All you really need to shoot handguns at most ranges are a pistol, ammo, and eye and ear protection. At some ranges you can even rent the gun and gear and buy the ammo. But if you’re getting serious about shooting, or just want to get in regular practice with your carry or home-defense handgun, you’re going to need some range gear. These items will fill out your kit pretty well:
1. Hearing Protection
The problem with traditional hearing protection is that the better it works, the less you can hear on the range, which can be a safety concern. It’s important to be able to hear the range officer or the people on the range around you. Luckily, technology solved this problem a while ago and that tech has gotten to the point where it’s totally affordable.
You may have seen these earmuffs on shooters appearing on TV and in videos. There’s a good reason: The Sport Electronic Earmuff from Howard Leight is affordable, rugged, reliable and totally effective.
The electronics inside automatically shut out gunshots and other loud, sudden noises to a safe 82dB, while the microphones in each ear actually amplify conversation and commands from the range officer. That’s a great safety feature, especially for less experienced shooters. They run on two AAA batteries that last quite a while (a 4-hour auto shutoff feature is included), and there’s even an included an auxiliary jack so you can plug in an MP3 player or other audio device and hear it through the headset. They’ll be your go-to hearing protection at the range, and while cutting the lawn. Plus, they fold up, so they don’t take up a ton of space in your pistol range bag. MSRP: $59.
2. Eye Protection
Shooting glasses should protect the eyes while interfering with the shooter’s vision as little as possible. If they enhance the shooter’s vision, that’s a bonus.
There’s no need to get an expensive set of shooting glasses with interchangeable lenses the colors of the rainbow. The Beretta Soft Touch Shooting Glasses are simple, lightweight glasses with one-piece polycarbonate injected lenses. That means there’s no bridge-piece at the nose and the arms are attached way back, meaning no plastic parts to interrupt your field of vision. And they even come with a soft cleaning cloth.
If you do happen to prefer a different color for outdoor shooting or low-light shooting, the Soft Touch glasses are offered with orange, purple, yellow, and blue-smoke colors, in addition to clear. MSRP: $20.
3. Ammo Can
If you’re heading to the indoor range just to run a few magazines through your carry pistol, you can just throw a couple 50-round boxes in your range bag. But if you’re heading out for a few hours, with multiple pistols, you’re going to need something to haul around all that heavy ammo. Unlike precision rifle shooters, handgunners can easily burn through a couple hundred rounds doing basic drills.
A product like this simple Metal Ammo Can from Blackhawk! is a great solution. It’s designed after military ammo cans with an all-steel construction and is extremely durable. These modern ammo cans include a waterproof seal, which can be important if your ammo can gets left in the truck bed during a sudden thunderstorm. It also has a heavy duty latch and metal drop-down handle that lets it fold flat for stacking.
Of course, it doesn’t just have to be an ammo box. You can use it to store tools, first-aid supplies, or gun cleaning kits or parts. MSRP: $14.99
4. Ammo Boxes
Shooters who reload their own ammo have long known the benefits of those inexpensive little plastic cases that hold a bunch of cartridges. But even if you don’t roll your own, it’s a good idea to get some.
If you buy your ammo 50 rounds at a time, those boxes can be big and bulky, and if you use different brands for different guns, they’re all different sizes making them harder to organize. And if you buy in bulk, sometimes that packaging starts to fall apart after a couple back and forth trips.
So, to avoid toting your ammo to the range in plastic bags, grab a few ammo cases, such as these 50-rounders from MTM. They pack the ammo into the smallest space possible while keeping them all separated, protecting the primers from impact, and the bullets from setback. Plus they’re super easy to label and stack in your range bag or ammo box.
The MTM 50-round boxes are available in two sizes: one for .38-.358 calibers, and another for .45 ACP or .44 Mag. MSRP: $5.99
If you want something bigger, check out this 100-round box from Plano. MSRP: $6.99.
5. Range Bag
Ok, now you’ve put some gear together. Where do you put it all? There are specialized, dedicated bags for shooters, but couldn’t you just use a backpack or something else you have lying around?
The short answer is yes, you could use something like a backpack as a range bag. Many shooters do. But, a dedicated range bag will be sized appropriately for handguns, magazines, ammo boxes and other accessories while keeping them protected, separated, and secure. Plus, gun components have the distinction of being small and heavy, meaning you can end up with a lot of weight in a bag. That bag better be able to hold up to that weight, or you’re looking at a split seam and guns and ammo spilling out onto the floor or ground.
The spacious and rugged 5.11 Tactical Range Ready Bag is built specifically to transport multiple handguns and accessories to and from the range. It has eight pistol magazine holders in a padded external pocket, so you can load your mags at home and shoot for a good while when you get to the range.
