Call it what you will; your range bag, the bug out bag, go bag, duty bag, etc. What all these “bags” have in common are the majority of items you’d carry in any given one of them. Today we’re reviewing what should be in a range bag so read along and check to see if your own bags or backpacks have all the gear and equipment you need for a successful day at the range.
Range Bag Essentials
Among the items that we’ve deemed as range bag essentials, the list includes medical gear, ear pro, eye pro, mags, ammo, training tools and a variety of load bearing equipment.
Different shooters will run different amounts and levels of medical gear to best suit their needs and of course, that makes sense. But the minimum amount of medical gear you should always have should be enough for you and you alone. There’s a reason why it’s called an “IFAK,” which stands for individual first aid kit. There are also more specialized first aid kits such as the “ IPOK” which is more geared towards traumatic injuries including gunshot wounds. If you want to be able to take care of others as well and carry additional medical supplies that’s great but make sure you can take care of yourself first. Can’t help anyone else if you’re hurt and bleeding out yourself right?In the world of guns and gun related injuries a basic first aid kit is good enough for only small cuts, scrapes and minor burns. The minimum life saving medical gear would include a CAT tourniquet, combat gauze or quick clot and a sharpie. If you’d rather buy a “kit” so you have extra medical supplies that’s certainly not a bad addition for your range bag. I’ll typically keep one in my car at all times and have a separate one just for the range bag.
Ear Pro and Eye Pro
If you value your hearing and want to keep hearing things for the next couple of decades if not more, then make sure you pack proper ear protection in your range bag like an electronic headset from Howard Leight or Walkers. Having a spare set is also handy in case your first one breaks for any reason or if someone else doesn’t have any. For electronic shooting earmuffs, it would also be smart to pack extra AAA batteries in case they die on you during a range session.
Same goes for your eyeballs. Want to keep seeing things out of both eyes? Make sure you have full seal eye protection in the form of eyeglasses, safety glasses or shooting glasses. You never know when you might have a hot casing fly back towards your face or when a ricochet might come flying in your direction (I’ve seen friends get hit in the chest or face by ricochets and each time they were lucky that there were no penetrations or hurt eyes).
Don’t be silly and forget the mags otherwise there might be light to medium cursing when you find yourself reloading mags literally every five minutes and your thumbs are raw from loading, not shooting. Better to have more mags than you need than not enough, especially to practice those reload drills. Sometimes I like to put random amounts of ammo in my mags so I won’t be able to consistently predict when the gun will be empty to train those reloads to be quicker and cement that into my muscle memory. Kind of hard to do that though if you only brought the one magazine with you. Do yourself a favor and just toss a bunch of mags into your range bag.
Before Covid-19, the normal thing would be to bring those .50cal boxes of ammo because who doesn’t enjoy a good mag dump right? Problem is, ammo remains hard to come by these days. Not because of supply, just because none of us are really willing to pay for it at the price everyone is selling it at. Which is why for the past year and a half we have all adapted to training with low round count drills and making each round count much more than it did before.
One way to help you be organized and more intentional with how many rounds you’re shooting are 100 round flip-top ammo boxes which are incredibly cheap and come in a wide variety of handgun calibers. Boxes or cases that have specific round counts help to keep track of how much you’re shooting. There are also boxes compatible with rifle cartridges made by the same company (MTM) so there’s really no reason to get anything fancier unless you just like spending more money. It’s also convenient that these small ammo boxes can comfortably fit in your range bag if you’re planning a quick and short trip.
At a certain point, every avid gun enthusiast will periodically get tired of mag dumping or aimlessly shooting into a berm. If you’re going to be hearing dollar and coin sounds ringing with every pull of a trigger at the range, why not spend that money more wisely and effectively with intentional training? Obvious training tools such as cardboard cutouts, paper, or steel targets are not as easy to get as most people think as the price can add up rather quickly. However, some training tools that are less talked about are shot clocks and cones.
Having a Pocket Pro II shot clock is a great tool for timing yourself and can provide clear data points in a wide variety of areas and disciplines that you may need to work on as an effective or competitive shooter. All it needs is a 9 volt battery which should last you well over a year. Now combine some plastic orange cones and you can start coming up with your own drills and test not only your static shooting ability but your skills under duress (i.e. outside weather conditions and temperatures, speed, accuracy, elevated heart rate, sweat, etc).
Load Bearing Equipment
Very few indoor ranges will allow the use of any load bearing equipment such as a gun belt, holsters, plate carrier or chest rig unless you are a law enforcement officer. Even then, there is good reason for ranges to have this policy as it reduces the risk of people flagging each other and the possibility of negligent discharges. The same goes for many outdoor ranges as well unless there are ‘private bays’ available for you to train more freely. (Which is why we enjoy going to Bureau of Land Management areas more.) So if you’re lucky enough to have access to a range that does allow you to train freely while wearing load bearing equipment definitely do not forget to pack that gear in your range bag or you’ll be practicing those tactical reloads from your pants pockets, if you even have any.
What is the best gun range bag?
Do I need a range bag? While private ranges do not require you to have a “range bag” to carry gear, accessories or ammo around it is definitely more convenient to do so. From duffle bags, to Dewalt tool bags or purses, almost anything could be used as a range bag. The best gun range bag for you could differ on any given day depending on how much stuff you need to carry. For example, Vertx has a COF Light Range Bag which is perfect if you’re only planning on a short trip to the local indoor range just to shoot handguns. But if you’re planning on some run-and-gun drills outside then maybe something larger to keep all your gear in one place like 5.11 Tactical’s Range Master Duffel would be more suitable.
You also don't necessarily always need a tactical looking range bag with visible molle webbing and velcro panels. An average backpack or duffle bag will work just as well sometimes too and if someone is looking at your stuff in the car they won't be able to immediately pin point that you've got gear in there. For those that DO want the tactical looking range bags, these are what we'd get:
Vertx Range Bag
If you own multiple pistols though, you can opt for the larger range bag from Vertx and check out the COF Heavy Range Bag. With a large weapon sleeve and multiple organizers you can bring a few accessories, tools and plenty of ammo for a single session with those flip top containers we previously mentioned.
Pelican Vault V200
Another option is to pair a range bag with a case for your firearms. Guns can get very dirty especially after firing several hundreds of rounds. So perhaps it’d be best to separate the guns from the gear whenever possible. If you have multiple handguns you could opt for something like the Pelican Vault V200 which can fit quite a few guns depending on how you organize or cut out the foam pads that the case comes with. It’s also convenient to have if you ever need to fly with your firearms as the TSA requires hard-sided cases for air travellers to check in their guns on a flight.
5.11 Range Bag
For heavy duty range days that you expect to take up anywhere between a quarter to half of your day look no further than grabbing a couple of serious range backs from 5.11 Tactical: If you pick up a Range Ready 43L Bag and a Range Master Duffel you’ll be able to carry literally everything and anything you’d need for the range short of a rifle (would need a separate case or rifle bag for that).
Get your range bag essentials from 80 Percent Arms!
Need to fill your range with some quick essentials? We've got you covered with corded ear plugs, shooting glasses, and Razor electronic muffs all from Walker's! Don't forget to stock up on magazines too! The SureFeed Okay mags for AR15s are some of the smoothest and best feeding mags we've ever come across and the Lancer Advanced Warfighter Mags are by far the sexiest. Spend more time shooting at the range and less time loading mags by filling your range bag with some of these great magazine selections.