If you’re going to be carrying a concealed handgun, you need to ensure you are proficient with your weapon. Frequent trips to the handgun range are a necessity, because the shooting skills you develop will expire if unused. However, there is a variety of gear that you’ll need on the range. Today I’ll be covering the essential items you need and my philosophy for setting up a range bag. (ear pro review,, speed loader review, range bag review)
Table of Contents
1. Ear and Eye Protection
If you’ve been to your local gun range, you know that no one steps onto the shooting lines without proper ear and eye protection. A pair of quality shooting earmuffs are important to protecting your hearing. However, a quality set of shooting ear protection does more than protect your hearing.
For example, I use a pair of the Peltor Sport Tactical electronic Bluetooth earmuffs. While these are a bit pricey, any electronic hearing protection device is preferred to the range ear protection. This is particularly true if you’ll be shooting in a group and want to communicate with the other shooters.
If you’ll be spending several hours on the range, you may need to double plug (i.e. use foam ear plugs in conjunction with shooting earmuffs). It’s worth keeping a few sets of foamies in your range bag in case your shooting session lasts longer than expected.
Additionally, you’ll want a pair of your own shooting glasses. This is particularly true for anyone who may benefit from colored lenses. Shooting ranges generally only provide clear lenses. If you want to avoid any eye or ear infections, it is best to bring your own ear and eye pro.
2. Spare Batteries
This choice may seem a bit odd, but if you use electronic ear protection it’s worth keeping a couple sets of spare batteries in your range bag. Even if you don’t need them, at some point someone in your shooting group will fail to check their ear protection battery life and need replacements. While electronic shooting earmuffs work just fine without the batteries, you may find yourself yelling in order to talk to your group members.
Carrying a pair of binoculars in your range bag is recommended. Although it is imperative for any kind of rifle or distance shooting, it can also be beneficial to have a spotter when shooting your pistol. Depending on the size of your target, and the distance at which you shoot, having another set of eyes (e.g. someone in your group with binos) can help you diagnose any problems with your shooting approach.
Additionally, if you don’t want to spend valuable lane time retrieving your targets to evaluate shot placement binoculars are invaluable. Even when you are shooting by yourself this can save you time. For these reasons, a set of binoculars earn a spot on the range bag essentials list.
4. Bore Snake Or Bore Brush
After sending several hundred rounds downrange, even quality firearms build up carbon deposits. Excessive deposits can lead to problems with accuracy. Additionally, it can lead to annoying issues like failure to feed. However, running a bore snake down the barrel can clean things up enough for you to continue shooting. I personally keep this version (Amazon link) in my range bag.
If you don’t have the funds to pick up a bore snake, you can always keep a spare wire brush in your range bag. However, you’ll also need to keep a cleaning rod in your range bag as well. For additional cleaning supply options, and how to use them, check out my gun cleaning supplies article.
5. Multi Tool
Another range bag essential is a quality multitool. If you ever need to perform emergency surgery on a jammed firearm, you’ll be glad you have this tool. Additionally, you’ll be able to adjust any pistol attachments, like red-dot sights, scopes, or flashlights. I will actually swap my Leatherman OHT from my EDC pack to my handgun range bag. However, it’s probably a good idea to have a dedicated multi tool if you can afford multiples.
6. Gun Lubricating Oil
This was a recent addition to my own range bag, courtesy of a buddy of mine who is in the Army. Apparently, while he was at a training exercise he noticed he was having problems squeezing his trigger. Once he applied some gun oil to his trigger it freed up and function returned to normal.
However, the trigger isn’t the only moving part that can become caked with residue. Slide rails can also become caked with carbon, which is why gun oil is another range bag essential. Because there are many moving parts on handguns, gun oil is an range bag essential. Aerosol cans are tough to target specific gun parts, so I recommend a squeeze bottle of gun lubricant for inclusion in your range bag.
7. Ammo, Ammo, and Ammo
Ammo is another important range bag accessory that you can’t ignore. You’ll want to keep extra rounds for any of the pistols you plan to shoot. I personally keep at least 100 rounds of every type of ammunition for which a handgun of mine is chambered. However, you can’t just throw any old ammo in your bag. Many ranges specify which types of ammo can be shot on location.
