things to bring to the range

Shooting Range Essentials: What You Need To Bring

If you're new to shooting, there are a number of essentials you absolutely need to have on hand at the range. You might find instances where you may not need every item on this list, but you'll need all of them at some point.

The good news is a lot of range essentials are fairly cheap and very common. You can get them at most hardware or "mart" stores. Some are not.

So, let's talk about what you're going to need for range day.

Oh…and one other thing. Alien Gear Holsters is giving away a complete range day package as part of our Spring Returns promotion. The winner of the Spring Returns Range Day Giveaway gets everything they need to hit the range, so read to the end to get the details.

Before Range Day, You Need A Gun And Ammunition!

It seems to be wildly obvious but you'll obviously need at least a gun and some ammunition. A shooting range is a shooting range, and you can't shoot without them.

Of course, it's also a good idea to have a sturdy gun belt and a holster for your pistol. A mag carrier is another good item to go with it.

With that said, let's get into the range essentials that you should always have with you.

What Clothes Should I Wear To The Range?

You should always wear a shirt, pants, and closed-toe shoes. A hat is definitely a good idea, because hot brass doesn't feel good.

If you're going to be in the inclement weather shooting outside, just dress appropriately for the ambient temperature and conditions.

Ear Protection

guys wearing ear protection at the range

The typical gunshot produces 140 decibels to 170 decibels of noise. Instant (and irreversible!) hearing damage occurs above 130 decibels. Therefore, have ear protection.

Electronic ear protection is best, as it uses noise-canceling to attenuate and block out any noise over 85 dB.

If you have to use passive, here are the best practices:

Get the highest NRR (Noise Reduction Rating; 34 is the highest) you can for both earplugs and ear muffs.

Earplugs have to fit snugly in the ear canal, forming a good seal. Otherwise, they don't work.

For the greatest amount of hearing protection, wear plugs and muffs.

Eye Protection

Guy with eye protection at shooting range

You'll also need some eye protection. You can use the cheap stuff from the hardware store (and it'll work until the lenses get smudged or scratched, which happens easily) or spend a little bit on some shooting eye pro.

Look for eye protection that's ANSI-rated, as those are work-grade eye pro.

For those with corrected vision, some poly-carbonate lenses are tough enough to just use on their own. Not all are, so unless you know to a certainty that yours are…you need to get eye pro as well.

Over-the-glasses eye protection is out there, and you can also order prescription eye pro as well.

Tape And/Or A Staple Gun

holster and gun on range table

You're going to need something to put targets up, so toss in a couple rolls of masking tape and/or a staple gun.

Shooting Targets

shooting targets

Naturally, you'll also need targets.

Having a bunch of steel is great, but don't let YouTube and Instagram shooters fool you into thinking you need it. You can have an amazingly productive range day with a bit of cardboard and some paper.

You can get as fancy or not fancy as you like. Some people buy pallets of USPSA or IDPA cardboard silhouettes, some people perpetually tape B-8 Repair Center targets to cardboard, others use Dirty Bird or other peel-and-stick targets…

And of course you can always just print up a bunch of free printable shooting targets and use those.

Regardless of what you choose to use, you have to have them.

A Target Stand

Shooting Target Stands

A target stand is only needed if you're outdoors but you should have one or two regardless. Like anything else, you can spend a lot on one or you can hack it on the cheap.

What you want to do is avoid the cheap ones that just get pressed into the ground. They break easily and often.

The best ones use a solid base with a slot for inserting a wooden board as an upright, usually a 1x2" or a 2x4" or a pair of them. These will be the most durable, and less likely to get blown over in the wind.

Or you can just make one. People make frames and uprights with PVC, or make bases out of boards. Whatever you decide to do is great so long as it keeps the target upright.

A Shot Timer

Guy with shot timer

Targets measure accuracy, a shot timer measures speed and/or efficiency, and - as Active Self Protection likes to say - that which gets measured gets worked on.

