Must-Have Gear for the Gun Range

Ready for the Range?
What should you have in your range bag? Start with this list and then make your own.Photo by Jason Baird

It can happen to any shooter. You load up your shooting gear and head to the range. You check in, start setting up at the bench, and dig around your range bag looking for your (fill in the blank here), which seems to have fallen into a deep dark hole somewhere.

I remember the day I realized I needed to pay more attention to what I packed in my range bag. While out on the range with a few friends, a .22 cartridge casing did not eject from the chamber of my friend’s semiauto. No one had fingernails long or strong enough to pry that case out, but one of my friends had a manicure kit in her purse. We carefully used the file to loosen the case and then carried on with our plinking.

Since that day, I always carry a small tool set and a multi-purpose tool, along with a few other must-haves, in my range bag,

The list that follows is based what I’ve learned from interviewing top competition shooters over the past few years, as well a what I’ve learned on my own. Look this list over and compile your own list based on your own needs:

- Eye and ear protection

Of course, you know you must have shooting glasses and muffs and/or plugs on the range. You can spend hundreds of dollars on getting the best or you can be protected with reasonably priced versions. Most people start out with the cheap stuff and graduate to more sophisticated gear.

- Gun and appropriate ammo

Keep the firearm unloaded and separate from your ammo.

- Cell phone

- Wallet

- Holsters, gun belt

- Small first aid/trauma kit

Mark this kit in red or with a flag or scarf, so that it can be quickly found.

- Magazines

Also bring speed loaders, if applicable.

- Small set of Allen wrenches, screw drivers, torque wrench

- Multi-purpose tool

- Glass or lens cleaner with cleaning cloths

- Ball cap

Olympic shotgunner Kim Rhode likes one with a dark color under the bill to prevent glare.

- Tape

Use opaque tape to cover bullet holes on targets, to place over weak eye on a lens of a pair of shooting glasses, and for extra protection on hands.

- Gun oil

- Gloves

- Handwarmers (if necessary)

- Gun-cleaning supplies

- Water, high-protein snacks

- Extra batteries for electronics, such as hearing protection or timers

- Shot timer

- Range finder

- Targets

- Lip-care products

Olympic shotgunner Glen Eller uses Carmex for two purposes: for a stock finish and to “keep my face from breaking open.”)

- Tape measure

- Hand sanitizer

- Wipes

- Stapler, staples

- Bag for spent cartridge cases

- Large, heavy-duty trash bag

Smith & Wesson Team Captain Julie Golob says that if it rains or conditions become muddy, she can throw her whole bag into the garbage bag to help keep it clean and dry. “It’s a definite plus when I have to put that range bag back in a suitcase to travel home.”

- Cosmetics

Golob recommends that female shooters keep separate compacts of face powder and lip-gloss in the bag for freshening up while on the range.

- Disposable poncho

- Flashlight

- Sunscreen

Depending on what you shoot and where, you might also need to carry some specific items such as slings, butt plates, kneeling roll and/or pillow, cheek pieces, front and rear sights, shooting pants, boots, and extra layers.

Golob also tucks camera equipment into her bag so she can save certain moments. “I bring an iTouch that allows me to snap some quick, fun photos and also to take video,” says Golob. “I often pack a separate video camera and bring mini-tripods that are super light so I don’t have to ask someone to film.”

Before you invest in a range bag, you should gather your items first, measure the area required, and then find the bag that will hold them. If your existing bag doesn’t have enough compartments, you can get some small bags—found in school supplies or the ladies’ cosmetics departments—and keep some items in those.

Also, it’s a good idea to create a checklist for the range. You might need to take other items that you cannot fit into your range bag—a spotting scope, folding chair, cooler, or target stand.

Keep the list--you guessed it--in your range bag. Also, make sure you put a luggage tag on the bag in case you leave it somewhere. You don’t want to have to put this bag together again.