Essential Shooting Range Gear [2019]: Be Prepared

Want to have a more successful and safe shooting range trip?

Make sure you’ve got the right gear!

Find out all the things you need to have a fun day at the range, from the essential to “nice to have” to stuff that is awesome but you probably don’t need…yet.

Range Time
Range Time

Table of Contents

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Essential Shooting Range Gear

Ear & Eye Protection

The most important of our essential shooting gear since it’s mandatory for most ranges.  You don’t want to go blind from ricochets or deaf from hearing loud gun shots right?

17
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Mandatory so you don’t go deaf!

We first started with foam ear plugs ($12 for 50) for our first few trips but started doubling up with actual ear muffs since lots of people at our range had very loud muzzle brakes…great for keeping sights on target, but terrible for people around you.

Best Passive Ear Protection
20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

We also recommend doubling up especially when you start going into higher calibers as well.

We use 3M Peltor Shotgunner ($20, 21dB protection) ear muffs since they are shaped to still allow a great cheek weld on a stock.

Shotgunner & Optime Ear Muffs
3M Optime & Shotgunner Ear Muffs

Others such as the 3M Peltor Optime ($18, 30 dB) offer better protection but are large and obstruct a cheek weld.

Good choice if you are only shooting pistols.

Custom Ear Plugs
Custom Ear Plugs

We’ve also moved away from foam ear plugs since they are annoying to keep putting in or taking out during a class or competition.  Although we got fitted with custom ear plugs at a gun show, this DIY kit ($18) gets rave reviews.  Be sure to combine it with the neckcord ($14) so you can tell which side is which and not lose them as easily.

See more of our favorites in our Best Shooting Ear Protection article.

Three Electronic Earmuffs
Three Electronic Earmuffs

Eye Protection

Wiley X Saber
Wiley X Saber

Another mandatory item so you don’t lose an eye out there.  Sunglasses and regular prescription glasses are usually fine for all ranges, but I go with ones that are military rated, comfy, and don’t break the bank like the Wiley X Saber ($25)

See more in our full Best Shooting Glasses article.

Tested Shooting Glasses
Tested Shooting Glasses

Portable Cleaning Kit

Best Backup
12
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

We go over what we like for our at home cleaning kit in our Best Cleaning Kits article, but for the range we just bring the bare essentials in this portable kit ($10) for the infrequent emergency cleaning.  It has everything you need and even a squeeze bottle to bring a small bit of M-Pro 7 gun oil.

All Gun Cleaning Kits
All Gun Cleaning Kits

Screwdriver and Allen Keys

Stanley All-in-One
Stanley All-in-One

Something always comes loose or you need to change something on the fly.  Pick up a sturdy screwdriver ($5) and Allen/hex key set ($12) for yourself.

110
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I prefer the long sets since sometimes you need some extra torque and if you ever install/remove an AR-15 pistol grip you’ll wish you had one!

Targets

10
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Your range may have some steel targets or paper targets, but it’s hard to see where exactly you’re hitting, especially when you are shooting handgun or zeroing a scope.

We love Shoot-N-C targets since they turn a bright color when you hit them.  Plus, they also come with extra black stickers to repair your targets.

What’s your take on the splatter targets?

Readers' Ratings

4.95/5 (55)

Your Rating?

If you really want to upgrade your target game though, take a look at AR500 Steel Targets!

Best Basic Steel Target
39
at AR500 Armor

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Ammo & Mags

Online Ammo from Luckygunner
Online Ammo from Luckygunner

It’s no fun if you don’t have anything to shoot.  Read up on common calibers and bullet types before checking out our Best Place to Buy Ammo article.  And for mags, check them all out at Brownells.

Ammo Can

Plano Ammo Can
Plano Ammo Can

Ammo can ($10)—our favorite method to carry stuff.  Light and sturdy enough to handle anything and can even be used as a gun rest if needed.

Range Bag

Check out our YouTube review first:

One of our go-to bags is the Orca Tactical ($59) range bag.

Orca Tactical, Open
Orca Tactical, Open

Enough space for most outings, built tough with a nice strap, and even Velcro to show off your patches.

