Going to the gun range for the first time can be scary especially if you don't know what you should bring with you. Should you bring a range bag? What should be in your range bag? What should you wear when you go to the range? These are all questions you are probably wondering and we are going to answer them. By the time you finish reading this article, you will feel ready for your next adventure to the range.
We’ve broken this down into two sections. First, things you should take to the range. These are items you may have thought to bring with you but are important to remember to bring. The second section is things you might not think to take to the range. Let’s jump right in.
Things You Should Take To The Range
Eye protection is most often required by any range you go to and typically they have a rental option but you may want to bring your own. When you are shooting a gun the extracted bullet casing can fly back and hit you or gunpowder could get into your eye. That is why it’s important to wear eye protection when you are at the range.
If you wear glasses or are at an outdoor range and own a pair of sunglasses that you want to use these are typically allowed as eye protection but you may want to double check with your range to make sure. There are a lot of companies that make eye protection but we have listed a few of our favorites below. To make it easy you can store your eye protection in your range bag so you always have it ready to go.
- Smith & Wesson - As a popular gun manufacturer it makes sense that their eye protection would make our list. They have quality, decent priced glasses of various shapes and colors.
- Howard Leight - Owned by Honeywell, they make quality eye protection for shooters. Many of their glasses are anti glare and reasonably priced. They also have kits with both eye and ear protection that you may want to check out.
- Smith Optics - The most expensive on our list, however, they are probably the most durable. They have quite a few style and color options to fit everyone's preferences.
If you have ever shot a gun you probably know how loud they are. If you haven’t, take our word for it they are LOUD. That means it is best for the safety of your ears to wear ear protection like earmuffs or earplugs when you are at the range. Wearing ear protection doesn’t mean you won’t still hear the gun firing but it will be muffled to a level that is safe for your ears.
You may be thinking but what if I use a silencer. While yes a silencer will make it safer for your ears it does not make the gun completely silent so it is best to still use ear protection if you are at the range. Your ear protection is another thing you can store in your range bag so you always have it ready to go. We’ve listed some companies that make quality ear protection you may want to check out below.
- 3M Safety - 3M offers a variety of earmuffs and earplug options. Some have Bluetooth or radios and others are more generic.
- Howard Leight - Howard Leight is a company by Honeywell that offers both electronic and passive earmuffs in addition to earplugs. They also have kits that include both ear and eye protection.
- Peltor - Peltor often partners with 3M on their ear protection in addition to offering earmuff for kids. They also sell eye protection that may be worth checking out.
This one may seem like a no brainer but you will want to make sure you bring ammo with you when you go to the range. When you are selecting what ammo to bring with you, you will want to think about what gun or guns you are bringing to make sure you have the correct rounds for each gun. You will also want to think about what kind of ammo you want to practice with. Some ranges have restrictions on the types of ammo you can bring so you might want to double check with your range.
Most commonly people choose to practice with full metal jackets, but some may want to shoot a few rounds of self defense ammo as well. Many gun ranges will sell ammo there if you need additional ammo or forgot yours, although right now it may be a bit pricey or slim pickings.
Bringing your gun to a range may also seem like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at how much you can easily forget to bring with you. If you don’t own a gun yet many ranges have guns you can rent. This is also a great way to try out different guns and calibers before you purchase one.
If you have multiple guns you want to bring go for it. Just make sure each one is in its own case or is in a range bag and is unloaded before you go into the range. Some ranges may have restrictions on what types of guns you can bring to them so you might want to check before you go but typically any handgun is going to be allowed.
Depending on the range you will most likely need to bring targets with you or they may have them available for purchase. Planning ahead and purchasing them from somewhere like amazon not only gives you more options when it comes to the type of target but they will most likely be more affordable as well.
Targets help you aim when you are practicing your shooting and you can use them to track your progress over time. We’ve listed a few targets below that you might want to check out.
- Splatterburst 8 inch Targets - Splatterburst targets turn yellow upon impact from the bullet, making it easy to see your shots. These 8 inch targets are adhesive for sticking to almost anything like a bail of hay, cardboard box, etc. Making them perfect for practice on your own property.
- Splatterburst Silhouette Targets - The Splatterburst Silhouette targets work the same way but these are better for pinning up at the range since they are not adhesive.
A range bag keeps all your equipment together and makes it easy to carry with you when you go to the range. Instead of hunting around your house for your eye protection, ear protection, tools, training gear, etc, you can keep it all in your range bag where it’s easy to find and always ready to go. It is a great investment and we’ve selected a few of our favorites below to get you started.
- Smith & Wesson Tactical Range Bag - Available in two different sizes this bag has plenty of pouches and pockets for all the range essentials. It is durable and highly rated. Not to mention Smith & Wesson makes guns so they are already a well known company.
