may have forgotten (in haste) to bring my firearms to the range before – but I’ve never forgotten my range bag.

  4. Can someone please suggest a good one. Somewhere Between 40$-70$. Not rich, but I really would like a decent range bag. Been using my son’s backpack and it ain’t cutting the mustard friends. Hehe.

  5. Great idea to have multiple purpose driven bags, especially if heading out to a distant range in the sticks.

    All of our handguns reside in their own LA Police Gear soft case along with their respective magazines, a flashlight and multi-tool or knife. When we go to the range the soft cases go into our range bags so everything is close at hand. My wife and i each have our own bags. Along with the guns in their soft cases, our range bags always have pressure dressings, gun oil, cleaning rods and supplies, multi-tools, defogger cloths for glasses, bandannas, hearing protection, eye drops, a small first aid kit for minor injuries, magazine loading tools, a water bottle, mini-binos, a couple of energy bars, and another flashlight in addition to the ones in the gun cases. Ammo travels in a separate bag.

  6. Excellent topic and great comments so far. Early on I attempted the single range bag, but experience has since revealed that the “one bag fits all” approach never seemed to work for me. From private gun ranges to unofficial public shooting areas, I discovered that no matter how well I thought I had planned out each of my shooting excursions, there was always some unforeseen issue which left me wishing I had planned better.

    What this evolved into was a 3-bag system:

    Bag 1) Shooting Gear – Day and night eye protection, sand goggles, headsets (electric shunting), ear plugs, bandanas and face masks, shooting gloves, knee pads, wet wipes, first-aid kit, target tape, staple gun, markers, binoculars, range finder, various laser boresighters, note pad and pencil, GoPro Camera, batteries and chargers, flashlights, etc.

    Bag 2) Cleaning supplies – Cleaning rods (every caliber), bore patches and brushes, bore snakes (every caliber), recycled cleaning rags, soft and bristled pipe cleaners, various solvents, oils, CLP and WD-40, a roll out padded cleaning mat, and just about any other little gun cleaning gadget I’ve accumulated over the years.

    Bag 3) Gun Tools – Specialized sighting and adjustment tools for the AR-15s and another for AK-47s, mini hammer, soft mallets and metal punches, large wide tipped flathead (for those really wide flatheads on some bipods and scope mounts; also doubles as a pry-bar for AR15 D-Ring), Rubber jaw pliers (prevents marring finishes), adjustable pliers, assorted socket wrenches (Metric and American), screw driver sets, plastic screw drivers (won’t mar finishes on scopes, etc.), allen-hex wrenches (Metric and American), screw driver torque wrench.

    This is not an all-inclusive list of the contents in these bags, but it shows the 3 categories I have separated them into and highlights the most important components within each. These tools and supplies are dedicated to these bags and are not duplicated; meaning they serve the same purpose for maintaining my firearms at home as well as in the field.

    Because of this dual use, I have a tendency to constantly assess the contents which keeps the bags relevant and well supplied. Since using this method it has proven itself worthy and has always allowed me to head into to the field with the utmost confidence that I will never be without exactly what I need.

    1. Out of curiosity, are you using soft sided bags or hard cases/tool boxes?

      I’ve considered putting together similar kits for use in longer duration outings (e.g. going to out-of-state ranges or multi-day training courses), but am not really sure how well fabric (even Cordura) would hold up to routine wear from tools bouncing against it.

    2. @ JPrize,

      All of the 3 bags I’d mentioned are soft sided. My gear bag and cleaning bag are both made of heavy-duty nylon, but the tool bag is a heavy-duty canvas. Though the nylon bags are soft sided (with some padding), I try to keep everything in their original kits within these bags. So for example, my cleaning rods came in a hard plastic case along with brass bore-brushes and the works. That case just happened to squeeze nicely into the range bag that I chose to repurpose as my cleaning bag I is a midwayusa competition range bag. So along with that hard cleaning case inside, I also have stored all the other cleaning items I mentioned in my original post, and it works out quite nicely.

      As stated above, the tool bag is a soft sided canvas bag. I do not recall how I acquired it, but it is not unlike the same canvas tool bags you would get from Sears (Craftsman) or even Harbor Freight. It has a single zipper down the middle and 2 heavy-duty canvas handles. Mine has one long side pocket with snaps. It is holding up quite well (about 5 years now). I throw it around quite a bit – like a mini duffle bag. All the larger tools are loose inside (hammers, pliers, wrench, and larger screw drivers, etc.) while most of the smaller items like ratchet sets usually remain in whatever mini-kit or case they came in. Anything else kept inside this bag I try to keep organized by using original packaging or durable ziplock bags. I actually like everything being loose and easy to grab. I also like that because it is a bag, rather than hard case, which allows it to shape well when needing to cram it in with tight loads on bigger range days. I will assume when you mentioned “going to out-of-state” that you are driving, because this is not an airline approved bag and would need to be stored in larger approved luggage.

      My gear bag is also a soft sided range bag similar to my cleaning bag. I got this one for renewing an NRA membership a few years back. No name inside and made in China, but it seems pretty durable and still holding up pretty well for all the gear I cram into it. I hope this has answered your question.

    3. Thanks for the reply G-Man it’s definitely answered my question and provided more food for thought. I think I may need to find some smaller boxes/bags to hold some of the small tools (brass punches in particular) that didn’t come in reusable packaging, but that shouldn’t be an issue.

      Yes, anywhere in CONUS I most definitely would be driving as I’m positive the additional fees for the extra baggage would be unpleasant (not to mention all the other restrictions that may apply – to include those on air transport of solvents/cleaners) – and far better spent on more ammunition. Fortunately living in northern Alabama means most of the US is within “reasonable” driving range as driving to visit family in central Minnesota has proven to me many a time. If I go somewhere OCONUS (I’d like to go back to Alaska for a hunting trip at some point in my life) I’d be more inclined to ship a reduced kit to expected destination rather than bring it with me via airline.

  7. Good, practical article, Dave. So many of the gun blogs are completely caught up in politics that only lead to long, circular rant sessions. It’s nice to focus on the enjoyment of our favorite pastime.

    I would add that we always include some bandannas (I prefer the standard army OD sling bandannas) to keep the sweat out of my eyes on hot summer days), and I always have a pressure dressing with me.I’ll make a shameless plug here and recommend LA Police Gear bags. They are an excellent value and have lots of pockets and tough zippers.

  8. I limit my range bag to range specific items – tools (Allen wrenches, a multi tool, screwdrivers, small tube of lube), eye and ear protection, a set of binoculars to view targets, Shoot-N-Sea or similar target stickers, a note pad and pencil, spare batteries for sights, an UPLULA or similar reloader, a rag, and shooting gloves. My bag has a main compartment, a mesh pocket, and two side pockets.

    I do not carry firearms or ammo in my range bag. The ammo is in an ammo can and the firearm is in a case (rifle or shotgun) or carried concealed (pistol). Depending on what I am shooting, I may have a spotting scope in its case and my chronograph in a case. If I am carrying this much, I take along a set of luggage wheels, and I can get everything on it for transport from my car to the firing line.

    One caution – so not use any bag that you would double as carry-on luggage on an airplane. It’s too easy to end up with a stray piece of brass stuck inside.

    1. Not to mention that residue from carrying guns fresh off the range will set off the explosive detectors. been there, done that.

  9. First Aid, one essential item set. Tourniquet and Israeli quick-clot bandage. May you never need it but if you do, it will save your life in case of a GSW injury.

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