Shooters entering a match expect their equipment to function flawlessly and, hopefully, produce excellent scores. Sometimes that actually happens. Unfortunately, there are times when shooters get to meet a fellow named Mr. Murphy.
He attends every match and will occasionally sneak up behind a shooter, tap them on the shoulder, and hand them an ugly surprise—all the while reciting his Law—“Whatever can go wrong will, and at the worst possible moment”. No shooter escapes Mr. Murphy forever. But their best defense can be within their range bag.
A properly equipped range bag can be more than just a convenient way to tote ammo and sundry items during the course of a match. With a bit of planning it can also conveniently hold the tools necessary to quickly fix many problems, and send Mr. Murphy scurrying back under his rock.
Obviously, even the most well-appointed range bag will not be able to fix a catastrophic gun failure involving major broken parts. But a back-up gun in the bag can allow a shooter to continue the match. Such failures, however, are rare.
More common reasons for Mr. Murphy’s arrival involve nothing more than loose screws (grips, sights, rails, holster tensions, etc.), retaining pins popping out, maybe a squib load or stuck case, match triggers with pre-travel and over-travel screws going out of adjustment, sights shifting, optical sight lenses becoming fouled, fiber optic front sights broken, dead reflex sight or electronic ear batteries. Or, even weird stuff.
I shot an IDPA National Championship match in Arkansas where it rained every day and the clay base on the range turned to thick mud. Any magazine dropped during the COF became fouled. The staff brought water buckets to the range to let shooters ‘swish them off’, but that didn’t address the mud that was lodged inside. Those shooters with the proper tools to quickly strip and clean their mags did well. Those lacking did not.
Adding the appropriate tools to your range bag to handle these situations isn’t difficult if you shoot one type of match with one type of gun. Shooting multiple matches with different guns, from the same range bag, can complicate things.
In my area, northeastern Florida, I can choose between Steel Challenge, USPSA, ICORE, IDPA and 2-Gun matches on almost any given weekend day of the month. The question isn’t so much “What can I shoot?”, but “What do I want to shoot?” Added to that is some of my guns have iron sights, some have optical sights of different makes, and they vary between rimfire pistol, rifle, or Carry Optics in Steel Challenge; Production, Limited, or Carry Optics in USPSA; iron sighted revolver or semi-auto for IDPA, a different iron-sighted revolver for ICORE; and an optically-sighted AR for 2-Gun.
That presents many possible maintenance issues that could normally require a lot of tools. But, rather than adding all that weight to my bag, my solution is to divide my ‘Murphy Repellent’ between ‘always in the bag’ and ‘situational’ tools that depend upon the gun I’m shooting.
One item that never leaves the bag is a Real Avid AR15 Tool ($79.99). This is a multi-tool designed to maintain the AR platform and has the required carbon scrappers, cotter pin puller, bolt override tool, pin punch, and other AR items. It also offers combination needle nose pliers with a side cutter, tap hammer, Tanto knife blade, and 12 screwdriver and Allen bits with a bit driver that can handle repair chores beyond the AR. It’s a palm-sized unit with its own sheath.
It offers a lot, but not all. Another ‘always item’ is a Real Avid Pistol Tool ($39.99). It’s another multi-tool, and about the size of a pocket knife. It also offers a Tanto blade, tap hammer removable pin punch, and a bit driver, but with six different size bits than the AR Tool, and four small Allen wrenches for fine work. These two tools combine to provide a pretty decent ‘tool box’, yet they weigh about the same as a 50-round box of 9mm ammo and take up no more space in the bag.
To these I add the ubiquitous 8.5-inch brass ring top cleaning rod. It makes a great handgun ‘squib rod’, and has a patch slot and a tip threaded for common cleaning brushes. Adding a .40 caliber wire handle soft bristle brush takes up no room, but can clean magazines, brush revolver chambers, and other chores. A cloth to clean shooting glasses, a couple small hand towels, batteries for electronic ear muffs, and a small bottle of gun oil take little room as well.
That handles the basics. But they don’t always provide what’s needed to address iron or optical sight issues. Cheap, resealable quart-sized plastic baggies are my answer. I set one up with optical sight gear, and another with iron sight gear.
The Optical pouch holds a LensPen and two microfiber lens cloths. One goes into a shirt pocket for a quick clean at the Load & Make Ready, while the other is a spare. Those tools keep optical lenses clean. My various optical sights use 1632 or 2032 batteries, so a card of each is included. The multi-tools don’t have bits small enough to handle the sight adjustment screws on my reflex sights so I add the small screwdriver that came with the sights for that. My different reflex sights don’t use the same Allen wrench sizes for their mounting screws, and one of my optical sight match pistols has adjustable screws for pre and over travel that require a very small Allen. Rather than digging into the multi-tools, I include those specific wrenches in a small parts bag. That covers optical sights.
The Iron baggie is simpler. The multi-tools handle the rear sight adjustments on all my guns, leaving just front sight issues. My GP-100 revolvers use a Hi-Vis interchangeable front sight with snap-in FO inserts. A spare front sight (in an empty 35mm film can) and a tube of their inserts is included. I’ve never broken one of their inserts, but on a couple of occasions when shooting on a dimly-lit indoor range I pulled the green FO and replaced it with an opaque white insert for a more visible sight picture. It was nice to have that option handy. I include a .38 caliber spiral wound brush. Slipped into the ‘squib rod’ (combined with the .40 caliber bristle brush), it quickly cleans out revolver chambers to speed reloads.
My centerfire semi-autos use a ‘melted in’ front FO rod, and they can break due to recoil. Replacing a rod is simple if you have what you need. A 35mm film canister filled with 1.5-inch FO rod and a paper clip (to push out broken rod parts); combined with my ever-present Bic lighter and the side cutters on the AR15 Tool allow for the replacement of a broken rod in 60-seconds.
Since I pack my range bag the night before a match, it’s easy to pick the proper baggie for the guns I’ll be shooting. I always mark them clearly. The resulting ‘tool box’ weighs little more than a pound. And, that leaves plenty of room in the bag.
Nothing will stops Mr. Murphy forever. But, if your range bag is ready, the visits will be brief, and you can send him scurrying back under his rock in a hurry.