When you’re at the range, the last thing you want is an interruption. Inconveniences, slips, and malfunctions are inevitable, but every knowledgeable enthusiast knows to come prepared. Packed with the right equipment, your range bag will keep you ready for anything.
If you’re new to shooting sports, or if you want to double check your toolkit, this guide is for you. We’ll detail the 10 most important items to any range bag, which will ensure you can enjoy more time at the range without disruption. To keep it interesting, we’ll exclude obvious necessities like guns, magazines, and ammunition, since these items need no explanation to their importance.
Correct Hearing/Eye Protection (with Foam Plugs to Spare!)
Every range bag needs hearing and eye protection. Unless you want hearing and vision damage, protective equipment is 100% essential for any firearms-related activity. Remember: hearing damage is permanent and gradual. What feels ‘safe’ could be chipping away at your senses, so indifference is one of the biggest risks.
When it comes to hearing protection, you have two options: in-ear or over-ear. Neither choice is superior to the other, so follow your own personal preference. That said, there are good reasons to have both options available.
Modern hearing protection includes both electronic and passive options. Electronic hearing protection will amplify safe sounds—such as voices and nature—while suppressing gunshots and other loud noises. For hunters or social marksmanship, electronic hearing protection is one of the best investments you can make, but it can come with downsides. On average, electronic hearing protection rates lower than passive protection when it comes to decibel reduction.
At indoor ranges, you may need to pair electronic earmuffs with foam earplugs for sufficient protection. That’s why we recommend you pack extra foam earplugs. You can provide these to your occasional guests, or you can supplement electronic earmuffs for added protection.
First Aid Kits (Bandages/Lead Wipes)
Scrapes happen. Even the most experienced sportsmen can get a cut, splinter, or burn. That’s why your range bag should include a few medical necessities that keep everyone safe.
The most basic kit will include bandages and disinfectant, since cuts are among the most common injuries at the range. Small adhesive bandages will cover the vast majority of slip-ups, but you can always carry more. If you’re trained in first aid, a basic trauma kit can be a lifesaving addition, especially if you shoot outdoors in the countryside, where first responders won’t have immediate access.
We also recommend every range bag include lead-removing wipes. As a whole, gun-owners are at a much higher risk of lead poisoning than the average population. When you’re handling ammunition and steel targets, you need a way of cleaning the lead from your hands to prevent transfer and consumption.
We repeat: lead poisoning is a veryreal risk for gun-owners, and recovery can take a long time. Like hearing damage, lead poisoning is usually gradual, so always pay due-diligence in minimizing exposure.
Range Bag Tools
A good set of tools will always come in-handy.
Whenever you’re dealing with firearms, you’re dealing with machines. That means you’ll occasionally have mishaps that require basic tools to fix.
For field-repairs, a bit driver and bit set are your best friends. Most optics, mounts, and accessories are attached by hex or Torx bits, so a driver kit will cover the vast majority of loose parts. If you don’t want to invest in a bit driver, most parts come with hex keys. You can save these in a plastic bag and bring them along to the range. On the other hand, if you want to go a step further than a bit driver, a torque screwdriver will help you tighten any bolts to the manufacturer’s ideal spec.
Other useful tools could include a punch set with a nylon hammer. Punches are invaluable for most gunsmithing tasks, so if you need to go beyond a field-strip, a punch set can come in clutch.
Note: some folks choose to pack threadlocker for loose bolts. Most threadlockers require 24 hours to set, so unless you want to clog your threads and do double the work, you might want to leave the Loctite at home.
Lubricant and Cleaning Equipment
If your rifles or pistols start jamming, you’ll need quick remediation. A cleaning kit can make the difference between a minor delay and a hard stop when it comes to range-day reliability.
At minimum, you should pack a small bottle of CLP-style lubricant. If you’re shooting AR15s, apply occasional oil to keep your rifle running in peak condition. Even if you’re running an AK, lubricant will only improve your parts’ longevity, so you can spend more time behind the trigger and less time behind the workbench.
If you want the best protection, we recommend investing in a compact cleaning kit, such as those offered by Otis Technology. These basic kits include everything from cleaning patches to brushes and rods. These tools will help you diagnose and clear rifles that are hiccupping a little more than normal.
Most powered optics and accessories rely on batteries for function, so your range bag should include a extra batteries to keep all your equipment running.
As a general recommendation, we advise that you pack enough batteries to recharge all your equipment twice over. This will ensure you always have enough batteries to keep your gear running—while also offering a spare set for friends or other battery failures.
