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By Ryan Cleckner

(This is an excerpt from Ryan’s book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, 25% of the sales of which will benefit military charities.)

If you’re not careful, you can easily get carried away with accessories. I love gadgets and gear as much as the next guy but please make sure that both your rifle and optic are of enough quality that allow you to shoot long range effectively before you purchase the latest top-of-the-line laser rangefinder. For example, if your laser rangefinder costs more than your scope, you might be doing it wrong. Sure, you’ll know exactly how far away that 912.3 yard target is, but you’re not going to be able to hit it. Remember that quote from the beginning of this section, “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.”  Some of the best shooters I know can use a rifle with a sling and iron sights to out-shoot most others with a rifle with bipod legs and a scope . . .

6.1  Shooting Bag

I firmly believe that a shooting bag is a crucial part of the precision rifle system. Where my rifle goes, my pack follows. My shooting bag serves as a platform for my rifle and it carries things for both the rifle and me.

A shooting bag is the best all-around platform for shooting your rifle. The beauty of a shooting bag as a platform is its consistency.  As discussed above, bipods can react inconsistently depending on the surface they are on. A rifle rested on a shooting bag, however, reacts the same whether the shooting bag is on grass or concrete.

In addition to serving as an accurate and stable platform for shooting, a shooting bag does something else – it carries things. If I am going to carry around equipment with me, it must be for a purpose. For example, I carry extra ammunition in case I need more than I have on my person or in my rifle, I carry my DOPE book so that I can add and reference information, I carry a calculator and rangefinder to help with range estimation, and I carry water and food in case I am thirsty or hungry.

By using my shooting bag as a shooting platform, I’m able to access each of these things directly in front of me. Instead of breaking my position to go searching for a bag laying on the ground behind me, I can reach in my bag for a snack while staying on my rifle and looking at the target.  If I need to get up and move quickly, I can simply grab my rifle in one hand, my bag in the other, and go.

I encourage you to employ a practice we used in the military – only have one thing out of your bag at a time.  If you do this, you won’t have gear strewn about you on the ground making it hard to pack up in a hurry and easy to lose.  Having your gear scattered everywhere is often called a “gypsy camp” or a “yard sale.” Don’t do it.

Here is a list of things, at a minimum, that I keep in my shooting bag:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Ammunition
  • DOPE Book
  • Sand Sock
  • Calculator
  • Range-finder
  • Tools
  • Mil-dot Master
  • Binoculars
  • Flashlight
  • Rain Jacket
  • Jacket for warmth


Ryan Cleckner was a special operations sniper team leader in the US Army’s 1st Ranger Bn (75th) with multiple combat deployments and a sniper instructor. He has a series of basic online instructional videos (more to come shortly) and his book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, is available at Amazon.

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    • No eye pro? No ear plugs? No first aid kit? No cleaning kit? But definitely bring two jackets and a calculator. Gucci man, totally Gucci.

        • See my comment below – I didn’t list footwear either but I’m not suggesting that you go barefoot.
          This is not a complete list of things to have with you. This is just a minimum of what I keep in a shooting bag for my precision rifle. Also, this is an excerpt of a book – it is not a freestanding article.

        • Safety items trump a calculator. Extra ear plugs, batteries for your ear muffs, gloves and a first aid kit are in MY range bag.

      • Since you are obviously more qualified to speak on this subject than a retired Army Ranger Scout Sniper why don’t you put together your own list and maybe someone will publish it. This list was intended for people with enough intelligence to what gear is essential and I’m sure Mr. Cleckner doesnt need to tell you to wear clothes and not shoot buck naked. On second that maybe you do need someone to tell you.

  1. 14: cleaning supplies.
    15 a punch rod to knock out spent cartridges and bullets

    • Great point – forgot to list those! I make a deal with readers earlier in the book. If they point out something to me that could be better, and I include it in future editions, I’ll give them credit. If you’re ok with that, you just earned yourself a footnote.

  2. Range finder is only useful when shooting somewhere on private property away from people when distance is unknown. At any firearm range I’ve been to, distance is a known value.

