Basic Range Equipment…

Recently I was asked for some suggestions regarding solid range-practice-level holsters and mag pouches, and it occurred to me that given the HUGE range of possibilities now available via the internet, it might be a good idea to actually quickly discuss “suggested” basic starter equipment for handgun technique practice.

Couple of comments, first:

  • The ones I’m about to suggest are not the only possibilities out there–there are PLENTY of other perfectly reasonable holsters and mag pouches by many perfectly decent manufacturers that would work fine.  These are simply ones I’ve found to be durable, reliable, and economical for basic solid range practice.  That doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t be good also.
  • The equipment listed here is meant for basic range practice–meaning that they aren’t optimized for carry, competition, military training, LEO duty carry, or anything like that.  The point is to get a solid reliable holster and mag pouch setup so that shooters can go to the range and work on their technique without either paying a ton of money, or having to deal with poor quality and unsafe equipment.
  • At some point in time, if you plan on getting good at competition shooting or plan on concealing well for carry, you are going to have to buy other equipment, and practice with it.  However, starting with basic range gear to get yourself competent FIRST is a good idea, hence this list of suggestions.

So, equipment needed for good technique practice:

  • Gun
  • Magazines
  • Eye/Ear Protection
  • Holster
  • Magazine pouch

Gun: up to you, though you might take a look at one of my prior posts about How Do You Learn to Shoot and my thoughts on appropriate firearm choice when you are trying to learn good technique.

Magazines:  Most guns come with 2 (though sometimes small guns only come with one).  Truthfully, you probably want to get yourself 5 or 6 magazines for any gun that you plan on shooting very much.  Because A) shooting one mag at a time gets very old, B) you should practice reloading and that is easier with more than two mags, and C) like any other physical object with moving parts, mags are subject to wear and tear and they give out.  (And if you have a revolver, get yourself 3 or so speedloaders.)

Eye/Ear Pro:  I assume you don’t like the idea of being blind or deaf.  ALWAYS wear eye/ear pro while shooting.  For ear pro, good electronic ear pro is now available for reasonable prices and it is REALLY handy to have on the range.  Dampens out loud noises but amplifies quiet stuff so you can shoot without damage and talk without yelling.  Regular glasses are not good eye protection (they don’t wrap around enough, nor do they normally cover high and low enough), and sunglasses normally aren’t much better–and certainly aren’t rated for impact.  Buy (and wear) actual shooting eye protection that has at least an ANZI Z87.1 rating.

Now to the parts that most people really care about:  Holsters, and magazine pouches.

With respect to basic range practice (actually everything, but especially basic range practice) I’m a BIG fan of kydex.  Thin, lightweight, durable, easily molded to specific firearms, if it gets dirty you throw it in the dishwasher—kydex holsters are simply the easiest way to get a solid economical holster for practice.  My top two suggestions for your first basic range practice holster:

CQC1) Blackhawk Standard CQC (Sportster) Holster:

This is NOT a SERPA holster.  Retention is passive only.  Normally comes with both paddle and belt attachments, left or right hand, large range of gun possibilities, covers the trigger guard, passive retention is adjustable—just a great range holster.  (And when I started competition shooting, I used one of these for several years.)

Note:  Link given is just so you can look at them.  Once you know if you want it, check around for the best prices.  However, $22.45 is hard to beat…

KydexPaddle2) Uncle Mike’s Kydex holsters:

Similar to the CQC above, comes with paddle and belt attachments, large range of guns available, etc.  In my opinion, not quite the quality of the CQC, but still a perfectly decent holster, and under $30 is a good deal.

Edited later to add:

3) Blade-Tech Revolution Holster:

Someone just pointed out to me that the Revolution holsters are good choices too, and I had missed that—I have a number of Blade-Tech holsters, but none from the Revolution series (and the other series cost more, so it hadn’t occurred to me). The Revolution ones, however, are excellent holsters and only a couple of bucks more than the two above. (Look on Amazon for better prices, oddly enough.) Comes with both a paddle and a belt loop attachment, like the two holsters above.

That’s it, really.  Sure, there are plenty of others out there—but most cost more money, and either don’t give you anything more than the above two, OR are for more specialized circumstances.    If you know what you want, that’s one thing, but if you are just looking for a holster to use for technique practice at the range, or are just starting to learn in the first place, the above two holsters will do everything you need in a reliable fashion without costing much.

One negative mention:  Don’t buy a Fobus holster. No matter how good of a deal it seems to be.  In my opinion, they are just about the worst holsters out there.  Material is substandard, connection from pouch to hanger (belt or paddle) is weak and breaks easily, retention is normally something that requires a winch to get the gun out of the holster, and I’ve never seen one that actually covered the entire trigger guard like it is supposed to do.  Truthfully, any time I see someone with a Fobus holster I assume they really don’t know what they are doing and have a weak grasp of firearms safety.  That may be unkind of me, but….it’s been pretty true so far.  (If your response was “Well, maybe they didn’t know any better!” I will agree, but if they have to full-arm-yank the gun to get it out of the holster and it doesn’t cover the trigger guard BUT THEY DON’T MIND, then their grasp of firearms safety needs work.)

Sorry if that hurt anyone’s feelings, but if you use a Fobus holster you should REALLY think about whether or not it is a good idea.

Now, that being said, let’s talk about magazine pouches:

351493For starter pouches, I think the Fobus mag pouches are some of the best deals out there.  Specifically, the belt (not paddle) basic double-mag pouches.

Generally, for under $30 you can get a double-mag pouch that will fit your magazine type, and it’ll work (and wear) perfectly well for standard range practice.  If you want single-mag pouches, or don’t mind spending a little more, Blackhawk makes decent double-mag pouches also.

For a bit more than that, you can get Blade-Tech mag pouches (double or single) with Tek-Lok belt attachments, which are nice.  However, those cost a little more.  (Similarly, Blade-Tech makes GREAT range/carry/competition holsters, but again, they cost more.)

For most folks just starting on draws/reloads/transitions–solid handgun technique practice on the range, I just normally say get a Blackhawk CQC Standard holster, a Fobus double-mag pouch, buy a good thick leather belt from Walmart or Target (don’t need to spend the money on a real gunbelt yet) and about 5 extra mags.  Plus a lot of ammo.

That’ll get you what you need to get better.  Later, when you ARE better and have a more precise idea of what you want/need for what you plan on DOING with your firearm (carry/competition/duty) then you can spend more money on something quality in that area.

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