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It’s in the bag – Vertx A-Range Bag Review

We go to the range to shoot as a family, and to keep things neat and organized we went in search of the BEST range bag for the needs of either a single shooter or a small family.  It took awhile, but we found the most versatile solution in the Vertx A-Range bag.

Vertx A-Range bag
The Vertx A-Range bag
Vertx A-Range bag
Vertx A-Range bag fully loaded

While big enough to hold everything the 3 of us need at the range (it’s 10″x12″x19″), it’s not so huge that it’s messy and overwhelming. By way of comparison we also have the 5.11 Tactical Range Bag which is much bigger (10″x21″x14″) but is not as well organized as the Vertx. We take the Vertx to the range every time and relegate the 5.11 bag as a supplemental bag for when we go on weekend-long training classes and are hauling tons of ammo.

“Garage Deck” Feature

One of the ingenious features of the Vertx A-Range bag is the ammo “garage deck.” When you open up one of the sides, you have two pull-out “drawers” with mesh inserts that can be used to hold ammo and accessories.

In addition, the lining on the flap is all Velcro. I ended up buying a small pack of Velcro and adding it to the back of the included magazine pouch so it could be easily attached to the inside flap of the bag. This keeps both the magazines and ammo secure and easy to access. The mesh pockets on top are great for holding our autoloaders.

When we get to the range, we set the bag on the rear table, unzip the flap (which lays flat and can also do double duty as a gun rug), and then we can each reach the ammo we need right from one of the convenient drawers.

Vertx A-Range bag inside
Vertx A-Range “garage deck”

 

Great interior o

The inside of the Vertx A-Range bag is also well organized, with a rigid bottom and several side pockets to store small items. In the top compartment we’re able to fit 3-4 handguns (we like to use these small zip-up range bag inserts that fully open up to serve as individual gun rugs), and 3 sets of ear protection.

There’s another side zipper on the opposite side of the “garage” that doesn’t open up all the way but is wide and deep enough to accommodate all our eye protection, our compact Real Avid gun tool and a small bag with emergency cleaning gear.

What I love about this bag is it’s not so huge that it would seem too big if you’re just going to the range by yourself (especially if you like to bring several handguns with you), but it is big enough to accommodate the needs of several people all at once.

Vertx A-Range bag top
Vertx A-Range bag main compartment

 

Security on the go

Finally, one of the nicest additional features of the bag is an integrated lock-down system – a looped coated metal rod through the bottom and halfway up the side where the zipper locks through – that allows you to attach a cable to secure the bag (and the zippered main compartment) to a locking point inside your car.

For us, that’s been great since our favorite indoor range is about 30 miles away and we frequently plan stops for dinner or errands on our way there. Knowing we can discretely leave the range bag secure in the back of the SUV is comforting.

Vertx A-Range bag security cable
Vertx A-Range bag security cable

We’ve been using this bag continuously (at least weekly range dates) for the last several years. It’s held up amazingly well and shows very little signs of wear. The zippers, handles and stress points are all high quality and show no sign of giving up any time soon. For us, it’s been well worth the investment.

The Vertx A-Range bag is $199, and is available on Amazon.com* and other online stores.

*The Vertx A-Range bag is a product I purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

What to Wear at the Range

What to wear at the shooting range

When I first started shooting, I really didn’t know what to wear to the shooting range. Here are some quick tips on what to wear, and what not to wear, so you can hopefully avoid some of the painful mistakes I made.

Always remember there are several hazards at the range (besides the obvious) that you should take into account when deciding what to wear:

1) Brass is ejected from your, and your neighbors, gun every time they shoot. This brass is HOT and it can (and HAS) caused burns when it touches skin; and

2) there is lead particulate all around the range, including on every surface, on your clothes, skin and hair, on your shoes, bags, etc.

My recommendations are focused on how you can minimize the impacts of both of these hazards with your clothing choices, and always remembering that any range, no matter indoor or outdoor, or how new or “clean” it is, is inherently dirty.

Eyes & Ears & Hair

You should ALWAYS have proper eye protection and ear protection when shooting. No matter what. No excuses. Eye protection protects your eyes from flying bass, debris and particles. Ear protection protects your ears from the extreme noise of shooting firearms repeatedly.

