I think you’ll agree that it’s tough to decide on what gear to buy when there’s simply so much stuff out there. Well, in today’s post, I’ll break down exactly what you need to be successful at the range.
Here we’ll cover everything from the bare essentials to the “take it or leave it” items for extra convenience. You’ll have everything you need to be safe, prepared and ready to have fun at the range.
|What To Bring||Why You Need It|
|Ear Protection||Avoid Hearing Loss|
|Eye Protection||State Required|
|Portable Cleaning Kit||Always Great to Clean Your Firearm After Use|
|Screwdriver & Allen Keys||Never Know When you'll Need to Adjust|
|Targets||Bring My Own Targets = Personal Preference|
|Ammo & Mags||Always Bring More Than You Need|
|Ammo Can||Great Way to Stay Organized|
|Range Bag||Great for Larger Rifles|
|Handgun Case||State Required|
Table of Contents
- 0.1 1. Ear Protection
- 0.2 2. Eye Protection
- 0.3 3. Portable Cleaning Kit
- 0.4 4. Screwdriver & Allen Keys
- 0.5 5. Targets
- 0.6 6. Ammo & Mags
- 0.7 7. Ammo Can
- 0.8 8. Range Bag
- 0.9 9. Handgun Case
- 1 “Take It or Leave It” Gear – Best Gifts for Gun Lovers
- 2 Conclusion
1. Ear Protection
If you’re a man, you’ve probably been guilty of the following scenario: You take your girl out shooting and you refuse to put the earplugs in that she generously provided for the occasion. Maybe you said something like, “I’m no wimp! It ain’t that loud.”
If you’re anything like me, you spent the rest of the night in the dog house after she insisted that you weren’t listening to her on the car ride home. Of course, it wasn’t that you weren’t listening, you just couldn’t hear a darn word she was saying because of the ringing in your ears.
Ear protection is the most important piece of shooting range gear there is for this very reason. Gun shots can wreak havoc on your eustachian tubes. When a gun is fired at close range, they can even rupture one’s ear drums.
There’s a simple lesson here and it is this: Going deaf doesn’t make you more macho. Being responsible is what separates the boys from the men.
Foam ear plugs are a cheap option that are good for first-time shooters. You can usually find a 50 count for just twelve bucks. Over time, you may find that you want to add a pair of ear muffs to the mix since some people at the range fire weapons with louder muzzle brakes than others.
Here’s my list of the top five shooting range ear protectants from each different price point:
- 3M Peltor Ultimate 10 Hearing Muffs, NR 30 dB
- Howard Leight Hearing Protection, 30 dB Rating L3 Protection
- Browning Range Kit
- Walker’s Game Ear Alpha Muff 360
- 3M Peltor Tactical Sport Hearing Muff, NRR 20 dB Folding Headband
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|Product||Rating||Price||Where To Buy|
|3M Peltor Ultimate 10 Hearing Muffs||9.7||$|
|Howard Leight Hearing Protection||9.5||$$|
|Browning Range Kit||9.4||$|
|Walkers Game Ear Alpha Muffs||9.2||$$$|
|3M Peltor Tactical Sport Hearing Muff||9.1||$$$$|
The Peltor Ultimate 10 is the one I usually recommend to beginners because it’s affordable ($22.99) and ergonomic, and it’s designed for maximum high and low frequency attenuation. This one is tailored to larger caliber firearms and magnum rounds
The Howard Leight hearing muffs are the next best option in terms of price at $25.20. They come with a padded-foam headband and ultra-soft ear cushions that will keep your ears comfortable as well as protected against high frequency bursts. Like the first one on this list, they have a noise reduction rating of 30.
The Browning Range Kit is something I will go into in the next section of this article as it offers more than just ear protection.
Walkers Game Ear Alpha Muffs retail for around $50.00 and they come with a range of unique features including independent volume control and 50 db of power. For the seasoned shooter, this is a must-have item in my opinion. I like that it has adjustable frequency tuning.
The 3M Tactical Sport Hearing Muff is something I don’t normally recommend to the novice shooter. This one is kind of best for the big baller who wants to drop some serious bank on something that bests the run-of-the-mill range gear.
At $140.39, 3M Tactical is the most expensive piece of equipment on this list and it’s clear why. These muffs are meant for the tech-savvy shooter who wants advanced features such as a SIC chip for refined audio reproduction. It has an audio jack for external components like cell phones or MP3 players.
