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

by Tommy Grant

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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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