A good day at the range can turn into an awesome day at the range with a little preparation. Packing the essentials, a few extras and having a plan will help you make the most of your time.
Good preparation requires a solid organizational effort. But if you're like us, you may find that your range bag can become cluttered and unorganized. Start each new season by cleaning out your bag. Take everything out and put back only what's necessary - in an organized manner.
And if you don't yet have a bag, find one that works for you and all of your equipment. There are a lot of options when it comes to range bags. We suggest getting one with several compartments to keep your range items organized. Some shooters prefer one large bag, many like the new backpack style, still others want multiple smaller bags - either way, you will need plenty of room.
Before you head to the range, pack your bag(s) with these basic requirements:
Make sure you have ear protection. You may want to also throw in a spare set in case you misplace one, or a friend needs to borrow a pair. Basic ear plugs or earmuffs do the job, but high-quality electronic headsets are a worthwhile investment for both safety and convenience. They amplify voices (safe noise levels), compress harmful noise levels - and you don’t have to remove your earmuffs to hear someone speak or have a conversation. Backup batteries are a must with electronic headsets.
Quality eye protection is another must-have, but it doesn't have to be fancy (or expensive). Your eyewear should however be performance rated by ANSI Z87.1. This standard protects your eyes from high velocity and high mass impact. Grab a pair of safety glasses you'd wear in the shop, or you can opt for something more stylish from Oakley or ESS.
Magazines & Magazine Loader
You can't shoot your gun if you forget the magazines. Many shooting bags have very specific compartments that hold each magazine individually. How's that for organization?
Quick tip - always number your magazines. This helps to identify and easily separate any magazines that are not properly functioning or need to be cleaned. Our Team Springfield SMEs suggest Dawson Precision's magazine grip tape for the base pads. In addition, the aggressive surface helps you maintain a good grip on your magazine as you load / reload it into your gun. #MAGnificent
If you're shooting a couple hundred rounds, it's also nice to have a magazine loader. And it is definitely a time-saver. You can find mag loaders for a wide variety of rifle and pistol magazines. They're inexpensive and easy on the thumbs. Our SME's favorite manufacturer is MagLULA. #TriedAndTrue
Cleaning & Tool Kit
Toss in a portable cleaning kit designed for your firearm, along with any other maintenance tools you might find handy. You don't need anything elaborate - just enough to make sure your gun and magazines stays in good working condition.
- Cleaning solution
- Screw driver
- Bore snake or barrel brush
- Gun-specific take down tool
- Gun oil
- Allen wrenches
- Pocket knife
- Squib rod
- Hand sanitizer or better yet D-Lead wipes
For those of you who shoot outdoors, additional range bag supplies are necessary:
- Lip balm
- Water For Hydration
AMMO & Ammo Can
You can probably fit a decent amount of ammunition in your magazines and range bag, but if you’re planning on an extended training session, an ammo can (or two) is a nice add. Plus they are a great way to store ammo at home. Grab a few of the new, polymer-style varieties or military surplus steel cans. Depending on the condition and size, military surplus options can be a great deal at around $15-$20 each.
You will also need a container to put your empty brass in. Any sort of receptacle with a lid works, from an empty cardboard box or military steel can, to a 5-gallon bucket. One of my favorites is old freezer storage bags. #Reuse
If your pistol practice session includes drawing and reloading, you will have to make room in your range bag for your belt, holster and magazine pouches, unless you already have them on body. #CarryOn
If you've got a double-belt system like the Safariland ELS rig, you won't have to take the peripherals on and off every time, but, it probably won't fit in your bag.
TAPE & Targets
You have a lot of options here and most ranges sell targets. The type, shape, color, imprint and material of targets is more than plentiful. Whether you're going with a traditional bullseye, a paper silhouette, a Shoot-N-C, a whitetail deer target or cardboard competition targets, make sure to bring tape.
Depending on the range and what target frames / stands are available, you may also need a staple gun (and staples) or binder clips to attach the targets to frames.
All ranges will designate what ammo you’re allowed to use. Any steel-core or armor piercing ammo will most likely get rejected, as it can spark and / or cause severe damage and cratering on steel targets.
Speaking of steel targets, some ranges may have steel targets you can use. With all steel targets, it's very important to shoot a safe distance from the target to avoid ricochet. Recommended distance from steel targets (based on manufacturers and practical shooting organizations) varies between 9 and 11 yards minimum. To be certain, check the target manufacturer's guidelines for safe target distance. Target type, composition, ammunition type, and target placement, position, and angle are all factors to consider.
Shooting on public land designated for target shooting? Leave the scrap electronics, tin cans and appliances at home - and always make sure you take care of the mess afterward. Don't be the person who leaves their shot-up junk behind for others to deal with. #NotCool #PackItOut
If you're fortunate enough to be on your own land - and want to set up permanent steel targets, ⅜-inch thick AR500 steel will stop most common centerfire calibers at 100 yards and further.
Here’s an excellent flowchart from MOATargets to help you decide which type of steel you need:
Shot timers are a great tool for training. You can test your skills under the pressure of the clock down to the hundredth of a second. Timers relay valuable information to the shooter: First shot time, target split times, target acquisition times and the overall time of the drill.
Once you are a safe, proficient and accurate shooter, speed is the next part of the equation. The timer is one of the best ways to track your progress in this area of skill development. Speed, as you know, is critical in self defense situations and a very important aspect of competition shooting.
There are a variety of timers on the market. You can buy an old-school, time-tested, battery operated, handheld style (like PACT or Competition Electronics), or download a shot timer or dry fire app on your smartphone.
Practice makes perfect - and it's a lot easier and much more beneficial if you keep a practice log. Make the best use of your time and ammo by having a plan before you hit the range.
Choose one or two drills to focus on in each practice session. Work on a specific technique until you make some progress. Document the practice session - date, time, drill, target type, distances, number of rounds, procedure, times, and your overall takeaways from the day. Keeping a log is beneficial, as you can revisit old drills to continually re-test your skill level and compare results.
If you're old school, a physical paper training book / log works fine. Put it in your range bag. More of a smart phone junkie? Try the RangeLog app. Need some drill ideas? Check out this YouTube playlist for easy (and effective) range drills. You can also get some cool drill ideas from InstructorZero and Mike Seeklander of ShootingPerformance.
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst - A small first aid and trauma kit should be a part of everyone's range bag. Hopefully you will never need the plastic gloves and quick clotting agent, but sterile wipes and bandaids are more likely to occasionally come in handy.
MAKE YOUR MARK
It's also not a bad idea to put your name on your gear. It greatly increases your chance of getting misplaced items back. A lot of equipment looks alike; shooting bags, earmuffs, magazines, etc. I'm betting I'm not the only one who has come home from the range without my earmuffs [more than once]. #EngraveIt #EmbroiderIt #SharpieIt
No range day checklist would be complete without this tip from Captain Obvious ... leave your guns behind, and you won’t be doing much shooting! Make certain that you know the range rules regarding gun condition too - many ranges expect you to arrive with your guns unloaded.
So make your list, check it twice, then get out there and have a great time at the range. #LetsGoShoot