Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>
We select and review products independently. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission, which help support our testing. Learn more.

Essential Range Training Tools for Becoming a Better Shooter

If you want to be a better shooter, you need better tools. Here are some of the best tools you can use to up your training.

    How can I squeeze the most out of my trips to the range?

    We all want to be better shooters, right? So, what can we do to maximize our range time? The first step is to buy some ammo.

    Lots of Ammo
    Lots of Ammo

    Now, you could just stop there.  

    Guns, ammo, ear and eye protection….you don’t really need anything else except something to shoot at if you want to work on becoming a better shooter.

    But what if you want to step your game up a little bit? What if you want to give yourself every advantage at your next competition or in a defensive situation?

    Crimson Trace RAD Max Range Shooting

    Well, you’re in the right place.

    I’ve put together a list of gear that I personally use to maximize my time on the range and my time at home doing things like dryfire practice.  

    This gear is some of the best of the best equipment out there right now, and you’ll be well-served by picking up any (or all if you have the budget).  

    PHLster Floodlight OWB
    Working on some range drills.

    That said, I’m also going to go into why I chose all of this gear and why I use it.  

    Hopefully, even if you don’t pick up any of this gear, my logic for choosing it will help you decide on some training tools that fit your individual needs.

    Let’s get to it.

    Summary of Our Top Picks

    1. Best for CCW Drills

      Pocket Pro Timer

      Best when paired with drills to focus on good draws and shot placement

    2. Best for Malfunction Drills

      A-Zoom Snap Caps

      Use to induce malfunctions to work on clearing, also handy to work on good mechanics

    3. Best Hearing Protection

      Walker's Razor Slim Muffs

      Preserves hearing while still letting you listen in on instructions

    4. Best Mat

      NcStar VISM Roll-Up Mat

      Keeps thing comfortable and clean when shooting prone

    5. Best for Long Distance

      Vortex Viper HD 20-60x85mm Spotting Scope

      Great for working on long distance shooting, can easily see targets

    6. Best Targets

      Splatterburst Targets

      Easy to see shots on target

    Essential Range Gear

    Let’s start with the gear you take to the range.

    1. Shot Timer

    If your goal is to sharpen your self-defense or competition skills, you need a shot timer like this one from Competition Electronics.  

    A shot timer is going to be one of the most valuable training devices you can acquire. It’s designed to time how fast you can shoot, and the time between shots.

    Shot Timer and Gear
    Shot Timer and Gear

    They are universally used for action shooting sports like IPSC, IDPA, and USPSA to score matches and are invaluable for training for these matches.

    More important (to me anyway) is your ability to use them for self-defense training.

    They can measure how fast you can draw and place an accurate round on target, how fast you can reload and fire, and how fast you can transition between targets.

    Low Round Count Drills
    They are super useful when training at the range.

    Most, including the suggested Pocket Pro, have a setting that also adds stress and keeps shooters thinking and reacting.  

    This particular setting sounds a “go” alarm at a randomized time. The time scale is usually 3 to 10 seconds.

    At any time, the alarm could sound, telling the shooter to draw and fire, so you get anticipation, stress, and fear added.  

    This stress is only a fraction of the same stress you’d feel in a gunfight, but overall, it’s better than nothing.

    Besides being a quick draw timer, shot timers also give you the ability to time self-defense-based drills.  

    starting el presidente
    The extremely popular El Presidente drill isn’t really possible without a timer.

    Drills like the El Presidente are time-based pass or fails. This allows you to also track your progress if you are willing to keep a journal on your training capabilities.  

    And if you’re more of a “gamer” or competition shooter, you can track your times and compete with your peers.

    The Pocket Pro wins my recommendation since it has a solid reputation and is used by pro shooters. 

    Pocket Pro II Shot Timer
    They are handy!

    It’s also not priced absurdly high.

    The Pocket Pro has got a loud buzzer that cuts through ear pro well.

    Putting on Eye and Ear Protection
    You better be wearing ear pro at the range.

    The Pocket Pro has an instant and random start buzzer, and of course, you can review par and split times easily.  

    It’s a very simple system that is easy to use and provides you with the features you need.

    Alternatively, there are cell phone apps available. However, I’ve had some very frustrating experiences with these things.  

    There’s nothing like doing an entire drill and seeing that your app didn’t pick up anything. 

    Best for CCW Drills
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    We have more suggestions on shot timers in our Best Shot Timers article.

    2. Dummy Ammo

    This type of training ammunition, also known as snap caps, is an invaluable piece of gear to have on and off the range.  

    Good dummy ammunition is designed and built to the actual specs of live ammunition and is great for very basic training techniques to advanced defensive drills.

    Various Snap Caps
    Various Snap Caps

    It’s a fantastic way to practice malfunction clearing.

    Setting up a simple malfunction is easy. Load your mag with a dummy round mixed in with live ammunition. Once the dummy round finds its way into your chamber, the gun will go click.

    See how fast you can clear it and get back to shooting.

