One of the inevitabilities and greatest aspects of our sport is the accumulation of gear and accessories. Somewhere deep down inside each of us is a little devilish voice convincing us to get more stuff. I’ll be the first one to admit I indulge that little voice often and without apology.
In most sports, new gear invariably means something gets set aside to gather dust, repurposed or pitched in the trash bin. In shooting sports, however, new gear and old gear coexist. The quandary facing a shooter then becomes: what do I take to the range and how do I get it there. From small pistol cases to truck bed sized roll out boxes, there are a myriad of ways to schlep your shooting sundries out to the range.
As you ponder the best means to ferry your hardware to your favorite shooting bench, there are some considerations and essentials to keep in mind. The primary consideration is often the most overlooked, what’s your range day plan? All too often, especially for novice shooters, the plan is to merely shoot as much as you can and get as small a group as possible. I find myself doing this more frequently than I’d like to admit. But a solid game plan and training mindset, will not only maximize your time but help determine what bag works best for you and what you put in it. Having the right bag ensures using your range time as effectively as possible. Often times the bag you find yourself taking today may not be the bag you take tomorrow. Game plans and objectives change and effect what you need to haul to the range. In turn what you need determines the best bag for the job.
RANGE BAG BASICS
What makes a good range bag? Obviously size matters, but bigger is not always better. You don’t want your gear to spill over the edge or split your bag at the seams. Likewise you don’t want your gear bouncing around in a cavernous duffle. Your shooting plan with help determine what you need to bring with you, and how much you need to bring will determine the size of the bag you throw over your shoulder.
Any bag worth your consideration should have these basic features that will make your life a lot easier:
Pockets and more pockets. Your range bag should have plenty of pockets of various sizes to carry the wide array of tools and accessories you have. The last thing you want is a bag that is little more than a sack to toss your gear in. Soft lined pockets for pistols, hard sided inner pockets for ammo, and an exterior water bottle holder are all items to look for in even the smallest bag.
Durable contruction. Range bags of all sizes need to be durable. They need to be able to withstand being tossed in to the trunk, dragged from stall to stall without ripping or coming apart. Look for bags made from thick Cordura nylon with heavy duty nylon zippers. Stitching should be doubled up at the seams to keep everything on the inside where it belongs.
Comfortable shoulder strap. It’s no easy task carrying around a bag load of metal, especially if your parking in the boonies and have to put in some cardio to get to your ready position. A wide and padded shoulder strap (or straps) goes a long way in saving your arms and hand strength for squeezing your rosco and sending rocks down.
No one bag can be THE one and only bag for you. Sometimes you want to take everything to range and sometimes you’ll want to go lean and take the bare essentials. Like Lays potato chips you can’t have just one.
Below are some of what I believe are the best bags on the market.
Hatch S7 Sling Bag (www.safariland.com)
The messenger-style Hatch S7 sling bag is ideal for both every day carry and those grab and go trips to the range. Constructed of heavy-duty 1000 denier nylon, the S7 can take the punishment of the range but remain comfortable enough to sling over your shoulder all day. The plethora of interior pockets (8 to be exact) are just as perfect for magazines as they are cell phones. A big hidden exterior rear pocket discretely carries a pistol securely and accessibly. The sling bag also has dedicated compartments for pens, pistol mags and AR mags. A unique feature is the rear located c-clip, which keeps the bag in place as you run. A wide adjustable shoulder strap maintains even weight distribution.
Grab and Go | Small Range Bags
Voodoo Tactical Scorpion Range Bag (www.voodootactical.net )
Voodoo Tactical bags are some of the best values on range bags you’ll find. The Scorpion range bag is a small, easily stashed bag that holds more boxes of ammo than most people have time to shoot. All the basic are covered: heavy duty cross cut stitched nylon, a double pull top zipper opens up to a large divided pocket. All this hung from a wide comfortable shoulder strap. Being 16” long x 10” wide X 11”high the bag is easy to stow away and grab for quick trips.
Competitive Edge Dynamics Professional Range Bag (www.cedhk.com)
If you’re looking for bags that are part of a larger organization system, Competitive Edge Dynamics (CED) has a plethora a great bags to choose from. Whatever size you’re looking for CED not only has the bag, but also the components to organize your range time to the T.