Orca Tactical, Carried
Orca Tactical, Carried

Or something with more volume and accessible side pockets for mags and other accessories…check out the Osage River Range Bag ($49).

EDITOR'S PICK RANGE BAG
39
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Osage River, Light
Osage River, Light

We go more in-depth on more range bags in our Best Range Bags article.

Some Tested Range Bags
Some Tested Range Bags

Handgun Case

PPT Handgun Case with SP-01
PPT Handgun Case with SP-01

The plastic case that came with your handgun does the job…but it screams GUN!

We created the Pew Pew Tactical Handgun Case ($16) to be a little more discreet…and unlike the major competitors out there…it will fit almost all full-sized handguns WITH light.

First Aid Kit

We go fully into what should go into a kit in our Med Kits article.  But the bare basics would be:

“Nice to Have” Range Gear

Nothing essential but just “nice to have” stuff to make your range time a little easier.

Magazine Loader/Unloader

Editor's Pick
23
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Contemplated putting this in the essentials section, but these MagLula loaders ($28) (especially the pistol one), really save your thumbs after a range session.

Great especially for tighter loading magazine firearms such as Glocks where I always struggle with the last one or two rounds.

Seems a little expensive, but well worth it to your sanity (and thumbs)!  Also comes in an AR-15 version ($26).

We cover the MagLula and other options in our Best Magazine Speed Loaders.  Now with a video too:

Electronic Ear Muff

Best Budget Electronic Ear Protection
49
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

An electronic earmuff ($40) lets you hear normal conversation sounds easily while automatically blocking loud gunshots.  And still thin enough to not mess with your cheek weld.  Now you don’t have to keep taking things on and off during ceasefire.

Want to go even more baller…see our review on the best electronic earmuffs.

Shooting Front & Rear Bag

Shooting Bags
Shooting Bags

You want a stable platform to shoot & zero your precision rifles, and these shooting bags ($30) fit the bill.  Or be DIY and make the rear bag by filling a sock with rice.

Shooting Mat

Best Combo Mat+Bag
50
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sometimes you want to shoot prone, and this combo bag can handle everything.

Although NCStar is not normally known for quality products, their VISM Rifle Case & Shooting Mat is awesome and has held up through dozens of range sessions for us.  Separate shooting mats are about the same price and can’t carry two rifles.

Or you can always go with a yoga mat…

See more at our Best Gun Cases article.

Brass Catcher

Brass Catcher
Brass Catcher

Attach to your rifle’s handguard to catch spent brass for reloading.  Even if you don’t reload now, a  brass catcher ($10) is good to have since you never know when you’ll get into it!

Plus, you are more than likely having to pick up brass at the range anyways.

AR500 Targets

AR500 Gong
AR500 Gong

Fun to set up if your range allows it, or if you are out in BLM landAR500 Steel Targets will take a beating with almost all handgun calibers and rifle calibers (past 100 yards).

And who doesn’t love that ting sound of hitting metal?

Shooting Belt

If you’re looking to handle reloads (or even drawing if you have a range that allows it), I started off with simple Uncle Mike’s shooting belt ($25).  It’s great for a pistol and two magazines or one rifle mag.  If you’re looking to have multiple rifle magazines you might want something stiffer.

Another option is a good CCW belt that can work for the range as well. This might be better if you like to go for a bite to eat before or after the range, this way you’re not walking around looking like a tactically tactical dude at the Denny’s.

Heavy Duty Gun Belt
35
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Holsters

We’ll have specific articles on this soon (such as concealed carry holsters), but I’ve been doing fine even in competition with Safariland paddle holsters ($35).  They’ll clip to your belt or just pants fine.  Be sure to choose the correct hand.

40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Magazine Pouches

As for magazine pouches, I go with Safariland ($20) again since they have tilt and tension adjustable models.

I like single mag pouches since they aren’t as bulky feeling.  These are also future-proof since you can add quick connectors onto the back to easily modify a competition belt.

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at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Bleeding Targets

These super cool “Threat Down” targets from Triumph Systems ($20) have lots of individual dye packets for critical hits.  The more you shoot…the more patriotic you become!

