I’ve been meaning to write a couple of articles listing a number of the useful gadgets and accessories I’ve picked up over time that help me when I’m out shooting. I use these things, and I feel they have really helped make my life easier—whether practicing, competing, or carrying. In a later post I’ll also talk about what I’ve found that you should NOT use.
So in Part I, things that make your life easier on the range for practice or competition:
|Centerfire MagLula Loader
||If you don’t ever buy anything else, get one of these. Seriously. If you have to reload magazines ever, buy one. I think I own 6 or 7 (one or two in every range bag plus some extras in PCC cases) and I’ve given tons as gifts. Be able to reload magazines without your thumbs getting tired. Be able to reload magazines with stiff springs up to full capacity. Without hurting yourself. Seriously, buy a couple.
Everyone always goes, “Eh, I don’t need one,” until they try one and then they say “Why didn’t I buy one a long time ago?!” —so you should just skip to the end and buy one. Or more. I just gave two more as Christmas presents this year. (There is one also for loading AR-15 magazines that’s also excellent.)
|.22 Magazine Loader
||Another useful loader if you shoot a Ruger Mark I/II/III/IV or a 22/45. (They make ones for other .22 magazines, also.) Sure, you CAN load magazines using only your thumbs, and I’m sure you know how much fun that is. Or just buy one of these for a couple of bucks, and make your life easier. I have three different variations of .22 mag loaders, but this one with the clip (so you don’t lose it!) is really handy. Especially for getting that 10th round into the magazine.
|Walker Razor Electronic Hearing Protection
||While I personally am a fan of in-the-ear hearing protection, I own 3 or 4 of these Walker Razors. Electronic hearing protection cancels out loud noises such as shots, but amplifies quiet sounds such as normal speech. (And yes, you can get them in different colors.) For indoor matches I use them over my in-the-ear pro, and turn them up—which means that I have double-plugged my ears against the shots indoors, but still can hear people talking at normal volume. For outdoors if I’m teaching, in someone else’s classes, or running a stage, I wear these all by themselves. The noise reduction is great, they are comfortable, I can HEAR other people around me easily (which is important in classes and in competition), and they are ridiculously inexpensive for the quality. I used to wear Walker Alphas (which are also good) but these are a little slimmer with the same quality and noise reduction. I know plenty of people who use these exclusively for competition shooting.
|Howard Leight Airsoft Ear Pro, reusable
||If you prefer in-the-ear (which truthfully, I do if I’m not running other people or having to directly interact a lot with other people, so I wear these when I’m a competitor or doing my own practice) I personally like these. This is the 4-flange version that I prefer, but for those with smaller ear canals they also have a 3-flange. You can buy them either with a connector cord, or without. I used to use the cord version for a long time, recently I’ve switched to cordless. Both work really well. Noise reduction is great and they are reusable and washable, so 10 pairs lasts a long time. Several years ago I bought a box of 100 pairs, and I’m still using them. (And I’ve given away a lot, too.) Yes, they are called “AirSoft” but that is supposed to be a comment on how comfortable they are, not anything to do with Airsoft toy guns.
|Foam ear pro, not reusable (well, not much)
||If you prefer softer in-the-ear pro, the foam ones work well, and it is hard to beat the price. I personally prefer the HL Airsoft ones above because I pull mine out and put them back in all the time, but I know a lot of people who really prefer the foam ones because they are incredibly comfortable, and have a slightly higher noise reduction rating. These are what I give to people who show up without ear pro to watch a match.
|Midway Pistol Case
||These are excellent pistol cases, and most importantly, give you a place to store your magazines separate from where the gun is, which means you can access your magazines without having to open the gun compartment. (And thus, not get DQed in a match.) I think I own about 12 of these. You used to be able to buy them in more colors, so I have a number that are color-coded to the type of gun/magazine they contain. They are also a good size to store in range bags.
|Crossbow Eye Pro
||I used to buy cheap eye protection, because I’d destroy them so quickly. I’d drop them, scratch them, break the frames, etc. So I used perfectly decent (but cheap!) Radians Rad-Infinity glasses at $3.99 a pop for years (because I’d buy them in bulk.). I’d go through 6-8 pairs a year, because I beat the heck out of them and they got scatched up, and that made me never want to get more expensive glasses.
And then I found the ESS Crossbow glasses, and was tempted enough to try them–and I’ve been wearing them every since. I have two frames–one is the regular Crossbow frame, and the other is the Suppressor frame with flat earpieces to go under my Walker Razors. Replacement lenses are less than $20, the lenses themselves don’t crack, fog, or scratch hardly at all. (After a year and a half, I’ve finally had to change a lens two weeks ago.) The copper lenses are excellent for those wanting a little shade in the sunlight but more contrast. The clear lenses (which are what I use all the time) are remarkable in their light transmission abilities. The link is to the standard frame plus 3 lenses, and you can get the Suppressor frame along with it. With over-the-head ear protection, that Suppressor frame REALLY makes a difference not only with noise reduction, but with comfort.
If you continue to use cheap disposable glasses because you break them, believe me, I understand. But….these are a lot better quality lenses, and in the long run, cheaper because I’m not replacing them all the time. (They also offer a higher level of protection to your eyes.) And they come with a hard case for storage, which the cheap glasses generally don’t. I have the two frames, each with lenses, plus another cases with extra lenses (including some contrast ones) in my range bag, and they’ve been great.
If you want, you can just buy the frames from OpticsPlanet (Crossbow frame, Suppressor frame) and then buy your own lenses and hard cases as you like.
|Eye Pro Glass Cleaner
||It is a small little thing, but it is incredibly helpful to have a cleaner cloth clipped to your range bag that you can use to wipe down your shooting glasses. I picked these up several years in a row down at the Double Tap Championship, and I love them.
|CED 7000 Shot Timer
||If you want to get better, at some point in time you are simply going to have to buy a shot timer. There are a lot of different versions out there, but for personal practice I prefer the CED 7000. (For matches I prefer a PACT timer. I actually own four different brands of shot timer.) The CED 7000 is small, easy to use, rechargeable, and you can buy a belt clip or a wrist band for range use. I own about 4-5 of these. A couple are always in a range bag, and one is set up with par times for dryfire practice. (Being rechargeable, you can use the included wall charger for it, or buy a USB cord to charge it.)
If you don’t have any way of measuring your current skill level, then you won’t make efficient progress–and you won’t know what is holding you back. Buy a shot timer.
There are some things that will make your life easier for range practice, and shooting matches. Like I said, these are all things I use. (Ok, I don’t personally use the foam plugs, but they ARE the ones I have to give to other people if they show up without ear pro.) Next time I’ll talk about some things you might think about for carry purposes.
(Legal disclaimer required: Yes, I’m an Amazon Associate, which means that if you click through any of the above that are Amazon links, I get a tiny piece of money. No, you aren’t charged any more.)