We've already discussed the importance of having a dedicated range bag. As a refresher, having a bag dedicated to your live fire practice can help big time if for no other reason than avoiding confusion. I've heard horror stories of folks trying to get on a plane with spent and live ammo in their range bag that somehow got loose.
If you have your dedicated range bag, it eliminates that chance altogether. Read Jacob's article on it, here.
Now that we've got that settled, let's discuss what I consider to be essential for a proper range bag. These are things that I keep in my dedicated range bag, or make sure is stocked on each trip.
I'm making the assumption that you have a dedicated range bag. If you don't, this is the best one we've found. Let's get started:
It's hard to do any target practice without a proper amount of ammunition. 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 at least a couple boxes of FMJ, and also run a magazine or two of my self-defense ammo to make sure it's still cycling properly.
I talk about the reasons why I do this, here in this article.
If you don't use adhesive targets like the ones we sell in our online store, then you'll need a way to attach them to the stand. I always have a stapler and staples in my range bag, along with a few thumb tacks as a backup in case my stapler has some sort of catastrophic malfunction or runs out of staples.
Multi tool —
I always have a multi tool in my bag just in case I need to do any sort of 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 always have a knife on me. Ya know, in case you need to cut some cheesecake or someone's throat. You never know. And yes, I stole that from General Mattis:
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 trigger jerks and other mistakes you've made while shooting to see what it looked like on target, as well as how to correct it next time.
It's also good if your memory is like mine, shoddy, when you have to ask a question of a gun manufacture or on a forum. Did your gun do something funky it's never done before? Documenting it for later is the best way for us old fogies to remember.
Mantis X —
I have to admit that this is one that the guys recommended. The rest of the team keep their Mantis X in their range bag and use it at the range during live fire. This is one of those tools that can be used for dry fire and live fire. I will be bringing mine to the range on my next outing.
Learn more about the Mantis X, here. It's an excellent training tool for anyone serious about self-defense with a firearm.
Cleaning Kit —
If you're like most people you'll do a majority of your cleaning at home. However, I have tried to troubleshoot gun issues while at the range with a cleaning kit. Some ammo is just plain nasty and that residue from cheaply made ammo can wreak havoc on your gun while you're shooting it.
Learn more about different kinds of cleaning gear and kits, here.
Eye Protection —
There can be a lot of stuff flying around while you're at the range shooting. One time shooting at a steel plate from 50 yards with a rifle chambered in .30-06, the bullet went straight through and sent shards of steel backwards at me.
I was far enough from the target that in theory I should have been fine.
I ducked and missed the big piece as it flew at my head, but 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 just be with someone who forgot theirs giving you the opportunity to lend yours.
Hearing Protection —
Trust me when I say that you want hearing protection. You get one set of ears and once they're damaged that's it. My ears are damaged and I have constant ringing in both ears. Sometimes I get clicking noises or the sound of my heartbeat in my left ear.
It drives me nuts and started from the first time I shot a gun when I was 10. The parent who bought me my 12 gauge thought it'd be enough to simply cover my ears with his open hands.
I also fired my M240 golf without hearing protection in. What a mistake that was.
While the argument can be made that you should shoot a gun without hearing protection once in your life so you're not jarred from the experience and unable to keep fighting, you should use good hearing protection. And no, I'm not talking about the little foam plug inserts.
Those things suck. I remember shooting once with those because I had nothing else and was messed up for hours afterwards. It felt like I had a concussion. Then again I was shooting an Adams Arms 308 battle rifle with a 16″ barrel and a VooDoo Muzzle Brake which I'm sure didn't help. But the point remains true: wear hearing protection. You'll be glad you did.
Just like with eye protection, it is also nice to have to have an extra pair of ear protection around, as well.
It's hard to do any sort of target practice without targets. I keep a plethora of shooting targets and 8 inch paper plates in my range bag to help me develop different skills. The adhesive targets we sell in our store are EXCELLENT and highly recommended.
First Aid Kit —
This is a newer addition here, but is still important. I learned first hand 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 shot a semi-auto before, which is what 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 a first aid kid and didn't have one. 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. Needless to say, I have a first aid kit, now. You should too, because you never know what is going to happen.
Free Download —
This is just the tip of the range bag iceberg. To get the full checklist of what we recommend you put in your range bag, check this out: