Indoor or outdoor, for fun or for class, there are a few things we all need before we hit the range:
Water and Snacks
Staying fed and hydrated on the range is important. If you’re outside all day, chances are the heat and temperatures are going to put your body under stress, or you’re going to burn a lot of calories trying to stay warm. The air circulation system at indoor ranges also tends to keep them at a cooler temperature, although not all ranges have air condition which can lead to higher temperatures in the summer time – know what it’s like inside the range before you head off on an all-day excursion. And always remember to hydrate; whether you’re outside or inside, it can really make a difference in how you feel at the end of the day.
This seems pretty straightforward, but what happens if you’re in the middle of the class and your gun breaks? It’s happened before and it will happen again, having a backup firearm for you class or match is never a bad idea. Also, if other people are coming with you for a fun day at the range, consider if you have anything that they might like to try. You might just talk someone into a new purchase!
Ensure that you have the proper caliber ammunition with you before leaving for the range. Also, make sure that you have the right type. You don’t want to shoot a 1,200 round class with high-pressure defensive rounds, not only will it be uncomfortable but it’s hard on your wrists. For matches, you have to make sure you ammunition makes the minimum power factor. If it’s just for fun, make sure the ammunition you have is a light load that will be fun to shoot for a long period of time! If you’re doing some hard defensive training, have a mix of your defensive ammunition and your training ammunition.
Whether your firearm uses magazines, speed loaders, or clips having the proper loading device can save you a lot of time on the range. Not that putting rounds in one by one isn’t fun, but no one wants to shoot three hundred rounds that way. Think we’re being ridiculous? We’ve left our magazines at home more times than we care to count. It’s an important thing to have on your checklist.
Bag (Range Bag)
Having the right bag for a long day on the range can make a real difference. There are no sherpas on most ranges, and have the right bag that’s easy to carry will make humping all that ammo from your car to the classroom to the range and back a lot easier. Headed out for a match? You’re going to be switching bays a lot, and the right bag will make that much easier on you.
Sleeve or Case (for Gun)
Having a good sleeve or case is required on most ranges, and can make long guns much easier to transfer from place to place. At an indoor range, you want to make sure you leave your gun in the case until it is safely in the booth and pointed downrange. Most matches will have a safe table where you can uncase and then holster your handgun. At outdoor ranges you want to make sure you leave your gun cased until you on the range and the range is clear.
Eye and Ear Protection
Good eye and ear protection is an absolute must-have. Not only is flying brass dangerous, but shooting steel can result in shrapnel pieces that, while doing minimal damage when it hits the skin, can seriously hurt your eyes.
Protecting your ears is incredibly important, especially when you’re shooting loud guns, at an indoor range, or for an extended period of time. When you’re shooting loud guns a lot or you’re at the indoor range, it’s a good idea to use both ear plugs and over-the-ear protection. Doubling up this way will make the experience not only more pleasant, but could save your hearing in the long run.
Ensuring that you have everything you may need for your specific activity is important. There are a few places you can source this information. For classes, usually instructors will provide you a list of what you need to bring for the class. For a match, you can learn about the gear required in the association’s rulebook. Many times as, as you spend more time at classes and ranges, your list of required gear will grow.
While you won’t need targets for a class or match, if you’re just heading out to shoot they’re not something you want to leave at home. Having proper targets, that won’t cause you to be aiming at angles that might cause you to hit anywhere but the berm, that will allow you to run the drills or games you want, and that will be appropriately sized for the range your going to is an important part of packing for a day out!
Low cut shirts and open toed shoes are big no-gos out on the range. Being hit by hot brass is never comfortable, but keeping it from getting stuck down your shirt or between your toes will save you some burn marks. Also, make sure you dress for the weather. Wherever you’re going to shoot, you’re going to be there for a while, this is supposed to be a fun experience and it can’t be if you’re too worried about being too warm to too cold.
Originally published in the Septemeber 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.