    • He wouldn’t have food, water, a flash light, raincoat, etc if it was for a range. You’d have those things in your car.

    • Not sure he means a ‘range bag’ for the range, cause wouldn’t you keep the snacks, drinks, cold and wet weather gear in your car if you were just going to the range.

      • That range word gets really overused. I live by a few ranges but I shoot in the desert… When people imply that every time they go shooting its at a range it makes it seem like the shooting sport cannot be enjoyed anywhere else. I’m with you on his usage of “range” here.

  3. Dope and a Sock? What kind of parallel universe have I stumbled into… 🙂

    All kidding aside…Good article and thanks for the pro-tips… I see my rifle bag needs a couple of upgrades …

    Carry on Ballistic Brothers and Sisters… May God’s grace be upon us all..

  4. My shooting essentials bag (for LR rifle shooting): ammo, rear bag, dope book, pen, hearing protection. Every thing else in there is not essential…for me…to hit steel from 200 to 1000yds. I must be doing something wrong.

    • Nope. I think you’re doing it exactly right! Throughout the book I repeat a less is more/simpler is better approach. For example, I commit long range blasphemy in the book when I explain that I don’t carry a wind meter.

      • … or cant level. I’m a borderline minimalist too. It gets into individual preference at some point and is amusing to see what some here contend ‘essential’ for their field/shooting bag.

  5. Big fail. Big, big fail.

    An Israeli Battle Dressing and a CAT tourniquet.

    Maybe Mr. High Speed Low Drag never sees accidents. However, the average Joe at the average range isn’t exactly high speed or low drag when it comes to muzzle and booger picker discipline.


    • Mistake to assume that my “at a minimum” list for my shooting bag is everything I have with me or everything I recommend having with you. For example, I didn’t include footwear on my list but that doesn’t mean I advocate going barefoot.

      I’ve been around plenty of accidents. In addition to being a special operations sniper for multiple combat deployments, I was also an EMT-I while in the military – I carried way more than an IFAK for medical gear and my current “truck bag” which goes to the range with me has IVs and oxygen.

      Also, if your going to carry an IFAK, I think it’s a big fail (as in, big, big, fail) to keep it in a shooting bag or anywhere not directly on your body. After all, I may have to ditch the bag and I’d still want my IFAK (and my sidearm and numerous other things not listed) with me.

        • better add three different waste recycling containers, a whistle, pepper spray and portable toilet with some environmentally friendly tp for Beta males.

      • I think what John means, and what a lot of us are thinking is, “why is a wound dressing and tourniquet NOT on the list of 13 ESSENTIALS?”

        • Because this was not a list of essentials that you should have with you. I’m thinking that the title chosen by TTAG for this excerpt from my book has thrown everybody off. This is merely section 6.1 from my book to introduce the concept of a shooting bag. It is not supposed to be a list of essential items for the range.

          Also, an IFAK (wound dressing, tourniquet, etc.) should probably be on you and not in a bag.

  6. Here’s whats in my shooting bag to go to my range for competition:

    Shooting jackets (light vest for hot days and a half-length oil-skin worn over the vest in autumn and winter).
    Belt for the oil-skin jacket.
    Spare hats.
    Ear Muffs (not plural for my son and myself).
    Light (10×20 and 10×30) and Heavy (7×50) binoculars.
    Cleaning kit: Sweets 7.62 solvent, Jib Gun Oil, 4×2″ patch roll, and .22 and .308 jags for the cleaning rods (rods stored in the rifle case).
    Plastic containers to store used patches.
    Plastic trays to catch the cleaning solvent drips.
    Scizzors to cut the cleaning patches to size.
    Knock-off multi-tool.
    Assorted screwdrivers and other tools (Allen keys, No4 Lee-Enfield sight adjusting tool, etc).

    And external to this is my shooting mat, esky for drinks, sun-block (The summer sun is brutal, even in Sydney), and roll-on insect repellent.

  7. I only carry:
    Firearm Purpose Built Multi-tool
    Cleaning Kit
    Staple Gun plus spare staples.
    Small First Aid Kit/Mil-Surp Field Dressing (x4) as they are small.

