My intent is to list out 12 range items I think everyone should have in their range bag. I use all the items listed and make sure they are in my range bag for every range trip.
Not only should you consider a range bag designed specifically for firearms, use that bag solely for the range. In another post, Jacob explains precisely why it is vital to have a dedicated range bag. Read Jacob's article on it here.
If you don't already have a dedicated range bag, this is the best one I have found. It has a pocket for all the different items I take to the range. I love that it is a backpack and how it protects my handguns from damage.
12 Range Bag Essentials:
Let's build the Range Bag Essentials List:
- Ammunition, of course
- Maglula Uplula Mag Loader
- Sharpie for putting your name on stuff
- The Real Avid Pistol Tool
- Trauma Kit
- Dummy Ammo and Type 3 Malfunction Round
- 3×5 Index Cards / Self-Stick Colored Notes
- The Ready Up Gear Handgun Cleaning Kit
- Adhesive Targets
- A Shot Timer – The Rangetech Timer
- Electronic Hearing Protection
- Eye Protection
So get your range bag out and prepare to gather these essential items:
It's hard to do any live-fire range work without a proper amount of ammunition. So make sure you have some in your range bag. How much should you bring? Well, that largely depends on your goal with your live-fire practice. Each time I go, I try to bring a few hundred rounds of full metal jacket FMJ.
If you haven't already done it, run a magazine or two of your self-defense ammo to make sure your specific self defense ammo doesn't cause stoppages in your everyday carry (EDC) gun. I talk about testing your defensive ammo here, in this article.
It is hard to find a product with a name stranger than this. But the Uplula from Maglula—reviewed here— makes filling your magazines easier. Sometimes new magazine springs are tight, sometimes it is cold, and some people have hand strength issues. The Uplula is by far the best product for filling magazines.
Pen/Marker and Paper—
I'm odd in this regard, but this stems back to my Marine Corps days keeping track of things when I shoot longer distances. It's good to keep track of things like shot-calling or mistakes you've made while shooting. You should also be noting times for drills and other training benchmarks. Recording metrics and setting goals is really the only objective way to keep track of your skills. We talked about this concept in this article about Defensive Shooting Skills and Setting Standards.
A marker helps mark shot holes, and your gear. Always have this gear in your bag, trust me.
If you don't use adhesive targets, then you'll need to attach them to the stand. I always have a staple gun—like this one—and staples in my range bag. Consider your staple gun is likely going to suffer some abuse, so get one that is durable. Besides that, I have a few thumbtacks as a backup. Just in case my stapler has a catastrophic malfunction or runs out of staples.
I always have a multi-tool in my range bag just if I need to do any maintenance on the fly. That one I linked to has some gun-specific tools built in that are great for getting you out of a jam.
I learned firsthand just how important it was to need first aid and not have it when I brought my pops to the range shooting one day. He had just bought a new gun and never fired a semi-auto before, which he had that day.
I did my best trying to show him how to grip the gun properly, but teaching family members is rarely a good idea, and he didn't listen to me. The slide bit the web of his thumb, and my man is on blood thinners, so he was bleeding profusely all over the place. He didn't want to stop shooting and wrapped it in some napkins we found in the glove box.
The point is that we needed some stuff to fix his booboos and didn't have one. Now, for the average person, that wouldn't have been a bad injury. For a guy on blood thinners, it could have been much worse than it was. I've learned my lesson and have a first aid kit now. You should, too, because you never know what is going to happen.
First Aid Kit vs. Trauma Kit
Shooting guns is an inherently dangerous activity. Being around people shooting guns is also dangerous. You need to have trauma gear to treat an injured person at that moment. The gear in a trauma kit is different to what we find in a first aid kit. A trauma kit is part of range bag essentials, but it is even more than that. I recommend having one in your vehicles, boats, workshop, or anywhere you spend a lot of time.
Not run to some RSO building or the next range over. EMS may have a delayed response due to the location of many shooting ranges being in rural areas. If you don't have a trauma kit that you take with you to and from the range, I am sorry. You need to fix it and get one.
