10 Essential Items to Pack in Your Shooting Range Backpack

You could go to your local shooting range and there rent all the equipment and you need. However, doing it like this is going to cost a premium, especially if shooting is one of your favorite hobbies. 

Rather than going that route, it would be far better to build your own pack with all the gear needed for a trip to the shooting range. This way, you’ll not only save a huge sum of money, but look and feel the part of a safe, prepared, and skilled shooter.

Building the ultimate shooting range backpack is going to involve packing gear primarily centered around the categories of safety and maintenance.

Here’s a guide to help you build an awesome shooting range backpack you’ll be proud to walk into the range with. 

Safety Gear for Your Shooting Range Backpack

It’s easy to be tempted into neglecting safety as a priority when you’ll only be shooting at a gun range. You figure there’s almost no chance anything could go wrong in such a controlled environment, and even if something were to go wrong, they should have the proper safety equipment to deal with the situation. 

Take the initiative and be a responsible shooter, even if you see others at the range neglecting safety. Following proper gun range etiquette and having the right safety gear in your shooting range backpack is going to allow you to do so.

Here are a few safety essentials to keep in your pack.

Eye Protection

The right eye protection for the range isn’t going to be a cheap pair of safety goggles you might’ve bought for doing a little handyman project at work. 

When buying a pair of shooting range glasses, you’ll want a pair that is durable, fits comfortably to your face shape, and provides ample eye cover. 

By providing complete eye cover, you’ll be protected from the unexpected impact of fragments.

A comfortable, tight fit will ensure your glasses don’t come jarred off your face during your gun’s recoil. It’s also going to allow you to comfortably and closely view through your gun scope to take proper aim.

If your preferred local gun range is outdoors, make sure you pack a pair of sunglasses that meet similar specifications as mentioned already.  

Hearing Protection

Often the most seemingly obvious points are the ones most important to hit on. The same is true when it comes to having the proper hearing protection in your shooting range bag.

Generally, sounds above 85 decibels are considered harmful to human hearing. Exposure to sounds over this level could lead to permanent hearing damage. The higher the decibel level, the shorter-term and less exposure needed for the noise to cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Considering most firearms shoot in the range of 140 to even in excess of 175 decibels, the importance of protecting your hearing at the range cannot be understated. 

Similar things as when choosing proper eye protection should be considered. Proper ear protection is going to be durable, comfortable, and tight-fitting. This way your earmuffs also won’t come off during your gun’s kickback.

Check the noise reduction rating (NRR) on any ear protection you’re considering buying to make sure it’s sufficient for the range.

Pack Equipment Servicing Gear

No matter how well-maintained you keep your guns and other shooting gear, there’s always the possibility that you’ll have to do some at-the-range fine-tuning or servicing. This is especially true if you’ll be spending the whole day shooting.

In either case, you should always have proper gun cleaning and maintenance gear included in your shooting range backpack.

Gun Tuning and Maintenance

Keeping your guns in safe operating condition is a job primarily done before making a trip to the range. Still, once at the range, as you inspect your aiming and shooting equipment before firing it, you may see the need to make some minor adjustments.

In this case, it’s good to carry some basic tools such as a:

  • Scope level for aiming adjustments
  • Multi-bit screwdriver
  • Allen wrench/key set
  • Multitool
  • Gun vise for securing your gun as you service it
  • Small part and tool organizing tray so you can keep track of your tools and gun parts if you do need to take it apart

Gun Cleaning Kit

Each time you fire your gun, trace amounts of metallic residue from your ammunition are deposited in your gun’s barrel.

This is caused by the friction that comes from the high-speed rubbing of the softer metal the ammunition is made of against the harder metal your gun’s bore. This effect is called gun fouling.

This is why, to keep your gun in optimum condition, not just for firing, but to last a long time, you’ll want to keep it clean.

Malfunction prevention is the primary reason to do so. Another reason is that gun fouling can severely affect your gun’s accuracy, especially on precision rifles. A third reason to keep your guns clean is to save you from wasting the potentially thousands of dollars you’ve spent on your gun and firing equipment. 

Primarily, this is a job done at home. Still, especially if you’ll be engaging in an extended firing session, it’s wise to keep a gun cleaning kit in your shooting range backpack. 

A good kit is going to include:

  • Brass cleaning rods
  • Brass bore brushes
  • Metal toothbrushes
  • Cotton cleaning brushes/mops
  • Bore light
  • Bore snakes
  • Bore lubricating oil and solvent

Just make sure your cleaning equipment is adapted to fit your guns’ specific caliber(s).

A Better Pack Means a Better Experience

Now that your shooting range backpack is fully stocked, you should be ready to hit the range for a fun, inexpensive, and most importantly of all, safe shooting experience.

For more tips on gun range safety and etiquette, more gear and purchase guides, and anything else shooting related, check out our blog. Whether you’re a long-time shooter with plenty of range experience or someone just looking to get started with this new, admittedly sometimes intimidating hobby, there’s sure to be something in it for you.  

If you are a beginner to the range, or maybe shooting in general, see if there’s an instructor near you. They’ll teach you how best to use the gear that will make up your range pack and how to be a safe, skillful shooter.

AAR Arena Training Facility Gas Gun match

I just got home from Arena Training Facility in Blakely Georgia.  They hosted a precision gas gun match that was put on by Ash Hess and Jack Leuba.  Both guys know a thing or 2 about precision Gas guns and the guys that shoot em.  Ash & Jack are accomplished shooters themselves.  If you get a chance read about some of what they’ve done in the service & on the range.  Ash is a pretty good author with some real insight, constantly trying to improve the level of marksmanship & effectiveness of our war fighters & LE.  They are both pretty public figures & work for Knights Armament.

I shot a 5.56 AR.  I’ve pieced it together but the real heart of it is a 20” upper from Sons of Liberty Gun Works.  (I’m a big fan of theirs). SOLGW makes real duty grade ultra reliable ARs & Uppers.  I first heard about them several years ago from other Swat guys & they have never disappointed me.

The rifle has a trigger & rail from Geissele.  The high speed national match is one of the best triggers I’ve ever used. The rifle has a stock from Seekins. The grip & sling are from Magpul.  My muzzle brake is a Lantac Dragon that really helps improve shot to shot recovery.    I use one on my precision bolt gun as well.  The scope is a Leupold Mark6 3-18x with the H59 reticle.  I really like that reticle, it gives me the ability to dial less and hold more often for both wind and elevation without sacrificing precision too much.  This can really increase your speed.  The scope rides in a Bobro QD mount, this mount has an impressive return to zero ability if I need to break the rifle down and has 20 moa built in so I can use more of my available scope adjustment and stay in the center of my glass where clarity is the best.

You don’t need a half minute gun, it doesn’t hurt but a solid reliable 1moa gun shot well will get you in the mix.

I use 2 support bags, a. Mini fortune cookie from Weibad and a pump pillow from Armageddon gear. (I actually won a new Armageddon gear sling at the match I’m excited to try out) 2 bags and a good sling is all I feel I need to be stable on most stages.

I use a Kestrel to take weather readings and a program on my phone called Ballistics Arc to come up with my firing solutions. I get my velocity data using a Magnetospeed chronograph.  Never trust the speed listed on your box ammo.  Good data in to a ballistic calculator means good data out.  A solid zero, a true height over bore measurement and an accurate velocity are key to good firing solutions.

I feed this rifle Sierra bullets 77 grain tipped match kings almost exclusively.  Sometimes I hand load them, sometimes I’m lazy or too busy to sit at the bench so I feed it Black hills or Creedmoor Sports factory ammo with that bullet.

Almost without fail I buy or win my own equipment.  There is a misconception that top level shooters get paid or get lots of free gear.  For the most part that isn’t the case.  It dang sure isn’t for me.  I use the stuff I use because I believe it works.  Given the choice between 2 equally functioning products similar in price though my deciding factor will be the companies support of and involvement with the end users.

I’ve been fortunate to shoot with, often squad with, meet & talk to reps or owners of many of these products because they are among us and approachable.  I’ve given feed back straight to owners in person. Many of these companies  give back to the community, their stuff is on prize tables, they loan out gear… it’s amazing really.

You can’t beat guys like Mike at SOLGW, Ryan at Magneto Speed, Tom at Armageddon gear, Joe at Geo Ballistics and several others that are so giving, helpful and hands on.

