Sunday, February 27, 2011

Equipment: All The Other Stuff

Just when you thought you had everything.

Safety glasses are a must. Target shooting, however remote, retains a danger element. It is always a possibility that a flying projectile heads your way. Make sure your eyes are protected. What style you choose to wear is up to you. There are plenty of options, ranging from a Princess Auto purchase (hell, my first purchase for $3), to something more elaborate (which I purchased from the TSE for $10). 

Earmuffs are something that I didn't give much thought to, and which cost me money in the end. I assumed that as long as you kept the noise out, you were doing the job. This is true, except for IPSC. You see, you still need to hear range commands and the starter beep.

During my Black Badge course, and a few times thereafter, I would stand staring into space, whilst the RO (Range Officer) would wonder why I wasn't reacting. I thought I was going deaf, and it caused me some serious anxiety. Anyway, I had my ears tested, and when I found out I wasn't going deaf, I decided to get a pair of electronic muffs.

These baby's block out all sound above a certain threshold, and at the same time allow you to amplify surrounding sounds. The same proviso applies however; namely research and then buy. Fortunately we have quite a few pricey local options, however in the end I decided to buy a pair of Howard Leight's which are designed for Impact Sports. They cost about $75, and although you can get them cheaper, I paid for priority shipping, as I couldn't take the stress of not hearing any longer.

I have to tell you that they work a treat, and improved my shooting experience immensely. My hearing problem was solved, but sometimes, when standing alongside a shooter with a muzzle brake, the blast is too much. This probably applies to all muffs. On those occasions I am tempted to wear small internal plugs as well.

The next overlooked piece of equipment is a magazine loader. You think you will load by hand. No it is difficult, slow and will eventually put you off. There is only one piece of equipment worth having, and I celebrate the day I decided to buy it. It is the UpLula Universal Magazine Loader, and cost about $30 plus shipping, from the IPSC Store.

Now, if you just reflect back you will realise that you have accumulated quite a bit of equipment. All of this has to be transported to the range, including ammunition, in some sort of bag. Time to search for a range bag. A good option is a sturdy tool bag, but the bigger one's are quite costly, so you may as well look at the purpose made stuff.

Strangely, most range bags are around 16" long, which is way too short. I shopped around for ages, and couldn't find the right bag versus price. There is nothing that is locally available, that you can test out, so you are left to observe others and take a risk. I decided on a Galati Range Bag, primarily because it was 18" long. It is excellent quality and cost me about $75, with shipping. It serves the purpose, and is lockable, with strong metal clips to support the weight. However, in hindsight, I would make a different choice, because there are some basics missing. It does not have a pouch for expended brass. Yes, you can use a ziplock bag, but I would have preferred a pouch. It also does not have a pistol sleeve.

In truth, the Tournament Series PRO Bag reigns supreme. It is 22" long, and comes equipped with a brass pouch, a gun sleeve, a small inner bag (which you can use to take to the shooting line), plenty of space and seems to be everywhere. These bags are expensive, at about $140, but you get a fair shake for your money. If you shop around, you can shave a few dollars off.

For those of you that would like a brass pouch, there are after market options, but beware of the quality. Buy Canadian, they are the best so far.

Obviously I haven't mentioned every piece of equipment. There is a host of smaller items, like a filteration mask for lead dust, rubber gloves for handling brass, D-Lead hand soap and wipes (available from TSE), gun oil, cleaning paraphernalia and ammo boxes. The ammo boxes are a dime a dozen, and you can never have enough.
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