How you style you hair at the range is partly personal preference, partly practical. I have long hair, and I find it easier to concentrate on my shooting when hair’s not in my eyes, so I always pull my hair back into a bun or ponytail. It also helps reduce some of the lead particulate from spreading around after the fact.

Some women, and men, with shorter hair wear a hat (baseball style is great as the brim helps deflect flying brass). Again, it’s recommended, but unlike eyes and ears, optional.

Range Day outfit option
You CAN look stylish and be practical at the range
Tops

For women especially, choice of top is critical, because there’s this thing called the “hot brass dance” that happens when a woman decides to wear a low-cut or v-neck top to the range.

Let’s just say those little suckers have some sort of homing beacon for women’s cleavage, I kid you not. If you remember ONE thing, besides your eye and ear protection, it should be to wear a crew-neck or high-necked top when shooting at the range.

Whether you choose short- or long-sleeve, whether you choose to wear a button-up shirt or jacket over your top is all a matter of the temperature, the location (indoor or outdoor range), and personal preference.

I do recommend that ALL of your range clothes be machine washable, again because you’re going to want to clean them separately, with a lead-removal laundry detergent, when you get home from the range.

Bottoms

Choice of bottoms is again, mostly personal preference, but with some practical consideration. Shorts and skirts can be worn, but know you will likely get hit in the legs with flying brass (which is not as painful as the “hot brass dance” but you will end up more direct lead exposure through contact with your skin), and depending on what, where and how you’ll be shooting (indoor vs outdoor, handgun vs rifle), you may end up kneeling or laying in the dirt.

My preference is either jeans or tactical pants (even though I am very much a skirt/dress girl in my daily life).

I often wear jeans when we’re going to our weekly range date at the indoor range, because frequently we may stop for dinner out beforehand. I will wear tactical pants when we go for weekend-long training courses, because they can better accommodate an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster and belt, and are more comfortable and sturdy for all-day shooting marathons in the dust and dirt. I personally love 5.11’s tactical pants – they have good sizing and color options for women.

Shoes

Unlike clothes that can be machine washed with lead-removal detergent, my recommendation is to dedicate a pair of shoes to the range, or at a minimum, a pair of shoes that will only be worn outside. You want to minimize your and your loved ones’ exposure to lead, and the bottoms of your shoes are prime sources of tracking lead indoors once you’ve worn them at the shooting range.

The other thing to consider is comfort. If you’re shooting a handgun, you will be shooting standing up, usually for an hour at a time, on a concrete or other hard surface. Doesn’t sound like a lot but your feet can tire quickly.

I’m a big fan of the Merrell Moab Hiking Shoe for when I will be spending a lot of time at the range. I’ve worn these at weekend-long pistol training courses where you are on your feet in gravel and hard-packed dirt for 8-9 hours at a time, and they not only withstand the dust and dirt, they are also quite comfortable.

I also have a pair of “comfort” ballet flats that I wear sometimes when we’re just going for our weekly practice at the indoor range, and I know we’re stopping off for dinner or errands before we go to the range and I don’t want to look all “tactical.” Comfy tennies, like my favorite Chuck Taylors, are also a good and inexpensive option.

Just remember that lead exposure is a real issue when you spend time at the range, which just means you should take precautions.  See my previous post – Lead Poisoning – Shooting’s Hidden Risk – for more tips, techniques and products on how to manage lead exposure.

Be sure you’re washing your clothes after range time separately with a lead-removal laundry detergent, and that you’re removing the shoes you wear to the range at the door and not tracking lead dust through your house.  Just remember to practice often, and look stylish and practical while you’re doing it!

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

Dot Torture Target

Practice or plinking – shooting with a purpose

Marksmanship target
Not bad for my first stage!

I love range time as much as the next shooter, but I’m also somewhat competitive, especially with myself.  I found that over time, I would get a bit bored just shooting without a purpose, so I went in search of ways to challenge myself and improve my skills in the process.

Marksmanship Program to the rescue!

