Thick rubberized mats such as the type used as floor mats in vehicles make inexpensive and comfortable shooting pads. (Photo by Lisa Metheny)
Ammunition is like gasoline — the prices continue to rise almost daily. Shooting range fees have increased as well. Add to that the cost of fuel to get there and back and it is a challenge for some folks to afford recreational shooting. We can’t do much about the cost of gasoline or the cost of a box of ammo. However, there are a few things you can do to help cut the costs associated with shooting. Instead of buying some of the “must-have range items,” you can easily make them — and hopefully save a few bucks in the process.
Easy Ear Protection
Ear protection is one of those must-have items that can put a strain on your budget. Electronic amplification plugs are certainly worth their weight in gold, but these state-of-the-art protection devices come at a premium. On the other end of the spectrum are the cheap orange foam earplugs that also provide some minor level of hearing protection. However, this type of generic foam plug often leaves shooters wanting more. If you want to protect your hearing while also protecting your savings account, consider a do-it-yourself kit from E.A.R. In less than 15 minutes and for about $20 you can easily mold a custom set of medical-grade silicone earplugs.
Old denim jeans are easily transformed into versatile yet cheap shooting bags thanks to a pair of scissors, some thread and filler such as rice or beans. If you don’t have a sewing machine handy, your local dry cleaner or seamstress can often quickly stitch the seam for a minimal charge.
(Photo by Lisa Metheny)
Regardless of your choice of firearm, a solid rest is a must-have for accurate shooting. Prices for store-bought shooting bags/rests start at $30 and go up from there. One of the cheapest options for making your own is an old pair of jeans. Cut off the leg portion to the desired length of the bag. Sew, glue or tie a knot at the ends to keep the filler from falling out. If you would like a more traditional-looking shooting bag/rest, sew or purchase a travel-size or toddler-size pillow case cover; you can find cases online and prices start at about $1.50 each. If you need a smaller shooting bag/rest, try using an old wool sock stuffed with the filling of your choice. Either duct tape, Velcro, glue or sew the opening closed. Now that you have your bag(s) made, it is time to add the “grip” that will help it grab the surface. Crafting puff paint (found at craft stores) is the way to go. Most puff paint comes in a squeeze bottle, making application quick and easy (drying times vary, follow manufacturer’s directions).
Now on to the filling material. A solid shooting bag/rest needs weight, plus the filler needs to easily contour around whatever you use it for. Sand, rice or beans are usually your best options and are cheap and easy to find. I suggest you do not pour your filling material directly into the bag you just made. Instead, keep it in a zippered plastic bag. If you are using the jean material bag, a plastic bread sack works great. Fill the plastic bag first and then insert the plastic bag into the shooting bag you made. There you have it: a cheap, versatile shooting bag/rest!
Pocketbook-Pleasing Shooting Pads
Whether you like to shoot from a prone position or use a table rest, one of the most frustrating things that can happen while shooting is having your personal gear scatter all over the place. Shooting pads are great and not only offer comfort, but also help prevent scuffs and scratches to your expensive equipment. Instead of buying a high-end pad, use a vehicle floor mat, preferably one that is slightly oversized, such as the type for a rear seat or minivan. Lightweight rubberized mats can be found at major box retailers, home improvement stores, office supply stores or farm supply stores.
Got any other tips for keeping recreational shooting costs low? Share them in the comment section.