But back to the match.  Arena Training Facility was beautiful, well appointed, well layed out and is beyond big enough to host about anything they need to.  Including a pretty good sized rifle match and high level rifle training for the son of the president at the same time. (Yeah did I mention Donald Trump Jr. was there shooting while we were and came out to visit with us?)

Scott from RangeRecon traveled with me and we stayed on site in a nice cabin.  We got up the morning of to beautiful weather and after a match brief with the usual safety reminders we got right to shooting.  I believe 55 shooters showed up, some of the best in the nation, probably the world.  Many elite units from Military and Police were represented as well as Training organizations and industry reps.

That might sound intimidating but it shouldn’t be.  You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer or more helpful group anywhere, especially in a competitive setting.  At several of these matches the guys from the Army Marksmanship Unit have been there.  They are always especially helpful and really impressive to watch.  Tyler Payne for example was there helping run a stage instead of shooting, but I’ve seen him in action and think he is probably the best precision Gas gun shooter in the nation.

There were 8 stages, each with a 120 second par time.  Fastest time after penalties wins.  Penalties occur if you don’t get the necessary amount of hits per target in the given time.  A target not neutralized adds 30 seconds.  The majority of targets were 200-600 yards with a few out to 800.  I’d say targets are generally 2-4 moa in size.  This match had a good mix possibly leaning towards a larger target size average.  There was a lot of positional and barricade shooting with some short distance movement but no crazy physical exertion like running or anything.  You need to be mobile but don’t have to be a PT god to be competitive.  (Which is good because I’m no gym stud these days) 

I know some guys had primarily 3gun experience and some had service rifle experience and some were more PRS bolt gun oriented guys.  There was a bit of something that played to the strengths of each of them in this match.  

There were divisions for 5.56, 308 and then open for the 6mm, 6.5 creed/Grendel, 224 Valkyrie or whatever precision wildcat you can think of that is 30 cal or less and under 3200fps.

If you like accurate scoped ARs/MSRs/SPRs/DMRs or whatever you wanna call em and pushing past the 200 yard berm then these type matches are calling your name & this was a pretty dang good one.

As always, my advice is get out and shoot.

Signed N.S.

7 Tips for Proper Gun Range Etiquette

Accidental shootings at gun ranges aren’t tracked, but the good news is they are rare.

However, it’s always best to take safety precautions when you’re around firearms. And, the best way to prevent accidents is to follow gun range etiquette.

Here are seven tips for gun range etiquette that will keep you and others around you safe and ensure you have a great time when you visit the range.

1. Review and Follow the Range’s Rules

There are all types of ranges out there. Each has its own list of specific rules which are often listed near the shooting area or on their website. Take the time to review the rules beforehand for the range you’re visiting and familiarize yourself with them.

It’s a safe bet that all gun ranges have at least a few cardinal rules about gun handling that everyone should respect, such as never pointing a gun in anyone’s direction.

But, they may also have fines for shooters that damage property on the gun range, including structural areas. So read through their list, before your visit if possible, and let their regulations seep in.

2. Always Handle a Firearm Like a Pro

Handling a gun professionally extends to when you’re not actually shooting it. All professional gun owners know how to handle a gun responsibly so no one, including themselves, can get hurt.

This means automatically removing your finger from the trigger the second you’ve stopped shooting. This is a memory reflex which often needs to be developed over time, but it will differentiate you as a gun owner that takes shooting seriously.

You also never want to point the muzzle at anybody or anything other than your target. So when you’re not using the gun, make sure the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. When shooting indoors, this means laying the gun on the table with the muzzle pointed towards the targets.

The safety catch should always be on when you’re not shooting, and all parts of the gun including the chamber and magazine should be completely empty of ammo. If someone wants to see your firearm, these safety precautions must be in check before handing it over to another person.

3. Respect the Range Safety Officer

Most gun ranges have employees on hand to ensure everyone is following the rules and shooting in a safe manner. Range safety officers have authority above everyone else visiting the range, so treat them with respect. Listen to them if they give gun range commands such as cease-fire, because that means they’re making sure everyone visiting the range is safe.

This is particularly important when shooting outdoors. The range safety officer won’t allow anyone to go downrange to inspect their targets until everyone has emptied their ammo, engaged the safety catch, and has put down their firearm in a safe location.

Although they may sound intimidating, gun range employees are friendly and willing to help if anyone has any questions or isn’t sure what a particular command means. They can also help refresh your memory on a gun’s components and proper handling. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it.

4. Remember That You Can Call a Cease Fire

The command “cease-fire” doesn’t have to be shouted by only the range safety officer. It’s everyone’s responsibility on the range to use the command if they see something that looks unsafe.

If another shooter is unwell that’s an excuse to call a cease-fire. It can also be used if someone inadvertently wanders onto the range area. Good gun enthusiasts will always look out for everyone else and the safety of others.

5. Don’t Touch Someone Else’s Equipment

It’s tempting to want to pick up someone else’s gun especially if it’s brand-name gear you’ve had your eye on for a while. However, that unfamiliar firearm may be loaded—plus, it’s just poor manners to touch someone else’s possession without asking for permission to do so.

Most gun enthusiasts are more than happy to share information about their purchase and let someone else hold it, but you should ask first. They need to ensure their firearm is completely empty and they may not wish to be interrupted between rounds.

Don’t touch anyone else’s bag or equipment unless you have permission to do so. And don’t shoot at someone else’s target; this can confuse them and throw off any progress they think they’re making.

6. Don’t Interrupt Another Shooter

It’s unsettling to be interrupted in the middle of a round, even if it’s just a tap on the shoulder. It’s also dangerous; some people may instinctively whirl around to face you while still holding the gun pointed outward.

The one exception is if you see another shooter doing something that can compromise the safety of themselves and others. In this case, most gun ranges will allow you to shout, “Cease fire!” and a range safety officer will handle the situation.

If you wish to talk to another shooter, wait until they’re finished with a round and can safely engage with you. You wouldn’t want to be interrupted when you’re concentrated on hitting your target. Respect another person’s personal space, and their shooting time.

7. Pick Up Any Litter

Don’t leave behind any ammo boxes, water bottles, brass casings (if they’re your own) or other trash. Deposit it in provided trash bins and leave the range neat and clean for other shooters to enjoy.

The one exception is sweeping up other shooters’ brass casings. Some people like to keep their brass.

Follow These Gun Range Etiquette Rules For a Safe Experience

Knowing the proper gun range etiquette will ensure that everyone has a safe and fun time at the range. It also helps you stand out as more professional, even if it’s your first time shooting.

Now that you know the rules about gun range etiquette, it’s time to spend a day at the range. Search for a gun range near you.

Don’t Choke

Lots of people get into firearms with self defense in mind. Fair enough. An old quote is “God made man, Sam Colt made them equal.” I’ve seen a firearm equal the odds. One night an 80 year old man that could barely get around shot a home intruder that was assaulting his granddaughter with one of the biggest pieces of junk 22 LR revolvers I’ve ever seen. The intruder would have physically overpowered the octogenarian with ease had it not been for that old wheel gun. I pulled up on scene at the park one night where 4 thugs had tried to rob an ER nurse walking his dog. Unknown to them, the nurse had taken his CHL class & some training from one of my coworkers not too long before, was wearing a pistol and put it to good use. Nothing is more effective at evening the odds.

But a firearm is not a magic talisman. It is of no use if the person welding it doesn’t have the skill and knowledge to employ it.

The vast majority of our society is not acquainted with violence. If you are going to defend yourself, preparation will help and the mind is the most important tool you possess.

In those life threatening moments, lots of things are happening fast. The more you can do on an autonomous level, the more of your mental capacity you can free up for processing situational data, and the better off you are. Stress inoculation is a term I like to use. Confidence becomes important.

I’m just touching on very deep concepts here. Entire books have been written on the subjects, some experts spend their careers and even their entire lives delving into the finer points.

But for an example normal people may understand: Have you ever heard of buck fever? It’s that phenomenon of adrenaline dump when (especially newer) hunters have a trophy game animal step out in front of them that they’ve been hoping for. Many experience the shakes, become barely able to speak, or make minor errors like forgetting to click their safety while trying to get the shot off under the pressure.

