Going to the range is the funnest part of firearms ownership, but if you don’t have the right gear with you, a casual trip to the range can become a hassle.
Nothing is worse than getting to the ranges and realizing you forgot something and have to head back. Let’s go over some range day essentials that will make your experience fun, safe and productive.
This is useful if you are looking for your first gun and want to try out a few options. If you’re bringing your own guns, most ranges will require you to bring them in unloaded and in a case. You could also throw in a chamber flag just to be on the safe side.
You will also want to bring any ammunition you intend to shoot. You should also check to make sure that your specific ammo is acceptable at the range you are attending.
Some ranges don’t allow steel-cased ammunition or certain shotgun rounds. Most will allow you to shoot brass-cased ammunition with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets, which is considered basic range/training ammunition. You should also be able to test the popular defensive hollow point loads to make sure they function and fire well in your firearm.
Having a good supply of spare magazines can also improve your time at the range, as they allow you to shoot more and reload less.
They also allow you to practice certain drills that require magazine changes so you become more familiar with your firearm. If it is legal in your area and allowed at the range you are attending, you should preload these beforehand to help save time at the range so you can use that extra time for the fun part, shooting.
Having a good magazine loader is an incredibly helpful tool to have at the range. After loading magazine after magazine, your thumbs will thank you.
It will also save you a lot of time, allowing you to shoot more during your precious range time. These can be found for a relatively minimal amount of money and will last you throughout your shooting experience.
Finally, bringing a proper holster so you can practice firing from the draw can be incredibly helpful.
This allows you to train for real-world usage and increases your proficiency with your firearm. Of course, this should only be done if allowed by the range, and if you feel comfortable and proficient enough to do so safely.
If this is the case, the holster you select should reflect the training you’d like to receive from it. For concealed-carry encounters you will probably be using an inside-the-waistband holster. Thus, you should practice with an IWB holster. If you are planning to try out competitive shooting, you will probably want to practice with an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster.
Having all the proper equipment is no good to you if you don’t have a way to carry it.
A good range bag allows you to have a solid kit ready so you don’t have to go searching for equipment or forget something important. Additionally, it makes transportation easier, allowing you to keep all of your necessary gear in one location.
A good range bag should have extra pockets for spare magazines, eye/ear protection and maintenance tools, and may even include slots for firearms depending on what you like to shoot. There are several different options from over-the-shoulder bags to backpack-style packs depending on your preferences. Just find something that works for you and has enough space for the equipment you need.
Transportation becomes a lot easier with proper firearm cases. If you shoot one or two pistols, these can usually be incorporated into your range bag.
If you have several pistols or prefer to shoot long guns, you will probably need an external option.
When looking at cases, there are both hard and soft cases. Soft cases can be less bulky, but provide less protection for your valuable firearms. Hard cases feature a rigid structure that better protects your firearms from damage and many feature sections for padlocks.
This is a personal decision based on where and how you are transporting your firearms. It is worth mentioning that some lockable hard cases can double as a TSA-approved transportation case that may be useful if you decide to travel with your firearm.
Having proper eye protection is necessary for a trip to the shooting range. From carbon blowback to flying brass, there are all sorts of things that can end up hitting your eyes and causing permanent damage.
If you wear prescription glasses, those should work. If not, you can get clear safety glasses or sunglasses that cover the whole eye if you are shooting outside in bright conditions.
Specific ranges will differ some on what they consider acceptable eye protection, so you may want to call ahead and ask if what you plan to use will be allowed. Additionally, some ranges will keep some safety glasses on hand if you forget, but you may want to have some of your own just in case.
Next, you will want to make sure you bring along a good pair of ear plugs or ear muffs, or possibly both.
Hearing protection is essential when shooting your firearm because without it you may experience permanent hearing damage. Additionally, most ranges will require it to be worn at all times. Some ranges will have some on hand if you forget, however, if you plan on shooting regularly it’s useful to get your own.
Gloves can be a useful addition to your kit as they can aid in traction (especially when you get sweaty) and help to absorb some of the felt recoil.
They can also keep your hands from getting scratched up if you are doing more complex shooting drills.
Additionally, some people just prefer to shoot with gloves and, likewise, some people do not. Regardless, they are a good addition to your range bag and can be useful if you happen to bring along another shooter who may find them beneficial.
Most ranges will have targets you can purchase there, but if you have any specific targets, or simply wish to save a little money, you can bring some from home.
There are all sorts of targets for various purposes so take some time to browse a few. Whether you’re looking for competition-specific targets or ones that reflect a zombie hoard, there is a perfect target for you.
You may also want to pack some tape just in case the range doesn’t have a working method of attachment.
Most ranges will have some sort of clip system, however sometimes people shoot out these clips and you may get one that has fallen into disrepair. Having a small roll of duct tape is cheap insurance in case this happens to you.
Stickers can be used to extend target life by plugging your existing holes, allowing you to measure several groups on the same target.
