Whether you are a casual target shooter, a hopeful competitive shooter, or an armed professional who likes to hit the range for practice time, having a well-organized range bag stocked with the right items makes your trips to the range more efficient, allowing you to focus your time on getting rounds down range.
Nobody likes to make the trip to their gun club and have to haul loads of kit in various bags and pockets, or make several trips back to their car (or home!) to retrieve some forgotten item. An organized range bag holds everything you need at the firing line, saving you trips and time.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Range bag
The obvious first item is the bag that holds every thing you need. You might be reluctant to save money and grab any bag or backpack you might have that is lying around the house. Don’t. A specially designed range bag has room for all the equipment you need, gives you a small work space for disassembly, loading, cleaning, etc. and reduces the chance of parts going missing or being forgotten.
There are several options on the market available from gun stores or tactical products dealers, at all price points and to suit all needs. Handgun shooters might need a bag that holds a few pistol magazines or speedloaders, as well as a lockable pistol case, and their cleaning kit and other items. Rifle and shotgun shooters might need space for optics or accessories. Law enforcement shooters might want a bag that holds their other police equipment for their duty belt.
Some important features regardless of the size and use of the bag would be: a rigid bottom for support, tough fabric construction like cordura/nylon, an assortment of large and small pockets or a utility area with a customizable divider/insert, and a comfortable shoulder strap and carrying handles to give you options on how to carry it with you.
Beyond that, it is really a matter of what you need and what you are planning to carry in it. But here are some bonus features to look for: Does it have webbing or Velcro® to add accessory pouches? Does it have room for the bulky items, like hearing and eye protection? Does it have a way of identifying the owner, such as an ID or business card window or hook-and-loop panel?
One option would be something like the Cabela’s Eliminator Range Bag | Cabela’s Canada $59.99 (see picture) which has hook-and-loop internal dividers and a tough, sturdy construction. Another option could be the very high-end Vertx A Range Back Range Bag, Black VTX5025BK $199.95 (USD), developed with input from professional firearms instructors and featuring “garage-deck” pull out compartments.
Other great range bags are offered by 5.11 Tactical and BLACKHAWK!, as well as firearms makers like Colt and Beretta.
2. Hearing Protection
Casual shooters will not want to spend too much in this area, as any hearing protection will do the job. But for those who are on the range often, or who need to be able to communicate effectively or listen for range commands during compeitions or qualifications will appreciate electronic hearing protection, which reduces the louder gun shot sounds but amplifies lower decibel sounds such as voices.
While quality electronic hearing protection used to be very pricey, decent quality sets can now be had under $40, such as this Caldwell E-Max Low Profile Electronic Hearing Muff | Cabela’s Canada regularly $54.99 on sale $34.99 (see picture) … just remember to pack extra batteries!
For a more economical option go for foam or moulded ear plugs, or something non-electronic, such as the Walker’s Pro Low-Profile Folding Earmuff | Cabela’s Canada $17.99.
3. Eye Protection
Another critical shooting accessory is proper ballistic eye protection. Shooting glasses come in all ranges of styles and prices, but the one critical feature for all of them is either CSA or ANSI certification, so that you can rely on them to protect your eyes from errant flying debris. Another consideration is whether you will mostly shoot indoors or outdoors, as some coloured tints are better than others depending on where you will be shooting.
Luckily, even good quality eye protection can be had at a very reasonable price. One of our favourites is Smith & Wesson Performance Shooting Glasses, Blue Frame, Smoke Lens SW10220C for just $11.29 (USD). For more active and dynamic range work, the Wiley X XL-1 Advanced Shooting Glasses | Cabela’s Canada regularly $89.99 on sale $76.49 (see picture) is another great option, and with the strap it will stay in place during dynamic competition serials or qualification stages.
You need a multitool. Period.
Forget the tacticool knife or lugging around a garage chest full of tools and associated bits. Most firearms can be disassembled with no tools at all, but when you do need one, a multitool is the place to go.
They have uses beyond minor firearm maintenance as well. Adjusting or fixing other accessories or attachments, opening boxes and containers, pulling errant and stubborn staples stuck in wood (or a misplaced finger)… the possibilities are limitless.
Our suggestion is something like a Leatherman Orange Wave Multitool | Cabela’s Canada $109.99.
5. Cleaning Kit
There are a variety of firearm cleaning kits, and though you may choose to keep most of your cleaning supplies at home for more thorough cleaning, often times it is an overlooked step after a day at the range — once at home, life takes over again and cleaning can get forgotten.
Bring the kit with you to the range, do a quick cleaning before you leave using the supplies in your range bag.
Even just running through the barrel and removing the fouling from the chamber area will go a long way to preserving your firearm until you get the chance for a more thorough cleaning job.
The Cabela’s Tactical Cleaning System | Cabela’s Canada $64.99 (see picture), or the similar one by OTIS, are pocket sized and therefore will not take up a huge amount of space in your range bag. Need a kit suitable for a wider variety of firearms and more in-depth cleaning, but that’s still portable? Look for something like the Gerber Gun Cleaning Kit, Law, Rifle / Shotgun / Pistol, Sheath – Box-style package. It’s discontinued, but can still be found at a reasonable price from oneline retailers.
6. Other Essentials
Some other things you should give serious thought to always packing:
- Staple gun, for fixing targets to target holders.
- Trauma dressing – a full first aid kit might be out of reach when seconds count and you need to stop arterial bleeding fast. Shooting is a safe activity, but accidents can happen – be prepared.
- Spotting scope – for any signficant distances, a spotting scope is a must have tool used for sighting in and practice.
- A ruler – for measuring shot groupings.
- Markers – for marking targets
- Targets – A variety of targets can be helpful, and you should purchase them ahead of time – don’t rely on blank targets always being available at the range.