In competition, we have buzzer brain. It’s where the shooter has a stage plan, they have visualized their movements, but when the buzzer sounds or shortly after, some error occurs and the shooter loses track of the entire plan or makes unnecessary follow up errors to exacerbate the situation.

These are examples of a break down in processing power. I have experienced them personally. If minor events can cause this, what do you think will happen in your first life threatening encounter?

Things like this are why training is so important. You need to build comfort & confidence in your weapon handling. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more you will grow. The brain must be exercised like any muscle. If you experience smaller doses of stress often enough, when that big dump of “oh my God” happens, you are more likely to handle it correctly. 

No matter why you pick up a gun, get out, train, and expand your limits. Stagnation is death.

Signed; NS

Purchasing Decisions

I get into a lot of interesting conversations on the internet about guns. I was having one such conversation today where a fellow was adamantly defending a brand that is pretty widely accepted by experts as inferior. As a matter of fact the brand was banned by name & likely still is, from many police department duty weapon lists. But people make purchases and then feel the need to defend them. You can see it with Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge guys and it’s no less common in the gun world. I find the emotional attachment to a tool such as a truck or a gun an odd phenomenon but it exists. The first thing you’ll hear is “mine has never failed.” Ok, fine but how much & how hard have you really used or tested it? Does one example of non failure negate the ones that did? How much are you willing to bank on that? When faced with this logic the nearly guaranteed rebuttal will be “all brands will have some failures”. That’s true.

The rub lies in the frequency, the severity and the path to resolution. Frequency might be best viewed in percentages and resolution is where customer service comes in. In a self defense gun or a gun I’m taking on a $10k once in a lifetime hunting trip, the frequency better be low and equivalent to the acceptable percentage of critical airplane parts’ failure. In my kid’s 22lr range toy, I might accept a little less reliability. If the severity is low enough, it isn’t dangerous, and the customer service is good enough it’s easily resolved…assuming initial price was low enough to suck me in.
The fellow on the other side of this convo said you don’t need name brand, more costly guns. Well in my line of work, the potential for needing to use my gun is a whole lot higher than most folks and failure has dire consequences.
It’s up to you to assess your situation and decide what you are willing to invest for reliability & what fits your situation.

If I lived in Lebanon, Kansas, I might not need a yacht. And if I lived in Key West, Florida, I probably wouldn’t need a 4×4 with a snow plow. With proper application of logic, you are the best person to assess your personal situation and determine your needs. Then find a source with objectivity, minimal bias, and no ulterior motives to get data from to make educated purchasing decisions.

Brand Name Gear

One of the most common things I see is people stressing over equipment. The stream of questions and comparisons is never ending. People want to buy skill and ability. Being a solid shooter takes real time and effort. Unfortunately our “want it fast, want it now, want it cheap, want it easy” society struggles to accept that. Often going in search of gizmos.

You need dependable, reliable and reasonably accurate from a firearm. Most things exist on a spectrum. I find I like to stay in the middle of the spectrum for the most use ability. Say you get on the real cheap end, then you usually get junk. You go to the extreme, expensive end and often you find that you have paid for diminishing returns and may have a tool you are not equipped to use to its potential. Happy medium is cliche but cliche’s often exist because there is an element of truth.

As you build skill and choose a path you will learn what you need along the way. Sometimes what we need is to take a step back and work on us with equipment we can afford to do that with.

If you ever doubted that it’s the injun not the bow, let me give you a few examples from events I attended last precision rifle season that stand out to me.

My buddy Tim shows up to one of the documented hardest PRS matches in the nation with shots to a grand and in a field of over a hundred solid national level shooters. Over 2 days he comes in 3rd with a 223. There were nearly a hundred very expensive rifles in a long list of custom race car cartridges in very capable hands. He beat all but 2 with a 223.

“Ringer” shows up to the biggest PRS match in the world to date with a stock plain jane savage and factory ammo for his FIRST MAJOR match and shoots so well he gets bumped to Pro division on the spot. I took to calling him “Ringer” because he was a very quiet, unassuming guy that was open about not having match experience. What he didn’t mention was all the experience he had in the service of Uncle Sam and how well he had excelled there or how much training he had quietly done in preparation for this match with a solid mentor.