One of the first things I did was download the guidelines for the NRA Marksmanship Program. Other than going for the highest level of the program (Distinguished Expert), this program is self-managed, so you basically follow the instructions for the type of firearm you wish to qualify in (and there are many) and work through the program step-by-step.

One of the challenges with this program was finding the right targets. In the Pistol Qualification program that I’m working through there are a few different kinds of targets specified – the AP-1 or AP-2 targets.

These are the AP-2 targets that I was able to locate at a pretty reasonable price from a supplier on Amazon. Good news is these are used throughout the Pistol program.

What I enjoy about the Marksmanship Program is that it gives you an objective measure by which to challenge your shooting skills – improving both your accuracy and speed to target. It’s not just putting some head shots into the latest zombie target, although that can be fun too.

Dot Torture Target
Dot Torture

Dot Torture really IS torture!

If you’re not interested in going through an entire marksmanship program and are just looking for more challenging targets to shoot, I highly recommend Dot Torture.

This target was recommended to me by one of the amazing trainers at The Site Firearms Training Center, and while this is deceptively simple looking, it really IS torture!

You start with the target at 3 yards and with 50 rounds. You need at least 2 magazines as you have to speed reload on 9 and 10. Only when you get a perfect 50 score on the target (all hits within those frustratingly small 2-inch circles) can you move the target back another yard and start again.

At the indoor range we frequent we’re not allowed to draw from a holster, so I “simulate” the draw by going to a high ready stance. I simulate the speed reload by having the extra magazine on the shooting stand in front of me, and just drop my mag onto the table.

The idea is you’re really working a lot of skills here – strong hand and weak hand shooting, quick acquisition of the front sight, and speed reloading. In fact I credit my work on this target to me winning the speed reloading “contest” at one of the pistol training courses I took at The Site because I use this target EVERY TIME I go to the range.

Let me know what some of your favorite ways are to “practice with a purpose” in the comment below – I’d love to hear about it and I’m always looking for a new challenge.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

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5 tips for shooting range etiquette

Deb and Eve at the range
Deb and Eve at the Range

Recently we took my mother-in-law to our favorite indoor range for her first time shooting. She had recently completed the classroom requirement her concealed carry permit but hadn’t yet shot a gun.

Helping introduce someone to shooting is something we take very seriously, and really enjoy. At our home before we left we made sure to first discuss the 4 rules of Firearm Safety and gave her the opportunity to conduct some dry fire with the Ruger .22 pistol we were going to have her shoot first.

Once at the range we introduced her to Rick, one of the Range Safety Officers (RSOs) and he reviewed the firearm safety rules with her again and also the specific rules of the range.

It got me thinking about range etiquette, which isn’t something I had thought about much since we’re weekly visitors and take for granted what’s expected. But range etiquette is about more than just niceties, it’s about safety too, for you and for everyone else at the range.

While every range may have their own set of specific guidelines and rules, you’ll always be welcomed back if you follow these 5 basic range rules:

  1. Strictly follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. You know them, repeat after me:
    1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded
    2. Never point your muzzle at anything you do not want to destroy.
    3. Know your target and what’s behind it
    4. Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
  2. Obey all commands of the RSO. The RSO is the ultimate authority at the range. If you hear a “Ceasefire” command then IMMEDIATELY stop shooting, place your gun down with muzzle pointed down range and step away from the firing line awaiting further instructions from the RSO. Hands off the gun! Do not touch or handle your gun during a Ceasefire, not until the RSO calls “Commence Firing” or “Range is Hot.”
    • One interesting note about the Ceasefire command is that the RSO is not the only person who can call it. Anyone on the range who notices something wrong or a safety issue can call Ceasefire, which then usually gets repeated by the RSO. Here’s a good article on range commands and how to behave when they’re called.
  3. Gun always pointed down range. If you’re following the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety your gun’s muzzle
    The Side Slide Swipe
    Courtesy Ammoland.com

    should ALWAYS be pointed down range, but it’s such an important point it bears repeating. It can be easy to get distracted, turn to look at what’s going on in the lane next to you or to talk to a friend, with your gun in your hand. Suddenly you’re muzzle is pointing where it shouldn’t be. Another common example of this is when you’re racking your slide – the guys at Ammoland call it the “Side Slide Swipe.” The natural tendency when holding the grip in your dominant hand is to turn the gun sideways in front of you to rack the slide with your non-dominant hand (see the photo, right). When you do that, however, your gun is now pointed directly at the shooters next to you. It takes a lot of practice, but remember to always turn your BODY not your GUN.

