Military service members are expected to qualify with their assigned weapons. Even folks with non-infantry support roles need to be able to handle and employ their weapon effectively. As such, everyone goes to range at some point in their military career. Here are a few tips to make the most of your government-funded day of shooting.
1. Bring toilet paper
Depending on the size of your group and the quality of shooters in it, you could be out there for a while. If your range is an hour from the main base and you have to leave at zero dark thirty, you can bet that the porta potties out there are gonna get really busy before the red range flag even goes up. The one-ply toilet paper in those blue bowls probably won’t last long and the napkins in the MREs can be worse than useless. So, why not bring your own stuff? Moreover, when the one-ply does run out and your battle buddy has a visit from their breakfast Pork Sausage Patty, Maple Flavored, the value of your toilet paper is going to skyrocket to 2020 panic buying levels. Alternatively, baby wipes can be used to answer nature’s call while also helping you clean your weapon at the end of the day. But more on that later.
2. Pack snacks and other comforts
Per the previous tip, you may be out at the range all day. If you’re trying to avoid the MREs that are supplied to you, consider bringing your own grub. Like a mini field exercise, a range day can be massively improved with some civilian food. Since you’re not bringing your regular field gear like a sleep system or E-tool, you should have plenty of space in your pack for snacks and other grub. Like the toilet paper and baby wipes, these treats will only increase in value out at the range. While a chair probably won’t be necessary since most ranges have bleachers to sit in, a form of entertainment like a book or portable gaming device can keep you occupied if you qualify on your first try. Alternatively, if you’re a good shot, consider following this next tip instead.
3. Keep shooting
Do you enjoy shooting on your own time? Can you qualify on your first go with no problem? Then don’t. Remember, Uncle Sam is footing the bill for your range day. With ammo prices and availability the way that they are in 2021, why not cycle through the firing line a few times? Maybe you can do some range maintenance and trim those tree branches blocking the 300m target. That’s just called being a good battle buddy. On that note, maybe the person in the lane next to you has the accuracy of a Stormtrooper and is worried about not qualifying. Maybe a few of your shots stray into their lane and knock down some targets that they’re struggling with. Nobody’s perfect. Just be sure to qualify before the end of the day.
4. Share weapons to minimize cleaning
Everyone has to qualify with their assigned weapon, right? That doesn’t mean that you have to qualify with the exact weapon issued to you from the armory. For a pistol qualification, this is actually pretty easy to do. Hypothetically, a group of 20 goes to a five lane pistol range. Why do all 20 of you need to bring pistols when only five of you can shoot at a time? Bring five pistols and rotate through them in four groups. At the end of the day, break down the pistols and divide the parts amongst the group for cleaning. This is possible to do with a rifle qual, but it does require that the optic to changed between shooters and re-zeroed. It’s more difficult, but the reduction in cleaning time is well worth it.
5. Do whatever it takes to turn in your weapon
Most people know that the chamber of an M4 is a great place to store a $20 bill or two. It makes weapon turn-in go a lot faster. Alternatively, that money can be used to motivate a battle buddy to clean your weapon for you. If they need the cash, it’s a win-win. Monetary methods aside, there are better ways to clean a weapon than baby wipes, q-tips, and CLP. Remember that what you’re cleaning out is carbon buildup. Carb cleaners and non-chlorinated brake cleaners will get you a clean pinky swab from the star chamber in no time. Just keep your alternative cleaning methods out of sight from the armorer and everyone can go home happy.
6. Pens and paper
We’ve all seen it. That one person who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a 240. You hit a few of their targets for them but they still can’t break double digits. Nobody can go home until they qualify. The people running the range have already moved them from pop-ups to paper, given them 50 rounds, but they just can’t get a passing score. So, when the RSO breaks out their Skilcraft U.S. Government pen, it might be a good time to admire the trees on the opposite side of the range. The colors of the leaves look a lot like plausible deniability this time of year.