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.
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.
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.
- 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: