Do you have a range bag? Having a range bag with some essential items is a must-have for new or advanced shooters. When I first started shooting, I carried my gun, ammo, and earmuffs out to the range. That’s all I thought I would need to whip myself into a John-Wick-level shooter.
Ok, so maybe this was a little before the days of “John Wick,” but you get the point. I would just find a few pop cans and start blasting. Turns out, however, it’s hard to improve your aim when you can’t tell where your bullet is going. I would aim at the pop can and fire. Nothing. After that, I learned to use a paper target so I could learn the basics of trigger pull, proper sight alignment, grip, etc.
So, I bought some paper targets and went back to the range. But then I forgot to bring a staple gun, so I had to go fetch one of those. I repeated this process multiple times over the years. When I learned about a beneficial item to have on the range, I added it to my bag. It’s easy to get too many things in a range bag, but not having something you need is frustrating. In this article, we will go over the essential items that every range bag needs. I’ll also cover some other stuff that may not be essential but is still useful on the range.
Selecting a Range Bag
You would think this was the easy part. How hard can it be to buy a bag, right? Some people have no problem popping into a gun store, grabbing a bag, and making it work. That has never worked for me. I always must learn the hard way, through trial and error. I don’t want to make it sound difficult to buy a range bag so here is the best advice I can give. Decide what items you want to carry in the bag before you buy it.
Once you know what items you plan to carry, buy a range bag that will hold a little more. Often, you will end up adding additional items to your bag. You may be wondering what a range bag is in the first place. I know some people who just use a backpack for a range bag. There is nothing wrong with this if that is what works for you. But a range bag is a bag specifically designed to hold magazines, ammo, handguns, ear protection, and other essential range day items.
Many of them are square bags that have a larger compartment in the middle and smaller compartments on the sides. Most will have elastic bands to hold handgun magazines and larger bags will have AR-15 magazine holders as well. When you have one set up to meet your needs, heading to the range is simple. Just grab your firearm, range bag, and go.
The first and most obvious items for a range bag are ear and eye protection. You should never head to a range without these. Most people understand why hearing protection is needed, but some don’t see the need for eye protection. The human eye is a soft organ that needs to be protected. Not too long ago, I fired at a still target during a drill and had a fragment of the bullet hit my forehead. It was little more than a scratch, but it did draw blood.
The same scratch on my eye would have been much more painful. Guns can also break, sending parts flying backward, so the best policy is to wear eye protection. Hearing protection should be rated for firearms. If you like to use electronic earmuffs, keep some extra batteries in your bag so they don’t go down on you while you’re at the range.
The next thing that should be in every bag is a medical kit. If you have a dedicated medical kit separate from your range bag that’s fine, just don’t forget to take it with you. I’m surprised how little I see medical kits on the range. If you are around guns, you need a medical kit.
Among other items, the medical kit should contain a tourniquet, gauze, and medical tape or some type of wrap. If you don’t keep the medical kit in your range bag, keep it near your bag. Leaving it in your car may be too far away from where you are shooting on the range.
Other Range Essentials
A staple gun and extra staples are needed unless you use a range that has metal clips or some other method of holding targets up. You will typically need a staple gun to hang paper targets at outdoor ranges. A sharpie is handy for marking areas on a target and a small notepad and pen are also good to have on hand.
I would recommend always having a small bottle of gun oil just in case you need it. If I know I’m spending the day at the range, I add oil to my gun before I start shooting and again halfway through the day. Guns are small machines with metal rubbing on metal. Oil is what keeps the gun running smoothly and helps protect some parts from wearing out as fast. I would also include a small tool kit in your bag.
Fix it Sticks tool kits are great, or you can buy individual tools and throw a little tool kit together. I would include a small flat screwdriver, some Allen wrenches, and a sight tool for the type of gun you are using. Some issues can be resolved quickly with a few tools on the range.
Not having them will result in your day being cut short by a minor repair or adjustment. Next is the ammo and mags. I tend to shoot any ammo available to me at the range. Because of this, I like to preplan how much ammo I will be shooting and load that into my range bag. When it’s gone, shooting is over.
Additional Range Bag Items To Consider
Over the years, there are other items I have started keeping in my range bag that come in handy. One is paper plates. Depending on the type of training I’m doing, I use metal targets or hang up paper targets for accuracy training. But every now and then I end up at a friend’s house or out in the woods for some shooting. When friends invite you to come shooting, they don’t always plan things out.
If you have some paper plates, a Sharpie, and a stapler, you can set up some targets in minutes. It’s a good idea to keep a roll of duct tape in your bag. It can be used to cover up holes in the plates. Also, a few granola bars and a bottle of water won’t take up too much room in your bag and some sunscreen is handy on those sunny days. I keep a package of wet wipes in my bag to keep my hands clean after loading ammo and shooting as well. Not everyone shoots with gloves on, but I like to use shooting gloves for most of my firearms.
The size of the range bag you set up and how much stuff you put in your bag will be up to you. There are plenty of other items to throw in there depending on your needs while at the range. Rangefinders, shot timers, lens cleaner for optics and scopes, etc. are just a few. For those that shoot a lot, a speed loader is handy, and a mat to lay your firearm on will help protect it from scratches. If you save your brass, a bag to collect in and another bag for trash is a good idea.
If you are new to shooting, I would start with the basics and then add additional items over time. You will want to find that balance of what you need versus hauling too much stuff around at the range. These items are a good starting point, and the rest? Well that, my friend, is up to you.