A truly non-negotiable set of personal protective equipment that all shooters must have. You should never go shooting without wearing shooting glasses and some form of hearing protection, and most ranges require you to wear them before even stepping foot on the range. With an abundance of options available from inexpensive basics to high-tech premium offerings, there’s simply no excuse not to own the gear that could save your senses.
An absolute essential for any AR owner. AR-pattern rifle feature a variety of moving parts in tight tolerances, and with so much metal-on-metal contact at high speed, you’ll need lubrication to help these parts, such as the bolt carrier group, move easily and reduce friction-related wear and tear.
AR-pattern rifles are magazine-fed, so make sure you bring enough magazines to keep you shooting. More importantly, buy reliable magazines. There are all sorts of different types of magazines on the market – polymer, steel, 10-rounders, 20, 30, 40 and even 50 to 100-round drums – and the best way to see what functions most consistently with your rifle is to buy one and try it first. These magazines will take a beating, particularly in the rigors of training, so do your research and get mags that can stand up to abuse.
You have to find a safe place to deposit your lead, and you need targets to help you find where to put it. Many ranges sell a variety of targets in their pro shop or range store, but an entire world of targets is available online (including NRA targets designed specially for release here on NRA Blog!) Check with your range staff to see if they allow shooters to bring in their own targets before you order in bulk.
You need to affix those targets to the frame or backer somehow, and having a stapler and staples in your bag is the best way to ensure you can get your paper in place. Most indoor ranges will have these on hand to borrow -- the NRA Range has all the gear you need on site! -- but outdoor ranges are more often feature fewer amenities, so bringing your own can’t hurt.
Sure, you can use the tip of a standard .223/5.56 cartridge to depress the small detent in the AR-15 front sight to rotate the sight post to the correct elevation, but using a special front sight tool makes this a much quicker process. They’re inexpensive, and work on a variety of types of front sights.
An essential tool in any cleaning kit, a cleaning rod is a great tool to assist in clearing stoppages you may encounter, as well as serving as the means by which you scrub your bore during maintenance. However, if you encounter a stoppage and need to use a cleaning rod on the range, always consult the range safety officer on duty, and if you need help, always ask.
Particularly helpful when using open or iron sights, having magnification to look downrange helps you or a shooting partner see where your shots are landing on target, which in turn can help you make sight adjustments without having to return your target or wait until the range goes cold to head downrange to approach and observe.
Having a good multi-tool or a pair of pliers can serve you well in many scenarios, from assisting with minor maintenance on your rifle, to helping troubleshoot issues that could arise with your targets. They’re good, reliable tools to have on hand, and you never know when you may need it.
Indoor ranges can get quite warm and stuffy, and shooting outdoors in the elements can quickly dehydrate shooters, in extreme heat or cold. Just like in any situation, always drink enough water, and we encourage you to bring a bottle of water to help you stay hydrated. Check with your range staff to see if they allow shooters to take bottled drinks on to the range.
Shooting involves a lot of trial and error, adjustments, variables, observation and experimenting. Having a small log book or note book in your range bag gives you a place to record information, such as tracking the rounds you’ve fired, your groupings with different types of ammo, notes regarding your sights or scope adjustments, record of malfunctions, and anything else that will help you next time you’re on the range.
Of course, these are just the basics of what would help you make the most out of your range experience, and as you become a more experienced shooter, you’ll find what works best for you and can stock your range bag with the tools and gadgets. As always, follow all range rules and comply commands of range staff. See you on the firing line!
Need more information about training with your AR? Interested in shooting in a match? The NRA America’s Rifle Challenge, presented by Daniel Defense, lets owners of America’s most popular new rifle platform develop and showcase their AR skills. Visit http://arc.nra.org for more information about training courses and matches.