My buddy Ryan shoots a dozen major matches across the country with the best in the nation and as a general rule beats 60% of the field with an old fashioned 308 launching 175s against every custom 6.5 creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6mm dasher, 6×47 Lapua, 7mmwhizbang…. you name it.
But he works hard, focused on old reliable and has stuck with it. There are others in his class that do the same. It’s true the overall top spots will usually go to an excellent shooter that also has the new hotness but the point stands.

If you are a pistol shooter you’ll see it too. Give someone like, Vogel, Enos, Miculek a stock but reliable gun and give someone of average ability the best race gun available… skill will beat equipment by such a vast amount it isn’t funny.

So get good equipment. Don’t throw money after trash & don’t chase the extremes. Remember you often give up some reliability for that exquisitely tuned race car as well as paying extra every step of the way. If it’s safe, it works, and as long as it fits the intended purpose, use it until you have outpaced your equipment. Then you’ll be upgrading with a better understanding of what you need for your path.

Remember, hit the range, put in the work, good things will come.

Signed; NS

Dunning Krueger-

Dunning Krueger-
Cognitive bias. A psychological phenomenon in which people with low skill level believe themselves to posses more skill than they do and highly skilled people often underestimate themselves or more accurately overestimate those you would compare them to.

To break it down you have to have a certain level of knowledge to even know how much skill you lack. 

There is a sort of inverse relationship, an arc from how much knowledge or skill one has and how much you think you have.

Competition can be good about showing you where you are performing relative to others in some measurable way. Lots of folks are intimidated by competition because it can be hard on the ego when they don’t perform as well as they thought they should have.

One thing we used to preach in SWAT was “leave the ego at the door.” You usually heard this just prior to a debrief. That’s where we would review the day’s activity and critique it. Now this is a real challenge for highly motivated Type-A people that often fill that role but ability to accept critical review & adjust is necessary for a professional. See ego interferes with growth when it shuts out constructive criticism.

Something I saw iin competition shooting a lot was the really elite shooters were often humble & helpful (especially towards shy beginners). Almost as if they welcome the challenge of fresh competition & aren’t bothered by someone else performing well.

The point I’m driving at here is that everyone’s path has to start somewhere. Once you start walking the path the world begins to open up and get bigger and more fulfilling as you move along it.

Signed; NS

Taken with a grain of salt : introduction with “Nobody Special”

The proprietor of this fine internet resource asked me if I would be interested in authoring a blog and then pretty much granted me free reign with little direction.

You need some kind of resume to be an author on a gun page right? Yeah, I don’t have much of one but I’ll introduce myself and you can decide how much salt you’re gonna need.

Born and raised a Texas country boy. The whole bit. ranching, rode horses nearly everyday since before I could walk and hunted as soon as I could hold Red Ryder. Dad did some professional cowboying, guiding, hunting and outfitting but never got famous. Guess you could say I was blessed with a solid instructor though from the beginning when it came to guns. Most of the men in my family were Reserve Sheriff’s deputies when I was little. No joke they were on the Sheriff’s Posse. I remember getting to tag along on range days and mock manhunts on horseback.

I got to shoot a lot as a kid. I could hunt most everything with a bag limit without leaving the ranch. (I’ll save hunting stories for later.)

Had a long spell where I worked weekends on a sporting clays range in my teens as well as shot local leagues in trap & skeet. 

Spent a couple years as a machinist (though not directly firearms related) I find that still comes in handy.

Then I became a cop. Just in a midsize department on the edge of a major metroplex. My jurisdiction had an interesting dynamic and was far from boring. So I’m sneaking up on a decade and a half behind the badge and that’s come with some experiences. Primarily I’ve filled roles in Patrol as an Officer and a Supervisor as well as SWAT on both entry team and as a Sniper.
That led me to back to firearms competition. In a search for personal growth I’ve shot some IDPA, USPSA even a little 3 gun (just outlaw and local stuff) then I stumbled into precision rifle and began to dabble in that at a more national level.
You won’t see me in the spot light, as the saying goes “a jack of many trades but a master of none.”
If I have anything to offer it is just my brand of contemplative logic, a cowboy philosopher that might spur some thought.

Signed; NS