Threat Down Targets
Threat Down Targets

Check us out using them at the end of this video:

Elite Range Gear

If you’re hand-loading ammo or shooting very far range, you’ll want to check out these goodies.

Electronic Ear Muffs

My Hearing Protection
My Hearing Protection

We cover a lot of options in our Shooting Hearing Protection article, but the ones I personally use are the MSA Sordin Supreme X ($260).  Awesome clarity, build, cheek weld, and most importantly…comfort.

Best Overall Electronic Hearing Protection
269
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

These guys have gel seals that let me wear them for hours at competitions.

Chronograph

190
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

With a MagnetoSpeed Sporter Barrel Mount you can check your velocities for your factory or hand-loaded ammo.  Plug that info into your favorite shooting app and you’ll get your holds.

Lead Sled

Lead Sled
Lead Sled

For something more steady than sand bags to zero, or if you are shooting magnum rounds, the lead sled ($110) is here to help.  You can put a lot of weights or lead shot into it to really reduce recoil.

Shooting Sticks

Shooting Sticks
Shooting Sticks

With shooting sticks ($30+), you’re no longer limited by your bipod or shooting bags.

Laser Rangefinder

Laser Rangefinder
Laser Rangefinder

You can’t hit something if you don’t know the distance.  Use your laser rangefinder ($100+) to figure it out so you can dial in your scope.

Weather Meter

Kestrel Weather Meter
Kestrel Weather Meter

Wind messing with your dope?  Get a Kestrel weather meter ($100+) to get your wind, pressure, and temperature measurements.

Competition Belt

I love my ELS competition belt ($50) since it has two layers (inner one that you put into your belt loops is velcro) so you can quickly remove and put on your likely heavy gear.

Also, it lets you use quick disconnect backers ($25) on your holsters/pouches so you can adjust for whatever stage you’re running.

ELS Belt
ELS Belt

Shot Timer

Shot Timer
Shot Timer

And for the competitors out there, get your own shot timer ($100+) to see how your strings stack up against the pros.

Self-Healing Targets

What about non-metal targets (so you can shoot up-close) and that self-heal.  Plus have the ability to fall down on a direct hit?

Enter…FAB Defense’s RTS Self-Healing Static Targets ($150).

Now…”self-healing” is a bit of a stretch.  It’s not going to be magical as you can see.  The plastic does close up a little bit in the front.  The backside is much better with white marks where the bullet passed through…but not much of a hole.

Comes two torsos to a set.

It was really windy when I tested mine…but here’s how you can set it up to fall down after a hit instead of staying static:

RTS Targets by FAB Defense
RTS Targets by FAB Defense

Conclusion

Did I miss anything else?  Let me know in the comments below!

And are you truly prepared for the shooting range?  Check out our Gun Noob to Gun Slinger video course…especially catered to beginner handgun shooters.

33 Leave a Reply

  • Mike

    The MagLula loader is almost an essential. I have gotten more comments from people while loading than anything. This includes the days I bring my original Colt govt 1911 .45 series 70. I have had people leave the indoor range mid-session to buy one. It not only saves you from "Nintendo" thumb but shooters who have arthritis or other ailments can more easily reload.

    4 weeks ago
  • Johnathan Matteo

    I know you mentioned range first aid kits which is a great idea, no argument but just wanted to leave this for you as well as any reader/commenter. A newer company in the first aid kit game, has just come out with 2-Range Day first aid kits actually a basic and and an advoboth very well put together and come inside their own easily seen and distinguished as a first aid kit as well. Company is called “MY MEDIC” if you guys have a chance take a look. Great products and kits, all kinds of kits for just about any thinkable scenario including a day at the range as welll now.

    2 months ago
  • TomC

    A fire extinguisher in So Cal is a good idea.

    3 months ago
  • Iklwa

    I have found that bringing a container of drinking water along to the range always allows me to stay at the bench longer with more comfort and ability to concentrate better. There is nothing worse than being thirsty and unable to enjoy my shooting position.

    4 months ago
  • Jim Levine

    It is a great idea to have a first aid/trauma/bleed control kit that includes 2 or more tourniquets. I do not have a recommendation for a commercial kit.

