How to Make the Most of Your Precious Range Time When You Can Never Seem to Get Enough

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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, a five days a week work schedule with an hour commute, and a wife who rotates weekends every third while I rotate weekends every fourth.

Needless to say, that doesn’t permit as many range days as I’d like. When I do get out, I want to make the most of my time. I have a few tips to share that I hope will help readers stay out 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.

I obtained each of these 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 a lot of 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 gear, 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. A 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 that warmed up to magazine changes. Showing up with noticeably tactical gear may 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 helps you make some gear choices that will add value to and make the most of 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’ll have a much more enjoyable (and productive) session.


Brian P. writes for The New Rifleman.

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  1. All good suggestions, one thing I’d add to this list is a check list of what you should bring. I have it written on the back of my log book so that I can go through everything I MIGHT need at a range day. I’ll go through it and discount things I don’t need (such as a bipod if going with pistols) but it lets me gather anything I missed. I actually have a couple totes I tend to use for range day for stuff like bags.

  2. Thank you but this doesn’t apply to me right now (for the most part anyway).

    This article is for the reloader that takes a long gun to the outdoor range. Something that really needed to be pointed out upfront. I reload and occasionally take long guns to outdoor ranges but the bulk of my time recently is handguns at indoor facilities. Which is where the average city dweller will be. Most don’t reload or hunt. Unless it’s a hunter, sport shooter, or someone with military or police experience, you hand them a shooting mat and they wont likely have a clue what to do with it.

    There might be plenty of people that do this but it simply does not apply to most. The people that need this the most are city residents going to indoor ranges. Places where most of this stuff becomes completely useless.

    As for logs…absolutely keep track of what you do. Especially for the reloader.

    Life isn’t what it used to be and most shooters are aren’t either.

    • Prndll,

      Meh, you might be surprised how many people have self-defense rifles.

      And there are a metric crap-ton of deer hunters in my state so a LOT of people own suitable hunting rifles.

      In my case I do not hand-load anything. Nevertheless, I have a few different calibers and also want the option for different bullet weights in factory ammunition so I have many possible combinations of firearms and factory ammunition. For that reason alone I need a log book/s and considerable time at shooting ranges.

      (For the unaware, different varieties of factory ammunition can shoot surprisingly different group sizes and even point-of-impact out of any given rifle. It is really important to test the factory ammunition that you want to shoot and zero-in for that specific ammunition.)

      • I know many people use self defense rifles. That’s not in question. Keeping logs and spending time at the range isn’t either. I also completely understand that there are a large number of people that hunt.

        What I’m saying is that an article like this can make the new shooter and the more novice out there think things that are not inline with what is being seen and witnessed in real life for the largest portion of people. What absolutely must be considered is the high number of individuals that have become new to firearms within the last few years. People that just don’t have the resources with which to do many of the things shown on tv shows or discussed in articles such as this.

        We just read an article on this website talking about this. I’m talking about this idea of white men from 45-80 years of age hunting deer with bolt action 308’s and if you don’t do that then your nothing. Go home. Hollywood has drilled into the collective American consciousness that only criminals have snub nose revolvers and that too is wrong but is the flipside of the same coin.

        Shooting mats have little use outside of shooting rifles in the prone position. I can easily see where someone might think this is referring to a cleaning mat. I can just see someone taking a poly cube target to an indoor range and throwing out past the firing line instead of running a paper target out on the motorized zip line.

        As for log books,
        This is 2023 and the largest group of people out there have grown up to some degree around computers. Most of the 20-30 somethings out there are so comfortable with smart phones that they become an appendage. Few people can write in cursive anymore. Are you really going to try to convince these people they should take pen to paper in a prepurchased 3 ring binder? Most of them would laugh and see that as old shool geezer things to do. Reloading isn’t a whole lot different for many people.

        The days of Betty Boop are over. The icon of Madonna doesn’t even mean much anymore outside of feminism.

        • Prndll,

          You provide good points.

          An easy “solution” is for the author to preface his/her article with a simple description of the scope of the article and intended application / audience. That is simply good writing anyway.

          Thus, in this case, the author (Brian P.) could preface the article indicating that his article is, “intended for people who want to shoot rifles outdoors and achieve decent marksmanship at ranges of 100 yards and beyond,” or something along those lines. That simple introduction helps people who want to shoot some other platform in some other manner to know that this article would not apply to them.

  3. The REAL problem is that there is a HUGE shortage of public ranges in the US. SOMEONE needs to audit the hell out of the BS “Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax” and where the cash is going. Record sales but diddly squat for new ranges being built!

    FYI – The tax rates are 10% of the sale price of pistols and revolvers; 11% of the sale price of firearms other than pistols and revolvers, shells and cartridges.

  4. Most people these days have shooting gear that requires batteries. They’re red dots, LPVO’s, hearing protection, etc. Make sure you have spare batteries for all of them.

    I’m an RSO at my gun club. Because I’m a good dude, I keep a stock of batteries in my RSO kit and give them to folks that have a dead battery. But my observation is that most foiks don’t do this and many shooters have their day ruined due to a dead battery.

    The spotting scope is a big one. If you come out to the club I RSO at, we have scopes for our members and guests to use. Not all clubs do.

    Don’t just have spare parts, have the tools you need as well. And CLP to lube your gun(s). Another set of issues that I commonly see. You’d be amazed how many people show up without the right tool to make sight adjustments.

    A properly set up range bag is really important part of shooting. The obvious stuff like eye and ear pro, of course. Plus your guns LOL …. But then there are batteries, foam ear plugs, tools, cleaning kit, CLP, rags, 550 cord and duct tape (yeah, emergency repairs happen), chamber flags, and a first aid kit are necessities. That first aid kit should include, as a minimum, band-aids for small stuff, a field dressing, sterile gloves, gauze for wound packing, a tourniquet, magic marker (so you can jot details of the treatment on the injured for the paramedics), and surgical scissors.

    A well packed range bag will mean that your range trip is all about shooting and training, not struggling to fix the one small thing that is going to ruin your day.

  5. I loaned a deer rifle out, knew theyd change my Zero. ” If you make any adjustments please keep track of how many clicks up or down.”
    No more loaning gunms.

  6. I keep a Range Bag packed with the following: Eye and ear protection with back up batteries, staple gun for hanging targets, small set of gunsmith screw drivers have saved my day, can of Rem Oil or Ballistol and a microfiber rag.

    A Spotting Scope and log book for every rifle with dates, loads, and sight settings.

    OH! And don’t forget your ammo. Make sure it is for the firearm you are going to shoot.

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