From Our Grad Corner: How to Pack Your Range Bag

  • Joey Upper

It’s finally range day. 

You’ve been piecing together a new rifle build, acquiring the newest and hottest ammunition, and you are ready to get out and burn some powder. You set your alarm clock so you didn’t oversleep, gassed up the truck the night before, and even pre-packed your lunch. 

On the two-hour drive to the range, you went over your build in your mind, mentally checking every screw and detent, making sure that nothing was overlooked. The range is relatively empty and you settle in at your preferred bench at the far side of the range. That’s when it hits… you forgot your mags.

This story wasn’t too far off for me. I got a new handgun for my wife to shoot (yes, it was actually for her) and we brought it to my folks’ house on Thanksgiving to shoot it for the first time. 

We had the gun, ammo, targets, and ear/eye protection, but we forgot the magazine. We were several states away from home and everything was closed, so we couldn’t go out and get a new magazine. 

This was a frustrating lesson to learn, and has made me a little extra cautious when it comes to making sure I have all my gear when I head to the range. 

In this article, I am going to go over some of the items I keep in my range bag and why I have them. We’ll divide everything up into five main topics: Safety, Targets, Consumables, Tools, and Extras.

Safety. I generally run my Oakley sunglasses for my eye-pro (eye protection for you newbies) but I also keep a couple of extra pairs in the event something happens and I forget my primary shades. For my ear-pro (ear protection, I think you’re getting the idea) I tend to prefer over-the-ear electronic muffs, but also carry a couple of sets of in-ear plugs. I could get into the pros and cons of in-ear vs over-ear but that’s for a different time. Along with that standard eye- and ear-pro I strap a tourniquet to the outside of the bag in the event of a major emergency. 

Targets. This is where you can start to separate yourself from the average range-goer and better utilize your time. Many times, we just want to get out and blast away and overlook actual skill development. I like to bring several different targets that correlate to specific modes of skill development. Sometimes ammo is easier to come by and we can afford to just plink at some pop cans, but at the time of writing this article, ammo is a little bit more expensive. Having some intentional drills and corresponding targets can significantly optimize your range time. Along with my targets, I’ll bring a stapler with plenty of extra staples.

Consumables. By consumables, I’m talking primarily about batteries. There are so many times I’ll have an optic, light, or some piece of gear that dies on me in the middle of a range trip. The worst incident was when my EOTech batteries puttered out on me between stages at a competition. I did not have batteries in my bag at that time, and my only saving grace was my fellow competitor. I now make sure that I have batteries for all the electronics that I might happen to have with me. I’m also going to throw duct tape and painter’s tape into this category. I almost put the tape in the target category but I use it for more things than just taping targets. 

Tools. Having some common tools in your range bag should almost be a no-brainer. There are plenty of times that an optic or some mount comes loose mid-range session and you don’t want to have to wait until you get home to tighten it down. If you take a couple of the little allen/torque wrenches that come with your optics and put them in a baggie, then you’ll thank yourself when you can simply fix something and not have to cut your day short to head home. I bring an entire toolbox with me, but if you have some commonly used tools (hammer, armorer’s wrench, punch set, allen/torque wrenches, ect.) then you’ll be way ahead of the game. Along with the actual tools, I also like to keep a bottle of Loctite in my bag for those times I have to mount or move attachments. 

Extras. Extras are just a catch-all for whatever you think you might need. If I know I’m going to be working on a handload then I’m going to bring my chronograph. I am a big advocate of purposeful training, so I keep a shot timer in my bag for various drills and friendly competition when my buddies show up. So, if you are going to be doing something specific, then be sure to bring whatever accessories you are going to need to accomplish that task. Something else that can be overlooked quite a bit is the power of having a writing utensil handy. I’ll keep a couple of differently-colored sharpies and several pens in my bag as well. These can be very useful for checking targets, and they are always helpful for jotting down notes. 

In essence, just bring everything up to and including the kitchen sink. No, not really. If you forget everything else in this article, remember this:

It is generally better to bring more than what you think you’ll need than it is to get to the range and realize you forgot some simple item and have to leave to go get it. 

I bring quite a bit of stuff with me but other folks are going to have different needs. Over time, you will learn what items you truly need or use and what items you can leave at home. 

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