    Setting up a complicated malfunction is more deliberate.

    You can simulate a double feed or a failure to eject by placing the round in the chamber or between the slide and barrel.

    dummy round malfunction drill
    Double feed malfunction simulated with a Snap Cap dummy round.

    These drills are some of the most important to master due to how long they can take to fix.

    In my experience, A-Zoom Snap Caps are the best made and most well-known source of dummy ammo.

    Best for Malfunction Drills
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    3. Electronic Ear Pro

    Good hearing protection is more than just a means to keep your hearing preserved and tinnitus at bay.  

    Yeah, you can get away with standard hearing pro, but electronic hearing protection is better when it comes to training.

    Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs
    Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs

    First off, good hearing protection, especially at an indoor range, is going to allow you to focus on what you are doing.  

    The benefit of electronic hearing pro over standard hearing protection is you retain situational awareness while remaining protected.


    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Class
    You want to be able to hear instructions on the range.

    Electronic ear pro allows you to still hear voices and instructions around you — a plus in a class or on the range — but it muffles that loud bang from your gun.

    The Walker’s Razor Slim earmuffs were the first set of electronic ears I ever purchased.  

    They’ve served me quite well over the years and are real soldiers.

    I’ve worn them in the rain and in the sunshine, and they provide excellent sound reduction.

    Not to mention they feel quite comfortable.

    Best Hearing Protection
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out our complete list of the best Electronic Ear Protection Muffs.

    4. Shooting Bags & Mats

    When it comes to working on medium and long-range precision, you’ll need to stress stability and the fundamentals.  

    This is where shooting mats and shooting bags come into play.

    A shooting mat allows you to set up a solid prone position at the range without having to worry about bugs, uncomfortable rocks, or other annoying and painful hindrances.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Prone Shooting
    Can you lie directly on the ground? Yeah, but do you want to??

    Shooting mats don’t have to be fancy. They just need to be wide enough, long enough, and thick enough to accommodate a shooter.  

    The Vism shooting mat from NC Star does all of this and also rolls up for easy storage.

    Best Mat
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    On the other hand, a shooting bag helps stabilize your weapon regardless of the terrain.

    Since a sand-filled shooting bag conforms to its environment, it’s the perfect choice for rough terrain.

    It’s also an effective choice to rest the stock on your rifle as an improvised monopod.

    Bergara B-14 HMR and B-14r (1)
    A shooting bag helps stabilizing your gun.

    The Deadshot Combo gives you a front and rear sandbag rest designed for shooting.

    These things last for years!

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    The combination of a mat/shooting bag will make long-range shooting in the prone position comfortable and stable.

    This allows you to focus on the most important thing…hitting your target.

    5. Spotting Scope

    Keeping with the long-range shooting theme, a good spotting scope is a wonderful tool.  

    Heck, it’s great to have if you are shooting pistols at 25- to 50-yards.  

    Spotting scopes allow you to scout downrange and take a peep at your target…without walking all way down there.

    Solid rests, a range finder, spotting scope and a notebook are some basics that are helpful
    Solid rests, a range finder, spotting scope, and a notebook are some basics that are helpful

    With the right targets, spotting scopes allow you to measure your group, distance from the bull’s eye, and, hopefully, help zero your optic.

    A spotting scope will allow you to easily inspect your target without having to wait for a ceasefire.

    Viper Spotting Scope, 60x
    Viper Spotting Scope, 60x

    This will save you time, reduce the number of rounds needed to zero, and most importantly, make shooting further easier.  

    Spotting scopes are like any other piece of glass — it’s best not to go cheap.

    Tested Spotting Scopes
    Tested Spotting Scopes

    If you’re starting out, we think the Athlon Talos is a decent model. But if you want to step your game up, look at the Vortex Viper HD 20-60x.

    Best for Long Distance
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Check out more of our favorites at Best Spotting Scopes (Tested).

    6. Targets

    One of the simplest and most affordable means to improve your range training is choosing the right target.  

    Your target should match your training objective.

    Best Targets All


    If you’re a new shooter, a simple 8.5 x 11-inch piece of printer paper is all you need. 

    As an instructor, this is one of the most important things I’ve ever learned with new shooters.

    I see so many shooters hit the range and immediately get discouraged because they can’t hit the bullseye. They get so wrapped up in that that they lose focus on the fundamentals.

    Low Round Count Drill B8 Target
    Students can sometimes get frustrated with these.

    A blank piece of paper allows shooters to focus on the basics without getting tunnel-vision on the bullseye.

    Self Defense

    For self-defense training, a classic B27 silhouette encompasses the full body of an attacker, with the T-zone, vital chest area, and pelvic area outlined.

    Mozambique Target

    These targets help aim where it counts, which translates into building effective shot placement habits.  

    Long Range

    Combined with a spotting scope, these Splatterburst Targets make it very simple to see where you are shooting at long-range distances.

    When struck, they show your gunshot as a very bright yellow hole.

