The Thrifty Shooter — 5 Tips for Saving Money at the Range
Shooting is an expensive hobby. Firearms, ammunition, equipment and accessories can all be pricey. I love to shoot, but I hate to spend more than I have to on equipment and accessories. By thinking outside the box, you can pick up some great lower-cost, high-quality alternatives that can help you become a thrifty shooter. After all, the more we save, the more money we have for ammo! Here are 5 tips for saving money at the shooting range.
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- Range Bags – Range bags are used for holding your gear on your way to and from the range. Your range bag should be large enough to hold the necessities—eye protection, ear protection, a small first aid kit, spare magazines, a stapler for targets, etc.—and it should be comfortable to carry. While manufacturers offer some wonderful range bags in all shapes and sizes, there are alternatives you might have never considered…and they are probably already lurking in your closet or garage!
- Why not recycle that diaper bag that is in the back of your closet…you know, the cute one you absolutely had to have, only to use it for a few months, after which it was never to be seen again. Diaper bags actually make great range bags. They are already built for carrying gear, just of a different type! They are durable, comfortable to carry, full of pockets and zippered compartments, and probably pretty cute! Most diaper bags have a changing pad that can double as a firearm mat to protect your firearm from getting banged up on the range table while you clean your gun. Cleaning solvents and gun oil usually wipe right off them, too!
- Did the man in your life get another tool bag for his birthday or the holidays last year? Turn it into a range bag! Tool bags are full of compartments, have an easily accessible large main section for bulkier items, and are extremely durable and easy to carry. Keep an eye out for sale flyers and you’ll be able to snag a great deal!
- Backpacks! It’s back to school season: Is your teenager getting a new backpack to start this year off? Grab last year’s model! Backpacks make great range bags and they are quite functional, keeping your hands free while carrying your firearms. They have zippers, compartments, and even side pockets in which to stash a bottle of water or two to quench your thirst.
- There are also some really cute, inexpensive large tote bags and purses that are full of compartments and would work well as range bags. Nothing wrong with looking chic while heading to the range, right ladies? Thrift stores are a great place to find big purses and tote bags that work. Did you get a free duffle bag when you renewed your NRA membership, or a membership in another organization? Everyone has duffle bags lying around; use them! With zippered side pockets and a large, easily accessible main compartment, they can be perfect!
The author in a DIY place. (Beth Doerr photo)
OK, now that you have something fun to carry your gear in, let’s save some money on what goes inside!
- Hearing Protection – Hearing protection is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy. I cannot stress enough that you will want the best you can afford. TeamWON’s Michelle Cerino wrote a fantastic article on hearing protection; please check it out if you haven’t already done so. I will not regurgitate all of the different types of hearing protection out there, but if you are looking for basic ear muffs or foam plugs, you don’t have to buy them at an outdoors store. Basic protection can usually be found at the big hardware stores, usually at a great price. Other large discount chain stores often carry a limited selection in their outdoor/sporting goods section. Keep an eye on the sale flyers, especially during the fall; stores tend to run good sales going into hunting season. Common sense also prevails here. If you are shooting .22LR, often disposable foam plugs will suffice. However, if you are shooting higher-caliber pistols, rifles or shotguns, you’ll want much better protection for your ears; once you lose your hearing, it’s gone forever. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your eyes and ears.
- Eye Protection – You always want to protect your eyes from flying brass. Make sure the glasses you purchase are ANSI certified. Again, the big home improvement chains can be a good source. They carry many types of safety glasses that work well for shooting. Impact-resistant, shatterproof sunglasses designed for sports also work well on sunny days. Just make sure they have the appropriate safety ratings and are ANSI certified.
- Targets – Fancy reactive targets are a luxury we all love, but they can be expensive. A package of paper plates from the dollar store can go a long way for plinking and practice. Bring a few magic markers to draw aiming points and you’re all set. Plain copy paper works well, too. Adhesive dots can be purchased inexpensively as well and work great when sighting in a new firearm or scope. There are also websites that offer free targets in .pdf format that you can print for your own use. Doing so is much less expensive than purchasing ready-made targets.
- Chamber Indicators – There are plenty of items you’d never think to use as an indicator that your chamber is clear while on the range. One of my favorites to use is a golf tee! You can pick up a bag of tees for just a few bucks, and they are available in lots of bright, fun colors that will leave no doubt on the line that your chamber is empty. Don’t want to spend any money? Broken tees work, too, if they’re long enough!
Thinking outside of the box can save you a lot of money at the range. Repurposing items you already have around your house is not only good for the environment; it’s good for your wallet, too!
About Annette Doerr
Annette Doerr is a freelance outdoor writer and business services consultant living in suburban New York. This married mother of two is an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer.
Annette is not only passionate about the sport of shooting, she also loves helping new shooters get involved, especially women and teens. An active equestrian, she enjoys riding her American Quarter horse, Cody. She volunteers in greyhound rescue and adoption, and shares her home with Casper, a rescued racing greyhound, along with her her cat, Tony, and her husband, Bob.
Visit Annette at WeShoot2.com, her personal blog.
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One can get foam earplugs at most pharmacies in my general area. Be sure to get NR33’s, the highest noise reduction rating, far superior to any earmuffs I’ve tried. Plus they can be reused many times.
I use paper plates with a drawn bullseye using a marker.
I did spend about $25 for a stapler and 5000 staples. I tried using duct tape to hold the paper plates to the (outdoor) wood-and-fiberboard target frames but it proved to be less than successful.