Practical, No B.S.
AN ELITE FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR REVEALS HIS TOP GEAR CHOICES FOR THE RANGE
Gear essentials from a guy who makes his living at the shooting range
You could say I’ve seen it all. As a law enforcement and private sector firearms instructor and a regular student in a variety of training courses, I have had the opportunity to see hundreds of students bring all sorts of items to the range. Want a few examples? Here are a couple. Try duffle bag straps repurposed as rifle slings. Or how about camera pouches used to hold magazines? The list goes on, but you get the idea.
You don’t have to take that route, but which direction should you go? After all, your choices are endless. The following are my recommendations. These top 10 products should make any student’s training experience better. All these items are practical, no-bs, hard-use pieces of equipment. =
o1. Electronic Hearing Protection MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-x
“Ear pro.” While seen by many new students as Gucci gear and money that could be spent elsewhere, electronic hearing protection provides you the best opportunity to get as much as possible from your training experience. By amplifying voices while cancelling the sound of gunfire, you can hear what the instructor is saying and record notes as needed without the risk of failing to replace your ear plugs when the gunfire resumes. New shooters seem less left behind during the class and aren’t messing with “foamies” all day. Electronic hearing protection also increases the shooter’s awareness of what is going on around him/her.
There are many options that range in price from $50 to several hundred dollars. My personal choice is the MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-x with gel ear cups. In the over-the-head category of hearing protection, they provide superior sound clarity and noise attenuation, as well as weather resistance. While on the upper end of the cost scale, they provide the best all-day comfort, and I have found them to be extremely durable. In my mind, the expression “buy once, cry once” comes to mind.
On the lower end are the Howard Leight Impact Sport. Affordable and durable, they give students a good product at a decent price.
o2. Eye Protection ESS Crossbow Suppressor Glasses
Like ears, you only get one set of eyes, so you need a quality pair of glasses to provide ample protection. As with most of you, I, too, have my favorite pairs of sunglasses, but for an allaround range safety glass, the ESS Crossbow Suppressor is where it’s at.
The Crossbow Suppressor has been my one and only for low-light and no-light shooting for the past several years. With great wraparound coverage and lenses that easily switch between clear, smoke and other offerings, the Suppressor is great for shooting. Where the Suppressor truly shines is the ultra-thin arms that don’t interfere with earmuff-style hearing protection.
o3. Practical Range Wear Vertx Hyde Pants
If you’re looking for a pair of comfortable pants that will stretch and flex as you move through any series of range drills, Hyde is for you. They have a pocket layout and belt-loop sizing that lends itself to larger tactical belts. As a versatile and durable pair of pants, they don’t look overtly tactical, which lends them to range use or everyday use without making you look like you’re ready to go to war.
Compared to a lot of other “less tactical” or nonpurpose-built pants, these work well and meet the needs of the end user without lacking. I’ve used Vertx uniforms for patrol, tactical deployments and instruction for several years. Until the Hyde, they all felt too tactical. The Hyde is practical and provides all the form and function needed.
o4. Battery Storage Thyrm Cell Vault
Whether they’re for weapon-mounted lights, hearing protection, a shot timer or your flashlight, batteries are the common critical component. The Thyrm Cell Vault provides secure waterproof storage for your AA, AAA and CR123 batteries. The Cell Vault can also be used to store other sensitive items such as medication, survival equipment or even tobacco. The Cell Vault can also mount to MOLLE webbing.
For me, the Cell Vault beats everything else I have tried for storage, from taping to bagging to other plastic storage devices.
o5. Handheld Flashlight Streamlight Protac 2L-X Handheld Flashlight
Let us count the ways that flashlights are critical. One, they can be used for positive identification of a threat during a deadly force encounter. Two, you can use them to find your way out of a dark building during a power outage. Three, they are there for you to ensure that you didn’t leave a critical piece of equipment behind on the range after a low-light range session. Those add up to cover some critical elements, but where do you go from there?
When it comes to durability, performance and cost, the Streamlight Protac 2L-X is a great handheld light. This heavyweight packs 500 lumens and is dual-fuel capable with CR123A or rechargeable 18650 batteries. I can tell you that this light has yet to disappoint me.
