We have all taken that impromptu overnight trip and if you are like me, you always seem to forget something. That something could be small, like a cell phone charger, but not having can cause all sorts of grief for you. You either end up traveling without a charged phone, or have to take time and waste money to purchase another charger. When we get our gear together for a training class, we want to plan out what we need, want and possibly extra gear just in case. This month we will take a look at putting together a range bag for training classes.
Obviously when attending a firearms glass we want to make sure we bring at least one firearm. We all should be training with the firearm we mainly carry, but it is always smart to
bring another gun in case your primary gun breaks beyond onsite repair. We should also bring plenty of extra magazines. When I say plenty, I mean at least 4 or 5. You can never have too many. Having extra magazines allows you to load up during breaks saving you time when you are on the firing line. If an entire class has done this, time allows for more evolutions thus giving you more training for your buck. Magazines also tend to break or fail at the worst times. It would be a shame to ruin a $1000 class because your $20 magazine failed on the line and you did not have an extra on hand. With that in mind we also want to bring some type of small cleaning/repair kit. Many manufacturers like Otis make prepackaged ones. You can also put a kit together your self. A bore snake, some cleaner/lubricant, firm toothbrush and any breakdown tools if they are needed. If you know how to change them, extra parts like firing pins, extractors and trigger springs can be quick fixes if you have the parts on hand. Whichever you decide, keep the kit in a heavy duty freezer bag. Gun oil is great on guns, not so great when your kit leaks all over everything else like ammo or leather gear. Be sure to bring the required amount of ammo for the class.
Most advanced classes require you to wear a belt, holster, and mag carrier. Just like our magazines, belts, holsters or mag carriers have a mind of their own and will fail smack in the middle of a class. Preplan for this and pull your second favorite holster/mag carrier out of your drawer and keep it in your bag. They do not take up to much room and should you ever need it, you will appreciate being able to jump back into the game without delay.
Flashlights are an important defensive tool and are often worked into training. As with anything that requires batteries, when you need it, they will be dead, or dying. In addition to extra batteries, It is always a good idea to bring an extra light or two. Even if your back up lights are less expensive lights, they will let you continue your training. Same rule applies to optics and electronic ear muffs. Moral of this story, prepare for dead electronics and pack batteries in the sizes your equipment uses, 123. AA, AAA, etc.
I don’t have to tell you that safety gear is paramount, but how many people bring extra sets of eyes & ears to the range. I once had to use a pair of glasses with a deep scratch right over the line of sight of my right eye. It drove me insane the entire day because the scratch was right where I needed line up my sights. If I planed ahead and had a spare set, I would have enjoyed the day much more. Some other things I would group into the safety category is some type of hydration system. A camelback carrying 200 ounces of water may seem excessive, but being in the sun all day shooting and moving can dehydrate you very quickly. Some experts recommend you drink 1 liter of water for every hour you are active in the sun. A backpack hydration system allows you to continuously sip cool water when loading mags or between evolutions. This reduces the chance of you dropping from heat stroke or other heat related emergencies. Sun block and bug spray also help make a long day outdoors more enjoyable. A small first aid kit with some type of pain killer (for day two of a class when you are nice and sore), gauze pads and band aids packs well and come in handy when needed. Throw in a couple power bars, an extra t-shirt and dry socks to change into mid day and you are good to go.
Even when it is not indicated in the class description, there will almost always be a need for paper, pens and markers. They are very flat and take almost no room in your bag. In addition to taking notes in class, they come in handy writing down names of equipment you see and want to look at further, names and numbers of other students you want to train with again and drawing diagrams of range drills. You can also use the markers to mark gear, mags and other equipment as well as targets.
Now that we have our laundry list of items we need, what do we keep all of it in? Many styles of range bags are available from various manufactures. Most of these bags are surrounded in molle webbing that makes it easy to expand your storage by clipping things to them. The “tactical” style bags are nice and work very well, but the can cost upwards of $100 and scream, “HEY, I HAVE GUNS IN HERE!” Another great option are large tool bags. They come in many sizes, have lots of pockets/dividers and are quite discreet. The key thing to look at when selecting a bag is it’s ability to hold weight. I have seen many gym bags buckle under the pressure and dump all of the shooters equipment and ammo onto the ground. You also want to designate a bag for shooting gear and never use it for anything else. Dumping your gear out and using your gear bag as a carry on bag can cause problems when the TSA screener finds a random hollow point cartridge that lost it’s way into a corner when you are boarding your flight. Also, gun powder residue can alert the automatic “sniffers” and put you in a hot seat with some explaining to do.
In conclusion, the tried and true way to enjoy yourself and get the most from training is to be prepared. Get your gear, keep it organized and bring it with you to training. If a fellow shooter’s gear breaks or they need something and you can help, do so, karma will come back around to you. Stay safe, keep an open mind and have fun.