Granted, they aren't cheap. The two most common makes/models are those by Pact and Competition Electronics. Both will usually run you about $130 to $150, depending, so it's not exactly like adding a candy bar to the grocery cart.

If you can't afford one of those, there are some options.

The RangeTech shot timer is about half the cost (around $75) and offers the same function. However, it only works when paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Granted, almost everyone has one these days and Bluetooth has been a standard feature for almost 20 years so it's not like it's beyond most people.

It's also a good idea to have some sort of protective pouch in case of inclement weather. ALL shot timers are damaged by water. Tuff Products makes a sheath for the Competition Electronics Pocket Pro II, PACT makes a case for the Club Timer and so on. Or you can use a Ziploc bag out of the pantry.

There are also some free shot timer apps for phones, but they aren't the best. All shot timer apps are notorious for being lousy indoors, though they do make excellent tools for dry fire. However, all of them will show you their shortcomings eventually.

A Cleaning Kit And Some Lube

gun cleaning mat

Don't believe what you hear; guns are machines, and cleaning and lubrication do matter. Some guns need less than others to keep running, but they all need it at some point.

Insufficient cleaning and/or lubrication is one of the most common causes of malfunctions (dirty slide rails on semi-auto pistols, carbon under the ejector star of revolvers) so have something on hand in case it's needed.

A cleaning kit it great, but just having a Ripcord-style bore cleaner, an old toothbrush and a bottle of CLP can do a lot in the field.

A Range Bag

Gun Range Bag

Another essential is to have a dedicated range bag. What you want to do is keep it stocked with as many of the items above as possible, which should be easy given that most are fairly small.

There are plenty of purpose-built range bags out there. A decent backpack with relatively ample interior space (25 to 35L is perfect) is another great pick. And of course, a good ol' duffle bag is a great choice too.

If You're Shooting A Rifle, Bring Glass


Not all guns are pistols, of course, and if you're going to be shooting a rifle at distances past 25 yards - and definitely if any zeroing of a rifle is going to occur - you need some glass. 

Granted, if the glass already lives on your rifle in the form of a scope, then it may be taken care of for you…up to a point.

Binoculars are good, spotting scopes are better, and more magnification is better than less. If you get a spotting scope, invest in a good base.

Some Plastic Bags To Clean Up The Range

plastic garbage bags

Indoor ranges have trashcans, but outdoor ranges may not…and some people go out and shoot in the wild. If you do your shooting outdoors, bring some plastic bags.

We've all probably heard the "campsite" rule (leave it cleaner than you found it) and it applies here. Pick up your brass, pack out your trash. Let's leave the great outdoors looking that way.

Get Everything You Need For Range Day In The Spring Returns Giveaway!

Alien Gear Holster Range Day Giveaway

Spring returns, and with it the conditions that let us get back to the outdoors. For a lot of people, that means being able to actually get out and shoot.

So Alien Gear Holsters is giving away almost every single thing you'll need for range day.

Our Spring Returns Range Day Giveaway includes everything a person would need, including a gun, ammunition, and everything in between. One lucky winner will get:

  • Custom Glock 19 from ARC Defense
  • Alien Gear Holsters Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster
  • 250 rounds of 9mm from Unlimited Ammo
  • OD Green Tactical EDC Belt from Bigfoot Gun Belts
  • Nylon Duffel Bag from Tactica Defense
  • Axil GS 2.0 electronic ear pro ear buds
  • Sharp Edge eye protection by Edge Eye Wear
  • Sly Tactical sling
  • OTIS cleaning kit and Lead Wipes

You must be eligible to possess a firearm in your state of residence to win. The winner must - upon notification of winning the giveaway - provide an FFL for the firearm to be transferred to, or a new winner will be selected.

The winner will be selected by us on March 30th, and announced on April 1, 2022. Enter today on our contest page for your chance to win!