The CED professional Range Bag is on the smaller side of their selection, but is every bit the go bag to get all your gear together for a quick trip to the range. Constructed of thick 600D polyester with hard chrome and heavy weight stitching, this bag can go in the will to be passed down through more than a couple generations.
Access to the main compartment is through a lockable U top zipper. Every zipper in fact is lockable. On the inside there’s enough room for 7 magazines, 4 pistols and enough elastic straps for all those little essentials. Thoughtfully and conveniently Included with the bag is a pistol sleeve and an Ammo brass holder. The 16.5”L x 11”w x 14.5” is kept off the ground by heavy duty rubber feet
Special Issue Range Bags | Medium Range Bags
Oakley Breach Bag (www.oakleySI.com)
I’m not sure if Oakley bags functionality is a result of their design or their design is a result of their functionality. Whatever the case the end result is a range bag like none other. The Oakley Breach Range Bag has a spacious center pocket for carrying full size pistol cases.
The center pocket can be subdivided and configured to your personal needs. This helps you keep organized with dedicated pockets for eye and ear protection. The generous use of Velcro loops let’s you customize the bag to fit your needs.
Two things make this bag stand out from the herd. One is a vertical first aid pocket which is distinguished from the other pockets by the tell tale red tab. One quick pull down on the tab and your emergency supplies are instantly available. The other differentiator is the large outside pocket that fully zips down and folds out into a place to clean your gun. Oakley has even included a folding mat to further protect your firearm. Oakley Bags are legendary for durability, adaptability and style. This bag lives up to the name. The bag is available to the general public, but military and first responders can get well deserved special pricing at the OakleySI website.
Hatch D1 Patrol Duty Bag (www.safariland.com)
Remember seeing the magician who keeps pulling stuff out of a bag that could not possibly hold all that stuff. The Hatch D1 patrol bag is that kind of bag. You won’t believe everything that can fit into it. With an interior space that’s 18”l x 8”w x 11”h the smaller bags will fit inside. Built tough from 840 denier nylon with PVC backing, the D1 is designed with the needs of law enforcement and first responders in mind, much to the benefit of the general public.
You won’t run out of place to put all your gear. On the interior you find two cargo pockets, one flat pocket, six pen pockets and plenty of room for pistol cases, ammo and magazine. On the outside your gear fits comfortably in any one of the two cargo pockets, two flip top pockets or three open top pockets. On top of the bag there are two hook and loop straps for longer items like rolled up targets or a bigger flashlight.
Competition Range bags
Competitive Edge Dynamics Range Backpack (www.cedhk.com)
The world of competitive shooting has a large number of specialty items that don’t necessarily translate well into use by the everyday shooter. Think of the tricked out guns designed for one thing only - speed. Accordingly, you may think that a bag designed with the competitive shooter in mind wouldn’t be useful to an everyday shooter, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Competitive Edge Dynamics Range Backpacks. These are perfect for someone concerned with practicality more than getting the latest tacticool kit (although these look pretty dang cool). These bags are of solid construction. Every part of the bag is structured, meaning no sagging or loose pockets.
The CED backpacks come in two different sizes with the larger one offering a few more “luxury” items, namely a hydration system, and a small stool for resting your legs while waiting for your buddies to cycle through their mags.
Both sizes have a large lockable top compartment with a removable magazine pouch, the perimeter of the pocket is lined with multiple pockets designed to carry such useful items as brushes, tool kits and ear pro. There’s even a place to stash the combination cable lock that comes with each of the bags. On the face zippered compartment lid you’ll find a place for a log book, business cards (always be networking) and pens. On either side of the top compartment you find D rings to clip whatever tickles your fancy. Included is a buckled strap designed to carry competition belts but has a number of other uses. Adjustable shoulder straps and a padded back, saves a visit to chiropractors by evenly distributing the weight of the tonnage of multiple pistols and rounds upon rounds of ammo. )
A lockable plastic lined lower compartment (accessed through the front) has enough room for a case of ammo and/or tools and a cleaning kit. Other features include a pistol sleeve, a universal pouch, rain cover and a combination lock and cable. Exact dimensions of the bags can be found at www.cedhk.com.
Just remember, buying a range bag or two is not an impulse buy. By taking the time to consider how you want to spend your range time, what items you’ll want in addition to the essentials, and even how long you want to spend at the range all will help you find the bag that is best suited to be your shooting companion.