It’s competitively priced, and all-metal construction makes this light super durable. In the unlikely event that you need their customer service, I can vouch for it being amazing.
o6. Gloves SKD Tactical PIG Full Dexterity
Tactical Alpha Gloves
Over the years I have used a lot of different gloves, but there is now one that reigns supreme. The SKD PIG FDT Alpha has become my go-to for the last three years. I had another glove that I loved, but I was only getting a few months out of them for shooting and tactical deployments. On a whim, I made the switch and haven’t looked back.
The thin, yet durable, palms don’t affect my pistol shooting, and they aren’t destroyed loading steel targets or doing other range tasks. As a breacher, I am hard on gloves, and these have held up well. Great fit, great feel, durable and worthy of a second pair to ensure one for training and one for SWAT operations. What more can I say?
o7. Range/duty Belt AWS, Inc. Lightweight Assaulter Belt (LAB)
While I often want to run a concealment garment with an IWB or AIWB holster, I also like to run an overt belt for several reasons. Frequently, I like to train and shoot with a setup that’s similar to my duty belt, and the simplicity of taking my entire shooting rig on and off as one belt is really convenient.
In an effort to get away from the cumbersome battle belt, the AWS, Inc. LAB uses an inner Velcro belt and an outer stiff belt with a cobra buckle. Plus, moveable MOLLE panel tabs can be placed as needed so that pouches can be mounted.
I purchased one of these for teaching and liked it so much I bought a second as a dedicated belt for SWAT callouts. And my staff thinks I’m cheap.
o8. Rifle/carbine Sling Sierratac 2-Point Adjustable Padded Sling
Having settled in for the long haul on one brand, and having a second brand as the general issue sling for work, I frankly hadn’t looked at slings in quite some time. My go-to and my issued work sling did just fine. Enter the Sierratac 2-Point Sling.
With a metal slider and lightweight components, the 2-Point cut weight where it could and added strength that was unavailable with plastic sliding mechanisms. The padded section makes me grateful the padding is there, but there is not so much padding that it impacts form or function.
I transitioned to this sling for all my teaching and for my SWAT rifle and have not had any issues, nor have I been able to identify any shortcomings.
o9. Miscellaneous L.A.G. Tactical Magazine Pouches and More When it comes to durability and quality, L.A.G. Tactical is my company. I look to them each and every time for their concealment and low-visibility holsters and other Kydex equipment.
One of the items I have is the company’s new Modular Carry System (M.C.S.), which is available as a standalone individual carrier or you can attach it using the flexible bands. This is the definition of form and function. Where past Kydex designs fell short by becoming too long when making a two-magazine or other item carrier, the M.C.S. shines. Why? There is still flexibility between the two items as it is two connected pouches rather than one long one.
Additionally, the inherent ability to adapt or change one piece to the task or as end user preference dictates is hugely beneficial. I have been using L.A.G. Tactical Kydex carriers on duty daily for several years without hesitation or complaint.
Varies by product
10. Shot Timer Competitive Edge Dynamics CED7000
Using a shot timer provides you with valuable data to measure your performance as you gain experience. While not something you are likely to use in a shooting class, you should be using a shot timer for your personal range sessions between training classes.
Competitive Edge Dynamics’ CED7000 is a small and versatile shot timer with a loud buzzer, and it is simple to operate. The CED7000 is small enough to hang around your neck and not be noticed or be a distraction. It is rechargeable, which is nice.
If you want something less dependent on conventional electricity, the CED Pocket Pro II, which runs off of a 9-volt battery, is a good option.
Peak performance is the priority, and Joshua Jackson’s (rear) gear recommendation is intended for that reason.
The author highly recommends electronic “ears” because they amplify voices while cancelling the sound of gunfire. A quality of pair of “eyes” are also critical for the range.It may not be sexy, but the Cell Vault is essential gear for the range.
Stretch and flex. The author needs pants that will cooperate with him as he moves through a multitude of different movements and drills while teaching.
Flashlights also play an important role, and this one packs 500 blinding lumens.
SKD Tactical’s gloves provide a great fit, great feel and great durability, says the author.
Jackson prefers the 2-Point because it cut weight and added strength that he says was unavailable with plastic sliding mechanisms.
Among other benefits, the AWS, Inc. LAB features an inner Velcro belt and an outer stiff belt with a cobra buckle.
A close look at some of the author’s favorite accessories.
A shot timer is a great way to enhance your skills and provide valuable data to measure your performance.
From another perspective, this also captures a close look at some of the author’s favorite accessories.