Getting ready for a trip to the shooting range means preparing ahead of time. As with any other adventure, packing the right necessities ensures the day will flow more smoothly. Some items are obvious – ammunition, eye and ear protection, a first aid kit, and of course, your handguns. Other items are less common, yet can come in handy and are small enough to easily fit in the numerous pockets. Some of my favorite range bag essentials are listed below.
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I love electronic earmuffs! As an instructor, it’s imperative that I’m able to hear conversations with my students, as well as what’s going on around the range. The last thing I need is to find out the batteries are dead. I always carry an ample supply of extra batteries (think Sam’s Club bulk amounts)! My habit has come in handy many times, not only with my own earmuffs, but for other people’s as well. As long as I remember to turn the earmuffs off when I’m done at the range, the batteries usually last quite a while.
Chamber flags are another small item that I recommend you keep in your range bag. This is a piece of plastic that gets inserted into the chamber of a firearm to indicate to anyone in the area that the gun is unloaded and not able to be fired. Most chamber flags are brightly colored for easy visibility, such as yellow, orange or red. Different ranges may or may not require the use of flags, but it’s always good to have them handy just in case, as well as for your own ease of mind.
It’s easy to remember to lather on some sunscreen to protect exposed arms, legs and face before a hot, sunny afternoon at the range. But what about your lips? Not only can they get dry and cracked, but also, they will get sunburned. My go-to product is Carmex (strawberry, not the original scent), which not only feels good on my lips, but comes in handy for small cracks on my hands in the winter when my skin is dry. Whatever you use, make sure it’s a good quality lip balm that includes SPF for sun protection, and throw an extra bottle of sunscreen in your range bag while you’re at it.
Along the same lines of self-care items are nail clippers. More than once I’ve caught one of my fingernails and chipped it or even broken it completely while shooting or loading magazines. Having a small pair of nail clippers saved my range time, allowing me to keep shooting comfortably. In a pinch, a small nail file can also be used as a tool to extract stuck casings from the chamber, also. So, maybe just get a small manicure kit for your bag.
In my range bag, you’ll find a first-aid kit that contains a tourniquet, blood clotting agent, bandages, latex gloves and other common items. However, one of the main items that I always keep handy is a bottle of ibuprofen. I love spending the day at the range, but a headache or other body ache can quickly put a damper on the fun. I’ve heard some call a bottle of ibuprofen a shooter’s “candy of choice,” which makes me laugh. Whatever you call it, it’s a good item to have in your range bag. Or, of course, you may pack Tylenol, or whatever over-the-counter drug you use to alleviate minor aches and pains.
If you’re at the range, it’s most likely because you want to improve your skills. I find that sometimes my target practice feels somewhat redundant and stale. I mean, shooting at a paper target is only as difficult as I make it. Here’s where a shot timer can come in handy. If you don’t have one, consider downloading a smart phone app. Most apps are free and pretty accurate, too. The one I currently have installed on my phone is called Free Shot Timer. How’s that for easy to remember? Shot timers listen for each shot and record the time. They have various settings that the user can set depending on what type of drill is desired. Whether you’re drawing from a holster or trying to shoot faster, a shot timer allows you to analyze, track and improve your shots. It also adds that teensy bit of pressure that can improve your shooting.
At the end of a day at the range, you’ll have a certain amount of lead on your hands and face, not to mention on your clothes and in your hair. I’ve heard of shooters who strip down in their laundry rooms upon entering their homes after a practice session or match, and who don’t hug their kids till they change their clothes. Products such as D-wipe disposable towels are made to lift, bind and hold lead and other particles and take them away without smearing. By removing the majority of the lead on your hands specifically, it helps cut down on the amount of lead that’s being transferred to your vehicle or house until you’re able to shower and wash your clothing. I’m sure you’re aware of the dangers of lead, so do your best to avoid ingesting or absorbing this harmful material.
Freelance writer Stacy Bright holds instructor certifications from the NRA in Pistol & Rifle, as well as being an Range Safety Officer and Refuse to be a Victim instructor. In addition to her NRA credentials, she also is a Missouri CCW instructor and teaches various other home and personal defense courses. “In a field dominated by men, I feel I bring a unique perspective to firearms and training, especially to women. I'm passionate about educating, empowering and developing confidence in those I train. In November of 2014, I started the Southwest Missouri chapter of The Well Armed Woman,” said Stacy. Stacy lives in southwest Missouri, and has been married for 20 years. Visit TWAW Facebook page: The Well Armed Woman-Springfield, MO Chapter. View all posts by Stacy Bright