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Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

By Brian P.

I have precious little time to hit the range. Ring a bell? Three kids, five day a week work week with an hour commute, and a wife who rotates weekends every third while I rotate weekends every fourth. Needless to say… things don’t always permit a range day. When I do get out, I want to make the most of my time and I don’t want to be stopped. I have a few tips to share that will help readers stay put at the range even if the weather turns foul, and some that will keep you productive so when you can get out to shoot you’re actually pulling the trigger more . . .

I Learned the Hard Way

Most of the gear mentioned here was purchased to solve a problem I had encountered at the range. Each of these items has a purpose in my range bag and I hope some of the gear might help you keep on top of things at the range. Each one of these items I obtained to fix a problem (or potential problem) that might stop me from getting the most out of my trigger time. Let’s get started….

Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

A spotting scope would be my number #1 productivity item. You simply can’t let other cool gun accessories sway you from making this important purchase early in your shooting career. When you have to wait for a cold range call to examine your target groupings, that’s all downtime where you could be adjusting your optic or experimenting with different loads from the comfort of your range bench.

I have a Barska el-cheapo and it’s just serviceable enough to permit me to keep it around. It lets me adjust POI, hang multiple targets, and jot down group patterns while I’m sitting and waiting. Essential.

Secondly, a shooting mat. I purchased a budget friendly mat from Midway USA. There is no substitute for a good shooting mat. I have tried blankets, tarps, etc., and I realized that the shooting mat should have been purchased along with the spotting scope from day one of my shooting career.

Those two items are an essential part of any shooter’s range bag, but over the years a few other items have made their way into my rotation that proved to have great utility as well.

Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

Rite in the Rain makes several waterproof items that maintain their integrity in even wet conditions. They sell a printable blank paper target as well as a 25m M16/M4 zero target that sheds water.

I have missed too many range days due to rain, and having the capability of hanging targets which won’t disintegrate in the wet stuff is a bonus. One ream of the blank paper will last me for years and it should add some variety to my range sessions since I can print custom targets with the stuff. Speaking of paper . . .

Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

Each gun should have a log book. When Rite in the Rain sent me the paper and targets for evaluation, they also sent along a log book. Every shooter needs a log book, whether it’s a note pad, a high power shooting book, or a leather bound journal.

These books allow you to draw targets, log conditions, journal weapon round count, and evaluate results. As you can see, the RITR log book has squares which I labeled as equaling one inch.

Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

I logged several different loadings that range session, and it appears I need to go one click R on my windage from my TA31F ACOG. The book will help me keep track of many different loadings, and I can adjust my optics to any load I have shot without major headaches.

Bingo, another item I should have bought years ago. Getting a log book, or recording your data, is essential to maintaining productivity.

Here's How to Make the Most of Your Range Time

Gear wise, I have a Bravo Concealment SNS-R that has been coming with me lately. Its a concealable rifle/pistol/flashlight holder. “Did you say concealable?” Yes, I did.

The fact of the matter is some ranges and range officers are not all warmed up to magazine changes. Showing up with noticeably tactical gear might buy you more time under their — ahem — watchful gaze than do the goofballs several stalls over who muzzle swipe everyone. But I digress.

Having something like the SNS-R allows you to keep a low profile while you shoot and permits you to get some time in with rifle and pistol mag changes without really loading up the belt. And the flashlight pouch gives me easy access to another great item to bring to the range.

I also bring a complete spare parts kit as well. That shouldn’t need much explanation. If your rifle goes down, what good are you? I have seen many guns choke at competitions, and there always seems to be someone with a broken gun. It’s a real eye-opener. Don’t be that guy. Invest in a small inventory of the most commonly broken spares to stock your range box and keep your gun running.

Lastly as you see in some of the photos, a shootable poly cube target is a good thing to bring to the range. My club would bring these out to add some reactive targets to our events, and they can be strung up anywhere.

For some reason, some ranges don’t like reactive targets, so ask first. Stringing up a cube on some para cord gives you a reactive target that can keep you shooting on a wet range. Or you can hang a few up to practice transitions and impromptu speed drills when no steel is available. It’s a really nice doohickey to have.

Wrapping Up

I hope this will help you make some gear choices that will add value to your next range session. We go to the range to shoot, and down time just isn’t cool. Stay productive while you’re there with the right tools and gear, and you will have a much more enjoyable (and productive) session.


Brian P. writes for The New Rifleman.

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    • +30 (pun intended)

      I load up all mags needed for a full session the night before, usually while watching a movie.

      As for the watchful gaze of a RO, that’s exactly why many of us go out to the open desert, where we have the freedom (an increasingly rare word here in CA) to perform drills and use whatever gunz-n-gear we need to practice with.

      • God, I wish I had an available desert. I got orders for Del Rio, TX in 1972, and immediately began planning for a long range rifle I could shoot varmints with, since everybody knew TX was wide open range. I never bought that rifle. It became immediately apparent that every square inch of land in TX is private property whose owner just may shoot trespassers. Finding a 100-yard range was a good trick. This, after my last assignment to Selma, AL, I was normally shooting in my back yard most every weekend.

  1. we get on opposite sides of the field and try to drive the reactive targets past each other. some pretty cool ricochets and you don’t have to chase the darn thing. keep your lab tied up, though.
    the above sentences are a droll form of humor.
    rdo’s allow for some quiet range times. like hell i’m goin’ on the sat/ sun weekend.

  2. If you are really on the ball, you can plan out your entire range trip and prepare as many things in advance as possible.

    Having said that, too much planning can be a bad thing if it enables you to shoot “too fast” — typically if you have a firearm platform whose shooting characteristics change significantly when the barrel is hot. If you have such heat sensitive firearm platform, being disorganized will allow your barrel to mostly cool down between shots and/or shot strings.

