When we're talking about “range bag essentials” we're talking about the main things that we want to have with us the next time we’re headed to the range. Learn from my earlier mistakes and don’t just throw everything in a backpack! Having everything in a dedicated "range bag" is key, especially when it comes to firearms safety. I like to isolate anything gun related; this way I can make sure that I control access to the bag and its contents, especially with kids like my young son running around.
So, when looking at range bags there are a plethora to choose from. From small range bags that can only fit the essentials like eye and ear protection and maybe a small amount of ammo to much larger bags, like I the one that I use that is more similar to a piece of wheeled luggage with a collapsing handle. The important thing to remember is that they both do the same things and it's just a matter of deciding what you want in your bag, so let's talk about that.
The bare bones basics that you're going to need in your bag are:
Eye protection, ear protection, room to carry ammo, a space for your firearm, and space for a cleaning kit.
When it comes to eye and ear protection most people skip right over them because they seem self-explanatory and while they are, there are some things that you should know about eyes and ears for shooting. Let's talk about eye protection; yes, they're just glasses but some of them come in kits with up to three different interchangeable lenses. In that case you'll most often have a clear set, a darker set, and a yellow set. The clear and darker lenses are pretty straight forward, so we don’t need to get into that. However, the yellow lens can help illuminate targets making them easier to shoot. Now, switching gears over to ear protection; there’re two basic types; inner-ear and outer-ear protection. Hearing protection comes in a wide variety of options. The most common inner ear you'll find are inexpensive disposable foam plugs, but like I said there are so many options out there including everything from these small foam plugs to fully molded electronic plastic plugs. Now, outer ear protection typically looks more like large headphones that will encompass your ear creating a sound protecting seal around it. Choosing which style of eyes and ears will suit you is completely up to you. I always recommend trying a set from your local range or trying out some options from friends.
Next, we need space for our practice ammunition that we're going to use at the range. Now… there are two main types of ammunition, ammunition for self-defense and ammunition for practice or range use. Ammunition that's commonly used for self-defense is usually more expensive to manufacture and will usually have a higher price tag than range ammunition. You’ll want to keep your range and carry ammunition separate from each other and secure. Remember, controlling access to your firearm and it's ammunition is your responsibility.
Now let's talk about a spot for your firearm. You’ll definitely want to make sure that you have room for your pistol in your bag. There are some bags out there that are designed to carry not only one pistol but can carry multiple up to 5 or 6. This is especially cool if you want to shoot multiple firearms while you're at the range. As an instructor, I like to have a couple of extra pistols with me like the M&P Shield EZ or M&P 22 Compact; that way I have multiple options for my shooters to determine which firearm is best for them.
The last basic essential you’ll need is a good cleaning kit. Think of your cleaning kit like the gas for your car or the oil for your engine; you have to have it to keep everything running! You’ll want to make sure that your kit includes a solvent to clean, oil to lubricate, a brush to scrub with, a brush to clean your barrel, and a rag for cleaning up and wiping down afterwards. These are the bare necessities when talking about a good cleaning kit. And that's it! Now of course you can scale up or down as big or small as you like. Just remember that like anything, everyone’s range bag is a little different. You may need things that are specific to the firearm that you're shooting that day. Or if you're an instructor like I am, there are a plethora of additional things you might find in my range bag to assist me with teaching. On any given day you can dig in to find dummy rounds, sight picture cards, extra eye and ear protection, tools to repair guns, paperwork, whistle, shot timers, snacks... the list and can literally go on and on and on. Hopefully this list of the 5 essentials will help you get your range bag started and on the road to success.
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