Range Gear on a Budget
Guns are expensive. Especially when you take into account ammo, cleaning supplies, slings, magazines (shells or clips for some firearms), and gear to make the most out of your range sessions. These days, you can’t really save on firearms or ammo. You can get gun oil/lube and other cleaning essentials for not a lot of money. Gear on the hand is more or less flexible depending on your budget. There are some ways to save some money for range gear in particular. Keep in mind, this isn’t a guide for a shit hit the fan type of load out. This is more or less for shooting practice and hunting. Sure you can spend thousand and thousands of dollars on military grade gear to larp like you’re in special forces but that’s generally going to be overkill for your average shooter. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s not going to be practical or robust.
Probably the most important gear you can possibly get are hearing and eye protection. Guns are going to be loud regardless of whatever caliber you use. Even a .22lr is going to break the sound barrier. So if you like your hearing it’s a very good idea to invest in some hearing protection. You can find rubber ear plugs or IEM like ear plugs for less than $10, sometimes they will come in a pack of two or more ear plugs. They’ll protect your hearing well enough especially in an outdoor environment. If sticking things into your ears is something that turns you off, you can look into shooting head-muffs/headsets I honestly don’t know what you can even call them. They are basically headphones but they seal off noise by covering your ears. You can get them for as low as $10-$25 though there are some more expensive models that have some fancy features like electronic noise reduction and some other shit I am not familiar with. Personally, I just use shooting earplugs because they are small enough to fit in a pocket and cheap enough to buy in bulk. If you want to be really really cheap, I’ve heard of some people using restaurant paper napkins as ear plugs. Ideally the ones you would find at a small business Mexican restaurant place. You just take a few pieces and stuff them into your ear. I don’t really recommend this unless you are really in a pinch for cash. Shooting glasses are very important too. They are going to protect your eyes from brass, shrapnel, and other debris you could encounter at a range. In the worst case scenario, if your gun were to somehow explode, at the very least, your shooting glasses should be able to protect your eyes from the shards. You could get away with prescription glasses if you have those, but it never hurts to be extra safe. You can get shooting glasses or shooting goggles if that’s your thing anywhere from $5 to $40 dollars and maybe a little more if you want something with taticool style.
People don’t usually consider this but I personally think a med kit is a really valuable asset to take to a range trip. It’s not something your probably going to ever need but it’s good to be prepared in case you do have some sort of freak accident. I am pretty sure most ranges will have some sort of medical supplies for such events but it’s not always guarantee. In the case of hunting, maybe you end up tripping and scrapping yourself or you get some sort of injury and you aren’t close to a nearby clinic. You’ll be glad you had some medical supplies on hand. You can invest anywhere from $20-$100. I wouldn’t go any cheaper than $20 personally.
Now for the fun stuff. I think one of the best chest rigs you can buy that is not only very cheap but also very robust, proven, and comfortable are the Chinese Type56/Type63/Type81 chest rigs. You can either get surplus rigs or reproduction rigs for the price range of anywhere between $7-$30. These are very inexpensive, abundant, and actually very good for the money you pay for one. The Type 56, and Type 81 chest rigs in particular have these magazines pouches designed for AK style mags but they also work great with AR-15 magazines too (and probably for other types of magazines for other rifles). You can even use one for a shotgun if you get one of those velcro shotgun shell holders that can fit inside a magazine pouch. The SKS chest rigs are designed more or less for SKS style clips so maybe that rig is more suited to a bolt action or any clip fed rifle (though you can probably fit small magazines for some rifles too). All of these rigs have smaller and additional “grenade” pouches which you can use to store smaller goodies like small medical supplies or whatever you can fit inside. These rigs, even when filled with magazines and other supplies, are very minimalistic, lightweight and thin enough that you can pretty much move around, lie down, roll over, barrel roll, somersault, swim, it honestly doesn’t fucking matter because this rig is one of the most comfortable rigs even compared to more expensive chest rigs out there. I’d even go so far as to recommend not just one but maybe another one that you can modified as these are a good platform to some simple mods or dye/paint in whatever color or style you like. For additional storage, consider paring this chest rig with a Chinese type 56 drum magazine bag which can also be had for very cheap. You can use that bag to hold something like a water canteen, some ammo, or even as a game bag if you are hunting small game like squirrels or birds. Say what you want about the Chinese but their military surplus are the best bang for your buck on the market.
If for whatever reason, you are not interested in Chinese surplus gear, there is an alternative to the chicom chest rig that is probably more suited towards AR-15 users. The Tactical Assault Panel Tap Chest Rig can be bought online or at various surplus stores for around the same price as a Chicom chest rig. The pouches are designed more so with AR mags in mind and it has a more modern belt clip method for adjusting and fixing your chest rig without the need to modify anything. The only caveat with these rigs are that they are in a UCP camo pattern which is a camo pattern that most people do not like at all. You can dye it another color to suit your enviromental or personal desires. Not a bad alternative considering it's a modernization of the type 56 chest rig concept and it's more or less around the same price too. UCP is pretty ugly and worthless as a camo pattern though, not gonna lie.
Clothing is going to be something that’s subject and dependent on the kind of conditions you’ll be shooting in. If you are going to be shooting in a place with high temperatures and high humidity, stick to lightweight material clothes that are breathable and long sleeve. I recommend long sleeve because sometimes mosquito can be an issue if it’s wet outside. You can get by with old athletic shoes but boots are recommend if your environment is going to be wet. Some sort of hat to keep the sun (or rain) off your face is recommended though you can also use a head rag. For a dry desert like environment, you probably want something similar to the outfit I mentioned above although this time, you can probably get away with some short sleeve shirts or shorts provided you have some shade. A wide brim hat will protect you from the sun and thus is highly recommended. A wet head rag can keep you cool too. I think some sort of shooting gloves might be necessary if you are planning on shooting for a long period of time as most guns will tend to get really hot from the barrel. It’s not fun to burn yourself while shooting. Temperate environments are more forgiving. You can wear more standard cotton clothes and maybe a head-wear of your choosing. Long sleeve clothes or jackets will be ideal. I unironically like the Pakol hat (from Pakistan and Afghanistan) for fall and winter use. It’s a nice wool hat you can adjust to your head size and will keep you warm for winter. A beanie is a cheaper but just as effective option. Extreme winter is something I actually have no experience in but all I can say is just put on more clothes bro. I am sure using thermal clothes and having some gloves to keep your hands warm while shooting is pretty much common sense. No matter what enviroment you are in, ALWAYS CARRY A WATER JUG/BOTTLE.
And that’s pretty much it for the bare minimal of a range/hunting kit. Now you won’t look like a tool while holding magazines and ammo in your jean pockets while damaging your hearing as you recklessly fire your rifle into some paper targets with all the gear I mentioned above. You can go further beyond by adding some sort of backpack, gun case/bag if you need one, or modify your rig to work in some theoretical shit hit the fan scenario if you wanted to. That’ll be a subject for another time though. These recommendations alone will ensure you are comfortable and safe the next time you decide to go out and shoot your gats.
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