Everything You Need for the Range on a Budget

Everything you'll need for a successful day at the range, without going broke.

Let's start with the basics...

Let's face it- this hobby isn't cheap. Ammo alone will force you to take out a second mortgage, depending on how often you're making trips to the range. But a common myth is that you must buy the most expensive gear. What's that saying, "Buy once, cry once?" 

While that does apply to many products in the firearms/shooting industry, it doesn't apply to everything. There's a ton of great products that don't break the bank. So how do you determine what to spend money on and what to buy cheap? Here's the answer: learn from other experienced shooters who've learned these facts the hard way.

A very valuable source of knowledge is r/CCW. This is a hangout spot where seasoned concealed carriers give advice to newbies, and answer all sorts of questions about guns and gear related to carrying. Another great spot is r/Guns- this is strictly firearms are products directly related to guns and accessories.

Let's dive a bit deeper and breakdown which products are worth the price.

Holsters

This is probably the most common product that people advise not to skimp on. There are TONS of holster options out there, all claiming one thing or another. The best way to get a feel for the product (without actually getting to feel the product) is to check out reviews and search the forums for personal opinions. If a company seems to have a pretty solid reputation- that's a sign that they're legit and probably a good choice. Some things to look out for when buying a holster:

  • Make sure the holster material thickness matches your training methods. If you're planning to run and gun, diving over bales of hay and lying prone in the mud, you'll need a holster with premium thickness such as .093" to make sure the holster doesn't literally crack under pressure.
  • Check out the holster company's warranty. A Lifetime Warranty is obviously the best- only companies with the most confidence in their product will offer such a guarantee.
  • Pay attention to the details. At Dara Holsters, we take pains to ensure every detail is covered. Our holster retention is completely adjustable featuring screws pre-coated in a shock absorbing thread weld to prevent the retention screws from backing out due to the vibrations of movement caused by daily carry. Our holsters are rock solid- standing up to vigorous training even in the elements. There's nothing worse than running an el presidente at the range, only to find out you can't re-holster properly because your hardware fell out. Ouch.
  • Have a Custom Gun? Make sure your after market mods will fit. This gun hobby of ours is evolving. No longer can you run a stock gun without some side eye at the range. However, even updating your sights run you the risk of an ill fitting holster. Be sure to check that your add ons and upgrades won't cause any fitment issues in your new rig. This may result in ordering a custom holster, but the result will be well worth the money and wait time.

Range Holsters

A good OWB Range Holster will run you about $60-100; the former price point will get you a sturdy no nonsense OWB Holster, the latter holster price will be more suitable for intense training.

If you decide to buy a cheap holster to start out with, bear in mind the materials. Many opt for Kydex, and it's for good reason. Nylon and leather both tend to show wear overtime, causing the opening of the holster to sag. This has caused negligent discharges that could end up fatal. No matter what gear you choose, always check it before you wear it.

Gun Belt

Man, if there was one thing I wish to be common knowledge, it would be that a good gunbelt solves almost all your problems. Concealed holster leaning outwards and causing printing? Get a better belt. Competition holster hanging away from the body causing you to fumble when you draw? Get a good gunbelt!

A good belt is usually a double layer of some sort- preferably leather or nylon- stitched together offering stiff support, able to carry a loaded firearm daily with no sagging. Most good gunbelts run from $40-$80 and some even have the added bonus of a limited- or dare we even suggest-lifetime warranty. 

Gun Belts

Our favorite belts:

Nylon Tacbelt

2" Tacbelt

Leather Gunbelt

Respectively: the 1.5" Dual Layered Nylon Tacbelt ($40), the 2" OD Green Duty Belt ($50), and the 1.5" Bullhide Gunbelt by the Belt Man ($80). These belts are the only belts we recommend, and the only ones we've worn in the last 5 years. I cannot speak highly enough about either of these.

These belts are perfect for everyday carry and/or range use. I even use my Dual Layer Nylon Tacbelt for Competitions, it's a great multipurpose belt that will be reliable for any application.