    4 months ago
  • Jeff Adamson

    You included shooting bags, sticks, and a lead lead sled but you seemed to forget a sling. After having been to a Project Appleseed shoot, and learning how to properly use a sling to steady a rifle. I’d say that a USGI sling is a must to have on all your rifles or at least in your range bag.

    8 months ago
  • Richard Bennett

    Under the category of "Elite Range Gear" a Matis X training tool. Otherwise, an excellent article.

    8 months ago
    • David L

      Good idea! We have an article on the MantisX and really like it!

      8 months ago
  • TPB

    How about...water? :-) Also: shooting gloves (or something that is thin enough not to interfere with the trigger guard). When it's cold, they'll keep your hands warm. When it's hot, they'll absorb your perspiration. Oh, more! Comfortable shoes; long sleeved t-shirt to protect your arms from hot shell casings and keep them from going down your shirt (don't wear collared shirts, IMHO).

    8 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      Good advice! I'll include that in the planned update.

      8 months ago
  • Glenn

    Does anyone know of a decent shot timer app for the iPhone?

    8 months ago
    • David

      All of the apps I've used have been really crummy, sorry.

      8 months ago
  • Tbone

    If your competing and have several weapons/gear, a collapsible wagon is worth it's weight in gold!

    9 months ago
  • Roland Minden

    Stapler, dot stickers, tape, a good attitude

    10 months ago
  • Dr Dan Thirlwall

    Great job Eric - look forward to all your posts - you inspire me to shoot more and collect less! lol

    10 months ago
  • Robert Brock

    I suggest a spotting scope or pair of binoculars

    1 year ago
  • John

    Just gonna say that target with the beard seems pretty damn racist to me.

    1 year ago
    • joe

      the three target faces are exactly the same, one has a beard.

      10 months ago
  • Rick

    Really good article, cant think of anything else to add but wish I had some of the "toys" as they would add to the shooting experience

    1 year ago
  • Barry

    Great list and info. I would perhaps add some basic first aid and trauma first aid to the list. I do most of my shooting off range—out in the wilderness. I consider serious injury highly unlikely, but still best to be prepared. In addition to the basic band-aids, etc, I keep two tourniquets, chest seals, pressure dressing and hemostatic gauze in my bag. I like to be prepared.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Good tip...we have a first aid kit article but it would help to link it here!

      1 year ago
  • Chris

    Plus one for ammo cans being essential gear. They have so many uses. A variation on the basic ammo can that I like is MTM's SPUD 1. It's basically an ammo can with a shallow, lift-out tray in the top, and some hidden compartmentalized storage in the lid. I find it perfect for storing some of my smaller shooting gear that I want to keep a little more organized; e.g. cleaning tools and supplies.

    1 year ago
  • Anthony

    Eric I love your articles. Keep it up

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Will do, Anthony...thanks for reading!

      1 year ago
  • Spring Valley Arms

    Hey Eric.. I love the site and the recommendations.. but there are multiple recommendations around the site where one item is recommended one place and in another article, a different brand is recommended. This doesn't appear to be a "one is better than the other" scenario more than just perhaps when each was written, your opinion was different. I have noticed this with the lead sleds, hex wrench sets, and even the gunsmithing hammers. Especially for new guys, it would probably be a lot cleaner if your "top" of current suggestion was the only one found across the site, unless some particular article was suggesting the "cheapest" stuff, etc.... Just something I noticed. Thanks again for the great articles.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi, thanks for the input! We'll be working on getting the smaller stuff a little more streamlined across the site.

      1 year ago
  • TravelFroggy

    First aid kit for shooting range... stuff happens.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      That's true...great suggestion!

      1 year ago
  • Matthew Johnson

    I would be very interested in knowing your picks for range belt, owb holster for range belt, etc... Is this something you are considering adding to your range gear article?

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi Matthew, great idea! *UPDATED*

      2 years ago
      • Matthew Johnson

        Awesome, this is great!

        2 years ago
  • Bill R.

    Spotting Scope.

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Great addition...I'll be updating the article. *Update* DONE!

      2 years ago
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