Range Bags

What To Bring And What To Forget
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A few of the items from my range box: Gerber multitool, Tactikka head lamp, foam earplugs, ratchet wrench
with 1/2" socket, Facom metric Allen wrenches, Gun Tool from Real Avid, bushing wrench with Allen and
slotted wrenches from Wilson Combat, lens cleaning cloth, small first aid kit.

Have I ever driven to the range, started setting up on a shooting bench, and found I’d forgotten an important item of shooting gear? Are you kidding? About all I can say for certain is I’ve never forgotten to bring the firearm, or at least “a” firearm. Also I’ve never forgotten to bring ammo, though once or twice it was the wrong ammo.

But at one time or another I’ve forgotten to bring: targets; staple gun and staples; earmuffs; timer; shooting rest; tape and/or target pasters; cleaning/maintenance equipment; tripod for chronograph screens; chronograph screens; chronograph; spare batteries for things needing batteries; cap, jacket, sunscreen, water and salty snacks. Oh, and I once forgot both cell phone and the new combination for the lock on the range gate.

Most regular shooters could relate similar tales. On the other hand most shooters don’t have to meet a deadline, or else suffer the wrath of a tough and ruthless editor who accepts no excuses. It always surprises me how pleasant and genial Roy is when meeting the public at the SHOT Show for example, and I must admit he is a fine hunting partner as well. I imagine Generals Sherman and Patton could be pretty good company off-duty. But duty is duty and business is business. Hence my distraction and vexation at times.

A brass punch and hammer, like this kit from Birchwood Casey, are essential for
protecting your guns from being damaged while doing minor jobs.

Tools, Beautiful Tools!

Since I shoot both rifles and handguns, my basic range box likely includes more than most shooters want or need. In a plastic storage-type bin I have: earmuffs, foam ear plugs, safety glasses, staple gun, extra staples, several pads of targets of various sizes, a Sinclair adjustable rifle rest, Protektor rabbit-ear rear bag, masking tape, duct tape, first aid kit, a spare cap and pair of knit gloves.

With tools and cleaning gear I try to strike a reasonable balance. It’s tempting to pack along tools for all occasions. The trouble is the box gets heavy, plus I need some of the same tools when working on a gun at home. I prefer to have a few versatile multi-purpose tools I can leave in the range box. I don’t plan on doing any major gun tinkering at the range, but I do want tools for minor maintenance like tightening grip or guard screws, tightening scope bases and rings or mounting a different scope.

Manufacturers keep coming up with clever toolkits and multipurpose tools. Right now in the range box I have a Gerber multitool; a steel bushing wrench which also has a couple of flat screwdriver bits and several Allen wrenches; a set of metric Allen keys from Facom; a well thought out “Gun Tool” from a company called Real Avid with several flat, Allen and Torx screwdrivers and bits, a choke tube wrench and knife blade; and a 1/4" drive ratchet wrench with 1/2" socket for heavy duty scope rings.

My most recent enthusiasm is for a kit called “The Weekender” from Birchwood Casey. The kit includes several sizes of pin and roll punches, a well-chosen selection of flat, Allen and Torx bits, and a hammer with nylon and brass faces. Actually this is such a handy kit it mostly stays on the home workbench and I have to remember to put it in the range box. For thirty bucks this kit is an absolute bargain. Don’t wait (as I did!) to get proper tools until after your guns have marred metal surfaces and twisted-up screw slots.

Dave keeps a few cleaning items in a zippered pouch which can go either
in the range box or taken along while hunting or traveling.

Leaky Gun Cleaning

Idon’t keep cleaning gear in the range box for a couple of reasons. To be really useful the kit would have to accommodate bore sizes from .22 to .45. An Otis Universal kit would do it but the full kit is too useful (and a bit expensive) to leave in the range box. The other reason is gun-cleaning fluids in the range box inevitably seem to leak. I’d rather select the appropriate clean/lube items needed for the firearm in use.

Electronic gear like chronographs, timers, weather meters, Lyman electronic trigger pull gauge, or laser rangefinders likewise get packed separately as needed. Spare batteries are a good idea, though you don’t want to overdo it. Pack too many and they can lay unused so long, they’ll be dead just when you need them. I almost always have a camera bag along with a few useful accessories, including a battery tester. The camera bag also has a lens cleaning kit with a soft brush, lens cleaning fluid, cleaning paper and a soft cloth. If I didn’t have the camera bag these accessories would go in the range box. What’d I leave out? What’s in your range box we don’t know about?

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