What do YOU carry in your range bag?
Sure, you might have your guns and ammo – you’ll find it difficult to shoot without them.
But have you given any thought to any other items, gear, and equipment that will vastly improve your experience?
While everyone is different, and they might be running their own, unique platform, in this article we explore universal range bag essentials – to help up your range game.
Without further ado, let’s fire in.
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- The Basic Range Bag Checklist
- Types of Range Bags
- Range Bag Must-Haves
- Eye Protection
- Ear Protection
- Shooting Gloves
- Spare Magazines and Ammo
- First Aid Kit
- Cleaning Supplies
- Masking Tape and/or Staple Gun
- Spare Targets and a Sharpie
- Gun-Specific Tools
- Multitool/Screwdrivers/Hex Keys
- Shot Timer
- Pen and Notepad
- Rain Jacket/Change of Clothes
- Extra Gear
The Basic Range Bag Checklist
For anyone in a hurry, here’s a quick-at-a-glance guide to what we suggest you should carry for a day at the range.
- Eye protection.
- Ear Protection.
- Shooting gloves.
- Spare magazines and ammo.
- First aid kit.
- Cleaning supplies.
- Masking tape or staple gun.
- Spare targets and a Sharpie
- Gun-specific tools.
- Multitool/screwdrivers/Hex keys.
- Shot timer.
- Pen and notepad.
- Rain jacket/change of clothes.
- Helpful Extras.
Of course, there’s much more to it than that, so why don’t you stick around, and keep reading for some in-depth top-tips and advice?
Types of Range Bags
First, let’s take a look at the range bags themselves. There are several types to choose from, and the style you choose will depend on your loadout, as well as personal preference.
Tactical backpacks are a good place to start. Easy to carry, they hold a surprising amount of gear and can double as hiking or day-packs when away from the range.
And many are specifically designed for shooting, with gun and magazine compartments as standard. You should follow the link above to find out more.
Sling bags are more compact, and are ideal for EDC and/or concealed carry. They might not be able to fit the kitchen sink, but they’re a great option for those last-minute, on-the-go shooting trips – especially for pistols and small arms.
Tactical messenger bags are smart and stylish, again, offering concealed carry and useful shooting-range-centric compartments, as well as being ideal as carry-on luggage for a weekend away.
Store your magazines next to your laptop, for example.
Finally, for the ultimate in carryalls, check out these tactical duffel/range bags. If you’re serious about shooting, you probably won’t want anything less.
Most have compartments galore, MOLLE systems, concealed carry pouches, and other useful features.
Getting organized is going to help you stay focused on shooting, without sweating the small stuff.
Range Bag Must-Haves
Your eyes are precious – and most of us only have two of them.
When at the shooting range, it’s important to keep your eyes safe, so carry not one, but two pairs of eye protection – just in case one gets compromised, or your pal forgot to bring his.
And anyone with you on the day should also have their own pair – especially the kiddos – so make sure you’re covered for eye-pro.
Top-tip – choose a pair with low-profile temples. That way, when you’re wearing your ear protection, there isn’t going to be a gap, and it will be more comfortable overall.
Likewise, your ears are precious, too, and – in case you didn’t already notice – gun ranges happen to be dangerously loud and extremely harmful to our hearing.
The only people who don’t notice, are those old-timers who have lost their hearing to gunfire decades ago.
Most range-related hearing damage happens during continued exposure, but even if you’re only there for a short time, an irreversible injury can happen in a heartbeat.
Even just a single shot can bust up your hearing without the proper precautions.
Make sure you take along quality, certified hearing protection – and a spare, just in case.
Again, anyone who comes along for the ride should have their own ear-pro, too.
Furthermore, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends you also wear earplugs in addition to your ear-muff protection.
So, bear that in mind when properly stocking your gear bag, and looking after your hearing.
While they’re not as essential as eye and ear protection, tactical shooting gloves are still a highly recommended addition to your range bag loadout.
Some shooters swear by them, others not so much.
Either way, you should drill with and without gloves, and they offer excellent protection to thumbs and fingers when loading mags and chambers, or when in contact with a hot firearm, for example.
