A range bag, like a manly purse, should contain everything you might need at the range. Forgetting something at home could ruin your whole day. So here’s a checklist and some suggestions for keeping yourself organized and your experience a happy one. It’s worth noting, that depending on your purpose, you may add or subtract certain items from this checklist as you go through it. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Choosing Your Range Bag.
I like to double up the functionality on everything I buy or put together. A range bag could easily convert or cover the need for one of the go bags that live in your car in the event you and your loved ones need to evacuate your home. The range is for practice and enjoyment. Leaving your home is something completely different and some of the range equipment can be left behind.
A range bag clearly starts with a bag, so let’s start with that first. The main hold should have partitions. Like pockets, these really help to keep things compartmentalized and organized. A big favorite of mine is the Smith and Wesson M&P Tactical Range Bag. Another favorite at the Full30 Office is the Hackett Equipment Big Bertha, which you can read a review on here.
I strongly favor the M&P bag because in the main compartment the center partition can be removed as an independent bag. This is great for those times when you may need to set up a defensive position away from your vehicle. Select an appropriate rifle, grab the small center bag and you’re ready at a moment’s notice.
This bag is ready for everything you might need, as you might expect from Smith & Wesson. The bag has ample pouches, left and right and at both ends, including PALS loops for any add-on favorites you might like to carry. My only reservation is that this bag does favor pistol mags. But that’s true for the vast majority of range bags.
Here’s a great video from Sootch that can help those of you who don’t like reading too much.
Safety first – Safety Equipment in the Range Bag.
You never want to be that guy at the range. Who is that guy? That guy is the guy who shows up, but has to borrow eyes and ears. To avoid being that guy, I highly suggest having all of your safety equipment live inside of your range bag.
Hearing protection on the range is obviously a no brainer, of course you need some, but as an ex-navy man who worked in the engine room, let me recommend that you buy and use both over the ear AND foam insert protection. Why, you ask? Regular exposure to 100 decibels for just 15 minutes per day can cause permanent hearing damage. Regular exposure to 110 decibels for just 1.5 minutes per day can cause permanent damage. A jet engine, and Naval engine room environment is about 130 decibels A typical 9mm pistol discharge will produce a 160 decibel blast. Let’s follow the math: Exposure to 160 decibels for 1/1000 of a second can cause permanent damage. (That’s your exposure after 10 rounds) I hope you’re tracking with me here: Guns are loud.
I spent 8-14 hours a day exposed to the hearing hazards of a Naval engine room, where you reach your ‘safe’ exposure in less than 6 seconds. Your typical over the ear protection of 20 debible protection got me out to 9 hours of ‘safe’ protection for each day of exposure, but I wore double hearing protection. With foam inserts that stretched me out to a theoretical 9000 hours/day. When I got out, I compared my hearing test before and after service and found that I only lost 0.5 decibels in the frequency range of 3600hz. Everything else was exactly the same. Why some loss at 3600hz? That was a constant frequency I was exposed to because of the ship’s generators.
Doubling up with 30 in your ears and 20 around your ears, doesn’t really give you 50 decibels, because sound will travel through your skull to your ear’s cochlea, but it affords you maximum protection. Give it a try sometime, it may surprise you.
Eye protection is an obvious must. Your prescription glasses are not enough. Use something that’s actually protective. Don’t stop at one pair, either, have a couple pairs for guests and friends as well. Wiley X has some of the best I’ve seen and they have interchangeable lenses that are suitable for any environment and they support prescription lenses as well. They also have a lineup with a price range to fit nearly any budget.
Most people overlook this item, but a trauma kit that addresses a gunshot wound should be included in any range bag. Walking to the grocery store is not likely to result in trauma, but traveling at city street speeds in your car and crashing, and having a mishap at a gun range are two activities where the chances of catastrophic trauma are reasonably above zero. These are inherently dangerous activities where death is a possible outcome. Remember, you’re likely to not be the only person on the range, just like you’re not the only person on the road.
One hundred people die every day in the US as a result of vehicle collisions. Accidental deaths attributed to a gunshot are about five hundred per year. Factoring in how often and how many people actually visit a gun range, it’s safe to say that you’re more likely to need first aid at a gun range, so certainly carry a proper first aid kit, that includes a tourniquet, chest seal and pressure bandage. My Medic offers a very well rounded kit at a reasonable price.
Trust on this one. You’d rather have it and not need it.
Targetry and Your Shot Log – A Range Bag Must.
Out on the range generally you’re going to want something to shoot at. Targets don’t have to be a single use item. Sticky targets can cover holes from previous shots and they are a lot less expensive than whole new targets. (You can also get away with using white masking tape.) If you’re not going to a private range, you might want to bring a target stand. While this is not likely to fit in your bag, it should be on your checklist.
You’ll want some way to mount those targets. There are several options, staples and staple gun, tape, clothes pins or clamp type paper clips all work for holding up targets.
Documenting your shots is a big part of the fun of going to the range. So bring markers for targets, a ruler for measuring group sizes and a pen and notepad for everything else. Bring your phone for taking pictures of your best groups too. Someone’s gotta brag about how awesome you are, might as well be you.
If you are really into documenting your progress, you might want to include a shot timer in your bag. If you’re shooting down range with a rifle, a spotting scope can really help out with being on target, especially if you go to the range with a friend. And of course, don’t forget to bring your bean bag rests with your rifles.
Any good day at the range will probably include pre-loading all the magazines you bring with you. So include plenty of ammo, obviously and perhaps a mag loader to assist.
Things You’ll Want in the Range Bag Just in Case.
Generally you’ll clean your weapons at home after your day at the range, but in the event that a weapon gets dropped in the dirt or mud, you might want to clean it before using it, so include your gun cleaning gear including a bore light and a cleaning mat in your range bag.
Sight adjustment is naturally going to be done while on the range, so bring any tool you might need for that, including a bore site, if your shooting rifles along with torque wrenches for your scope and mount.
Automatic weapons and even bolt action rifles can experience serious jams. Once I had a case split radially upon discharging. The bottom half of the case was extracted but the top half stayed in the breach and the next round was loaded. Stuff happens. You might want to be prepared to strip your weapon. If so, bring the tear down tools for your weapons, gun oil, grease and cleaning rags.
Never Forget the Little Things!
Do include a bag for brass for cleaning up after your day at the range, especially if you reload.
Other things to consider on your checklist would include, spare batteries for sights and other electronic accessories, gloves for cold days, a flashlight, loctite for those set screws, best holsters for your pistols and mags, a water bottle, bug spray and perhaps some snacks. The little things go a long way, especially if you’re at an out of the way shooting spot in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.
Saved Rounds on Building a Range Bag.
A day at the range is both a source of relaxation and bonding with close friends and family. Few activities are more bonding than a day at the range between men. But practitioners should acknowledge that this is a deadly art and treat this activity with the respect it demands. Always go to the range prepared to have a good time. A good range bag should expedite your set-up, keep you shooting longer, and keep you prepared for any emergencies you may experience while training.
That’s just the opinion of one experienced shooter though. Let us know down in the comments section what you keep in your range bag. As a community, we can always come together to make training as good as it possibly can be. We’ll see you out there.