Your most common batteries will be AA, AAA, CR123, and 18650. AA and AAA batteries are used for some optics, lights, lasers, hearing protection, and a wide variety of other range gear. CR123s are also a common choice for optics, lasers, and flashlights—especially on most military-issued gear, where battery standardization is prevalent. 18650s are commonly used in top-of-the-line rifle flashlights. These batteries are more expensive than the others, but they’re rechargeable, so you can save a lot of money with 18650s in the long-run.
Weather and Environment Protection
A lot of enthusiasts will get the basics but fail to include some of these critical range day necessities.
If you shoot indoors, this section may not be as important, but for those of us who enjoy the outdoors, seasonal gear is just as important as life-saving medical equipment. In summertime, sunscreen and insect repellant are 100% mandatory additions to any range bag. As a personal testimony, I recently went for a late-night shoot and forgot mosquito repellant. By the end, our small group received over 140 mosquito bites. That mistake will not happen again.
The only thing more important than sunscreen and repellant is hydration. Again, for indoor ranges, drinks are often prohibited, but water is a must-have if you’re out under the sun. We recommend packing a large water bottle any time you’re going to spend more than an hour in high heat. The fastest path to heat injury is overconfidence.
Likewise, in winter, you should pack additional layers to prevent frostbite or hypothermia. In spring, pack a poncho to protect yourself against the intermittent rainstorms. As the seasons change, you should be prepared to change out the supplies in your range bag to meet the demands of your current environment.
A good set of gloves will protect your hands from scrapes, splinters, and burns—all while providing a little more grip on your gun.
Many new gun-owners are surprised at how quickly the handguard of a rifle can heat up under rapid fire. Depending on your setup, a couple magazines can make your carbine’s fore-end feel intolerably hot. In some cases, the heat coming off the barrel can even burn skin.
That’s why every good range bag should come with a good set of gloves, which increase your heat tolerance when handling a rifle. Gloves also provide you a bit of scuff resistance, so if you’re running drills and moving around barricades, your gloves will protect you from splinters or cuts.
Shot Timer and Tape Measure
For competitors or sportsmen, a shot timer and tape measure are irreplaceable in tracking your improvement as a marksman.
In this sport, the only consistent way of quantifying your ability is through precision or time. Precision is easy to measure by center-to-center spread with a tape measure. If you’re doing long-range practice or are shooting for the smallest group, you should always have this tape measure ready when going downrange.
However, for many tactical drills, precision won’t be measured by a tape measure. Shots are graded by zone placement and time, so you’ll need a shot timer for accurate results. There are a few different shot timers available on the market, but for general purpose use, a PACT timer will give you most of your basic functionality at a good price.
We cannot overstate the value of a shot timer. If you’re practicing draws, target acquisition, movement, or reloads, a shot timer is the only way of isolating and tracking your improvement. Without an accurate shot timer, you will never have a full grasp on how to make your movements more efficient.
Magazine Speed Loaders
The math is simple: more time reloading your mags means less time shooting.
Speed Loaders are a quick and convenient way of maximizing your uptime at the range. Whether you’re topping off a rifle or pistol magazine, there’s a speed loader that will make you faster and more efficient, saving precious minutes with every trip back to the ammo can.
Maglula Ltd. products are the popular standard in speed loaders. Their UpLULA universal pistol magazine loader is intuitive, ergonomic, and generally affordable—plus they’re durable enough to last a long time, even with heavy use.
Maglula also makes some great compact rifle loaders as well, but when it comes to AR15 magazines, you have a ton of options at several different price points. If you’re looking for minimal effort, products like the Caldwell Mag Charger or Magpump AR-15 Hopper Fed Magazine Loader will help you load dozens of magazines at home with ease. That way, you can avoid refilling magazines on the range altogether.
Targets, Staplers, and Spray Paint
Every good range bag will include a few different targets—and the tools to support them.
Once again, at an indoor range, these items may be provided by the range facilities, but most outdoor marksmen will bring their own. Paper targets and splatter targets are easy to store inside most range bags, but if you need to save space, you can also roll them up and strap them to the side.
Spray paint will need a little bit more space if you’re shooting at your own steel, and you’ll probably want to separate the paint to reduce the risk of leakage or accidental sprays.
Some ranges will also make you bring your own stapler. If that’s the case, you should invest in a quality tool that won’t jam up on you. You’ll also want to bring extra staples, so you don’t get stuck taping your targets down. Believe us, it doesn’t work too well.
Your range bag is like a utility belt. You need the right tools for the job, which means thinking proactively when organizing its supplies.
If you’re thinking about building up your range bag—or if you think you might need to start from square one—we have a wide selection of products that will help check off a lot of boxes on this list. As always, if you have any questions about subjects or items covered in this blog, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll be more than happy to answer your questions through social media. Just send us a direct message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and we’ll help however we can!