Spare Magazines and Ammo
Yes, it’s a no-brainer. You’re not going to be able to shoot guns without ammo. But here’s a couple of top-tips:
- Always take more than you think you need – there’s nothing worse than running dry.
- Arrive at the range with preloaded mags – time spent loading will seriously eat into your day.
Spend a bit longer at home getting fully prepared, so when the time comes, you’re shooting more than not.
But if you do need to reload mags at the range, don’t forget a magazine loader – which will seriously save your poor thumbs from getting beat up.
And bring some spares, too, as you never know when you might encounter a mag-related problem and need to switch them out.
Also – and this might go without saying – but make sure you bring the right ammo for the platform you’re running. Do this often enough, and it’s a real-easy mistake to make.
First Aid Kit
Something that’s frequently overlooked, a first-aid kit is a very useful item to include in your list of essential range bag gear. And we’re not talking about just a few bandages and a couple of safety pins.
While it doesn’t have to be the equivalent to that of a first responder’s, it should be designed for trauma, and carry the bare minimum for dealing with gunshot wounds, as well as a burn kit.
Don’t forget the tourniquet, either, and having an eye-wash is advisable, too.
Surgical gloves, band-aids, and antiseptic wipes/sprays are also highly recommended. Wipes can be particularly useful for cleaning down protective gear that has been used by someone else.
Pack some allergy meds if you need them, and any other personal medications that you might need on the day.
Any good shooting range should have its own emergency aid center, but having a personal first-aid kit close to hand can make all the difference.
Accidents happen, after all.
You haven’t gone to the range to clean your weapon, but keeping this essential gear in one place is a good idea, and a range bag is an ideal place for it.
That, and you never know when you might need to give your baby a bit of a spruce up.
Gun oil and lube, cleaning cloths and wipes, solvents, bore brush, cleaning rod (stuck cases are evil), cotton wool and swabs…
You know the drill – just remember to suit the cleaning supplies to the platform you’re running, and you won’t go far wrong.
Owning a tactical flashlight is always a good idea. It has so many practical uses, every shooter needs to carry one in an easily accessible location.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used mine to rummage in the bottom of my range bag in low light, or how useful they’ve been when the sun has gone down at the end of a long day at the range.
Alternatively, you might want to check out this review on tactical headlamps, which are ideal for keeping things hands-free.
I carry both, and they’re equally useful for shooting at night when you don’t want to constantly be seeing the world through night vision.
Masking Tape and/or Staple Gun
A staple gun and staples should definitely be in your range bag – as they’re the best option for putting up your targets. Carry a small, light-duty one – you’re not refurbishing a basement, here.
Alternatively, consider push or map pins, as they’re easier to carry, and are reusable. Also, you’re not likely to smash one into your hand if you get distracted using a staple gun…
Masking tape isn’t as good for holding up paper targets, but it gets the job done in a pinch. And it can be very useful for covering upshot holes to extend the life of your targets.
Spare Targets and a Sharpie
Speaking of targets, there’s no better thrill than lighting up some fresh paper. The range will probably supply their own, but it’s always a good idea to carry some extras, just in case.
Top-tip – search the internet for free printable targets, and you’ll never spend a small fortune on them again.
A sharpie is important, too, so you can mark your shots and highlight room for improvement.
Depending on the platform you’re running, you should have a set of tools specific to that weapon.
If you need to do a spot of cleaning, and/or maintenance, and you’ve left home without them, you’re not going to get very far.
Always carry the right tools for the job, as you may need to do an impromptu tune-up at a moment’s notice.
Aside from gun-specific tools, having a universal tool is also a good idea. Not only are they highly practical items with multiple applications in everyday life – they’re just plain awesome.
Failing that, it’s always useful to carry a tactical folding knife, so follow that link for the latest models.
Furthermore, a precision screwdriver set is also highly recommended, as you never know when you’ll need to open things up. I also champion a compact folding hex key set for convenience.
They’re perhaps not absolutely essential, but binoculars and/or a rangefinder can be extremely useful additions to a range bag – especially if you’re doing any kind of long-distance target practice.
Take a look at this review of the best tactical binoculars for some inspiration, or head on over to this article for the best rangefinders on the market.
