Shooting is a fun activity, but to have a good experience you’ll need to remember to bring all of the essentials, plus a few “nice to haves”. That’s why a good range bag setup is essential.
Indoor shooting ranges have made us lazy. They pretty much have everything you might need: eyes, ears, targets… heck they even offer ammunition and guns to rent! So you can literally walk in with nothing and be good to go. Using outdoor locations is another story and takes some planning. There are not as many safety nets in place for shooter safety and convenience. This makes your range bag your primary source of support when shooting outdoors.
While we all have a friend who manages to forget literally everything (including ammo), many of us often fail to look beyond our most obvious and immediate needs when packing our range bag. It’s easy to remember the guns, mags, ammo, and some ear pro, but what about some life-saving (or sanity-saving) essentials?
Here’s our list of what to keep in your range bag:
An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
It can not be stressed enough that having a basic IFAK and tourniquet is a good idea in a myriad of scenarios, but is an especially good idea when firearms are involved. Trauma injuries are very often survivable when the appropriate steps are taken immediately. In fact, tourniquets are so effective that a study by the American College of Surgeons, which found that there was a 6-fold reduction in deaths from blood loss when a tourniquet was used, led them to initiate the “Stop the Bleed” program.
Of course, there’s more to it than just packing an IFAK in your range bag. Getting the proper training is important too. Often, local CCW instructors can point you towards a reputable training program for using an IFAK. If you don’t have one in your location, consider going to stopthebleed.org and signing up for one of their classes.
If you’ve been shooting very long you’ve certainly seen a bunch of minor cuts, scraps and burns along the way. Bring something for those too: bandages, Band-Aids, medical tape, burn ointment, etc. Unless you’re a “duct tape saves the day in every situation” kind of guy - then just bring that.
Staple Gun, Sharpies, Tape, and Targets
While paper targets may be easy to pack, you’ll still need a way to hang them! That is where a staple gun comes in handy. It is nearly impossible to pound old staples into a target stand with a Leatherman (ask me how I know), so don’t leave that staple gun at home.
You don’t want to forget items like sharpies and tape. Tape, can be used to hang your targets in a pinch, or used to tape over the bullet holes in your targets (saving you some targets and money). Alternatively, you can also use a sharpie to circle or mark shots from each iteration, allowing you to easily identify your new hits on a target. As a bonus, going back to the IFAK, a sharpie and tape can also be utilized to mark the time a tourniquet goes on.
Eye and Ear Protection
Many a range day has been ruined by someone forgetting or losing their ear pro. Sticking 9mm rounds in your ears doesn’t cut it. And those foam ear plugs will drop down snake holes or fly into no man’s land at the most inconvenient times, so invest in a good pair of over the heard (preferably electronic) hearing protection. If you have plans to take a training class in the future, they’ll likely require it anyway. Keep the foam plugs as a backup or a way to double up when you shoot the .50 cal.
Make sure you pack your eye pro too. Good quality impact resistant sunglasses work well most of the time. Wiley X is one of our favorites. Also consider clear options if you are shooting indoors or during low light conditions. Bring some cheap backups to have on hand in your range bag for friends is a good idea too. Remember, two is one, and one is none.
Tools & Small Cleaning Kit
What tools are necessary will depend greatly on what guns you bring to the range. But, starting off with a flashlight is a good idea, and a Torx set like the one made by Fix It Stix, are pretty much universal. The last thing you need is a loose optic, lost holster screw etc.
Consider keeping platform specific tools, like a Glock tool or a Real Avid Pistol tool, on hand. If your gun goes down and the problem can be fixed on the range, you’ll avoid missing out on more fun and valuable training.
Having a cleaning kit, or at the very least some metal cleaning rods could come in very handy if you need to clear a barrel obstruction. You could even give your guns a few swipes with a cleaning brush to get the carbon off before heading home to make the next cleaning job easier. The possibilities are endless.
Water & Snacks
This one is self-explanatory. You can’t have a great time if you’re suffering from dehydration. Plus, you never know when a flat tire may have you walking back to town. Having water on hand is common sense and critical!
Depending on how accessible your shooting location is, you may even want to consider investing in some survival food and water to bring along on outdoor trips.
Sun screen seems to be one of those things that some people can never remember. Many a man has powered through a range session only to be out of commission the next day looking like a lobster. (Women seem to always have sunscreen for some reason, so they don’t go to lobster-town as often.) So if you don’t like sunburn, keep a tube of sunscreen dedicated to your range bag, you’ll never have to worry about that again AND your friends will always thank you for remembering something that they didn’t even think of.
Be kind and leave your shooting area cleaner than you found it! When shooting spots get trashed, responsible sportsmen lose.
Aside from being handy to clean up, trash bags can also double as a means of keeping rain out of your range bag if you are caught off guard by a storm!
Tactical Gloves: If you are going to be around firearms it is never a bad idea to throw in a pair of tactical or mechanic style gloves. They’ll help protect your hands from small cuts and burns and just make it easier to handle hot guns in general.
Mag Loaders: These have really started to get popular lately. They make loading up those standard capacity 30rnd magazines a breeze. Plus, less time loading magazines equals more time shooting!
Dedicated Gun Cases: Keep your guns separate from your other range bag items, in their own cases. While most of us are not in the habit of transporting firearms loaded (aside from the one on our person), accidents can happen if guns are haphazardly tossed in a range bag at the end of a shooting session.
Checklist: For the truly organized, keep a supply list for your bag that you can go over the night before to make sure you are ready. Create a checklist you can check off so you know you have everything essential for your next range session.
Speaking of forgetting things… Is there something we forgot on this list? Comment below!
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