My student that day was very quiet and introverted. Honestly, I was surprised when she asked me for a handgun lesson. We met at an indoor range in her neighborhood, and I started her on my .22 Ruger Mark III Hunter handgun. She shot well, and observed all safety lessons, so by the next lesson, I felt she was ready to move up. I handed her my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ .380, and she loved it! The exhilarated look on her face after that first shot was priceless!
She joined the NRA within days of our lesson. When she received her range bag, she called me and asked, “What do I put in it?” I shared with her a rundown of essential items I like to pack in my range bag, along with a list of some items other gun-loving ladies don’t leave home without—some of which just might surprise you!
Start With the Basics
Pack your gun, ammo, eye and ear protection, range membership card and targets (including masking tape and/or a staple gun to attach the target to the backstop). Some women with whom I shoot pack two pairs of eye protection in case the glasses get hit by a flying, hot projectile, which could break the glasses. If you have a back-up pair in your range bag, you can keep shooting. Regarding ammo, most ranges, whether indoor or outdoor, have a one-hour time limit per session, so after your first lesson, you will know how much ammo on average you expend.
I also keep a pen in the bag because I like to write information on my targets after shooting, such as the date, range location and the gun I was shooting that day. That way I can track my progression each time I go the range with that particular gun.
Other necessities include extra magazines and magazine loaders. “I always carry an UpLULA pistol magazine loader in my range bag,” says Sandra Lavish Zettlemoyer, Lehigh Valley Chapter Facilitator, A Girl & A Gun women’s shooting league. “In my opinion, it is one of the best inventions for shooters It’s an amazing little gadget that takes up no space at all in your range bag,” she says. Sandra noted that the UpLULA helps make loading magazines easy—and also saves your nails! The gadget, which can be used to load pistol magazines from 9 mm up to 45 ACP ammo, also comes in a variety of colors. “Mine personally is the very pretty fuchsia color!” says Sandra.
Towlettes. After shooting, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands as soon as possible to prevent lead contamination. I always keep towelettes in my range bag to remove lead and metal dust from my hands.
Peppermint Oil. When shooting at an outdoor range, bugs can be annoying. You can purchase bug repellant that contains chemicals to keep the bugs away, or you can go the natural route. “Bugs hate the smell of peppermint and menthol, so look for natural bug repellant sprays and oils that contain those ingredients,” suggests Connie Grazier-Hetke, NRA member and Hereford (PA) Gun Club board member.
Snacks. Sometimes you might have to wait your turn to shoot, so it’s a good idea to toss in some snacks. “I always pack almonds and bottled water in case I get hungry,” says Erinn O’Donnell of girlznguns.com. “I spend a lot of time shooting outdoors, so I always pack sunscreen and a small hand towel to keep my hands dry if I’m sweating. Moist hands could cause a slippery grip, and that will affect your control of the firearm, in addition to accuracy.”
NRA Life member Annie Diamante-Ritter also likes to pack munchies. “When I go to the range, I don’t carry my purse in, so I always make sure I pack snacks, water and money,” she said.
Cleaning Kit. This doesn’t have to be a complete kit, but I like to have a small bottle of gun oil and gun cleaner in case I need it at the range either for myself or one of my students.
Small Flashlight. This is for looking into firearms to make a minor repair, or to look inside the firearm to clear a malfunction.
Hat. Whether I’m shooting indoors or outdoors, I always wear a hat. I don’t want freshly ejected hot brass to land on my face, head or forehead, and leave a lovely scar!
Lady’s Scarf. “One of the more unusual items I keep in my range bag is a scarf,” says Karen Kolinchak. “I use the scarf if I get to the range and realize I have on a lower-cut shirt. I tie the scarf around my neck to keep the hot brass away. It doesn’t take up too much room in the range bag, but it is there when I need it.”
Gloves. “I pack various gloves that I use for shooting because they make my grip on the gun more secure,” says Sharon K. Merkel, professional nature photographer and hunter. “I use thinner ones in the spring and summer to give me a better grip on my shotguns when I’m at the range, and thick, warmer ones in the fall and winter when I’m hunting with my bird dogs.”
Competitive shooter Carol Palo says that besides the usual gloves, she keeps a pair of tactical gloves in her range bag. says. “They are great for protecting my hands while helping to set up and break down targets at the outdoor ranges. I would tear up my hands without them.”
Emergency Information. Let’s face it, accidents do happen. Put your name, address, medical info and the phone number of an emergency contact on a card, laminate it and toss it in the bag. That way, worst case scenario, someone has the info they need to help you and notify a loved one in case of an emergency.
Shoulder Pad. I have an old rotator cuff injury, so I have to wear a shoulder pad when I’m shooting my AR or any of my shotguns. I’m not about to let a little discomfort stop me from enjoying myself on the range, though! If you have health issues, remember to bring any devices to help you shoot.
First Aid Kit. “I pack a medical kit complete with tourniquet strapped to the front of my range bag for super easy access in the event of a medical emergency,” says Sandra Zettlemoyer, who added that she also packs a Leatherman MUT Multi tool. “It can pry, scrape, twist, turn, cut, clean, screw any part of any gun, whether it’s a handgun, rifle or shotgun.”
About the Author: Maureen Sangiorgio is an NRA-certified Firearm Instructor/Range Safety Officer.