Some shooting ranges will not allow any ammo without a brass casing. Furthermore, many ranges restrict shooters to only using ball ammo. You’ll need to verify with the range what ammo is accepted before stocking your range bag. For this and other considerations, I recommend you read my article about shooting range rules and etiquette.
8. Small Ammo Can
I prefer to carry unused rounds in the boxes provided from the manufacturer. However, one of my buddies in my shooting group opts to bring ammo in a can. This really comes down to personal preference. However, if you are a shooter who presses their own ammo and uses spent casings, then a small ammo can is worth keeping in your range bag. It’s easier to sweep up spent brass and dump into a rigid container than trying to hold open a flimsy plastic bag.
9. Spare Magazines
Spare magazines are a must for any shooter wishing to practice any kind of shooting drills at the range. Whether it’s rapid fire drills or reloading drills, you’ll need to have more than your one magazine for an effective range session. The more magazines you have at the ready, the less time you’ll spend reloading in between drills. Furthermore, it’s also more efficient to load all your magazines at once instead of having to reload the same magazine over and over again.
10. Speed Loader
Speaking of efficiently reloading your magazines, it’s worth investing in a speed loader as part of your range bag arsenal to save time and energy. When you have 3-5 magazines lined up that need reloading a speed loader saves you valuable lane time. Additionally, you’ll be saving your thumb from getting worn out. Furthermore, the last round in a magazine can be difficult to load. However, with a speed loader, filling magazines to capacity is simple.
The amount of space a speed loader takes up in your range bag is minimal, and they are also lightweight. I personally use the Maglula speed loader (Amazon link). I will add that getting used to a speed loader can take a little practice, but once mastered is well worth the investment.
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a significant markup on items found at your local gun range. Save yourself some money and keep some targets in your range bag. Ideally, you’ll have various target types and sizes for different shooting drills and games.
You can store smaller paper targets by rolling them up and placing them in a short section of pvc piping. This will prevent your targets from getting kinked, and can easily be rolled out and stapled in place. If that’s too much you can also use an old paper towel roll, but it’s less effective at preventing creases. Unfortunately, you’ll likely need to fold up your larger targets. However, if you’re so inclined you could use the pvc pipe trick along with a bracket and attach it to the outside of your range bag with a carabiner.
12. Sharpie Or Stickers
One way to extend the life of your targets is by bringing along a sharpie or set of stickers to cover up bullet holes. Quality paper targets aren’t overly expensive, but they aren’t free either. While rolls of stickers are sold for this purpose, you don’t need a specific style of sticker. I’ve used free stickers I’ve got in the mail from charities for this purpose.
When all else fails, use a sharpie to denote bullet holes (with an “X”) from a previous shooting exercise can help identify your most recent groupings point of impact. Stickers and/or a sharpie is another range bag essential that doesn’t take up a whole lot of space but provides a unique benefit for shooting at the range.
13. Medical Kit
Accidents may happen on the range, and you should be equipped to handle all varieties of shooting range mishaps. Therefore, a medical kit of some kind is an essential part of your range bag setup.
My range bag medical kit is similar to my EDC medical kit. However, the focus is more on addressing puncture wound trauma. Here’s a list of some items you should carry in your range bag medical kit:
- Band aids
- Quick Clot
- Latex (or equivalent) gloves
- Antibacterial cream
- Medical tape
- Trauma shears
Fortunately, I’ve never needed more than my band aids and antibacterial cream while at the range. On more than one occasion, I’ve needed to patch up a staple puncture on fingers (my own included). While some may see a med kit as excessive, it’s better to be prepared for the worst than be caught without a med kit when you need one. However minuscule, some type of med kit is essential to a complete range bag setup.
14. Staples and Staple Gun
Before you send your target down range, you’ll need to staple it up. Many shooting ranges provide you with a way to staple up your paper target. However, I’ve had a handful of times when the stapler ran dry. Once I realized this I had to ask the range master for some staples. Except, he couldn’t leave the range while there were shooters on the line. Therefore, he had to ask someone at the front desk for staples (via sign language through the glass). Of course there was a line of customers waiting to get on the lanes. Finally, after about 10 minutes of waiting I got my staples. It is so much easier to have a loaded stapler in your range bag rather than go through this exercise.