  3. Looks like Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian Party) and others too enough votes away from Trump to give Biden wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Neveda, and other states that are boarder line close votes if my math is correct. Nice to see our 2nd Amendment rights go away by the Libertarian Partyand other third party candidates that ran for President. You got to think their vote has made the wrong difference in this case and this 2020 election. What alternative have they made to voting for a President? and loosing our rights if Biden gets enough of the Electoral Votes. Just see 4 states below and see the votes.

    16 electoral votes
    R Donald Trump Incumbent 2,436,327 49.52%
    D Joe Biden 2,423,107 49.25%
    O Jo Jorgensen 60,628 1.23%

    Michigan (flipped)
    16 electoral votes
    D Joe Biden 2,788,425 50.59%
    R Donald Trump Incumbent 2,639,037 47.88%
    O Jo Jorgensen 60,203 1.09%
    O Howie Hawkins 13,676 <1%
    I Don Blankenship 7,221 <1%
    O Roque De La Fuente 2,985 <1%

    Wisconsin (flipped)
    10 electoral votes
    D Joe Biden 1,630,542 49.57%
    R Donald Trump Incumbent 1,610,007 48.94%
    O Jo Jorgensen 38,414 1.17%
    O Brian Carroll 5,253 <1%
    I Don Blankenship 5,205 <1%

    6 electoral votes
    D Joe Biden 604,251 49.43%
    R Donald Trump Incumbent 592,813 48.50%
    O Jo Jorgensen 11,647 <1%
    O None of these candidates 11,042 <1%
    I Don Blankenship 2,578 <1%

    • We’re known this for 30 years. Clinton never got a majority of votes, but Perot took enough from GHWB and Dole so that Clinton had more than anyone else. Nader and the Greens helped GWB beat Gore in FL since at least 500 more of his 97k would have gone to Gore.

    • Wouldn’t some of those Jorgensen voters vote for Biden? I imagine it isn’t just libertarians, but people that don’t like the two main candidates.

    • The only things that Libertarians are actually interested in are drugs, perversions and tax evasion. A vote for Libertarians is an utter waste. Get a couple drinks into a Libertarian and you realize they’re not mentally fit to be a dog catcher – they’d probably view such a position as an opportunity to molest dogs.

      I say that as a former member of the LP in California. I found out, first-hand, that their talk about RKBA is just a means to the end of attracting more members, with no intention of actually supporting a pro-gun position. As one LP party guy called the supposed pro-gun rights LP position: “It’s boob-bait for the Bubbas.”

      My time in the LP was a complete waste, and I look back upon it as the last time I was going to be fooled by dope-smoking deadbeats.

      • Couldn’t agree more. As someone who was libertarian in my youth, my experience was exactly the same. The libertarians are essentially leftists who don’t want to come across as left wing, by appearing to like guns, support small government ect… but in reality are totally ready to sacrifice those things in the name of drugs and sex. They are not the third party anyone is looking for, and for that matter there is no viable third party anywhere.

        Vote in the republican primaries for republicans that support the constitution and have a spine in doing so.

        • Sounds like they’re already obsolescent then, as several states have already been loosening their drug laws.

  4. While not entirely on point, keeping all of your range gear ready to go in a bag or other container will reduce wasted time at home to assemble your equipment every time that you go to the range.

    In my case I keep almost everything in a 5-gallon bucket with a handle. Thus, I already have my log book/s, pens/markers, paper targets, ear and eye protection (including extras for guests), steel gong, chain (to hang the gong), toothpicks/tacks/tape (to attach paper targets to the vertical target surface), magazine loader, and even a small bucket for recovering spent casings. Then all I need to do is grab whatever firearm and ammunition I want to test and walk out the door.

    Oh, and I keep my spotting scope and chronograph right next to my range bucket.

  5. This probably falls under the ‘obvious’ category but bring a small cheap cleaning kit and something like RemOil (aerosol version). [Cheap, cleans, less likely to leak, & can use the straw in the nozzle.]

    I’ve lost count the number of semi-auto .22lr’s that start to choke on ammo after extended shooting sessions. A quick wipe of the breach-face & chamber and they’re back to chugging along. Same for handguns when plinking with steel-cased ammo. A quick wipe of the chamber usually fixes cases from sticking.

    • I have a range bag (…and a half), the stuff in it is pretty similar to what other guys have. But the single most important thing I bring on range trips is a second gun. That way, if something goes wrong with the first one, the fun isn’t over for the day.

    • I’ve had a range bag for 30 years. It has cleaning kit, tools, binoculars, containers for used cleaning supplies, sun screen lotion, insect repellent, and shooting clothes.

      Add to this gun case, with gun or guns, ammunition containers, and shooting mat. Also in the car a esky with several cool bricks and 4 1250ml bottles of drink for my son and myself. For my son, a laptop for him to watch movies while I’m shooting or cleaning.

  6. Haven’t gone to the range in 11 month’s with fading eyesight but need to with a close clueless friend. He also has hearing aids(he’s 69) so needs a LOT of hearing protection. I showed him basics about loading magazines,racking a slide & sighting in. He’s scary(😕😕😕 ).
    Also need the wife to shoot my rifle. Indoor only at Shoot Point Blank. I’m used to carrying everything I need and preload magazines. Haven’t shot outside since I was a kid…

  7. I took this season off too.
    I usually sign up for 6 months starting May 1 and ending Nov 1.
    My choice was to conserve ammo that I have.
    Prices ungodly now.
    My sht works, it always works.
    Other than that, I LOVE my 600yd range. (soon to be 800)
    No rangemasters.


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