    Best Targets
    at Brownells

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    The target is quite large at 12×18 inches, and it’s divided into a series of squares. Each small square is an inch wide and an inch tall.  

    This makes dialing in scope corrections easy and allows you to make a half-decent estimation of your group sizes.

    Thumb on top of the grip, you don't need your thumb wrapped to have a steady grip!
    You can stay where you are but still see your targets.

    Plus, as a target with multiple bullseyes, you won’t have to wait for a ceasefire to go check your target.  

    7. Other Tools

    Sometimes simply raising your gun at a static target gets boring. 

    So what’s another low-cost but fun activity to improve shooting?

    Dry fire training cards!

    Dry Fire Training Cards
    Dry Fire Training Cards

    Yeah, they’re just cards, but I’m already seeing improvements.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    If you like a little more high-tech feel to your training, take a look at the MantisX system.

    It attaches to the front rail of your pistol/rifle and sends data to your phone through Bluetooth.

    8. Dry Fire Mag Mantis X App

    I’ve had some time behind it (full review), and it does give some great feedback in terms of where my shot would have gone…and also how to correct it.

    Much better than simply looking at how much the front sight moves.

    High-Tech Dry-Firing
    at MantisX

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Final Thoughts

    Though this gear is aimed at helping you become a better shooter, the most important thing to remember is that ammunition and range time is the biggest key to success.

    P322 - range shoot

    At the end of the day, if your goal is to be a better shooter, you gotta shoot.

    And for more details on how to improve range time and diagnose issues, check out the Brownells’ Daily Defense video below. 

    What gear do you think improves your shooting? Let us know in the comments below. Need some drills to do at the range? Check out the Best Shooting Drills and Low Round Count Drills.

    The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

    Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

    11 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Chuck Cochran

      You did a good job pointing out all the advantages these essential range accessories can help hone skills.
      I've been meaning to get a shot timer for 4 or 5 years now, and just keep dragging my butt getting one. A lot easier and more accurate than my old stop watch. The rest of this gear I already own.
      Thank you for pointing out why I need to get one soon.

      February 7, 2023 9:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      MSG Horne

      Great article! As a retired USAF Combat Arms Instructor and DoD Forearms Instructor I’ve seen it all and done it all when it comes to training. Everton the authors list is a great option. I use G-Sight for dry fire training and find it quite useful. Pencil shot drills (old school training) works great too. Shooting is a perishable skill. We age. Our eyes get worse. I hit the range often and can still put 6 holes touching each other at 10 yards. Keep training no matter how you train.

      February 7, 2023 9:45 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Shelly Palmer

      this is great article im loving it

      February 7, 2023 11:15 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      The Caldwell shooting bags do a good job of stabilizing a rifle for long range shooting. If they have a failure point, however, it's that you can't get them wet. If you get rained on (which can happen shooting outside...) then the corn-cob media inside them sets up like concrete. Some of the other Caldwell sleds aren't as susceptible to water.

      October 19, 2021 5:14 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Here's an idea. How about a TOURNIQUET?

      October 18, 2021 7:39 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jacki Billings, Editor

        We absolutely recommend a first aid kit at the range -- and we have an article dedicated to range first aid. But this one was more focused on training tools to improve shooting.

        October 19, 2021 6:22 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        JR Miller

        Spot on!

        February 7, 2023 6:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I'd add laser trainers for dry fire, either the adapters for the gun you are training with or dedicated laser trainers such as the SIRT pistol. And, the new laser trainer shot timer/recorders that use your phone or computer to record your dry fire.
      By the way. I love the lefty Mossy 930!

      July 16, 2017 6:37 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Michael Brohl

      I like your channel and I am a subscriber but this kind of comes off like you're just trying to sell stuff.

      July 16, 2017 5:14 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Eric Hung

        Hi Michael, thanks for the honest feedback. I can see how this one does seem like that. But it's basically a list of tools we use ourselves to shoot better.

        July 16, 2017 6:09 pm
    Join the community! Log in
    Please provide a valid email address.
    Password is required.
    Please provide a valid display name.
    Please provide a valid email address.
    The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
    Please accept in order to continue.
    Trouble logging in?
    Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
    Please provide a valid email.
    Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
    Field is required.
    Account already exists
    We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
    To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
    Field is required.
    Account already exists
    We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
    In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

    Account in Pew Pew Tactical means more.

    Login or create a free account to get the following
    Access and save hundreds of reviews, gun guides, and articles!
    Find the best daily deals on guns, gear, and ammo
    Manage your newsletter subscriptions and comments
    pew pew tactical logo

    new here?

    Personalize your experience.
    Select what level shooter you are!

    pew pew tactical logo

    level up your gun knowledge

    Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

    pew pew tactical logo


    You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

    $47 value

    yours free!

    targets targets

    practice targets

    printer icon printable

    our 9 favorite targets and drills


    practice targets

    printer icon printable

    enter your email to download

    We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

    success icon

    Ready to Download

    Click below to begin your download

    download pdf