Going to the gun range is the best part of being a firearms owner. It means you get to shoot, duh! But there’s more to it than grabbing you gun and walking up to a shooting lane. There is some necessary equipment that you need before they’ll even let you in the door, along with some gear that really will just make your life better. You can rent some things, but it better to just buy your own because it will save you money in the long run.
Basic Equipment (Required)
There are a few essentials that you absolutely need to go shooting. These are to meet gun range rule expectations and also to keep you safe. These are not really negotiable.
Ear Protection: This is the most important piece of range gear that you need. Why? Because guns are loud. They will make you go deaf if you shoot without ear protection. Your standard hand gun will be in the range of 155-160 decibels, which is more than enough to damage you hearing. If you go to an indoor range, it will be even louder because the cement walls will bounce the sound around and multiply it. If you plan to skimp on gear, make sure it is not your hearing protection. Little $1 ear plugs won’t cut it, go out and get a nice set of ear muffs.
Eye Protection: The next essential piece of gear is eye protection. Some beginners may think it is stupid because plastic glasses won’t stop a bullet. This is true. However, you’re not wearing them to stop a shot to the eye socket, you’re wearing them to protect against a ricochet. Once that bullet leaves your firearm, you have zero control of it. It is highly unlikely, but possible for it to hit the backstop at the right angle and spin out of control, in your direction.
This is where your eye protection comes in. If you are unfortunate enough to experience this at least you have something protecting your eyes. Your glasses may not completely stop the ricochet, but they will absorb a good chunk of the remaining energy to slow down the round. It will hurt, but hopefully leave you un-blinded. Any kind of glasses will do. It doesn’t really matter as long as you have something.
Gun Case or Sock: If you have your own gun you will need to have something to carry it in. Ranges will get very ornery if you walk into their building wielding an uncovered firearm. It puts everyone on edge because they don’t know you, or your intentions. Please, just get something to cover your firearm to carry it into the range. You’ll also get funny looks from your neighbors if you are walking to your car with a rifle slung over your back.
You don’t have to have these pieces of gear, but they definitely help. It is strongly recommended that you buy these as soon as possible.
Firearm: It is not required that you have your own gun to go shooting. Pretty much every range has handguns that they rent out, but this will get expensive. You have to pay the initial rental fee, which usually is around $15. That’s not too bad, but that’s not the expensive part. You have to buy and use the range’s ammo of choice, which will be jacked up in price. It is in your best interest, financially, to buy a gun and bring your own ammo.
Range Bag: One of the best investments is a good range bag to keep everything in. Throw your extra ammo, magazines, tools, or whatever else you need in there. You will always have it with you and you won’t be fumbling around trying to carry all of that stuff in your arms. I bought a nice rifle case that has several big pockets to keep everything it.
It kills two birds with one stone as it carries my rifles and everything for them. You can also get a nice sturdy backpack if you want your hands free. I have found that it is much easier to carry your guns while having all the stuff you need out of the way and on your back.
Tool Kit: After my first few range trips where I had a problem, I threw together a tool kit. It consisted of basic tools that you might need if your gun jams, a screw comes loose, or needs oil. I put both a flathead and Phillips screwdriver in there, along with pliers and gun oil.
After I built my AR15, I added some tools made specifically for it. A good multi-tool will have all of these and may be a better option for you. Regardless, it helps to have everything right there instead of having to ask the range officer for help or to watch your gear.
These are the extras accessories and what-not that are not necessary at all, but will really make your life easier and give you a better experience overall.
Splatter Targets: Easily my favorite targets are splatter targets. You can clip them over your main target that the range gives you and work on your aim. It is very hard to see holes in paper from far away, but splatter targets highlight each hole and they really help you see where you are shooting, so you don’t have to reel it in as often.
Gun Range Membership: Once you find a range that you favor, you might want to consider paying the cash for a membership. It will drop each range trip down a few bucks. Many ranges offer other benefits as well such as, cheaper/free gun rentals or no waiting in line. It all depends on your range of choice, but some of them are completely worth it.