They’re great for playing golf, as well.
A shot timer is an extremely useful piece of gear if you want to improve your shooting skills. It helps with speed drills, cadence, recording the specific time you make each shot, and many more features.
Sure, they can set you back a fair bit of coin – but they are so worth it, and are essential for improving your skills as a target shooter.
If you want to be on the same level as Keanu Reeves/John Wick – then this is a non-negotiable item. What are you even there for if you don’t have one?
Pen and Notepad
Unless you have a memory like a savant, you’re going to need a place to record those times, as well as any other useful information you might pick up while at the range.
This is a great opportunity to add a tactical pen to your loadout. Not only will it help you keep track of your progress, and write in all conditions – but it could also save your life.
And they look really cool, too.
Don’t forget the field notepad, either. Choose something durable with an all-weather, write-in-the rain coating.
Rain Jacket/Change of Clothes
Ranges can be outdoors and indoors, and if you’re heading to the former, you might want to be prepared for all types of weather.
Having a packable rain jacket is ideal, and a change of clothes might be useful, too. You never know when things might get messy.
You should also take a look at some of these tactical jackets – most of which are perfect for a day’s shooting, come rain or shine.
Don’t forget your lunch!
Jokes aside, depending on how you like to do things, you might have some extra tools, equipment, and gear packed in your range bag.
If you enjoy running suppressors, for example, you might want to include the kit that goes along with them – such as a non-flammable/heat-resistant pouch or carrying cloth.
They can get extremely hot – and gloves alone won’t protect you. You certainly don’t want to be breaking out that burn trauma kit.
An empty chamber indicator is also an excellent idea, and many ranges will require you to bring one by law.
As a courtesy to your fellow shooters, they let everyone know you’re not carrying a live weapon where you shouldn’t.
Dummy rounds are also useful if you don’t want to be using up expensive rounds when perfecting aspects of your training drills. Just make sure they’re obviously marked, and kept well away from live ammunition.
A small lens cloth is going to be useful for properly cleaning your eye-pro, as well as any sights or optics you might be running. Try to refrain from rubbing lenses on your clothes – you’ll scratch them up no-end.
A mini-spray bottle of lens cleaner shouldn’t take up too much space, either, and it can help prevent you from fogging up.
But it’s not all about shooting – packing a small bottle of bug spray is one of the most important tips you will ever hear – particularly for the outside range.
Mosquito and other insect bites are not to be taken lightly, and if you’re unprepared, they can ruin your day on the range. Sunblock is also very useful, too, so carry a bottle of that in your gear.
Finally – backup batteries are always useful. For your flashlights, headlamps, optics, or anything else you might need power for. Be sure to stay fully juiced up, and store them in a waterproof case when not in use.
Are range bags necessary?
If you’re a casual shooter who only visits the range once in a while, or perhaps simply uses whatever equipment they have for hire, then it’s unlikely you’ll need a range bag.
For everyone else, and as you get more involved with the sport, you’ll wonder what you ever did without one.
That said, you can easily take your gear in a simple backpack, or even a plastic bag, and some people would rather spend that money on guns, training, and ammo (which is a good point).
At the end of the day, it’s not about what you carry – it’s how you use it.
What’s the best range bag?
It’s an almost impossible question to answer, as the best range bag for me might not be the best for you.
That said, I recommend visiting this article on the best tactical gear brands currently working today. Any one of them will more than likely offer a contender for this crown.
How many magazines do you bring to the range?
More than you think. In fact, there really is no limit to how many mags you should bring to the range – as many as you can possibly carry, is the answer.
Providing you have enough room for the other essentials, too.
A rule of thumb is three to five mags for every caliber that you shoot. Take more or less depending on what you’re running that particular day.
Check out the video below, which explains how many magazines you should own altogether. Just don’t get jealous of that guy’s collection!
All shooting sports enthusiasts are different, and what’s in my pack might be totally different from what’s in yours.
But these range bag essentials offer a selection of universal items and gear that we should all be carrying in some form or another. Never be SOL again.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if there’s something specific that you carry that makes a real difference to your day at the range.
Stay safe out there, and happy shooting!