- 5.11 Tactical Range 3-Piece Set - 5.11 Tactical is a well known brand that produces quality clothing and gear. This range bag set is no exception, with plenty of storage and ways to organize it has a lot of potential as a range bag.
- VooDoo Tactical Mini Mojo Load Out Bag - With 11 pockets, MOLLE webbing, two different straps and more this bag has all the features needed in a quality range bag. It is even available in a larger version if you want even more space.
Basic Medical Knowledge & Equipment
As a gun owner, it is important to have basic medical knowledge in the event that an accident happens and medical attention is needed before paramedics arrive. This doesn’t mean you need to go to school to be a doctor or be trained as a paramedic, it just means you might want to know how to apply a tourniquet, perform CPR, and basic first aid. In order to provide first aid it’s probably a good idea to have a first aid kit and supplies, we’ve selected a few items that you might want to check out.
- Adventure Medical Kits - Adventure Medical offers kits for all types of activities, we suggest the Sportsman series, Trauma series, or they have more general first aid kits in their Adventure series.
- C-A-T Combat Tourniquet - Whether at the range, hunting, or just out and about a tourniquet is a good item to have that helps stop major bleeding.
- Recon Medical Kit - This medical kit is made specifically for major bleeding and trauma. It includes a tourniquet, among other things, to reduce bleeding until medical professionals arrive or are reached.
Whether you want to spend less time reloading or just have a spare magazine in case one breaks or is malfunctioning it is always a good idea to take an extra magazine or two with you to the range. When you purchased your gun it might have come with an extra magazine or you can purchase additional magazines from a gun shop or the manufacturer.
Appropriate Clothing & Footwear
It’s probably not the best idea to go to the range in flip flops and baggy pants. Some ranges may not even let you in with that attire so consider what you are going to wear when you go to the range. A decent pair of tennis shoes will do nicely with pants or shorts and a shirt (maybe not a tank top). You don’t need to go crazy but if you decide you want to wear more tactical style clothing here are a few brands you might want to check out.
- 5.11 is a tactical brand that offers clothing for both men and women in addition to bags and other accessories. All of their products are high quality and a great option for wearing to the range.
- CQR is another tactical and hunting brand that offers a variety of clothing options for both men and women. They offer a few UV protection shirts among other items that you might want to check out.
Practice and training are important when it comes to shooting. Beyond targets, there are other tools you can use to help you practice. Companies offer things like training systems and laser rounds to use with dry fire (no live rounds) training. These training accessories are things you might want to bring with you when you go to the range. Below are a few of the tools we have found that you might want to check out.
- Mantis makes training systems for pistols, rifles, and shotguns. They work with a mobile device to track shooting and make suggestions on how to improve your shooting. Their products can be a little on the pricier side but are well worth the money.
- G-Sight Laser Cartridge - This laser cartridge helps shooters practice the fundamentals and works with an app to help track training.
Things You Might Not Think To Take To The Range
Markers for Bad Magazines
When you are in the middle of shooting and find out your magazine is bad you probably aren’t going to want to put that much effort into making sure you can distinguish it from the rest of your magazines. If you set it to the side it may get mixed back in with the rest of them and you would have to try each one to figure out which one was bad. An easy solution to this is to keep a few contrasting sharpie markers in your range bag so if you have a black, sliver or any other color magazine you have a sharpie that you can use to place a dot or mark on it so you know it is bad. You can buy these at Walmart, Target, or any local department store.
If you have electronic ear protection or any training tool that requires batteries it is a good idea to bring some extra batteries with you in case anything dies. You could keep these in a range bag so you always have them with you. And it is probably a good idea to look at what type of batteries each device takes so you don't end up bringing AA batteries when you need AAA batteries.
Snack & Water
You may think that you’ll be fine and don’t need a snack or any water but it is a good idea to bring some anyway. You might end up staying at the range longer than you expected and get hungry. Practicing your shooting can be a mental and physical workout, it is always a good idea to have water on hand for when you take a break or get thirsty. If you are going to an outdoor range it's important that you definitely remember to bring water with you.
Whether you like to clean your gun before you leave the range or not, a cleaning cloth is a good thing to keep with you. With use your gun can build up dirt and grime, so it’s a good idea to bring a cleaning cloth with you to the range. A cleaning cloth can prove beneficial in reducing the chance of malfunctions. We’ve listed a few options for cleaning cloths below that you might want to check out.
- Hoppe’s No.9 Silicone Gun and Reel Cloth - This flannel cleaning cloth is easy to keep with you and helps remove unwanted dirt and oil without damaging your gun. It is pretreated with a lubricant to leave your gun ready to use.
