After waiting all winter, you can finally go to the range to shoot some firearms and relax once the weather cooperates. Whether you are going out to pattern a shotgun before turkey season or to get used to a new rifle or pistol, there are some important items to make sure you put in your range bag before you leave the house.
Range Bag: Without a range bag, there’s nothing to put things into. While you don’t need to get a bag, bags are more common and come with lots of pockets and compartments to hold all your gear. A medium-sized toolbox or tackle box can also suffice. If you have a lot of firearms, it may make sense to have a bag/box for each type of firearm. I used bags for shotgun and rifle shooting but a toolbox holds all my black powder shooting accessories.
Ear Protection: One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is hearing protection. Spending a day on the range without any will likely give you a bad case of tinnitus (ringing of the ears) for days. Spending years on the range without any will lead to premature hearing loss. Ear protection comes in two major forms, inside the ear and outside the ear. Foam ear plugs are inexpensive and do the job. These are my go to when shooting certain firearms where I find my earmuffs coming off from shouldering the firearm. For most bench shooting, I go with earmuffs. Earmuffs usually get a higher noise reduction rating (NRR) that earplugs so they tame the bark of firearms better. If you shoot with a group of people and you converse with each other during you range time, an electronic pair of earmuffs or plugs may be the way to go. These contain a microphone and speakers so you can hear everyday voices and sounds but when a sound is above a certain decibel, they muffle the sound.
Eye Protection: A piece of safety equipment that is often overlooked, eye protection should be worn on the range. In the event of a firearm malfunction or the wind blows clay pigeon dust towards the shooter’s location, eye protection can save you sight. There are plenty of options out there, you can find tinted lenses that make it easier to see orange clay birds in cloudy conditions or in bright sunny conditions.
Targets:What you are aiming at can influence how your range session ends up. When shooting a rifle with a scope, a target with one-inch boxes on the paper and the bullseye in the middle makes it much easier to know what adjustments to make after shooting. Or when patterning a shotgun, a 10” circle is the standard target to use or a paper target with a turkey head and neck portrayed on it. This should also include tape to hold the targets on a backing, or staples if using a piece of wood.
Multitool: There are few worse feelings that taking the cap off the turrets of a scope and finding that it requires a flat head screwdriver or a coin to adjust the crosshairs. Some sights require Allen tools to adjust. Look over your firearm and know what you need to bring to make any adjustments.
Gun Rest: This might not be needed if shooting clay pigeons or handguns, however a good rest is the key to accurate rifle shooting (and turkey gun patterning). If you go to a gun club, they will likely have shooting benches set up so you just need a simple V-type of rest or sandbag to put the front of the gun on. While larger than most shooting bags, a full gun rest that holds the butt of the firearm and the forearm or barrel will hold the firearm completely still and will allow for small changes in windage and elevation to fine tune your aim. Look at the Caldwell Lead Sled line of rests to help tame recoil on the bench while allowing precise tuning.
Ammunition: It may seem silly, but make sure you have ammunition that will work with your firearm. Match the box of ammunition to the caliber/gauge stamped into the side of the barrel. If the firearm is new to you or you aren’t thrilled with how it has been performing either just shooting or hunting, bring a couple options of ammunition. Make sure to give your firearm time to cool down between shots as a barrel that is overheated will cause poor accuracy. Mark your target with the ammunition information so you can compare them and decide what ammunition you want to use.