    Padding and firearm props are just wasted items to bring IMO.

  8. Thanks for the article Ryan, I plan on picking up your book soon. Any suggestions on pack mounted shooting rests would great, cost vs. quality kind of thing.

    • Sorry, I won’t be of much help because I don’t use pack mounted rests. I just lay the forend of my rifle’s stock on the bag. Depending on what the situation dictates, you might need to use different sides/sections of the bag.

  9. I purchased Ryan’s book after the last excerpt was published by TTAG. Good read and very informative.

  10. I do carry a bag for a shooting rest, and an old rug to lay things out on at the range or to shoot from prone. I carry a small set of tools, cleaning kit (Patchworm is great) and binoculars and of course ammo and targets. I do pack a bottle of water if it is hot out. I suppose if I was out laying in wait all day for a groundhog to pop up his ugly little mug, the range finder and food would make sense but as it is, the targets are at fixed distances and my clubs bar and kitchen await only a few hundred yards away for when I am done.

  11. EVERYBODY – this is not supposed to be a list of essentials to have with you when you go to the range. This was a section of my book to introduce the concept of a shooting bag as an accessory. I added a short list at the end of the section (last 20 or so words) to help readers see what I kept in my shooting bag. That is all.

    As I hope you all see from the comments above, I am not saying that this is all you should have at the range!!!! The fact that “ear pro” and/or “first aid kit” is/are missing from the bag’s contents seems to be driving multiple people crazy. Why isn’t the absence of “footwear” making the same people wonder if I suggest barefoot trips to the range? Why isn’t the absence of toilet paper making the same people wonder if I suggest wiping with your bare hand?

    This article should be titled, “‘Section 6.1, Shooting Bag’ from the Long Range Shooting Handbook.” I also like to use a check-rest stock pack on my rifles. I’d share with you all what I keep in there but it seems like everybody would freak out that I didn’t keep ear pro and a tourniquet in every possible storage device.

    Believe it or not, sometimes I don’t bring a precision rifle to the range and I just shoot handguns or some other type of firearm. When the precision rifle stays home, so does it’s shooting bag – that’s the point here…the two items are one system. I still, however, bring plenty of range supplies when handgun shooting – like ear pro, eye pro, footwear, first aid supplies, etc. etc.

  12. And if you’re in California, where your weapon has to be locked up when traveling to the range (unless you’re a unicorn with a CCW permit), the key to the lock.

  13. Just bought the book for my Kindle. Are pants “essential?” You didn’t mention wearing pants. 😉

  14. I notice Ryan didn’t list a coffee percolator in his pack, or even an amputation saw.
    Huge Fail. LOL

    Thanks Ryan, will be getting the Handbook, excellent work.

  15. G’day Ryan from the land Downunder (Australia), I have just taken up long range shooting as a sport and found your Long Range Shooting Handbook to be of great value. Have you finished the next in the series ? As for the 13 items to be carried in your Range Bag, if you had said “Basic” items to carry, then all the do gooders could have made up their own minds as to what else to put in it, as I will be doing.

    Well done on the book, looking forward to the next one.

    Ross H. Dowley

  16. This topic has been thoroughly exorcised, but I recommend people interested in the topic will enjoy a little novel written by C.S. Forrester, “Brown on Resolution.” It provides lots of food for thought about what a solo rifleman might need and want as a companion to his rifle. As I recall, Jeff Cooper listed it as one of his top 20 recommended books. Fun to read.

  17. I love Ryan’s Handbook and his video’s. He’s a great teacher as well as practitioner.

  18. Mr. Cleckner/Ryan

    If you read this post, could you cut and paste the web sites to purchase range bag etc ? I have gone to sites that you recommend but every time I click on merchandise or Equiptment it sell me it can not find that item I tried it 3 times with the same results. I bought your book on Amazon ( Long range shooting for beginners) I have enjoyed and learned from it and reading it a second time now, you explain technique question very well. and I have been practicing my shooting when I get a chance ( Atad cold in NY at the moment) but if it gets to 40 degrees I’m out shooting. Thank you

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