Mag Carriers

Mag Carriers for the Range

I prefer a mag carrier that is intended for my exact magazine model. I like to run matches that require me to go from prone to jumping over obstacles and back again. For this, I need a mag carrier that won't drop my magazine once I'm no longer vertical. Thus, one that was molded precisely to my mag model. If this sounds like you, avoid words like "universal" or "one size" when shopping for a reliable mag carrier. Anything with that description is made with a very vague mold, and will drop your mag if it doesn't match up in size. Leaving you magless and out of luck for your next reload. 

Most OWB Mag Carriers run about $25-30 per carrier. This isn't too bad- considering a universal nylon pouch will run $12-25.

Range Bags

I'll be honest- I have a mildly pricey range bag. It was a Father's Day gift, something I would never have bought on my own. I'm currently rocking the GPS Handgunner Backpack below ($109 when I bought it, but $88 here) :

G.P.S. Handgunner Backpack

While I wouldn't have gone out of my way to purchase this, it's a really great buy. I've had it for 3 years now, putting it through it's strides. It's held up pretty well and I'm far from gentle with my belongings- I generally buy something and run it until it's dead.

Something I did buy for myself: A Rigid Stackable Toolbox, grab the entire set here.

Related image

While the whole set will run about $200, the single box above is about $45 at Home Depot. It's got a rubber lined seal around the opening, making the case water proof. The compartment boundaries meet the top of the lid, preventing the contents from getting mixed up when you toss the toolbox into the bed of your truck. The 6 removable compartments are where I sort my ammo by caliber. One size is for 9mm, the other for .40 or .45. The space in the middle is perfectly suited for a couple of guns and your eyes & ears. Buy some pick 'n pluck foam to protect your guns from being jostled, and you're good to go!

Eyes & Ears

Call me crazy but I don't see the need to go to extreme lengths, buying expensive ear and eye protection. I'll buy those cheap packs of protective eyeglasses at Walmart every time I go to re-up on ammo and call it good. No matter the costs of the eyewear, I always end up tossing them on the dashboard of my truck after leaving the range, resulting in a thick layer of scratches across each lens. But no worries, I still have another pack in my toolbox.

For ear protection I always bought those giant boxes of 3M foam ear plugs. These are awesome, as you can just take a large handful and stuff them in any range bag taking up virtually no retail space. They're super handy, especially because there's always that one guy who forgets his ears at the range and you can feel like the prepared-for-anything responsible person when you are able to offer him some of your spares. He'll take the proffered ear plugs in your outstretched hand, with tears in his eyes, thanking you for your generosity because his wife would kill him if he went prematurely deaf due to his expensive and misunderstood hobby. But I digress...

I did end up splurging last year on some high tech ear pro. I bought them because I've gotten more into competitive shooting and found myself struggling to hear range commands and was constantly removing my plugs to try and hear. At $45 these weren't too bad. I don't regret not buying them sooner, as my 3M foam plugs still serve me well when I'm on the range by myself.

Gloves

I don't wear gloves to the range unless it's below freezing. When I do wear gloves, they're the thinnest ones I can find at Walmart, generally made of some sort of slip resistant material. I don't believe this is a necessity, or something you need to spend a ton of money on.

Helmets

Unless your targets are firing back, I don't think it's necessary to take a helmet to the range. I know there's a market out there for them, but unless you're needing to train in full tac gear, I suggest keeping it light and comfortable. I recommend wearing your everyday clothing, so that you have experience drawing and maneuvering in your daily attire.

Run and Gun Shoes

There's a ton of great footwear options that are geared towards shooters. This isn't something I would spend a ton of money on, but that's a personal choice. I bought a pair of hot weather military boots at the Dixie Gun Show a few years ago for around $30 and never looked back. They've held up great and are intended for hot weather, perfect for shooting outdoors.

If you tally up the items mentioned above, you're sitting around $200 for all of your range necessities. This includes some competitively priced top of the line gear, and some budget items, all time tested and shooter approved.

Always be on the lookout for sales and coupon codes to save you even more! Have gear you highly recommend? Sound off in the comments, we'd love to hear from you.