Throughout the year, I will take friends out to shoot for the first time. I will often give them 3-4 hours of instruction at a time and will typically do this 5-6 times before I say they have enough base knowledge to continue on their own. I love introducing new people into the gun community, but whenever I do this, the first question from these new shooters is what they need to get to practice on their own. Not everything on this list is essential by any means but there are a few things that helped me progress as a shooter and help track my progress. Starting out, using simple targets like paper plates taped to a piece of wood is good enough. Most things can be practiced with dry firing as well but let’s take a look at the top range essentials for training on your own.
One of the best quality-of-life purchases for range days has to be simple metal target stands to hold 1×2 pieces of wood to hang targets on. You can mount anything from cardboard silhouette, to shoot and see targets or even paper plates. This allows you to get a consistent mounting point to keep targets consistent while training. These target stands typically cost $15-25 per stand and can easily be bought off Amazon or other online retailers.
Most people look at target stands as something that isn’t needed, but they offer you a foundation to shoot whatever kind of targets you want to hang up. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to pay for target stands, there are countless online tutorials on how to build your own target stands. These are just as good and will do the trick for significantly less but regardless if you buy or build target stands, they offer a wide variety of options when you begin to train seriously.
Another huge help for my shooting journey was the ability to have a clearly defined but random time to start a drill. Having some sort of shot timer not only allows you to start a drill efficiently but also to see your total time and even your shot times. These shot timers allow you to see how long it takes from drawing your handgun to the first shot fired. Initially having a baseline time will allow people to not only try and cut down their time but also have a baseline to their current skill level. There are a few different options on the market when it comes to shot timers.
If you start looking at shot timers, there are a couple really well-known companies out there that offer high-quality timers at a reasonable rate. The first option is the Pact Shot timer which is the timer I decided to go with. The Pact timer is a simple straightforward timer with just four buttons and offers several different settings from randomized beep start to setting time limits for various drills. MSRP on the Pact timers is typically $129.99 and they’re fairly easy to find at gun stores or online retailers.
The other option for a timer is the Pocket Pro timer which is more of a competition timer with more settings and more options than the Pact timers. They are typically around $149.99 online and although I’ve never personally owned one, I’ve used them enough to say they are great timers as well but offer more options for competition shooters who want more advanced systems. Regardless, having a timer can really focus you and force you to draw on the timer instead of at your own speed. In a real-world situation, it won’t be on your terms so it’s good to be surprised at times and have to react instead of being proactive.
One of the cheapest and simplest on this list has to be the classic notebook. Having a range log or notebook to keep track of what you work on or what drills you like is a huge benefit. I have a notebook that includes times, drills as well as how much ammo I typically go through for each range session. With a shot timer, you can easily track your times for drawing and the first shot splits between shots, and overall drill times to see improvements over time.
It’s the simplest thing and only takes a few minutes at the end of each range session but gives you a ton of information weeks or months later when you’re trying to see how you’re doing compared to when you started tracking. It is certainly not a must, but having a way to record your range sessions really does help with tracking times and keeping track of good drills.
Optional: Cardboard Cutouts/Pasties
A bonus round would have to be the waterproof cardboard silhouettes that are white on one side and brown on the other. Challenge Targets make USPSA size targets that really allow you to mix and match targets. These are typically found in competition shooting, but these targets allow you to create various drills and situations with no-shoot targets as well as putting a no-shoot target in front of a regular full-size target to make it more difficult.
Buying a 500-1,000 pack of pasties can also keep costs low since you can then use the same target for an entire range session instead of replacing the cardboard target altogether. Typically for a 100-bundle pack of cardboard cutouts, it’ll cost roughly $80 and the pasties are about $8.99 for a 1,000-count box. These will last a very long time with using the pasties and allow you to really train without having to fight with paper plates or anything like that.
None of these items are absolutely needed to go to the range, but if you want to start shooting on a regular basis and really work at improving your skills, having these simple tools will truly make a huge difference in your shooting journey. Of course, there are more expensive options out there as well as cheaper solutions you can build at home, but this allows you to get some ideas and go from there. These items have been a huge help for me and I hope they’ll help you as well!
Let me know if there’s anything else you think I should have added to this list. I kept guns and ammo off the list but figured to focus on actual range equipment instead. If you think something should be added that you use, be sure to leave your comments down below. If you have questions about range gear or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there and we will see you in the next one.
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