EAR PROTECTION BELT CLIPS:
Like any education, there will be times you are circled around your teacher listening to their lecture. For years, I’ve just pushed my ear protection a little higher on my head, or dropped it around my neck, or dropped them at my feet, or left them on my range bag while reloading. Frankly, on a hot South Carolina day, those things are just the worst annoyance out there. Well, a few classes back, I noticed the more experienced shooters all utilized a little plastic clip that attached to their belt, and when not in use, their earmuffs rested there. These little gadgets are easy to get, and generally run $8 or less. It may not sound like a big deal, but I learned to love them. They keep your essential gear at the ready, but out of your way when you don’t need them.
DON’T FORGET TO BRING A TOWEL:
Gun classes are like weddings. Rain or shine, the money is spent and the date is set. It may be a drizzly cold morning followed by a sweltering muggy afternoon, and I’ve found myself feeling drenched or grimy more than once. To that end, my range bag is never without a full roll of shop towels (the blue paper towels at auto part stores). I’ve had to wipe away sweat, mud, gun oil, and a little blood, and those towels are just a handy touch of comfort. In fact, having those paper towels at the ready has made me a pretty popular guy on more than one occasion. An old towel is a good idea too, but the paper towel roll has become my favorite.
AMPLIFIED EAR PROTECTION:
Now, you can spend hundreds on ear protection. There is such a variety out there it’s actually a little overwhelming. I mean, earplugs alone have endless choices from foam plugs available at CVS, to fancy custom fit plugs so popular amongst the cowboy shooters (so they can wear their 10-gallon hats). My favorite hearing protection, by far, are the “Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuffs”. These muffs cost about $40.00 on Amazon, and I see serious shooters wear them everywhere. Microphoned earmuffs allow you enhanced hearing while wearing them, but when the noise gets dangerously loud, they shut off. Basically, they are inexpensive and effective. I’ve tried other inexpensive microphoned earmuffs, and none come close to the value, comfort, and reliability of the Howard Leights. At $40, they are the most expensive suggestion on the list, but you basically are getting great ear protection, plus the added bonus of super hearing.
OK, I’m stuffing a few things in this category to keep this concise. Basically, a gun class is an ammo devouring monster. You will be cutting through rounds by the hundreds, and managing your ammo, keeping your guns fed, and keeping your thumbs intact can be more challenging than you might realize. To those ends, I have 3 simple suggestions.
Use an Ammo box. Having 200-800 rounds of ammo in 50 round boxes is a nightmare. It is unwieldy, creates a ton of trash, and slows you down in-between drills. The simple answer is to condense your ammo into one big box. Ammo boxes are cheap and plentiful. They are strong enough to manage the weight of your bullets, and they latch close to prevent messes when not in use. I’ve managed to collect a myriad of sizes over the years, and there is just nothing easier than scooping out a handful of rounds on demand.
Extra Magazines. Yes, the class may only require 3 magazines, but having a few extra doesn’t hurt. You will be ready for drills earlier, and you won’t be running to the loading table all the time. Personally, I have really enjoyed buying low capacity 10 round magazines for training and practice. They are often cheaper (because no one wants them but Californians), and you feel less bad about beating them up. I also like to number them, as it helps you make sure you leave with all of the gear you brought, and “problem children” are easy to identify.
Magazine Loading Devices. Personally, I don’t use them. However, I am way in the minority. Near the end of the Bob Vogel 2-day pistol class, I thought my thumb was going to explode every time I dragged it across the razor sharp (or how they felt) feeding lips of my magazines. I have watched classes grind to a halt as students have waited to borrow someone’s magazine loader because their thumbs are just too sore. They are cheap, and many guns even come with one, so get one, then toss it in your new ammo can. Yes, this is good advice. No, I don’t follow it myself.
I don’t suggest anything fancy, but I keep a multi-tool (Lowe’s brand) and a basic gun smithing screwdriver set in my range bag. The screwdrivers are the inexpensive Winchester set that I think I bought from Wal-Mart for $10. Essentially, if I get a little wobble somewhere that I shouldn’t, I can manage it quickly without slowing down class or buggering up a screw trying to jerry rig the issue. I also picked a up a cheap ($0.99) spray bottle and poured a little gun oil in there and keep it in a sandwich bag. I’m not looking for any custom work to get done, but those three items have saved more days at the range then I care to count. Frankly, a functional tool kit for minor annoyances costs less than $20.
I think we can all figure out the appropriate ensemble for a day at gun school, but there are two items that I think are worth having at arms reach. First, a good old- fashioned baseball hat. I think a hat is a necessary addition, as it offers so many benefits. It helps keep the sun out of your eyes, keeps you warm, and even helps out with a sweaty brow. However, in conjunction with your eye protection, it acts as a very important piece of safety equipment. Odds are, there will be a shooter to your left, and their brass may be raining down on you all day. Your glasses and hat will protect your head and eyes, and I think we can all agree how important that is.
The other piece of clothing I like to keep at the ready are a pair of sports gloves. There are all sorts of “tactical” gloves out there, but I’ve only seen them online. Frankly, they are overkill for our needs. Instead, I shopped around a local sporting goods store and have picked up a pair of baseball gloves and a pair of golf gloves. As they are available locally, I was able to try them on and really get the right fit. These gloves are designed to breathe in hot weather, yet really give you an enhanced grip on your gun. They are slim enough to not hamper your dexterity during weapon manipulations and reloading magazines, but they really take the sting out of recoil if you find yourself shooting on a frigid morning. In all candor, they aren’t great for hand warmth, but that isn’t their primary purpose for me.
All in all, nothing I’ve listed here is going to be required to make your class enjoyable and enlightening. If you like shooting, you are going to enjoy your experience at Shootlogic. However, these cheap little hints have served me well, not just at class, but going to the range to practice as well. When I am heading to the range, all I grab is my handy range bag and the correct ammo can, and I’m out the door!