  4. Keep your gun in a case to and from the firing line. Bring the case with the unloaded gun to the line and place it on the shooting table, don’t uncase it somewhere else and then walk it to the line. Same is true when you’re done shooting. Bring the case to the table and unload and case the gun before leaving the line, always remembering Rule 3 – Gun always pointed down range. I love these small range bag inserts that unzip all the way to also serve as a gun rug on the table.
  5. Clean up after yourself. Police your brass in the way the range wants it taken care of, dispose of all used targets in the appropriate receptacles, put away any range property you used (stools/seats, rifle stands, etc), pick up and dispose of any garbage and make sure you’ve left your area as clean (or cleaner!) as it was when you arrived.

If you follow these 5 tips for shooting range etiquette you’ll have fun and stay safe.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

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Lead poisoning-shooting’s hidden risk

When we first starting shooting on a regular basis, we went to a local indoor range that was quite old and out-of date. We became concerned, however, when we would find a thin black film in our noses and ears as we were leaving the range and quickly Googled that the likely culprit was lead dust.

Lead poisoning. The “hidden” risk of shooting.

We hadn’t even considered that a risk with our new hobby. And we had particular concerns because we were shooting as a family, including our then-12-year-old daughter, and children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of lead poisoning as exposure to lead can cause serious issues with brain development.

Pregnant women are also at considerable risk with exposure to lead and so should take additional precautions when handling guns and ammunition, including having someone else load magazines, wearing a face mask at the range, wearing gloves, and ideally having someone else handle gun cleaning, while expecting.

Lead is an issue for the shooting hobby through a number of avenues – the bullets themselves (particularly evident when you’re loading your magazines before a range date and your fingers are covered in black dust), the gasses that emit from the bullet leaving the gun barrel and the fragments created as the bullet hits the backstop. That can contact you directly or end up as air particulates, particularly if you are in an older, poorly ventilated indoor range.

Testing recommended, especially for children

Shortly after we started shooting we took our daughter to her pediatrician for a blood lead test. We considered it our baseline. She had slightly elevated levels but nothing that the doctor said she would be concerned about immediately. She did recommend however that we test her every 6 months just to be sure. We also made sure that either my husband or I loaded her magazines, especially when she was shooting .22LR, which usually has an exposed lead tip.

How to protect against lead poisoning

For all of us we switched to full-metal jacket ammunition for the range, as it’s completely clad in copper or brass (no exposed lead) and is often less expensive than the hollow-point ammunition we load for self-defense.  We also purchased several bottles of D-Lead soap, lead-off wipes, and anti-lead laundry detergent and instituted a strict lead protocol for any handling of guns or ammunition.

  1. After loading magazines hands are washed with D-Lead soap and cool water, rinsed then rewashed with regular soap.
  2. After shooting at the range hands and faces are washed in the range bathroom with D-Lead soap and cool water (our range has this in the bathroom, and we also keep a small bottle in the car just in case). If we are at an outdoor range without access to running water, we use the Lead-Off wipes we keep in the car at all times (along with our first aid kit) then make sure we wash our hands with our portable D-lead soap before eating or drinking anything at the first opportunity.
  3. Once home we drop all our range clothes and shoes in the basement hallway, and the clothes get washed immediately (and separately) with the anti-lead laundry detergent. Showers then follow for everyone.

There’s also no eating or drinking at the range, as ingesting lead through touching food with your fingers is one of the primary ways of getting exposure. We’ve also been lucky enough to find a newer range in our area that has state-of-the-art air handling capabilities and is really cognizant of reducing lead exposure. No more black noses and ears when we’re done with a shooting session, which is a relief.

While lead exposure and lead poisoning is serious, if you’re careful and take precautions, it shouldn’t affect your shooting enjoyment.

*The products in this post are all products I purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.