You’ve got your rifle and ammo ready, but in order to make the most of your time at the rifle range, there are several other things to bring. While several of the following items can be improvised from gear you already own, others are must-haves—meaning if you forget them, you might as well go home.
So that’s the first item on our list: a dedicated range bag. It’s a place to keep all of your gear, and will will make your shooting more productive, efficient, and fun.
1. Range Bag
While most any duffle or backpack will hold of the following essential range gear items along with your ammo, a dedicated range bag that has specific pockets and organizers will allow you to shoot more and search less.
Even though it’s designed for handguns, I’d go with Blackhawk’s medium-sized Sportster Pistol Range Bag because it’s ideal for rifle shooters too. It’s tough, has plenty of gear-specific pockets, a strong shoulder strap, and it won’t break the bank. $39.99.
2. Eye Protection
I’ve heard people say “What’s the point of eye protection if it won’t stop a bullet?” It’s this kind of ignorance that get people unnecessarily hurt. Fact is, eye protection isn’t meant to stop a speeding bullet, but rather to prevent grime from blowback, brass from exploding cases, and bullet fragments from permanently injuring your eyes. I’ve tested eye protection extensively, and found that ANSI Z87.1-rated polycarbonate lenses are extremely effective. That’s why every shooter should wear them. But instead of buying a clear, dedicated set of eye protection that won’t also shield your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun, why not buy top-quality sunglasses that you can use both on the range and off?
I like the camo Ward model from Native Eyewear. It comes with two sets of Z87.1-rated polarized lenses, blocks 100 percent of UV light, is lightweight and durable, has hinged earpieces, and is comfortable thanks to a rubberized nose piece. $149.
3. Hearing Protection
Unless you wish to say “What?” a lot later, invest in hearing protection now. While some shooters prefer earmuffs, I like cheap foam plugs for these reasons:
• They’re cheap, so it doesn’t matter if you give them out to guests or lose them.
• They’re effective at lowering the sound of gunfire to safe levels.
• Unlike earmuffs, they’re comfortable to have in place while wearing a hat and sunglasses.
• They aren’t hot to wear on warm days.
• They don’t alter proper long-gun mounting by contacting the gunstock, as earmuffs often do.
So buy a bottle of foam plugs for $11.99, and check them off the list.
Nothing short of forgetting your gun or ammo will cease your shooting faster than forgetting the proper tool to clear a jam, tighten a loose scope mount, or reassemble your gun. That’s why the Gun-Tool Pro multi-tool from Real Avid does it all, thanks to screwdriver blades, choke tube wrench, Allen wrenches, file, carbon scraper and other well-conceived tools. Think of it as the Swiss Army knife for serious shooters. Don’t go to the range without it. $34.99.
5. Cleaning Kit
While many people clean their guns at home after the shoot, a great place to do so is at the range if possible, since your gun is already out and on a flat surface. Plus, some high-volume guns (like .22 automatics) get so fouled that they begin to jam regularly, and must be cleaned if you want to continue shooting. So it’s a good idea to bring a universal cleaning kit with you, like this one from Outers. Avoid the cable-style cleaning kits. Barrel obstructions or stubborn brass cases can only be ousted with a rigid cleaning rod, which this one has. $39.99.
6. Portable Rest
Quite simply, you will not shoot to your rifle’s potential without a solid rest. And while a rolled-up jacket works in a pinch while hunting, you’ll save tremendous time and frustration if you spring for a micro-adjustable front rest like Caldwell’s The Rock Jr. Before shooting groups, dial in the rest’s height perfectly so you’re not fighting the gun while trying to keep the sights on the bullseye. I guarantee your groups will reflect it. $49.99.
7. Spotting Scope
Perhaps the biggest time-saver—especially if you plan to shoot beyond 100 yards—is a spotting scope. And don’t even bother messing with a cheap one. If you go for a quality spotting scope, such as Leupold’s venerable GR 12-40x-60mm compact unit, it’ll be all the spotting scope you need for shooting, and hunting, the rest of your life. Its HD lens system transmits light superbly—something that’s critical for a high-magnification optic—yet it’s compact, light and durable. Buy the kit that includes a necessary tripod and a hard case to protect this expensive investment. $1,499.99.
Used in conjunction with a spotting scope, targets that reveal bullet holes—and also reveal how you should adjust your sights—make shooters much more efficient during their range time. That’s why I consider adhesive, stick-anywhere targets like Birchwood Casey’s Shoot-N-C Targets standard range gear. A one-inch grid system makes calling shots and making corrections easier from afar, while five bull’s-eyes per target reduce the amount of trips back and forth changing targets. $13.99 for a pack of five 12-inch targets.
In addition to these, you should bring three items you probably already own: A heavy-duty staple gun and extra staples for hanging non-adhesive targets and repairing target stands, a roll of masking tape for covering bullet holes and hanging targets if the stapler goes down, a felt tip pen for marking and labeling targets, and a billed hat or cap to keep the sun’s glare out of your eyes.