New shooters may often find it intimidating to start going to the range on their own. Many new shooters don't have any idea what they should bring with them to the range. Some err by bringing nothing but their firearm(s), and then have to rent eye and ear protection, while paying a premium for targets and ammunition at the range. Others do the exact opposite and bring far too much gear, half of which is unnecessary to lug around at the range.
A range bag filled with the right gear can make your shooting experience much more valuable, especially if the range you go to limits your shooting time. It can be quite frustrating to waste your indisposable time and money waiting in line and then realize you left an important piece of gear home.
We have compiled a checklist of essentials for both new and experienced shooters alike to keep in their range bag in order to make the most our of every trip to the range.
1. Range Bag
The first thing you'll need is a range bag. There are many on the market, and the Blackhawk Sportster Deluxe Range Bag is a fine choice. The bag has a removable pistol pouch and can hold up to two handguns. Additionally, the bag has S.T.R.I.K.E. webbing to allow you to attach pouches and accessories to the bag.
Multiple internal pockets will allow you to keep smaller items organized so they're easily accessible when you need them. Carry this bag like a briefcase or use the included shoulder strap to carry heavier loads if you fill it with plenty of ammo.
Ammunition is another important item to include in your range bag, but one that some people may overlook. The ammo you bring to the range should be dependable, but cheaper than your self defense ammo. It is recommended that you find a load(s) that runs well in your gun.
For handgun shooting, American Eagle or CCI Blazer FMJ loads are great choices for practice and competition use alike, but ammo option abound: Learn how to learn how to choose the right ammunition for the application.
Price: Varies based on caliber and type. Consider using an economical load for practice and a specialty round for use in the field.
3. Maintenance Tools
As a new shooter, you will become very familiar with the Hoppes line of products. Their signature No. 9 Bore Cleaner is so well known and liked the company even makes air fresheners with its scent. That being said, their lubricant is top notch too. It is important to always have some lubricant in your shooting bag so you can keep your guns running smoothly.
No matter how well you maintain your firearm(s), there's always a chance you may need to service them at the range. That's why you should consider including a complete field cleaning or maintenance kit in your range bag.
The M-Pro 7 Universal Cleaning Kit has everything you'll need for on-the-spot shooting range maintenance and cleaning. You won't normally be cleaning your gun at the range, but these kits contain a lot of useful tools to keep your firearm running smoothly. Make sure to keep it fully stocked and to always have clean rags and patches.
There are also many more cleaning and maintenance tools available that might suit your particular needs. Read here to see more firearm maintenance tools.
Price: $65.95 (M-Pro 7 Universal Cleaning Kit)
5. Eye Protection
Eye protection is one of the most important pieces of gear you can have in your bag. In fact, most shooting ranges will not even allow you to shoot unless you are wearing eye protection. While many ranges will loan or rent glasses to wear, having your own pair increases comfort and ensures that they fit properly for maximum safety benefits.
There are a wide variety of eye protection available on the market, but be sure that anything you buy meets OSHA standards. It is important to wear actual eye protection, and not just a pair of sunglasses you had laying around. The Champion Ballistic Shooting Glasses meet military specifications for protection.
For increased comfort, durability and style, shooting glasses from BollÃ© (pictured above) offer a greater variety to fit more applications. Their frames and lenses are available in various sizes, colors and styles that will give you a more personalized fit and finish.
Price: $9+ (depending on style)
5. Hearing Protection
One of the most important items you should have in your bag is your ear protection. You can go with anything from simple ear plugs, to passive earmuffs (pictured), to these electronic noise-canceling earmuffs.
No matter your personal preference, your range bag should always contain a pair or two of foam earplugs. These are great to use as backups or to lend out if your buddies forget their ear protection. You may also want to double-up with ear plugs and ear muffs for maximum hearing protection.
Beyond earplugs, passive ear muffs (like the pair from Champion pictured at right), are convenient to slip on and off. They are adjustable for comfortable fit and they collapse for compact storage in your bag.
Similar to passive hearing protection, electronic hearing protection from Champion cancel out loud gunshots and amplify quieter sounds, allowing you to hear normally while still protecting your ears. This allows you to carry on conversations at the range without removing hearing protection.
Price: $3.29 (6-pairs of plugs); $17.95 (passive muffs); $41.95 (electronic muffs)
7. Spotting Scope
If you are shooting at distances beyond 25 yards, you'll want to see where your rounds are impacting on target. At many shooting ranges, you may have to wait for others to finish shooting before you can go inspect your target.
This means you will definitely want a spotting scope to see where your shots are landing while you're at the firing line. A wide variety of spotting scopes and binoculars are available, including the Bushnell TrophyXLT, which is a great value for beginners. See more optics options here.
Price: $347.45 (Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60X 45mm)
One item new shooters often forget to bring to the range are targets to shoot at. Targets are often available for sale at ranges, but at a premium. Simple paper targets are a good place to start at indoor ranges, but there are a lot of options out there.
If you go to an outdoor range, you may want to try some interactive targets like Champion DuraSeal targets that wobble, spin or bounce when you hit them, giving immediate visual feedback. Another fun target is the VisiChalk target system (pictured above). When you hit the brightly colored chalk targets, they burst with a cloud of dust to indicate a positive hit. Test your shooting skills by racing against the clock or against your friends to see who can dust all of the discs in the fastest time.
Price: $18.49 to $49.49 (Champion DuraSeal targets); $10.95 (VisiChalk 48ct)
Handgun shooters looking to practice drawing their pistol should consider packing a holster in their range bag. You'll first want to choose the holster that's right for you.
Holsters vary greatly in design based on their intended functionality. Some holsters are designed for concealed carry, while others might be well suited for shooting competitions or law enforcement applications. Regardless of which holster is right for you, its important to practice with it so you can become accustomed to how it performs.
Price: Varies; $13.95 (Uncle Mike's® Inside the Pocket holster)
10. Electronic Calipers
Measure your group sizes to determine the accuracy of firearms with the RCBS Electronic Digital Caliper. Understanding how accurate your firearms are at various distances will make you a more proficient shooter and hunter. Measuring group sizes helps to understand the accuracy advantages or limitations of any given firearm, ammunition and optic.
RCBS electronic calipers provide a digital reading thats accurate to +/-0.001 inch and provide an instant reading of your group size. These calipers are also recommended for ammunition reloading purposes, where precise measurements are essential.
11. Other Essentials
You may also want to consider packing the following items in your range bag:
- Staple gun/staples/tape: attaching paper targets
- Pen/marker/paper: Marking paper targets, recording data
- Multitool: firearm field stripping or any utility purposes
- These high-tech shooting gadgets