2. Eye Protection
If you’re an American of a certain age then you probably grew up with your parents reciting that famous line from A Christmas Story—“You’ll shoot your eye out! You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Well, if you don’t have the proper shooting range gear, you could end up doing just that. Protecting your eyes is every bit as vital as protecting your ears. One ricochet could do serious damage. Shrapnel has left people with retinal abrasions, corneal lacerations and worse.
Sunglasses and standard prescription eye glasses are normally acceptable for this purpose, but they aren’t the best things to be wearing when it starts to get dark out.
If you’re serious about safety, which you damn well should be you’ll need some high quality glasses for shooting.
As mentioned earlier, the Browning Range Kit is my go-to kit for the fundamentals of shooting range gear. Each kit includes shooting glasses, soft foam ear plugs and earmuffs. The muffs are adjustable and comfortable, and their glasses come with polycarbonate lenses that provide the user enhanced target visibility.
The Browning Range Kit sells for $28.99 and is pretty lightweight in terms of range gear.
That being said, I gotta say that my absolute favorite eye gear is Radians T-85 5 Lens Interchangeable Shooting Glass Kit. At $18.95, it’s a terrific value and you really get your money’s worth. You get adjustable temples, a rubber nosepiece, and rubber temple pads.
I can’t tell you how many dirt cheap pairs of shooting glasses I’ve tossed in the trash because they didn’t have these features and, after little more than a half hour at the range, the sides of my nose were reduced to raw meat because of the rough, uncomfortable plastic design. With Radians T-85, you’ll never have to experience that kind of discomfort.
The switchable lenses mean that you can adapt your glasses to suit any kind of lighting situation. For the value and the convenience, you really can’t go wrong with these little numbers.
When it comes to range gear, you often find yourself in the annoying position of having to stuff tons of equipment into one bag, but the Radians kit comes with its own neck cord and microfiber lens bag so you can sling that stuff over your head independently.
3. Portable Cleaning Kit
There are some home care kits that are great when you need a lot of intricate cleaning tools, but when it comes to the shooting range, I take the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach. To put it another way, I like to bring the bare essentials.
The ideal piece of gear for emergency cleaning purposes is a basic portable kit. You can pick one up for as little as ten bucks. The SE GC16M Rifle/Gun Cleaning Kit is my go-to kit.
It comes with a .22 caliber brass brush, a double-ended miniature nylon brush, a plastic oil bottle, a 2-piece patch holder, and 4 rifle rods in a durable canvas pouch.
Luckily, we summarized the top cleaning kits for any firearm and condensed them down into a really succinct guide for everyone.
4. Screwdriver & Allen Keys
Let’s face it, when you’re spending any significant amount of time plinking, something eventually comes loose. Why should you find yourself in a situation where you need to make changes to your gun on the fly and you come up empty-handed?
If you prepare in advance by picking up a sturdy screwdriver and an Allen/hex key set, you’ll be just that—all set! Both are relatively inexpensive and you’ll be happy you bought ’em when you find yourself in one of these aggravating situations.
I always tell my friends to get their hands on a good starter set. For screwdrivers, I tell them to seek out Brownells’ NRA Magna-Tip Screwdriver Set. It’s usually available for around $50 online and it’s got everything you’ll need. It’s got custom-ground bits and a driver handle made of shockproof plastic.
Call me a cheap skate, but I don’t like having to buy a lot of stuff I’m only going to use a couple times a year so it kills me when I need to buy something for the range that’ll just collect dust in a closet when it’s the off-season. That’s why I love the Tekton Long Arm Hex Key Wrench Set.
It’s perfect for the shooting range and I can still use it throughout the year when my wife brings one of those Norwegian coffee tables home from IKEA that have to be assembled using flat-top screws in fourteen different sizes.
The instruction manual that’s written in hopelessly broken English will still be a chore, but at least I won’t have to stress myself out looking for the proper tool. And where the range is concerned, I’ll be ready for whatever my firearm throws at me.
You get that extra torque you usually need with handguns and you can order one online for just $13.19.
Yeah, your neighborhood shooting range probably keeps steel targets or paper targets in house, but they are normally hard for the first-time shooter to see and even harder for them to hit. This is especially true for those who are firing a handgun without an advanced scope.
I prefer to bring my own targets with me and my go-to targets are Shoot N C Targets because their coloration brightens each time you hit one. This makes it easier to aim at the part of the target you’re looking to hit. What’s more, they come with black stickers that you can use to repair your targets.
