What I Keep in My Range Bag
A range bag is the gun owner’s version of a purse. Sometimes things get lost within its pockets and it is often packed with more than you will ever use, but it comes with you, nonetheless. Each person is a little different and the contents of a person’s range bag can tell you a lot about who they are.
I have several different range bags, but have always defaulted to the style of my very first – the Cabela’s catch-all gear bag. Before I began shooting it functioned as a travel carry-on and day bag, serving as a temporary home to books, pads of paper, socks, and miscellany. Nowadays I have one dedicated to long-range shooting and the other as a catch-all for largely extra items. Ear and eye protection are the number one thing I bring with me, as well as extras in case someone forgot theirs or something happens to mine. While I wear custom plugs and electronic muffs, I keep a plastic container full of disposable foam plugs. Hearing range commands is critical, and double plugging to protect my hearing means I heavily rely on the electronic muffs to amplify voices. Extra batteries stay in the front pocket.
Sunscreen and bug spray come next. When out on the range all day with no access to anything other than maybe a port-a-potty, I use spray sunscreen on my arms and bring a stick version (hands-free) to apply to my face. Most people forget or think that one application is enough. Depending upon the intensity and length of exposure, a fun day can turn into a miserable week. Cold weather does not render sunburns impossible. I learned the hard way.
An assortment of membership cards fills the front pocket, some current, some expired. Laminated cards proving my membership to the NRA, local sportsmen’s clubs, classification cards…the list goes on.
The side pockets are filled with glasses. One hosts my knock-around safety sunglasses and my shooting glasses with built in prescription. The latter rests protected inside a camouflage eyeglass case. A lens cloth and anti-fog liquid as well as a blinder for my non-shooting eye also reside in this pocket. Assorted glasses stack up in the opposite pocket, along with a few scattered eyeglass wipes.
Pens and some scratch paper, business cards. Many people underestimate the importance of old-fashioned writing implements. There have been countless times on the range I have been searching for something on which to write information to either show or share with someone, not to mention make notes on my performance. That is, of course, where a data book comes in handy. I only use one for service rifle and long range, a spiral notebook filled with blank targets waiting to be marked up with ink to preserve groups, scores, and conditions. I keep my zeroes in a separate little book, noting the location, date, firearm, distance, and ammunition load. This tiny spiral is incredibly valuable, and I would be lost without it.
To keep it and other important items safe in case of rain, I bring an assortment of plastic and Ziploc bags. Garbage bags also come in handy for covering the entire bag or other gear in case of wet weather. With the rise of electronic targets and ballistics apps, tablets have become an important tool, and ones especially susceptible to environmental changes. I use the bag to keep the tablet out of the hot sun when not in use as well as for easy transport. Other items are an external battery pack and cord to recharge the tablet and any other electronics (phone) I need.
A small first aid kit complete with band aids, ibuprofen, Zyrtec and alcohol wipes is also a must-have. I also keep cleaning wipes and a few small bottles of hand sanitizer. Though everyone seems to bring these items now, I have been keeping them on hand long before they were fashionable. Especially when on the range with lead and no access to running water, it is important to clean up before eating any food. Some competitors have teased me for being seemingly overprepared, only to sheepishly ask for a wipe to remove target paste from their hands.
Knives are also important tools, and over time I have kept an assortment of survival type items in my bag, from emergency blankets to waterproof matches. The bottom line is that every trip to the range may require something different. If you plan on working with an adjustable buttstock, a set of Allen wrenches and other tools should be on hand. Gun oil, rubber gloves, some field cleaning supplies and a ramrod are also good items to consider having on hand. The contents of my bag remain largely the same, but I use the small pockets on my dedicated gun cases or shooting cart to store gun or competition specific items. For high power service rifle, I bring an extra firing pin and firing pin retaining pin as well as an extra sling.
I carry food and water in a separate cooler. Sometimes the items from my range bag shift or move to whatever is easiest for me depending upon the situation. If I carry a backpack with my camera, I can usually move essential items there for easy carry. My range bag reveals that I am always well-prepared, and that usually I am taking care of others, especially forgetful friends.