15. Gun Case & Locks
For those shooters who practice with several firearms at the range, you’ll want to bring a gun lock and or case to secure your weapon after shooting. I recommend checking your local laws about transporting weapons before heading to the range. Additionally, if your weapon requires maintenance due to a malfunction you may end up being unable to piece it back together on the shooting lane. With a case, you can keep all the parts for the weapon in one place so smaller pins and springs aren’t lost in transit.
If you are practicing with your everyday carry firearm, accuracy isn’t the only skill you need to hone. Being able to quickly and efficiently draw your weapon and put it on target are skills the need to be developed. Additionally, the range is a great place to test out different holsters. In order to find which holster is best for your style of concealed carry, you’ll need to bring an array of options to practice with.
Similarly, if you’ll be practicing reloads and cycling the weapon, you need to have a mag holster included in your range bag. Practicing a reload with your magazine sitting on the shooting table is not realistic. Un-holstering an extra mag is not as easy as the movies would have you believe. But, in order to practice this skill you need the proper equipment. Thus, both handgun holsters and magazine holsters are essential range bag inclusions.
Range Bag Setup
Now that you know what you should have in your range bag, let’s talk about how to actually configure your setup. When setting up your range bag, you should use similar tactics as described in my EDC bag setup guide. First, group similar items together to make locating items that are used in tandem easier to find. Second, allocate space according to priority of need and size of range bag accessory. Finally, make sure your range bag has adequate storage. Additionally, you can opt for a modular (MOLLE) range bag design to easily swap out portions quickly.
Grouping Similar Shooting Supplies
There’s a lot of items that have to fit in a relatively small space in your range bag. Grouping like items together can make finding things a breeze, and also make packing up your kit much faster. For instance, I keep all supplies for reloading together on the exterior pockets. This includes my extra magazines, my speed loader, and my ammunition. These are all things I will use regularly on every visit to the shooting range.
Similarly, my eye and ear protection are also kept outside the main storage compartment on my range bag. I need eye and ear pro before I even step through the doors for the shooting lanes. Therefore, eye and ear protection are the easiest items to access on my range bag.
I also keep all my medical supplies closely grouped. However, since I don’t need these are frequently these are not as easily accessible. The exception to this is my tourniquet, since preventing blood loss in the event of a gunshot wound is of paramount importance. Additionally, a tourniquet is relatively small and can be housed in a small external pocket for ease of access without sacrificing needed space for other items.
Allocating Range Bag Space
You have a finite amount of space in your range bag. Even modular designs are not without their limits. Therefore, allocate pocket and compartment space according to the size of the range equipment being stored. My multi-tool doesn’t need to be stored in the large main compartment of my bag. Doing so means I risk losing it at the bottom of the bag and I spend more time searching for the tool than I do using it.
Some items can only fit in the large compartment, such as ammo cans or gun cases. Gather all of your range bag essentials before beginning the organization and setup process. The worst part about setup is having to unpack your range bag and re-organize because you forgot to include an important piece of equipment.
Make Sure You Have Ample Range Bag Storage
I’m a big proponent the you have too many pockets instead of not enough. My old range bag was a free duffel bag that I got, with a grand total of 4 storage areas. I was constantly digging through the pockets for whatever I was looking for. Additionally, many small items were jostled around during transport which made keeping things organized difficult.
Therefore, I decided to retire my old range bag and opted for this one. Now I have 10 pockets, many of which are smaller and more snugly fit items like my multi-tool, extra magazines, and speed loader. If you’d like to try out the range bag I use, you can get it on Amazon for fairly cheap compared to other similar models from gun manufacturers.
Another option is to get a range bag that is modular. This allows you to customize your pocket options through use of the MOLLE webbing system. If you’re unsure of the extra supplies you’ll need, or you frequently change your range bag setup, then this is another good option.
Hopefully this article has provided some much needed insights into what goes into the proper setup of a handgun range bag. I’ve tried to provide information for both veteran shooting enthusiasts as well as beginners. However, while the items listed above are the essentials, each persons’ range bag will vary according to their needs and preferences. If you’re a veteran shooter and have some thoughts, I hope you’ll share them with the community. What is in your range bag that isn’t on the list?