RANGE BAG ESSENTIALS
Written by ProStaff Member, Justin Foster
The constant battle between packing everything including the kitchen sink and never having what you need after driving an hour or more to the range is one that many of us know all too well. Some of us go way too far and pack spare batteries for our spare electronic muffs, and others will often forget crucial items such as ammunition. While I am not certain whether this internal battle of carrying only the bare minimum, or bringing every tool short of a lathe to the range will ever be resolved, I do believe I have found a good compromise.
With so many new gun owners and an overwhelming plethora of gadgets and doodads being constantly peddled everywhere you turn, the chance of a person new to the market being overwhelmed are exponential. Some “tools” are nothing more than overhyped garbage that will leave you stranded. Buying from reputable brands, while usually holding a higher price tag, is a must. Too many times, I have learned the hard lesson of “buy once, cry once”, while trying to save a few dollars. If you are like me and have to drive a minimum of an hour to go and shoot, the added piece of mind that your tools are going to work every time you need them is well worth the extra coin.
Below I have compiled a list of what I bring to the range at a minimum. For some of the premium options, I have also listed a budget friendly option that won’t break the bank.
- Targets – This one is pretty self-explanatory. You can find a ton of free options online to print at home.
- Ammunition – We have all done it; Don’t forget your ammunition.
- A Quality Stapler and Staples – While I have seen everything from tape and chewing gum, to bobby pins and strings used to try and attach targets to the backer, staples work every time. Alternatives that have worked well depending on target backer design are push pins and spring-loaded clamps.
- Hearing Protection – Whether you choose plugs or muffs, a quality set of hearing protection will make your range trip a lot more enjoyable. If going for the muff option, look at ones with the gel padding option – you will thank me later.
- Eye Protection – Once again, having your safety in mind is a must. Quality eye protection is comfortable and unobtrusive. If wearing muffs, look for a design that has thin arms to not impede the seal of the muff and offer better comfort.
- A Quality Tool Kit – This might be where I see the most diversity. I have found that the Fix It Sticks – The Works Kit is a great all-around kit that is very compact and adds no noticeable bulk or weight to your range bag. This is one of those items you can try and save a few dollars on, but I have found in the past you compromise either quality, or space and weight with most other options. Keep in mind what you might be doing at the range and what firearm you are shooting. Consider what size bits you need for optics and action screws. Not all kits will carry exactly what you need.
A quality kit should include at a minimum:
- A driver or T-handle
- A healthy assortment of bits
- Non-marring punches
- Dental type picks
- Spare Batteries – You know what doesn’t work well with a dead battery? – Red dot sights. If you have electronic muffs, a Kestrel, or chronograph, spare batteries are also a great idea.
- Cleaning Cloth – Consider a cloth for any optics you might be using, as well as for yourself and your firearm if need be.
- Range Rod – Used for removing squib loads and other obstructions from the barrel. Nothing ruins a range trip more than having a barrel obstruction three rounds into your shoot and having nothing to solve your problem. An inexpensive alternative is a hardwood dowel of appropriate size from your local hardware store.
- Gun Lube and Grease – A clean and lubed gun is a happy gun. Consider using an environmentally friendly lube and cleaner such as the options from True Blue Gun Lube.
- Baby Wipes – Whether you want to clean up before lunch, or the outhouse is out of toilet paper, throwing a small pack of baby wipes in your bag is cheap insurance that you won’t be feeling dirty on your drive home.
- First Aid – There are a lot of people smarter than I who can give you advice on this. Find a reputable instructor and take a class. Knowledge is power. Know how to use the tools at your disposal, as simply packing first aid isn’t enough.
- Flashlight – Unless you are shooting at night, I only pack this to be able to check chambers and barrels for cleanliness and obstructions. Fix It Sticks makes a tiny, but bright light that fits right inside of my tool kit.
- Chronograph – I keep a Magnetospeed Sporter in my range bag. It is a very compact and accurate option that is great when I need to confirm my velocity.
- Cleaning Gear – Often I will clean at the range, as I shoot outdoors and it is more spacious than my garage. If this is an option for you, you might want to consider bringing along some cleaning products.
- Foam Earplugs – While hearing protection is already under the must haves, sometimes when running muffs and shooting larger calibers I find the need to double up on hearing protection. This is especially true when shooting beside someone who is shooting a large caliber with a muzzle brake.
- Bolt Disassembly Tool – This can save the day if you ever have a blown primer and grit gets inside the bolt. While every bolt is different, and some are a tool-less disassembly, being familiar with how to disassemble your bolt and what tools you need is a good idea. Pro Tip: If you have a Remington 700 style bolt, you can use a piece of string or paracord and a dime to takedown your bolt for cleaning. There are a few great examples on YouTube.
- A Level – If having to mount/remount a scope, having a level and even a Plumb Bob are very handy.
- Torque Limiting Tools – This can be in the form of a screwdriver like the Wheeler Fat Wrench or something like the Fix It Sticks Torque Limiters. I have used both with great success and I consider them necessary when working on any firearm or optic.
- Shooting Mat – If shooting prone, this makes everything more comfortable. Being comfortable means more productive shooting. Avoid black mats, as in the summer they become impossible to lay on due to the heat.
- Rear Bag/Shooting Rests – If shooting a rifle, often a rear bag and some kind of front rest is essential to a stable shooting position. There is no shortage of options and combinations. While experimenting what is right for you is ultimately the only way to answer this personal dilemma, you can’t go wrong with a bipod and rear bag. If you are on a tight budget, use a sock filled with rice.
Nothing in life is absolute, including this list above. This is what I have found works for me, and hopefully helps new and seasoned shooters alike. I encourage you to do your own research and find what works for your situation and budget. If you are out at the range or at a competition and see someone using something that piques your interest, ask them about it. More times than not, most people will have zero issues letting you look at, and even try out the products they have. If you’re the new shooter, introducing yourself to these fellow shooters is how you make connections in this amazing and growing community. If you’re a seasoned vet and you see a new person, welcome them. Lend them your rear bag to shoot a stage with to see if they like it. Nothing is more intimidating than being a new person, in an unfamiliar environment, and feeling unwelcome.