Before we dive in to our Primary Arms staff’s individual range bag set-ups, lets cover some of the things that are widely considered to be the essentials -- or “everything you need to go to the range, be safe, and shoot your firearm.”
Range Bag Essentials
|#||First Aid||Personal Protection and Safety||The Hardware|
|1||Emergency Personal Injury Kit (EPIK) or Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)||Quality ear protection (Ear plugs or over-the-ear muffs)||Your Firearm (Cleared, with chamber flag inserted)|
|2||Quick Application Tourniquet (It could save a life)||Quality eye protection (Impact-resistant lenses)||Ammunition (Lots of it!)|
|3||Hat and Suncreen||Empty chamber indicator or flag||Extra Magazines|
|4||Targets (No sense in going shooting with nothing to shoot at)|
That’s really all you need to go to the range and squeeze off some rounds.
Some other “experts” on the internet might give you a whole laundry list of items that you simply cannot go to the range without. Most of that is just opinion.
Instead of doing that, we’re going to let you hear from our everyday folks here at PA who love to shoot and are probably a lot like you. We’re going to break down their gear, hear some rationale for why they pack what they do, and learn a little bit about the type of shooting they do the most so you can find someone who shoots what you like to shoot and use their loadout as a starting point for building your own range bag set-up.
Beginners Range Bag
Susan’s the new shooter on the block. She’s got the essentials for getting the most out of a range day without carrying a ton of extra gear.
If you’re just starting out as a shooter, or you’re looking to head to the range with a new shooter, take a look at what Susan’s kit looks like and you’ll have a good place to start.
“Life Never Stops Teaching, So Never Stop Learning Something New.”
I still have many things to learn when it comes to what I really want and need in my range bag. So, I approached packing my range bag like I do a suitcase -- I would rather have too much than run out of clean clothes (I may need a larger range bag).
I do have my bare basics down. The simple items that can ensure my range day ends free of sunburns, bug bites and dehydration. Eye and ear pro, water, sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, basic tools, at least one knife and lipstick.
Yes, I said lipstick, it has sunscreen in it, so don’t judge me. (have you ever tried to eat spicy food with sunburned lips?) As I spend more time at the range, I will develop a range bag that is more suitable to my needs, but for now, this is a great place to start.
Tactical Gear Experts
Every team has an expert. Jimmy’s got tons of experience with firearms both on the range and in the field, and knowledge to boot.
His bag allows him to maximize his time on the range and be prepared for any issue that might arise. A decade of experience as an Army Range Safety Officer means Jimmy’s had to deal with just about anything you can imagine on the gun range, and he’s prepared.
“Train How You Fight.”
My range bag reflects a mix of military, civilian tactical training and military, civilian emergency medical training. I spent 13 years in the U.S. Army, with 3 combat deployments – 2 to Iraq and 1 to Afghanistan. For a decade of my service I held NCOIC and OIC Range Safety Officer certifications, so I have practically seen it all on the gun range.
My normal range day will always include an AR-15, AK rifle, my everyday carry and one or two other pistols, so I pack plenty of 7.62x39 PMAGS, Lancer Systems 5.56 magazines, and Glock pistol magazines.
I include tools and supplies that, through my years of range and battlefield experience, I have found to be necessary to correct many issues on the fly.
When I am at the range, I like to keep it simple but still be able to deal with any issues that might otherwise end my range day.
Anything I run into on the range can almost always be fixed with just a set of screwdriver bits or a Gerber Multitool. I also pack in a staple gun, with a box of staple for hanging targets, and some adhesive targets.
I make sure to bring a lot of ammo too -- whatever is going to allow to me put a lot of rounds downrange and make the most of my time
Safety is very important any time you’re on the gun range, so I try to be prepared for the worst in addition to the basics. I pack high quality eye and hearing protection, as well as first aid items.
For my ears I have reusable silicon plugs and electronic over-the-ear muffs. For first aid items, I include tourniquets, QuikCLot combat gauze, and compression bandages which address trauma-related accidents that can happen at a gun range.
Spare batteries for your optics are a requirement, as well as some spare lube. For me, a silver sharpie is also a requirement to mark any magazines that are having issues; and of course, I never hit the range without some Chapstick.
Range Bag for Long Range
Emily likes a challenge. She’s a long-range shooter who lives for the thrill of victory on the shooting range. Shooting high-power precision competition presents a unique set of challenges that must be accounted for when packing a range bag, and there’s a lot to make sure you bring along.
“Shoot Like a Girl”
I have shot precision rifle competitions my whole life. So, I have amassed quite the collection of shooting gear over the years. I started out with small-bore 3-postion .22 then graduated to high power across the course with AR-15s.
My main rifle is my scoped AR. It is a custom-built Colt lower with a Douglas barrel. Barrels tend to last 5,000 rounds, or about 6 months in high power shooting. Less if you shoot Rattle Battle.
I also have a Celestron spotting scope for watching the mirage and calling wind. Comes in real handy at 600 yards.
High-power requires a lot of gear. So much that I have a shooting cart to carry all my gear around.
You have to remember this is precision shooting, we aren’t running around. We have time to set up for the shot and call wind. 20 minutes to shoot 20 rounds standing at 200 yards, and you bet we take all 20 minutes. So the key to remember here is ‘precision shooting’.
Range carts. Mine is kind of a build based off of the Creedmoor Sports range cart. It’s lighter but misses some of the perks.
