As a firearm instructor, I’m often asked “what’s in your range bag?” I have to say, “it depends.” I have many reasons to go to the range: to teach, to shoot with friends and to practice practical shooting drills. I have several range bags and chose what I take based on the reason I’m there.
First, let’s consider your range bag.
If you are new to shooting and money is an issue then using a gym bag or back pack will work. The advantage of range specific bags is that they have lots of pockets for safety equipment, ammunition and other things.
And you may not want to use the bag you take to the range for air travel. The TSA doesn’t have a good sense of humor when it comes to finding spent brass or errant cartridges in the bottom of your bag. This is one of the reasons you want to have a dedicated range bag.
There are many styles of range bags to choose from. You can find small range bags for around $30, wheeled range bags and even a backpack style bag like the G. P. S. Tactical Range bag for around $150. There are many options for you to choose from. Just be sure what you choose make sure the bag will hold your safety equipment, range gear, at least one handgun in a soft or hard plastic case, and ammunition.
Range bag 101 for new shooters
If you are a new shooter, I highly suggest you have what I call the basics. Start with safety equipment for your eyes and ears. If you are shooting at an indoor range and you don’t wear prescription impact resistant glasses, then invest in a good pair of clear safety glasses.
If you are at an outdoor range and you wear sunglasses double check that they are impact resistant as most are. For ear protection, I suggest active noise-canceling headphones to start. These are earmuffs that go over your head and cover your ears with padded muffs, protecting them from the sound of the shots while allowing you to hear other people when they are speaking. This is a must when you are with other people at the range or taking a class. Walker’s Razor compact style is a good starting pair for under $60.
What’s beyond the basics?
I have a few more suggestions.
I always pack hats with brims, like a baseball cap, to keep flying brass from hitting you in the face, and a bandana to cover your neck if you wear a collar lower than a tee shirt. If you shoot then you have probably been hit by hot, flying brass and it isn’t fun. Even in an indoor range with dividers, there is still the possibility that you may get hit by hot brass. You can end up with small burn marks and if you are new shooter, it could be dangerous if you flinch or move your muzzle in an unsafe direction.
I remember one time, many years ago at an outdoor range someone had a piece of hot brass hit between their face and the stem of their glasses, they used their hand to take off the glasses, the same hand holding their firearm. You can imagine the numerous angles the muzzle pointed during that event.
Other things I have in my range bags are a basic gun cleaning kit, rags, small screw drivers in flat and Phillip’s head and a pocketknife. You may need to do a quick cleaning on the range or tighten up a sight or holster screw, you never know.
Sometimes I’m at a range where I have to bring my own targets, I like to shoot at paper plates, they are cheap and easy to attach to target stands. Duct tape and a staple gun with extra staples are also in my bag. Speaking of a staple gun, I’ve been known to get a staple in my palm, so I highly recommend a basic first aid kit with band aids, antiseptic wipes and Neosporin.
Other important things to pack in your range bag are your firearm and ammunition! Double check that your cased firearm is unloaded with the slide or cylinder open for inspection. Some ranges want to inspect your unloaded firearm prior to entrance to the range.
I suggest a soft gun sock or a hard plastic gun case to keep your firearm protected from dirt, sand and loose things in your bag. Keep your ammunition in the boxes you purchased them in or if you use reloads, a plastic case for reloaded ammunition.
Last minute packing
Always make sure you pack the correct ammunition for the firearm. Match the caliber on the firearm to the label on the box and the stamp on the ammunition to ensure you have the right ammunition. Even experienced shooters can get in a hurry and forget to do this, ending up at the range with a firearm in one caliber and ammunition in another.
Pack several plastic grocery bags or small garbage bags in case you have to pick up spent brass or carry out garbage like empty ammunition boxes. In an indoor range, good etiquette dictates that you will pick up after yourself by making sure you dispose of your spent brass, empty boxes and used targets in the proper place.
Keeping a designated range bag with the basics always packed, like eye and ear protection, will make your trips to the range much easier. As you continue to shoot and attend different ranges, you’ll add to your range bag using your experience to guide you. You may even end up with a 20-gallon plastic tote packed for the range, in addition to your bag, like I have, but that’s another article!
Dr. Orick-Martinez has been an NRA certified firearms instructor for over 30 years teaching locally and nationally for Shoot Like A Girl.