7 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time at the Range

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If you go to an indoor shooting range, odds are you’ll pay for your time by the hour. Even if you go to a facility that doesn’t charge by the hour, you’ll likely prefer to spend more time shooting than on support activities. Here are some tips to help you spend more time behind the trigger and less time fiddling around with maintenance and preparation. Make the most of your time at the range!

Make a List

It’s always helpful to make a quick and dirty checklist of what you’ll need at the range. Below, you’ll find a list of supplies to keep in your gear bag so that you can just put “shooting bag” on your list!

If you plan to bring guns in different calibers, ammo for each should be on your list. That may sound silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a long drive, set up and only then found out I had forgotten to bring a certain variety of ammo. Be sure to also include magazines for each gun on your list. Your list might also include enough eye and ear protection for everyone present, targets and cardboard backers if necessary.

A small trauma kit in a black nylon case and an orange tourniquet in a woodland camo case resting on a backdrop of 2x4 lumber

You might also consider stocking some basic trauma supplies like a tourniquet and bandage kit, especially if you’re traveling to the boonies to shoot.

If you’re making a quick trip to a local indoor range to shoot one gun, your list is simple. However, if you’re bringing multiple guns to a range farther away in a more rustic location, you don’t want to forget anything.

Get a Magazine Loader

Some pistols (Glocks are a great example) come with simple magazine-loading tools. While they certainly help when compared to using fingers and thumbs only, there are deluxe models available that make the chore effortless.

Check out the magazine loading tools from Maglula. The UpLULA Universal Pistol Mag Loader is simply brilliant. The tool uses your whole hand and arm strength to compress stiff magazine springs so you can simply drop new cartridges into place — even those difficult last rounds. The company also makes loaders for popular rimfire guns and magazine-equipped rifles.

Two black plastic magazine loaders resting on a background of 2x4 lumber planks

Even simple magazine loaders like these are useful.

Pre-Load Magazines

Most shooting ranges have no problem with you bringing loaded magazines, as long as they are separate from their respective guns. If you have spare magazines for your pistol or rifle, load them up before you leave so you can spend your time at the range shooting rather than loading.

Depending on your gear-carrying arrangement, find a way to keep guns and loaded magazines separate until you get to the firing line. For example, tote your firearms in their cases and store the magazines in a separate gear bag.

Pack Your Shooting Bag for Success

Over time, you’ll optimize the contents of your shooting bag as you learn what you do and don’t need. Try getting started by keeping these items in your bag at all times. That way, you only have to bring your bag to have most of what you need. This will save you time and may even allow you to save a shooting outing when you run into trouble.

A silver staple gun and a box of ARROW brand 5/16-inch staples lying next to a black range bag on a rustic wooden deck

Always bring extra staples! They’re designed to run out at the most inopportune time!

  • Tape and Band-Aids are great to have for the inevitable blisters, small cuts and scrapes. The tape can also be used for target repair and hanging in a pinch.
  • If any of your gear uses batteries, bring spares. Think about what extras you’ll need for lights, lasers and electronic ear muffs or plugs.
  • Keep a spare box of staples in your kit and remember to stick them in your pocket when headed downrange to hang targets. Staplers always seem to run out when you’re 100 yards from your gear.
  • Consider keeping extra sets of foam ear plugs and safety glasses in your bag. Both are inexpensive and are great to have on hand if your primaries get damaged. Spares are also handy if you bring guests with you.
A roll of black plastic electrician's tape and a roll of white athletic tape lying beside each other on a background of unfinished lumber planks

That cloth athletic tape is the duct tape of shooting. It fixes blisters and cuts and hangs targets in a pinch.

Pack a Cleaning Kit

Sometimes a gun can get so dirty that it won’t work properly until scrubbed clean. However, that’s not the only use for a basic cleaning kit. A little extra lube can keep your gun running until your range outing is over. You can use a cleaning rod to remove a stuck case or bullet if necessary.

GUN BOSS PRO universal firearm cleaning kit and a black nylon pouch full of gun cleaning brushes next to a black range bag on a background of unfinished wooden planks

Bringing a cleaning kit like this can save your range outing. Sometimes guns get too dirty to operate reliably, but the tools are useful too.

Bring Basic Tools

I always bring basic tools and end up using at least some of them on every range visit. Try a combination kit that has screwdriver bits for flat-sided, Phillips and Hex patterns. Make sure you have the right sizes for grip screws, scope rings, rail accessories and any lights or lasers you use. Tightening up a loose part somewhere is a common occurrence. It’s easy to fix if you have basic tools but can bring your outing to a complete halt if you don’t.

A variety of multi-tools including a Leatherman carabiner, a Gun Tool pocket tool kit, and a WHEELER customizable screwdriver with standard, phillips and hex bit heads.

Some basic tools always come in handy. There’s no need to bring a toolbox; just a few common ones like these can go a long way for tightening loose parts and fixing optics.

Don’t Bring Too Many Guns…

Last, but not least, is this counterintuitive and seemingly very un-American tip: Don’t bring more guns than you can enjoyably shoot. Sure, if you’ll be there all day, then fill up your vehicle with everything you’ve got. But if you’re planning on an hour or two, stick to a couple of favorites and bring the others next time. Too many guns mean more gear to pack, more varieties of ammo and more confusion. It increases the possibility of ammo and firearm mismatch and, worst of all, more cleaning when you’re done. It’s a bummer to tote and clean a gun that you only shot a couple of times.

You’ll notice that, in one way or another, most of these tips involve some advance planning. As with any other activity, the more you plan for contingencies, the more likely you’ll enjoy a stress-free outing.