Dummy Ammunition and Type 3 Malfunction Training Rounds—
It's all fun to head to the range and blast off a bunch of rounds. But what about purposeful training in fixing stoppages? Sometimes that requires inert dummy rounds. These can help you train malfunctions, as well as expose anticipation issues.
A new product that has come out is a dummy round that helps you train type 3 malfunctions, better known as a double feed. This device is a fantastic tool to have when you want to practice clearing a double feed without knowing when it will happen.
You might not always work on stoppages, but if you keep dummy rounds in your range bag, so you have the, when you want to work on those skills.
3×5 Index Cards and Sticky Notes—
This item takes up nearly no space in your range bag. I like to run many types of drills. Many of these drills involve shooting different zones of different sizes and shapes. I can create or modify by training by adding sticky notes or an index card to a target. Be creative and spice up a predictable day at the range by challenging yourself to run some new drills.
Consider evaluating your concealed carry skills by running these standards.
Gun Cleaning Gear AND a Good Lubricant—
Most people clean their guns at home. However, there are many times I've needed to disassemble, clean or lube my firearm or someone else's gun while at the range. That is where a cleaning kit like this one comes in handy. Maybe that is because my range sessions are usually an entire day or multiple days. Or maybe it's because sometimes I would just rather clean my gun at the range and talk with my buddies before I go home.
It's better to have the gear and not need it than need it and not have it. Having a dedicated gun cleaning kit in your range bag is a bright idea; that's why we included it as part of the range bag essentials.
And I can't overstate the importance of a good lubricant. Guns can run after they get filthy. However, a dry handgun is more likely to cause reliability issues. Make sure you have an appropriate lubricant based on the temperature and conditions in which you're training. I've been using Gunfighter Gun Oil lately and I really like it!
Whether you use cardboard or paper targets, you need something to shoot. You may like adhesive targets like these, or paper targets. We designed these targets to provide the ability to run many drills on the same target.
Okay, so some people think shot-timers are taboo for self-defense. Not so!
A shot timer is definitely part of the range bag essentials, and the best way to gather quantitative data on your skills.
When you have the information, you can compare your times to previous runs or other people's times and standards. You are stifling your growth as a shooter if you don't use a timer. I know they are expensive. That is why our company decided to manufacturer a shot-timer here in Colorado. It is the only timer sold with Bluetooth and the set of features the RangeTech Shot Timer has. Check out the RangeTech Shot Timer.
Electronic Hearing Protection—
You may wonder why I specified it should be electronic hearing protection. Well, that is because electronic muffs like these block out gunshots and still allow you to hear normal conversation and range commands. It may not seem like a big deal until you take a shooting course and have to keep asking the instructor to repeat the range commands. Believe me, once you go electronic, you won't go back.
Redundancy is good for items that protect you. Keep an extra set of ear pro, and batteries in your range bag. You can thank me later.
We have a new product that makes electronic hearing protection even more comfortable. These gel Soft Seals replace the standard ones that come on your hearing protection. Every single person who has tried them has fallen in love, I included. I wish I held the patent for these things.
There can be a lot of stuff flying around while you're at the range shooting. One time, while shooting at a steel plate from 50 yards with a rifle chambered in .30-06, i watched the bullet go straight through, sending shards of steel backward at me.
I was far enough from the target that, in theory, I should have been fine.
I ducked, dodging a big piece as it flew at my head. The big chunk missed me, but I got pelted with several other smaller pieces.
Always have multiple pieces of eye protection because you never know when a pair may break, or you may be with someone who forgot theirs, allowing you to lend yours.
Okay, the bonus item isn't an item. Instead, it is a suggestion that you have backup gear for some of these items in your range bag. An extra pair of glasses or hearing protection can save the day. Try to keep your gear bag stocked and ready to go so you don't leave stuff at home.
So there you have it, range bag essential items that I think you should add to your range bag. How many of these 12 items do you keep in your bag? Are there any items in your bag that didn't make my list? Let me know in the comments.
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-We've refreshed some links in this article. It was originally published in 2021.