In one of the early scenes of the 1997 film “Titanic”, we see Kate Winslet’s character arriving at the dock to board the ship. With her, is a car load of steamer trunks, suitcases, shoulder bags, and hat boxes. Other than her far better fashion sense, that is pretty much exactly how I look when I get to the range. I have learned over the years that “it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it”, applies to far more things than just handguns and parachutes.
But in addition to the obvious items like eye and ear protection, targets and tape, etc. – there are some things that I consider essential if you’re going to be prepared for a day at the range. Here is my list of 10 things I won’t leave home without.
The UpLULA magazine loaders are worth several times their weight in gold.
– Specifically Maglula brand loaders
. I get a lot of questions from viewers asking, “hey, what is that thing you’re using to load the magazines?” – so clearly it needs to be listed. Why spend all day at the range shoving rounds into magazines and coming home with a sore thumb, when you can make it a fast and easy task? The most common (the one I keep in my stage bag) works with all center-fire pistol calibers. They are also available for nearly all types of rifle magazines.
All guns need lubricant. Keep some with you!
Gun Oil – Don’t let a dry gun cause an early end to your day, and don’t run one dry if you can help it. If you must, you can substitute “lubricant of choice” for “oil”, but oil is easy to apply and universally works. A small quantity of oil takes up very little space.
A lot of small problems can be solved by keeping a small multi-tool in your bag.
Multi-Tool – Things break and need fixing. Sights or optics need adjusting. Things need prying or pulling. Not many of us can (or wish to) carry a full-sized toolbox with us, but there is no excuse for not having a small multi-tool that can get most simple jobs done. It need not be expensive or large. I keep one attached to my stage bag at all times that is very small, and I think I got it free at some trade show.
At minimum keep common bandages in your bag. Also considered essential by the author is personal protection from environmental considerations.
Bandages – Like a dry gun, a fairly small cut, blister, scrape, or other small injury can bring the fun to an abrupt end. Recently I had to bandage a bleeding cut that I received from one of my tripods! I would have hated to have to leave the range or delay my work all for want of a Band-Aid. Some folks I know carry full-fledged trauma kits. I don’t know how to use half the stuff in those (note to my “things to learn” list). Most of us have some type of first aid kit in the vehicle, and the range might have them scattered about too. But for range bag essentials, a box of simple adhesive bandages is a no brainer. You’d be amazed how many of them I give out!
I like my range buddies, but I’m not falling for the “let’s check each other for ticks” line. Not again…
Personal Environmental Products – This is a fancy way of combining things like sunscreen, bug spray, allergy relief meds, etc. Have some idea where you’ll be shooting and depending on the season, pack accordingly. You may be in the sun all day, or in a heavily wooded area, or a nearby farmer could be harvesting his hay… keeping some essentials on hand for predictable environmental conditions is important.
Batteries for your electronics, a good light, and a way to take notes – all essential items.
Notebook and pen
– Even if you’re not a writer, there is a good chance that you might need to record some data at the range. How did that new ammo shoot? What problems did you have with your gun? Or, what was the name of that cool product that guy was telling me about? There are a lot of reasons to keep a small note pad and pen handy in the bag.
Light – Not everything you might need to do will be out in the open daylight. You might find yourself indoors or under deep shade cover and need to make some fine adjustments or repairs. Or you might just run out of daylight. Keeping a good quality flashlight or tactical light in the bag is essential. I keep two – a traditional tac light, and a small Streamlight that I can clip to the bill of my cap.
Batteries – Firearm technology, at least at its basic level, has not changed much for hundreds of years. But not so with all the gadgets that we bolt onto them or bring with us to shoot them. If you shoot much, you probably have a pair of electronic ear protectors. They are fantastic… until the batteries are dead. That red-dot optic that helps you shoot those great groups will become just a tiny window to look through without power. Shot timers, chronographs, cameras, all run on batteries. Keep a fresh set for each device – and don’t forget to rotate them before they expire.
Squib rods can be purchased, like the polymer rod shown, or a simple brass or aluminum rod from the hardware store can be used. Hammer is optional, but recommended.
Squib rod – A squib is the term describing a bullet that is lodged in the barrel of a gun. Most commonly it is caused by a severely underpowered load (and usually because there was no powder at all in the cartridge). If you didn’t bring something else to shoot, you’re done for the day. But if you carry a squib rod, there is a very good chance that you can drive the lodged bullet out, inspect the firearm, and get back to it.
D-Wipe disposable wipes are specially formulated to remove lead.
Hand Cleaner – I was going to just say “personal hygiene products”, but my man card is already in jeopardy after preaching about sunscreen and bug spray. So, “hand cleaner” sounds much tougher – like the stuff mechanics have in the garage. But seriously, it’s about more than wiping dirty hands on the front of your pants. Many of the items you touch while shooting may contain lead or lead particles. This is not something to get macho over – it’s an important health consideration. So keep something that will help get your hands clean. Wipes are great, because they are ready to use and disposable. D-Wipes are specially formulated to remove lead and other heavy metals from your skin.
There is my list, in no special order–and there’s more than 10. So be it. Like purses, briefcases, or overnight bags – there is a lot of personal preference in choosing the “essentials”. I’d love to read your comments and suggestions.