Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Range Gear,
...or what to wear when blowing shit up.

Ok, so we aren’t actually blowing shit up, but I liked the title. I recalled a conversation I had with the new cowboy on Saturday, Wild Card Reno McGee, and it got me thinking. He made a comment about gun carts and I cautioned him about the size of his gun cart. “No matter how big you make it you will fill it” I said. I believe that, but when I started looking at all the stuff I drag around from shoot to shoot I realized that cowboys aren’t much different then are tactical brethren.

Having attended several multi-day shooting courses by some of the best in the business, and teaching a few of my own I decided to give you a list of what you should take with you to your next tactical course. Later I’ll compare the list to what you should take with you to your next multi-day CAS event.

So here is my list, in no particular order.

Eye Protection: You will need dark lenses for bright days, and clear lenses for overcast and or night shooting. Any other color (amber/blue/yellow) is purely optional, but most schools will require the 2 types mentioned. I always bring three sets, dark, amber, and clear. I find it covers all of my needs.

Ear Protection: When we are talking tactical shoots then I’m talking over the head ear protection, the bigger the better. You might also want some foam ear inserts to improve hearing protection. My personal favorite is a pair of Peltor electronic hearing protectors with foam ear inserts. I can turn up the volume on the electronic ears and the automatic cutoff along with the foam inserts stops all the big bangs.

Holster: You will need a quality holster with belt loops. The plastic ones like Fobus, Blackhawk and Uncle Mikes can work, but I would stay away from them. If it’s a CCW course then bring the holster you are going to carry for CCW (if it’s one already mentioned then we have to talk). Galco’s and DeSantis make quality holsters that will work just fine…Of course Mitch Rosen makes the best.

Belt: Your belt will hold up more then your pants. It will need to secure your holster/gun and magazine pouch reliably and in the same place all of the time. If your Sears brown belt will do that, then go for it. The odds are it won’t so make sure your belt is up to the task.

Magazine Carrier: Along the same lines as your holster. The wonder plastic will work, but it’s not the best option. You will use these more then the holster so make sure it has belt loops, stays in one place, and can stand up to the pounding.

Flashlight: I’ll not get into the whole flashlight thing, but if you don’t have one then you are missing out on one of the best defense tools in existence. Most handgun courses will do some night fire so you will need a flashlight. A Surefire Nytrolon will work just fine, but why stop with one. I would recommend bringing two flashlights (Maybe a weapon mount light like the M3 and a hand held light, or two sizes of handheld lights, options people, options!) and spare batteries.

Magazines: You will need 6 to 8 quality magazines. I would shoot for 8 because the more you can load in advance the less time you have to spend bent over the case of ammo. Make sure the magazines you bring to the course are good ones and not the old rusty crappy ones you keep for play day at the range. You spent a lot of money for your training; you need to get the most out of it.

Cleaning Kit: You will probably need to clean your gun several times. Usually you will not have to do a full tilt, breakdown cleaning, but you will have to maintain the weapon or malfunctions will rule the day. At the minimum bring some solvent, a nylon brush, a rag, and a bore snake. That should solve all of your problems. You should also through in a multi-tool for minor repairs.

Knee Pads: Concrete, gravel, and kneeling…nuff said.

Elbow Pads: Concrete, gravel, and prone positions…nuff said.

Hat: You are going to be outside and that means dealing with the elements. After a day of having the sun beat down on your head you will be wiped out, and if you weren’t prepared you could be miserable. Cover your noggin. Trust a bald guy, weather and spent brass can ruin your week.

Bandana: You might not think this is a must, but read the above entry and apply that to the back of your neck. I prefer a Buff. I can cover my head or neck with it and it’s light, comfortable and easy to use.

Sun Screen: You would be surprised how many people think the lobster look is a good thing.

First Aid Kit: If you shoot yourself then you will have to hope that everyone else is prepared to render aid, because that is not what this first aid kit is about. This is about dealing with the bumps, bruises, minor cuts, bee stings, sprains, and bad lunches that come with this kind of thing. Band-aids, mole skin, athletic tape, lip balm, pepto bismal, ibuprofen at the minimum.

Raincoat: Everybody shoots in the rain. Be prepared for it.

Footwear: Boots, comfortable boots, I would also bring 2 pair just incase it rains since there are few things worse then wet boots. Avoid sneakers, flip flops, and sandals. You will be running over rough terrain (gravel) and want the most support and comfort possible for several days of this.

Clothes: Your clothes should be functional and appropriate for the location, environment, and weather you are expecting. Avoid shorts and go with lightweight long pants. Many people think it is a requirement that you were BDU clothing to the range. It is not, and don’t be that guy. If you want to look gun chic and you got the money for it then go for the Royal Robbins 5.11 look. Sig-Arms and Woolrich both make equivalent clothing. If it’s a CCW course then you will need to bring clothing that will conceal your weapon. A light weight jacket or vest will work just fine. And make sure you bring enough for the entire event. You might not have access to a laundry and after a torrential down pour you are not going to want to wear the same thing the next day, trust me on this.

Ammo: Do Not Bring Reloads! Make sure you bring quality factory ammo. I have seen a person’s entire week and 1,000 dollars blown because the decided to bring their new wizbang reloads that went belly up. Reliable factory ammo will get it done and make sure you bring about 25% more then required just to be on the safe side.

Spare Gun: if you’ve got it bring it. It will have to be the same caliber unless you just happened to pack along the ammo for it as well. It is best to be the same make and model for ease of transition.

So there you have it, your range gear list for your next tactical school or shooting event. Now keep this in mind because in a couple of days I’ll make a list for a CAS event and we can compare the two.

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