The 6-inch double-zip/Velcro main compartment closure allows easy access to everything inside, including the padded pistol pockets. It also has a removable shoulder strap, water bottle holder, 9x18x10-inch main compartment, 6x16x7-inch removable ammo tote, and YKK zippers. It’s all made of 600-denier polyester giving it plenty of strength for years of use. It also offers plenty of space for extra gear, tools, or anything you might need.
6. Skill-Building Targets
Paper targets are fine for indicating where your bullet hit, and there are all kinds to choose from. Some will even tell you what you’re doing wrong when you pull the trigger by offering explanations as to why you hit where you hit. But they’re not a whole lot of fun.
And the last thing you want shooting to become is monotonous or chore-like. If that happens, you just won’t shoot as much or a well as you should.
For outdoor shooting, the Champion DuraSeal Crazy Bounce Star keeps shooting interesting and hones your reactive skills. Plus there’s a practical training application. Stationary paper targets tend to make you lock into a rigid stance, but what happens when you have to shoot at a moving target, or from an angle?
Trying to keep up with this hopping green sucker will keep you engaged and help increase your tracking skills. Made of a proprietary self-healing material, the star can handle hundreds of rounds from .17 to .50 caliber without losing its shape. MSRP: $22.99.
7. Mag Loader
There’s no getting around it: Loading magazines isn’t much fun. If you shoot single-stack 1911s, loading isn’t difficult, but if you run a modern double-stack pistol with a 15-round mag or higher capacity, getting past number 12 on that fourth mag can anger even the hardiest of thumbs.
The Maglula UpLULA Universal Magazine Loader makes loading a simple chore, as long as you have a solid surface on which to rest the floorplate of the mag. It’s made of polymer so it’s rugged and light and fits a wide range of calibers and magazine types, including both singe- and double-stacks.
Simply squeeze, push down, insert a round, release and repeat. Your thumbs will thank you and you can save some cash on all those extra mags.
8. Shooting Gloves
When it’s 90 degrees out, or you’re in a small and crowded indoor range, you can get sweaty, and shooting a handgun is all about the palms. A solid pair of lightweight and cool shooting gloves can come in handy and help ensure you get the most out of every round. (That being said, it’s always a good idea to get used to shooting with sweaty hands, because it’s a real-life situation you might run into.)
These simple, breathable Mesh Back Gloves from Browning are super-light with a stretch-mesh back for a good fit and air circulation. The palm is lightweight, soft-brushed synthetic suede for a solid grip. And if you simply can’t get used to working the controls with gloved hands, nobody says you can’t snip off the index finger and thumb. And a big plus: they’re washable. MSRP: $34.99.
This version of the gloves comes in black with a heavier Velcro closure. MSRP: $29.99.
If you want a less expensive, more rugged alternative, consider the gloves so many operators choose, good old’ Mechanix Wear Tactical FastFit gloves. They come in multicam, desert tan, black, and other colors, and there are more expensive options with different types of closures and degrees of protection. MSRP: $14.65.
9. Gun Cleaning Gear
It’s always a good idea to have gun-cleaning basics on hand at the range to keep your handgun running smoothly. Take one of the side pouches on your range bag and fill it with a spray bottle of Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner and a can of Hoppe’s No. 9 Spray Lubricating Oil and that’s pretty much all you’ll need. Elite Gun Cleaner – MSRP: $12.99 – 4 oz.; No. 9 Lubricating Oil – MSRP: 14.99-10 oz. aerosol.
Throw in a BoreSnake and a brush and you can give your pistol a decent cleaning and lube in a just a couple minutes. A BoreSnake sprayed with the Hoppe’s cleaner will clear out a barrel as good as you can at home and the spray lube will keep everything moving as it should until you can field-strip the gun for thorough cleaning. MSRP: $21.99
10. Gun Rest
A rest certainly isn’t something you’ll be bringing along on every trip to the range, but having one can be incredibly useful and save you a bunch of time with certain tasks, such as learning where a new pistol hits and fine tuning iron sights, or zeroing in a laser sight or mini-reflex sight.
The Matrix Shooting Rest is all plastic, so it’s lightweight, but very sturdy. It can be used for rifles and shotguns, but the coolest thing about the Matrix is the rear portion detaches and the front portion becomes and excellent, adjustable handgun rest. MSRP: $54.99
Or, you can go with something simpler such as the Caldwell DeadShot Front Shooting Bag. It’s made of water-resistant 600 Denier polyester that provides a non-slip, non-marring surface contact with the handgun. It’s also an extremely comfortable wrist-rest for sighting in or testing a new type of ammo. MSRP: $14.97