If I have an absolute least-favorite genre of rock & roll song, it’s the “Tour Lament.” You know the sort of song I’m talking about:
“Oh the road it’s just so draining, with all the groupies and the dope.
And the rednecks in the truck stop laugh at my earrings and long hair
So I cry myself to sleep in the Jacuzzi on my tour bus.”
In that vein, I’m typing this in a hotel room, fixing to take a three-day class from Tom Givens, Craig Douglas and Dr. William Aprill. The class is called “Establishing a Dominance Paradigm” and features 30 total hours of instruction, during which each of these great instructors focuses on his area of specialty: Live-scenario work with FIST helmets and marking-round pistols with Douglas, range time with Givens, and classroom lectures on criminal mindset and target selection from Dr. Aprill. It’s a once-a-year class with a limited number of seats, so sign up in advance…
I did have to drive a long way to get here, so if you want to feel sorry for me having to go to gun school again, I’ll note that I don’t have a tour bus or groupies, and there’s no Jacuzzi in my car. On the night before class, I’m going through my range bag I use for both formal classes and personal range-training trips to make sure I have everything. The obvious important thing is my carry gun. And then a spare gun that fits the same holster and uses the same magazines and ammo. “Oh, I use a reliable gun so I don’t need a spare!” Yeah, one time I flew across country for a class and only took my carry gun using that exact rationale. The rear sight sheared in half on the first string of fire of a four-day class. As a matter of fact, because I’m a giver, I have a second backup gun along, too. The range bag has slots for three guns, and so I put a Glock G17 in with the two G19s—just in case somebody else’s gun takes a dump or is hard for them to run, I have a hassle-free loaner along.
On the outside of the range bag, in a big and obvious bright-red pouch, is a blowout kit—a worst-case gunshot wound IFAK—with a tourniquet and clotting agent and pressure dressing and suchlike. But, in the top, center pouch of the backpack-style GPS bag is the much more frequently used “boo-boo kit”: multiple sizes of Band-Aids, gauze, adhesive tape, antibiotic cream and bottles of aspirin and ibuprofen. I have yet to use the blowout kit, but I use the stuff in the boo-boo kit all the time.
Also in the top center compartment are other comfort items and snivel gear: Sunscreen, shooting gloves, cheap disposable tinted safety glasses and those nifty little disposable hand-warmer pouches. This pocket is where I keep packets of disinfectant baby wipes, too. Oh, and a couple of Israeli wound bandages, because it’s a roomy pocket in the range bag.
In the compartment behind that, I keep the bulkier utility stuff. In there you’ll find a shot timer, a laser range finder, a Ziploc bag containing bottles of cleaners and lubricants, and another Ziploc bag of patches. There’s also one of those little self-contained Otis cleaning kit pouches with brushes and jags for 9 mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Rem., .308 Win. and 12 gauge in there, too.
In the front pockets, I keep some clear shooting glasses, mostly for low-light classes or loaners, since I use my regular sunglasses as range glasses. I’m debating keeping a second set of cheap safety glasses in there, but this one is child-size, based on how many people I see forgetting to bring safety glasses for their kids.
In the bottom front quick-access compartment are the quick-access things I might need to keep my heater running: Small applicators of oil and grease, multi-tools, a nylon toothbrush and a little multi-compartment plastic box full of spare parts for my carry gun. In the case of the Glock, this is at the very least a recoil-spring assembly, a couple of trigger-return springs and an extractor or two.
On the side of the backpack are a couple of pockets that hold a stapler and a roll of masking tape or two. Space permitting, I try and keep a roll of target pasters in there, too.
Not only are these useful when I’m training by myself at the range, but they’re also useful in classes. One of the bottlenecks that can occur in a shooting class happens when the line is being reset after a drill and targets are being taped or new targets are being hung up. While good instructors will have plenty of pasters and a stapler or three, there’s always a clot of people waiting to use them. Having some of your own, can also help to speed things along.