Part 4 – Essentials

I want to talk about some essentials that I left out of the first two, and some other things that will make your first match more enjoyable.

Lets get started with eye protection:

Eye protection is a MUST. It is REQUIRED for both shooters, and bystanders in every type of match I have ever been to. You do not have to go out any buy the most expensive set of eyes with interchangeable lenses, fancy coatings, etc. I’ve been really liking these 3M safety glasses. They’re like $5, ANSI rated, and they have an anti-fog coating. I have several pairs of them, and just swap them out whenever the get scratched up.

Sunglasses. I have a pair of ANSI rated sunglasses that I use, not sure of the brand off the top of my head. Lets face it, we are in NC, and in the summer, the sun is big and bright, so if you will be attending a match it would probably be a good idea to have both clear lenses, and some rated sunglasses we well. Your average sunglasses aren’t rated to stop anything but sunlight, so I’d highly recommend getting some rated sunglasses for shooting. You don’t want to wind up like this. I’ve got a couple pairs of these, and they’re just fine.

One thing that I find to be really annoying is fogged up safety glasses. If they get foggy, I find myself taking them off, which is not doing my eyes any good. The solution I have found is a little bottle of anti-fog solution that’s made by Speedo for underwater goggles. Before I started using the anti-fog glasses above, I’d re-apply this stuff to my glasses every month or so to keep them fog free. Works great, and I’ve been using the same bottle for years.

Ear Protection. Also a MUST, also REQUIRED:

There are a few different ways you can go here:

  1. The old standard orange foam earplug. These earplugs work great for suppressing sound. They are moderately comfortable, and really inexpensive. I do find them to be a little uncomfortable after a few hours. Never a bad thing to have in your range bag and with as cheap as they are, you should.

  2. Standard ear muffs. Again, pretty inexpensive, and most of them work fine for pistol competitions, but some of the larger ones will give you trouble when trying to shoulder a long gun. They do tend to get hot when shooting outside for a few hours, and most pairs I have used also tend to absorb a lot of sweat. I also find that ear muffs get uncomfortable after a few hours, so I like to switch to plugs after a while.

  3. Electronic Ear Muffs. Electronics muffs are great. Basically they are a regular ear muff, with a little microphone on the outside, and a speaker on the inside. Some have fancy circuitry to cut out the noise when a shot is fired, some don’t. Upside, is that you will be able to carry on conversations on the range with relative ease, as well as hearing Range Officer commands. The downsides are they get hot, and absorb sweat. Some of the less expensive options are not sealed well, and I have heard of people shorting out the circuitry after they get too saturated. I’ve been using the Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs for several years, and they’re just starting to get worn out. These are probably going to be the most popular ear protection you’ll see on the range.

  1. Custom molded ear plugs. After getting a pair of these, I can tell you that these are the holy grail of ear protection. Very comfortable, and they work great. I bought mine from Lenny Kahn, of EAR Inc. at a Dixie Gun Show in Raleigh. He has a booth where he will make your custom plugs right there. I believe he said that he travels to all of the Dixie Gun Shows, so if you are interested, track him down there. The down side to these is the initial cost can be a little high, in the $60 range for basic plugs, and they go up from there. Get out and shoot, decide if the shooting sports are for you, and then get yourself some nice plugs made.

So, essentials for a pistol match: eyes, ears, pistol, SAFE holster, ammo, magazines, and an open mind.

Here’s a few things that you may want to have as well:

  1. Water bottle, preferably filled with ice and water before leaving the house. I have a stainless steel Nalgene bottle and I love it. For matches during the hotter months, I may bring 2 or 3 bottles in my car. MOST ranges have some sort of facility where you can re-fill your bottles, and some will even sell you water, but its never a bad idea to bring your own, especially if you have never been to that particular range before.

  2. Food. Some matches can last a long time, and walking back and forth all day pasting targets between shooters can wear you out. I like almonds, but bring whatever works for you.

  3. Backpack to carry all your stuff in. Note: I specifically recommended a “backpack”, and not a “range bag”. When moving from stage to stage, I prefer a backpack for carrying everything. I have a large range bag from Midway that usually rides in my car, and a backpack that gets carried from stage to stage. I also have a Maxpedition Jumbo that I use for smaller matches, that allows me to just toss the essentials in, and go.

  4. Sunblock. Again, North Carolina, sunburn sucks.

  5. If you have a backup gun, never hurts to bring it, just in case. Don’t go out and buy another pistol just to have as a backup, it is a waste of money unless you are just looking for an excuse to buy another pistol, in which case you have my sympathy.

  6. Extra ammo. If the match calls for 100rds, bring 150-200. If you are like me, an IDPA stage may call for 2 rounds in each target, and you may find yourself firing 5 rounds at a couple of them, just for good measure. Those extra shots add up quick.

  7. Hat. I always wear a hat when shooting. I had an experience with a piece of hot 9mm brass bouncing off of something, and landing just right where it was able to come in between my eye, and my glasses. Luckily my eye was not injured, and from that point forward, I’ve made it a point to wear a hat. If you like ear muffs, instead of plugs, you may find that the button on the top of a regular baseball cap to be uncomfortable, with the muffs pushing the button into the top of your head all day. There are several manufacturers of “operator” caps out there that replace the button with fuzzy velcro. I’m sure the velcro has some awesome high speed – low drag use, but for me, its not a button pushing into my head, so I like it. I have a HSCI ATACS baseball cap, seen here. Comfortable, light weight, seems to be good quality. I approve.


  1. Question: are prescription glasses considered good enough for eye protection at pistol competitions? Or, do people like me have to have special “gun” glasses made with our prescription. I always shoot with just my normal prescription glasses at “square” ranges, but I have no experience with competitive shooting.

    • I think most people who wear prescription lenses use their regular glasses at matches. I do know several people with prescription safety glasses, but it’s a small subset of people who shoot.

    • My (non-sunglasses) prescription lenses are pretty small, so I have a set of “overspec” ballistic-protective glasses I wear on the range, literally a second set of glasses over my glasses. They look a bit silly, but they offer protection, don’t interfere with my vision, and are cheaper than prescription shooting glasses.

  2. “I’m sure the velcro has some awesome high speed – low drag use, but for me, its not a button pushing into my head, so I like it.”


  3. One thing I learned about cloths and hot weather, water wicking cloths are really helpful and work in keeping you comfortable.

  4. Nike also makes dri-fit hats that don’t have a top button and wick sweat. And, probably fitting in between the “electronic earmuffs” and “custom molded earplugs,” there are kits you can get from Amazon to make your own “custom” fit earplugs. I got a kit a while back (mine are Radians), and they work great… Right now, I’m using electronic muffs just so I can have a conversation at normal volumes on the range, but the “mold-’em-yourself” custom kind work really well.

  5. Just wanted to let you know, Lenny Kahn passed away a few weeks ago. His wife still makes the same awesome ear protection at the Dixie Gun Show though.

  6. Jacques Groenewald

    Also a good thing to get is a good speedbelt like one from CRspeed. It supports all your holsters and keeps it very stable instead of having a floppy belt that can let your holsters move

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