This can save you money in the long run and help you track your progress. There are also high-visibility options to make targeting and tracking your groups easier.
A good multitool can be incredibly helpful to have in your range bag. From removing firearm jams to adjusting any parts, a multitool can make the process much easier.
Most multitools also incorporate some sort of knife blade which can be helpful for opening packages of ammunition or targets. This may not be something you use every trip, but when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. Multitools from companies like Leatherman, SOG and Gerber are great options, and there are even firearm-specific multitools you could look into.
If you begin experiencing malfunctions, you can quickly fieldstrip the firearm, give it a quick wipe down and re-oiling, and see if that fixes your problems. This will also help if you happen to drop your firearm in the dirt or mud. You don’t need to bring along a full-blow cleaning kit, but having a small bottle of oil and solvent, or a can of CLP, can save you a lot of headache.
Having a spare rag goes hand in hand with cleaning and lubrication supplies. Sometimes you may get powder buildup or dirt in your action, and having a cloth on hand to wipe things off can make life easier. Additionally, a rag can be used to protect your hand if you’re touching or adjusting parts of your firearm that may be hot.
Along with the practical cleaning and maintenance applications, the rod of the bore brush can be used to help remove a squib load (where the fired projectile does not have enough energy to push it completely down the barrel and the bullet then causes an obstruction; you will typically hear a “pop” instead of a “bang”).
If this happens to you and you do not feel comfortable dealing with it, a range safety officer should be able to provide assistance.
Finally, you may also want to pack any other sight adjustment or takedown/repair tools you feel you may need.
This can be anything from small screwdrivers, punches or paper clips. A ziplock back can be useful to organize these things, and as you shoot more, you’ll learn more specifically what tools you may require.
You are going to want to go to the shooting range having a plan of action. Slinging lead at targets may be fun, but you will not benefit from the training without a proper schedule and plan.
If you want to just go to the range to blow off steam and have a good time, rock on, but if you want to improve as a shooter and take your skills to the next level, there are several things you can do to make the most of your range time and ammunition.
First, you will want to have some preplanned drills and a practice schedule. This will help keep you on task and prevent you from getting distracted.
These can be researched online and found on our blog. If you know what and how to practice, you will see your skills develop at a much faster rate and will quickly improve as a shooter.
You will also want to bring along a notebook and pen to track your progress.
This can be used to document your group sizes and times so that you can see how you are improving. This will help keep you motivated because you can see the fruits of your labor.
Additionally, you can see if you are falling behind in certain areas so that you can narrow your focus to gain the most improvement. Having a Sharpie is also useful for marking on targets or other mediums where a pen/pencil doesn’t get the job done.
Finally, you will need to go into the range with the proper mindset to not waste your time or ammunition.
Poor practice leads to poor results, proper practice leads to proper proficiency. Make sure to plan what you are going to do at the range so that you can focus and make the most of your time. If you decide you’re just looking to have fun, that's perfectly fine, just take the time to understand what you are trying to get out of your range visit.
If you can pack it, having an emergency first aid trauma kit can be an invaluable addition to your range gear.
Whether by you or someone else at the range, accidents happen, and having the proper equipment (and training) can help save the day should an unfortunate situation arise.
Gauze, quick clot and a tourniquet are some of the basics to include to help with a gunshot wound. Additionally, small bandages and antibiotic cream are useful to have in the event of minor cuts and scrapes caused by using your gear.
If you plan on spending an extended period at the range, you will also want to bring along some water and snacks.
Water is especially important if the range is outdoors and you are shooting during the high-heat hours. It is easy to get lost in the fun of shooting, but you should make sure to keep your biological necessities met.
If you plan on shooting a rifle for accuracy, you may want to bring along some sandbags, a shooting rest or a backpack to rest your rifle on.
This will allow you to take some of the human element out of shooting to achieve the most accurate shots possible. If you do not feel the need for purpose-specific equipment, a simple backpack can perform double duty as a makeshift rest.
If you plan on doing a lot of rifle shooting from rest, you may want to look into getting a monopod, bipod or tripod. This allows you to rest your firearm from any location without any additional gear.
Having a hat is useful to keep both the sun and your hair out of your eyes. It’s a simple addition to your range kit that can make a world of difference.
A hat can also keep hot flying brass off of your face. If you have long hair, a ponytail band can also be helpful. Additionally, if you are shooting outdoors on a sunny day you may also want to have some sunscreen on hand to protect your skin.
Hand sanitizer is also a useful addition to your range kit. Whether you are having a snack and want to clean up before eating or want to disinfect small cuts or scrapes, hand sanitizer can be a helpful thing to have.
Your first few trips to the range can sometimes be nerve wracking. Wondering whether you have everything you need or exactly what to do.
With these key items and a solid plan, you should be able to make the most out of your trip to the shooting range. Remember to be safe, have fun and learn along the way. The shooting industry is full of great people who are happy to help you out.