The items you bring to the range may vary from another shooter. The gear in our range bags is likely specific to our shooting routine. A rifle shooter may have gear that a pistol shooter doesn’t need and vice versa. As a firearm instructor, students ask me frequently; What’s in your range bag? I’ll try to document many of the items I bring with me every range session and some of the other incidental items in my range bag.
The essential gear for your range bag
I believe there are a few essential items that each of us should have in our range bags, regardless of what we are shooting or where we are shooting. These essential items would be the obvious eye and ear protection. I’d also consider a cleaning kit or firearm lubricant to be an obvious range essential. Sometimes overlooked, but definitely not any less important would be a GSW FAK, better known as Gun Shot Wound First Aid Kit. These are the essentials that I have with me on every trip to the gun range.
There are other items in my range bag as well. Since I use electronic hearing protection, which I highly recommend to all my students, I also carry a pack of extra batteries. Whenever I am bringing any electronic devices, I always bring spare batteries in my range bag for those devices. If you’re the type of person who uses speed-loaders, I am not, that’s something you wouldn’t want to forget. Many will also say to bring a baseball hat to keep the ejected brass from being trapped in your shooting glasses. A baseball hat is a very good idea, but if I am to be honest, I seldom wear mine.
Another item that would be an absolute must, is ammunition. You either have to bring the ammunition with you or buy it at the range. If Sandy Hook has taught us anything and 2020 reminded us, it is that ranges don’t always have ammunition. Each of these events caused ammunition shortages. I buy my ammunition in bulk and store it. You’ll save money in the long run by buying your ammo in bulk, and you’ll ensure you have the ammo you want when you want it. So, don’t forget to have a plan for your ammunition. (Also see: Storing Ammunition for the Long Term)
Range Hygiene is underrated. If I am going to be shooting a long range session, and I know the range I am visiting doesn’t have “D-Lead” soap, I’ll bring my own. For shorter range sessions, typical hand soap works acceptably. As a firearm instructor, I shoot more than the average gun owner. Lead toxicity can be a problem if not taken seriously. The good news is if we take it seriously and take the proper precautions, it’s mostly a non-issue. Therefore I will sometimes bring my lead scrubbing soap. If I am going to an outdoor range I’ll always bring lead-removing hand wipes.
Specific items in my bag for an outdoor range visit
Whenever I am visiting an outdoor range, the number of items I am bringing increases tremendously. Toilet paper tops that list! I’ve been shooting for approximately 30 years and have been a firearm instructor for nearly 10 years. Trust me on this one, bring T.P. Also sunscreen and bug spray are must-haves in my range bag for outdoor range visits. But let’s also not forget headwear to keep the sun out of our eyes and reduce sunburn on our face, neck, ears, etc…
Targets and supplies
What am I training today? When I go to the range I try to have a plan. I’d be lying if I said this was true of every range session. Sending lead down range without purpose can be very enjoyable! However for those range visits when I am working on a specific set of skills, I need to bring the proper targets with me. Many ranges sell targets but they don’t always have the targets I may want. I’ll also bring target pasters or masking tape. Masking tape can be used to cover the bullet holes, and this extends the life of the target. Staples, staplers, binder clips, target backers? These items are going to be range specific, but if you don’t have them you’ll probably be cursing under your breath.
Gear for Advanced Training
Not all ranges allow holster draw, rapid-fire, and other defensive shooting drills. However, for those ranges that do allow you to train your defensive shooting skills; Do not forget your holster and mag carrier, and spare magazines.
Optional gear in my range bag
A multi-tool can be very handy. Also, hex keys or screwdrivers may be a good addition to your range kit. From time to time our firearms require minor maintenance. Being sure you have the most basic of maintenance tools can improve your range experience. This is especially true for rifle shooters with optics or if your firearm is heavily accessorized. Snap caps are also a useful tool to have in your range bag. The snap caps work well for function checking, and can be used to run malfunction drills.
Also, don’t forget about a flashlight which has many uses. First, you can practice low light techniques. However, finding dropped items in a dimly lit range can be a frustrating experience. Also, being able to see your tiny little 22LR bullet holes on target can be impossible at 20’ on a dimly lit range. Light helps!
What kind of range bag?
What’s in your range bag is very important but the container itself is also very important. My primary range bag is a rolling Rigid toolbox. All the items mentioned are fairly light, but once added up can become heavy. Two truisms are that pounds equal pain and that we should work smarter, not harder. Both of these truisms are, well, true! A rolling range bag? Yes, please!
In regards to the actual range container, I am a strong proponent of the grey man theory. That means that blending in is better than standing out. Too many gun owners dress like “gun guys”. Tactical boots, cargo pants, and molle webbing. I avoid all of these items whenever possible. I don’t want some Karen in my neighborhood knowing I am going shooting. I am lucky, I have good neighbors, but not everyone does. With an inconspicuous range bag, your nosy neighbors won’t know that you are the hard-core second amendment advocate that your heart knows you are! Further, a proper inconspicuous range bag will detract thieves.
If a toolbox isn’t your thing, maybe a tennis racket case from 5.11 tactical is more your style. Other covert-style gun cases include guitar-shaped gun cases or gun cases made to look like laptop cases. Indeed you could covert just about any backpack, toolbox, or even luggage into a gun case.
My range bag is overflowing
After you’ve gone shooting a few times and accumulated a variety of different gear, your range bag may seem over full. It’s now probably time to organize your range bag. Take everything out of the bag and examine each item. If you haven’t used that item in several range visits, it may be time to put that item into storage for later. Remember sometimes your gear is range specific and you don’t always need to bring all your gear with you.
What Items are in my Range Bag?
- Eye Protection
- Ear Protection
- Cleaning or lubricating supplies
- Baseball cap
- Spare batteries for electronics
- Bug spray
- Targets and target supplies
- Stapler, staples, binder clips
- Holster, mag pouches, and spare magazines.
- An inconspicuous range bag.