By Candace Swanson
Continued From: Range Bag Essentials – Gear.
Maintenance on the Range
In order to keep your range time problem-free with your firearm, let’s look at few products that will come in very handy on a regular basis.
As you shoot, you may wish to pay attention to any fouling that may build up during a day at the range. A bore light is an excellent tool to allow a shooter to see down the barrel of an UNLOADED firearm. Typically, this is a simple small flashlight with a bendable tube capable of being inserted through the chamber of a firearm to illuminate the inside of a barrel. This becomes helpful in cases of squib loads where the cartridge goes off but the projectile does not clear the barrel. Being able to confirm the barrel is clear may not just save your firearm, but your life as well.
When transporting your UNLOADED firearm to and from your shooting bench, stall or position, it is highly recommended to use a chamber flag. These devices are usually just plastic flexible rods to fit inside the chamber of the firearm with a highly visible flag or projection coming through the ejection port that can be clearly seen from a distance to verify your firearm is not loaded. Even if your range does not require them, I can assure you, the Range Safety Officer and other shooters will appreciate you using them.
Next, you may seriously want to consider keeping a Bore Snake for each different caliber you use on the range. These are rope-like cleaning tools produced by the Hoppe’s 9. They consists of a caliber specific rope weighted on one end and flairs slightly larger moving towards the opposite end. Midway down the rope are intergraded brass bristles for scrubbing debris out of the barrel of your firearms. To operate, you simply lock your action open, drop the weighted end into the chamber and out the muzzle of the barrel. Once you can grab the weighted end, pull the entire BoreSnake through the gun and repeat a few times. While this is not a replacement for a more detailed cleaning, it will keep your firearm running for as long as you wish to train that day.
For deeper cleaning needs while on the range to rid my firearm of heavy dirt and grime such as a .22 pistol or heavily fouled AR-15, I keep a small bottle of both Modern Spartan Carbon Destroyer and Accuracy Oil in the side pouch of my range bag. These synthetic products leave no oily residue, no unpleasant odors or dirt behind while optimizing your gun’s performance. I primarily choose Modern Spartan products because it leaves them not only clean but better protected against fouling and carbon build up. To apply these products, I often use deposable, caliber specific pull through cleaning rods made by the Swab-Its company. Many of their products can be washed out and reused several times before simply tossing in the trash and ordering more without breaking the budget. Over the past 3 years of using Swab-Its products on the range, they have never failed to keep any of my guns up and running between deep cleaning at home.
Finally, a quality multi-tool can be an incredible problem solver while on the range. Generally, I like a good Swiss Army multi-tool for everyday task require pliers, screw drivers, etc. A lot of times, I am running an AR-15 as part of my regular range training. Two of my top two multi-tools for my range bag are made specifically for the AR platform. With blades for scraping carbon from dirty bolts to prying up take down pins, the Gerber Multi-Plier 600 ST and the heavy-duty MultiTasker tool are a great option in the range bag for me.
When running optic equipped firearms regularly, I will even include a pouch containing a product called Fix-It-Sticks. This product is a self-contained set of small torque limiting drivers with several popular bits for a wide range of scope specific screws, bolts and nuts. It never fails to find a red dot, scope mount or grip screw in need of re-tightening during a long day of heavy training.
First Aid on the Range
Having a pack of Band-Aids in your range bag is always a good idea. I have often seen a slide nick someone’s hand or sharp brass slice the occasional fingertip. Getting a thumb caught behind the slide of a semi-auto handgun resulting in what is commonly referred to as “slide bite” can result in a more serious laceration requiring anything from a large Band-Aid to a 2 x 2 square of gauze and a finger wrap. Having at least a small individual first aid kit or IFAK attached to or inside your range bag is a HIGHLY suggested item. You or someone with you should know how to competently use it as well.
Being safe on the range doesn’t end when the lead stops flying down range. Part of being a responsible shooter involves how we pack up to leave. No matter how careful you may be, every shooter will end up with powder residue on their hands just from shooting and handling your firearm. If you are a hand loader or your range requires policing your brass, it is recommended to have a small bag of latex disposable gloves in your range bag to help reduce lead and powder exposure from picking up spent casings. Make sure the used brass is safely disposed of or stored and do NOT toss in your range bag to contaminate your gear. A sink may not always be nearby for cleaning your hands before leaving the range, so it may also be a good idea to have a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. I prefer the small clip on bottles of Purell hand sanitizer affixed to an outside Molle loop of my bag for easy access and so I don’t risk contaminating the rest of my gear. Another great product specifically designed for “after range time care” comes from Hygenall called LeadOff wipes. These are similar to baby wipes but are specifically designed to decontaminate your hands as you wipe then clean with small disposable fiber cloth wipes.
Now that you have the basics, you are set to look like a pro during your next range outing. As your firearm skills enhance, so will your taste in gear. The best experience you could ever have in our sport is to buy two of everything and take a friend or family member with you to learn. Shooting is a great pastime, but shooting with others transcends being just another sport and becomes a special bond between individuals from all walks of life. Until next time, stay safe, have fun and please share your new-found knowledge with others!