Range Essentials: A Gun Day Fun Day List

So you’re a newbie to the wonderful world of shooting and wondering what essentials you’ll need to take with you to the range to enjoy your newfound endeavor better.

We’ll get into the odds and ends that will make your future trips to the range more rewarding in a moment. First, though, I’ll take a minute to strongly suggest that you seek out some basic (and then more in-depth) firearms training from qualified people. Guns can be dangerous if mishandled, both to the shooter and bystanders. Lay your ego aside and get some training.

A few items mentioned here could even be appreciated by seasoned shooters, as they can add to the overall range experience. No matter how experienced we are, let us never fall into the trap of thinking we know it all. I’m still learning, and I’ve been shooting for close to 50 years.

Range Gear

Certain range gear is absolutely essential. Every range I’ve attended requires both eye and ear protection. Even for shooters not using a range where those items are mandated, I still strongly recommend using them anyway, no matter where you’re shooting. Eyesight is very fragile, and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Hearing damage is more gradual, but as I’ve found out firsthand, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Damage to both of these senses is completely preventable.

Essentials

We’ll cover the mandatory ones here. After the Essentials, we’ll take a look at items that are nice to have and that make our lives more pleasant on the range.

Eye And Ear Protection

Eye and ear protection is so available that there’s no excuse for not having it.

You already know this, but we only get two eyes. Jeopardizing them on the range is simply foolhardy. There is a huge selection of eye protection available in the form of shooting glasses. The great thing is that prices run the entire range with shooting glasses; you can spend a couple of dollars if you’re on a budget, or you can break the bank if you like.

Walkers ear muffs, ear plugs, and shooting glasses.
Walker’s folding ear muffs, foam ear plugs, and shooting glasses come as a package deal. The quality is good, and the price is modest. Photo: Jim Davis.

Even budget-friendly glasses will give you enough protection to be effective. Sure, you can spend an obscene amount if you desire, but the benefits provided are more of a luxury than a necessity.

The same goes for hearing protection; you can go basic and inexpensive and be just fine. Or you can upgrade and spend a lot more on electronic ear muffs. These allow the shooter to hear range commands and all sorts of things with normal hearing protection blocks. When there’s a loud noise like a gunshot, the electronics shut down, and the muffs protect the ears.

Here is a combo pack, it’s Walker’s Passive Pro Safety Hearing And Eye Protection Combo. The ear muffs are passive, which means they don’t utilize electronics to amplify the user’s ability to hear on the range. They’re basic and provide good protection for the ears at a reasonable price point. Aside from the ear muffs, there is also a set of flexible foam earplugs included. Finally, a set of polycarbonate shooting glasses is included, which will keep your eyes safe. It’s nice that everything is available in one convenient package. Yes, it’s very basic, but it will serve a shooter well for years. And if you want to get fancy later on, you can always upgrade. As this is written, this package will set you back $21.99, which is quite reasonable and will cover all your bases.

Medical

Many ranges currently will have medical kits on the premises in the event someone is injured. However, it never hurts to carry your own medical kit, just in case. And if you keep it in your vehicle, you’ll always have it handy in case of an accident. As with most other items, you can go simple, basic, and inexpensive with a medical kit, or you can go all-out and spend some serious coin. Most people start small and work their way up.

Everlit trauma kit.
The Everlit Survival Advanced Trauma Kit is a great addition to the range gear. One never knows when a medical emergency might rear its head. Photo: GunMag Warehouse.

As with firearms, there is a lot of merit in seeking instruction on how to use the equipment you’re investing in. All the gear in the world isn’t worth much if you don’t know how to use it.

The Everlit Survival Advanced Trauma Kit retails for $119.99 at the time of writing and offers a good amount of gear to treat wounds.

Tools

Having some basic tools along at the range will come in handy should you have to do basic maintenance on a firearm. Sometimes screws come loose on scope mounts or grips. You might even have to take a gun apart apart. The possibilities are endless.

Being stuck at the range with no tools can be a real drag and prematurely end a shooting session. Who wants to pack everything up and head home just because we forgot to bring a screwdriver? Not this guy!

Multi-Tasker Twist Gun Tool, Gerber Multi-Tool, Sharpie marker.
Having some basic tools along will save so much frustration at the range. In fact, it could save the range day, literally. Here is a Multi-Tasker Twist Gun Tool, a Gerber multi-tool, and a Sharpie for marking targets. Photo: Jim Davis.

MultiTasker’s Twist Gun Tool offers a solution by including a carbon scraper, pin punch, slotted screwdriver, front sight tool, ten hex bits, and some other tools, all in the size of a marker. It’s like a mini took kit that fits in your pocket. It even has a clip like a pen for attaching to the pocket. At the time of writing, it sells for $59.95, and you’ll consider it money well spent. This little gadget can really save the day.

I also keep a stapler in my range equipment for putting up targets, as well as a few Sharpie markers for marking targets.

Having a multi-tool is also a great idea, and I have a few from Gerber and Leatherman. They have pliers, screwdrivers, knife blades, and other tools.

Gloves

A set of shooting gloves can save your hands from abuse, especially if you’re running a platform like the AK-47. But even shooting handguns can be made more comfortable with a pair of shooting gloves. Aside from saving your hands from discomfort, they can also enhance your grip.

My personal favorite gloves are from Mechanix Wear. The thin palms permit a surprising amount of dexterity while still maintaining protection for the shooter.

Mechanix gloves.
Mechanix gloves are perfect for the range and are inexpensive. Aside from that, they are great for all sorts of tasks, including motorcycle riding. Photo: Jim Davis

I also wear them for other activities, one of which is riding motorcycles, as they protect my hands while still permitting me to do anything else that I need to on the ride. My personal favorites are the Mechanix FastFit Coyote Gloves, as they’re easy to put on and take off. I love these things and keep a pair in each of my jackets. They can be worn in warm weather, as they don’t make the hands feel hot in the summer.

Shooting Bags

We’ll need something to tote around the gear we’ll be amassing. A range bag will help us keep our shooting supplies organized and in order. Shooting bags range from simple to elaborate and inexpensive to costly. A good bag will allow us to transport the gear comfortably, which is important because, over time, the bag will become heavier as your gear collection grows.

Blackhawk range bag.
Blackhawk makes some excellent range bags. This one is large and has a long shoulder strap, which makes carrying a lot easier. Photo: Jim Davis.

My range bag of choice is from Blackhawk. It’s large, and the thick nylon construction is strong enough to carry a heavy load. The shoulder strap helps sling it over my shoulder, making carry easy. The weight does add up when we factor in all the gear mentioned above, in addition to extra staples for the stapler, various boxes of ammunition, a rangefinder, magazine loaders, and many other odds and ends.

Final Thoughts

These are merely a few of the pieces of range gear that come to mind for some of the basics. Some are mandatory, and others are comfort items that will vary from shooter to shooter. Rest assured that you’ll add items here and there and end up with a comprehensive collection of gear that suits your individual needs. By the time you’ve assembled your whole kit, it’s probably going to weigh a few pounds.

Experience will tell you what’s most useful and which items you can do without. It’s a lengthy process, so don’t rush it, it will happen over time. One great resource in figuring out which items might be most useful is to see what your fellow shooters are using and carrying in their bags.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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