- Nabob Wipers T-Shirt Rags - These 100% cotton rags are perfect for quickly cleaning your gun without leaving fibers behind. They come in a large pack making them easy to wash or just throw away and grab a new one.
Lubricant or CLP
It is always a good idea to keep some lubricant or CLP with you when you go to the range. You never know when you might need it to help keep your guns running smoothly throughout your time at the range. If you want to clean your gun(s) before leaving the range you will want to make sure you definitely have your cleaning tools with you. We’ve listed a few items below you might want to check out if you don’t already have a CLP or lubricant at home.
- BreakFree is a company that produces a CLP (Cleaner Lubricant Preservative) an essential item for gun owners. They offer a variety of sizes and a wipe version as well.
- Hoppe’s No. 9 Lubricating Oil - Hoppe’s is a well known brand of quality gun cleaning supplies. If you want a good lubricating oil to use in general or at the range you might want to check out their products.
Things break and stuff happens so it is always a good idea to carry tools or a multitool with you when you go to the range. Whether you need to adjust a sight or make a quick repair to a scope having a few tools on hand is always a good idea. No matter how well you maintain your firearm you never know what tools you might need at the range. These are two of our favorite tool brands that you might want to check out.
- Gerber - Gerber is a well known company that produces a variety of tools and multitools for any situation. They are good quality and fairly affordable.
- Leatherman - While they can be a little pricier Leatherman multitools have everything you could think of plus things you never knew you needed.
Things To Hold The Targets Up
When you go to a range oftentimes they will provide you with staples or clips to hold your target on the board while you practice. Sometimes you will come across a range that does not provide them or there aren’t any around and you need your own. There is not any special type of clip made just for holding up targets, honestly a few binder clips will do just fine. But we’ve listed a few other clips you might want to check out below. Just toss a few in your range bag and you are good to go whether you need them or not.
- Heavy Duty Spring Clamps - These clamps come in two sizes and are easy to use. They work great for holding up targets while you are practicing.
- Binder Clips - Just in case you need to pick some up here is a box of binder clips but any will work.
As you are practicing you may want to take notes on things you want to work on or something you did that worked well or didn’t work well. This can be easily done with a notebook. Something small and easy to carry in your range bag will probably work just fine. And of course, don’t forget a pen if you are planning to bring a notebook.
Binoculars are a great tool to bring to the range especially if you are outdoors. Depending on the shooting distance at the range it may be hard to see where your shots hit without bringing in your target. Having a pair of binoculars can be useful for checking your target without needing to bring it in or wait for a safe time to go to it if you are at an outdoor range. Here are a few pairs of binoculars we suggest checking out if you are looking to purchase some.
- Aurosport 10x25 Compact Binoculars - These highly rated compact binoculars can help you see at 1000 yards out making them perfect for an outdoor or indoor range. They are waterproof and lightweight.
- Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars - While these may seem similar to the Aurosport binoculars, they actually have a more powerful magnification and a larger picture making them perfect for outdoor ranges.
Benchrest If You Are Using A Rifle
If you are at an outdoor range and using a rifle you will likely want a benchrest for it. Using one like we have listed below will be beneficial and make your time at the range much more comfortable. Using a rest is not a requirement but you might want to consider it.
- Tipton Ultra Gun Vise - This highly rated gun rest works with all types of guns but is great as a benchrest for a rifle. It is easy to use and very reliable.
- Caldwell Lead Sled - Is known for reducing recoil with its shock absorbing pads. It is very easy to use and has an adjustable elevation.
It is always more fun to practice your shooting with a friend around than it is to go by yourself. If you are at an outdoor range it can be a lot safer too. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to the range by yourself, have fun, and get a lot of training in because you absolutely can. It can just be more enjoyable to shoot with friends, who knows it may end up turning into a competition too.
A Training Plan
When you go to the range it is always a good idea to go in knowing what you want to work on and what kind of drills you will do to help work on that. There may be a certain gun you want to practice with or a type of ammo you want to get used to. This can be a complex plan of exactly what you want to work on or just a general idea. For example, say you go in knowing you want to shoot 200 rounds with your Sig P365 and work on your grip.
That’s a pretty basic plan but it gives you an idea of what you are going to do at the range before you get there. So, consider thinking of a training plan before you go to the range.
We’ve covered a lot of things you might want to bring to the range with you, some of them you may have known others you might not have thought of before. Ultimately what you bring to the range is up to you as long as it does not risk the safety of yourself or others. Before going to your local range you may want to check their policies to be sure you are following them. Good luck and remember you can still have fun while being safe.
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