If you’re in a playful mood and you’re a big Romero fan, you can purchase a Zombie Target Pack from Gun Fun Targets. I picked some of these up for my wife for Christmas because she’s a total Walking Dead fanatic and the both of us had endless fun tearing them into shreds at the range.
They’re 19” x 24” in size which makes for a clean, visible target, and they’re also bright in color. You can snatch up a 10 pack for $13.95.
6. Ammo & Mags
What would your gun be without its bullets? A handy paperweight, for sure. A status symbol? No doubt.
But let’s be real, your gun isn’t anything without its ammunition. We recommend buying ammo online as you can get some pretty big discounts.
Whether I’m at home or at the range, I always prefer top of the line home defense ammo. One of the top handguns I recommend to beginners is the Ruger .22 LR rimfire pistol. The problem with lots of semi-auto pistols is that they can easily jam if you’re not using the right rounds.
For the .22, I usually tell people to pick up some CCI Blazer ammo. I’ve never had a problem with this one and you can usually find it in bulk.
You can also watch this informative YouTube video for more ammo choices or read our epic caliber, ammo and cartridge guide.
7. Ammo Can
I mentioned earlier that it can become a chore to have to lug around all your range gear. The ammo can takes a lot of the hassle and heft out of that experience. It’s lightweight and can handle most anything you put in it.
I like to use my ammo can as a gun rest when my muscles tense up. Most ammo cans sell for as little as ten bucks.
8. Range Bag
This is another viable option for the range shooter. It’s a more traditional option and you may appreciate its many compartments and straps. A GunMate Range Bag sells for $28, so it’s only a bit more expensive than a can. For more info check out our comprehensive post on the best range bags.
9. Handgun Case
The case your gun came in is fine for this purpose, but it’s so obvious that it contains a gun. If you want discretion, I strongly recommend purchasing the VISM Discreet Pistol Case from NcStar. You can get your hands on one for less than ten dollars on Amazon. What I like about it is that it looks like a laptop case which ensures that no one knows what I’m carrying.
For more gun case goodness, we got you covered with our top 6 brands.
“Take It or Leave It” Gear – Best Gifts for Gun Lovers
These are the things you don’t really need to go to the shooting range, but they’re nice to have on hand if you can afford it.
|Product||Rating||Price||Where To Buy|
|Shooting Front & Rear Bag||9.6||$|
1. Magazine Loader/Unloader
Personally, there’s nothing I hate more than messing up my thumbs. As a writer, I already wear out my thumbs tapping computer keys and texting my editors. The last thing I want is to wear out my fingers at the range.
The MAKERSHOT Custom Magazine Speedloader is my preferred loader because it’s affordable and awesome. It also comes with a lifetime durability guarantee.
2. Shooting Front & Rear Bag
For zero precision and platform stability, you can’t go wrong with one of these babies. I favor the DeadShot Boxed Combo because a) it’s got a cool name and b) it’s easily transportable.
3. Shooting Mat
If you really want to pamper yourself, you can pick up Primary Arms’ Fold Out Shooting Mat for $49.99. It’s strong and durable, and it comes with a 1-year warranty.
4. Brass Catcher
If you’re using a rifle, this is a good option. It attaches to the handguard and collects your spent brass for reloading purposes.
I bought myself a Caldwell brass catcher for $9.14 on Amazon about two years ago and it still looks like it’s brand new. It holds thirty rounds which is awesome for short sessions.
5. Lead Sled
If you need something that’s more steady than sandbags for zero precision, you might want to pick up a Caldwell 820310 Lead Sled 3. It’ll run you more than $100 so remember, this is strictly take it or leave it.
Other “take it or leave it” options include weather meters, shooting sticks and laser rangefinders (awesome at figuring out the exact distance of your target) as well as shooting belts—which can be great for reloads—and magazine pouches.
But for those who are looking for more advanced options, I recommend buying a chronograph. It will enable you to determine the precise velocity of your ammo.
The Ballistic Precision Chronograph by Caldwell is my top pick for this because it’s relatively cheap ($84.99) and gives a clear readout of velocity in feet per second.
These are my top picks for shooting range gear and should provide you everything you need to enjoy a successful shooting experience.
Though of course, don’t think that you need to limit yourself only to the items that we have covered here today. You may also want to bring water, shooting gloves, or even a chronograph or laser sighting system to the range as well.
If there’s an item you would like me to add to this list, let me know in the comments.
Good luck, have fun and fire when ready!