I was in high school and college when I was buying gear, so I got the designs in my head from what many companies were selling and made my own.
The main thing is that it’s lightweight and can handle the weather. Then I have my shooting coat. When you put the shooting coat on and have it buckled up it feels like you are leaning on a post for standing.
The goal with the coat is to have rigid and stiff support. The coat also helps to take the recoil from the fun wood guns like the M1A and M1 Garands.
After the coat is the mat. The mat needs to have good non-slip padding so you are not sliding around in prone. A centimeter of movement on one elbow at 600 yards can knock you out of the 10 ring and lose you the match. Once again Creedmoor has some of the best, but you can get the mat anywhere.
On to Ammo. I would say ammo is going to be specific to the shooter. High power shooters handload everything -- It’s just too expensive to go and buy ammo every time you go to a match.
I personally shoot Nosler bullets with Varget or RL-15 powder, whichever I can get cheaper at the time. You will also have short range and long-range ammo. When you are reloading you require brass, which you get from shooting, so a brass bag is really helpful.
Another thing I have is a shot book. The goal of this is to plot all your shots for the string so that you can see where your problems lie. It also helps to call the wind and to make minor adjustments to your sights.
A mitt or shooting glove is also helpful. It dampens your pulse – yes, even your pulse can affect a precision shot at 600 yards – and it also adds a layer of protection between your hand and the rifle.
I have a Champions choice mitt because I can’t stand to have my fingers covered in a glove. The majority of shooting gloves/mitts will have padding in the palm and a texturized rubber on the palm and fingers to help keep the rifle from slipping.
This is more of a preference thing – find what works for you.
So, the next thing is what you are actually going to use to get the rounds down range: the magazines. The general rule is 20 round mags for across the course and 30 rounds for rattle battle.
The next few items are things you pick up along the way as you go through high power precision competition. Things like a rain cover for your gear.
My rain cover is simply a giant canvas weatherproof poncho that fits over everything to keep it dry. Nothing worse than shooting in a soaking wet shooting coat.
The last thing I’ll mention is Sight Black. This is becoming more obsolete due to the fact that everyone is moving to scopes, but for the shooters that like old school shooting, this is a must.
This is the general basics of a range bag for high-power shooting. The great thing about high power precision shooting is that when you decide to get into this type of shooting, all you have to do is find a range.
Literally anyone on that range will see a new shooter and do everything in their power to help you out and get you started. Don’t have a rifle or ammo? Don’t worry. Everyone there has at least two if not three. Oh, and a general rule of thumb on ammo… bring enough for a small army.
Range Bag for Competition
David’s got the need for speed. As a defensive pistol competitor, his range bag is tailored to getting the most out of his practice time and being prepared for competition day.
“Practice Makes Perfect, But Only If It’s Perfect Practice”
I shoot the monthly IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) matches at the outdoor gun club I’m a member of. I’ll also occasionally take part in other local matches if I can spare the time.
So, my current range bag set-up is geared toward IDPA practice sessions. Southeast Texas is warm & humid most of the year, and I take that into account as well.
Along with eyes, ears, pistol and magazines (Glock 17 gen3); I bring along several items specifically geared toward practicing for IDPA. Most IDPA stages start with a holstered gun that must be drawn from concealment and include one to two mag changes, so an outside-the-waistband holster and outside-the-waistband dual mag carrier are a must.
I also bring along my concealment vest to practice the cover garment sweep for draw and reloads. My shot timer, a notebook, and a pen are what I use to record and track my progress, and to jot down quick notes for later review.
One of the MOST INDESPENSIBLE items in my range bag is my Uplula magazine loader. Your thumbs will thank you – especially after shooting (and loading) a couple hundred rounds.
And don’t forget the targets! I vary the drills and practice routines, so sometimes I’ll take full-size paper IDPA targets. But a lot of the time, I’ll use drills that I find online and bring targets that I print at home.
The range I belong to doesn’t supply any equipment – it’s pretty much you bring everything you’ll need, or you’ll go without. So, I pack in a stapler, staples, and masking tape (to tape up targets).
Practicing in the great outdoors here in Texas requires some additional precautions – sunscreen, bug spray, and a bottle of water are things that you’ll quickly be glad you brought.
For quick repairs, I keep some small parts & screws with a couple tools in my bag. A wobbly sight, broken fiber-optic filament, a lost screw, or broken spring are minor inconveniences that can either end the day early or at the very least turn a productive practice session into a frustrating exercise. I’ve often been able to quickly fix a minor issue and get back to business.
I also keep a plastic bag on hand to keep everything from getting water-logged during one of our famous south Texas pop-up showers. And when the shooting’s done, Grime Boss wipes are great for getting all that unburned powder and brass residue off your hands before you head home.
What to put in your range bag
These shooters, competitors, and enthusiasts have put hours of time and in many cases a lifetime of experience into making decisions about their range bags.
Hopefully we have been able to distill down all of their wisdom, spanning multiple firearms applications, and give you an idea of what you need to put into your own range bag to match the way you want to shoot and practice at the range.
If you’ve ever got questions about products, like range bags or what to put in them, our products specialists, firearms specialists, and customer service team is standing by here at the PA Offices in Houston, Texas, to answer your questions.
Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 713-344-9600. Safe shooting, and we’ll see you – and your bag of gear – out on the range.