The National Rifle League’s rimfire series, NRL22 and NRL22X, are quickly growing in popularity across the U.S. Based around the .22 caliber Long Rifle cartridge, NRL22 provides a precision rifle series that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. To participate, competitors need to bring a list of items to matches. This equipment and supplies are typically carried in a match bag for convenience.
A range bag for NRL22 will carry all the field equipment necessary to compete including personal protective equipment, first-aid kit, maintenance supplies, ammunition, gun safety equipment, tools, water, and more.
At the moment, I’m putting together a range bag for myself, along with a base-class qualifying rifle for NRL22. While there are no matches near me, in a few months I’ll be moving to an area where monthly matches are less than an hour from where I’d like to live. This list then is not stuff I have personally used, but rather it is a shopping list that checks all the boxes for items I plan to purchase.
NRL22 Bag Shopping List:
Item #1: Your Support Bag
More important than a bipod, tripod, or any other rest in an NRL22 match is your support bag. There are several popular options. Here are my recommendations on bags, based on how much you want to spend.
- Most expensive bag, but also the most popular
- Less expensive bag, and the second most popular (link to Amazon)
- Very inexpensive bag that will get the job done (link to Amazon)
Honestly, all three of those bags will do the job. It’s worth noting that about 75% of the shooters out there will eventually get the more expensive bag, but for your first year or so, even the cheapest one will do just great.
Item #2: Range Bag
This is the biggest item on the list and is something that should be purchased first. Bags can be broken down into two broad categories, backpacks and ‘duffel’ bags. The main difference between the two is that backpacks are worn while duffels are carried.
One is not better than the other and really it comes down to personal preference, so we’ll start off this list with an example of each:
Midway has some great stuff, and after a bit of research, my favorite bag that they currently have in stock is their own Competition Range Bag. The best feature I see is that it is a “system” bag, meaning it can be adapted for your personal needs. This, or something similar is what I’m looking to use.
For quality backpacks, the prices go up a little bit. GPS has a decent range backpack of their own. The feature I like most about this backpack is that there are 18 different icons on different flaps for things like eye and ear protection, first aid, etc…
Item #3: Long Pants and a First Aid Kit
There are many kneeling, laying down, and other shooting positions that will force you to put your legs on the (often rocky) ground. Wearing long pants is a must at an NRL22 competition no matter how hot it is. A lot of shooters even wear kneepads. Also, having an individual first aid kit (IFAK) within arms’ reach is always a good thing.
Item(s) #4: Shooting Glasses and Ear Pro
NRL22 rules require that all participants have hearing and eye protection during each event. While I already own hearing and eye protection, my own NRL22 bag will have a set that stays with that bag. For primary PPE, I recommend picking up the following:
- Axil GS Extreme Ear Pro (There are cheaper options that will do the job, but this one is kind of important for NRL22 because these allow you to talk with other people and not have “muffs” that contact the rifle stock and mess up your shooting position)
- Caldwell Pro Range Shooting Glasses: $4.99
I tend to lose and/or scratch up glasses quite often, so having a cheap, non-tinted pair works best for me. For ear protection, you can’t beat Walker electronic muffs. Having the ability to protect your hearing and still hear commands from range officers is a huge advantage. For backup PPE, I’d recommend keeping 1 or 2 extra pairs of cheap range glasses and some earplugs handy.
Item #5: Rifle Tool Kit
Being able to repair a rifle during a competition can mean the difference between missing a stage or having to drop out of the whole event. All NRL22 competitors should respect, and prepare for Murphy’s Law!
Most of the shooters get Fix-It Sticks. It’s a little pricey, but it’s a handy kit that will last you a lifetime.
My personal plan for a tool kit is to purchase a base kit then modify it for my specific rifle, taking out bits and pieces that are unnecessary for my particular gun. Going this route, the final tool kit is going to look a bit different for each person.
For a recommended base kit, the products offered by Fix It Sticks can’t be beaten. Fix-It Sticks are popular with many shooters and they have quality tools. Buying one of their kits, then adding and subtracting unneeded pieces should give a shooter a quality set of tools they can depend on when their rifle breaks.
My recommended toolset is the All Purpose Kit from Fixit Sticks so you have everything you need.
Item(s) #6: 22LR Cleaning Kit
It’s much easier to fix a broken rifle when the rifle is clean. Many matches are outdoors, and that means dust, dirt, mud, and water. I recommend starting with a small 22LR specific bore cleaning kit like this one from Otis, then adding the following items:
- All-purpose gun oil (use on almost any moving part)
- Microfiber cloth (for cleaning everything but the barrel and action)
- Absorbent rags (for cleaning up excess oil)
- Paper towel for dirt, mud, grime (tear off some sheets, fold them, put them in a zip-lock bag)
- Nylon brushes (to clean hard to reach areas)
- Small alcohol squirt bottle (quickly strip off grease)
- Lens cleaning cloths (for scope optics)
The trick to this is to make the cleaning and tool kits as compact as possible. Ideally, both will fit in one or two small pouches on the bag.
Item #7: NRL Safety Flags
Chamber Flags are required by NRL22 regulations. Since matches operate under “cold range” rules, rifles that are not actively being used must be made safe by being unloaded with the action open and a clear chamber.
Chamber flags can be made at home or purchased for really cheap, but my recommendation is to buy flags, along with some other memorabilia (like a hat!), from NRL’s website. This helps support the organization and some subtle but effective branding goes a long way toward ‘looking the part’.
Item #8: Ammunition Boxes and Magazines
Every competitor needs ammunition in order to participate in NRL22 matches. It is a good idea to have several magazines loaded and ready to go for each stage. To store ammunition, it needs to be kept dry and in a container that can easily be thrown into a pouch. While I can’t recommend any magazines since that will depend on whatever rifle you use, I can recommend these 100-round 22LR storage boxes.
Other Items to Consider
The list above pretty much covers every required item that needs to be included in the shooting bag in order to compete in NRL22 matches. However, there are other items to consider which make life easier:
- Water bottle
- Sweat towel
- D.O.P.E Cards
- Clipboard with COF, range rules, and registration info.
- Rain poncho
- Sandbags (sometimes required, but heavy and should be left out if possible)
- Scope cover (rain, snow, dust)
- Shooting gloves
- Muzzle caps (to be used with chamber flags)
- Copy of NRL22 regulations
- Moist towelettes (for cleaning hands and face)
- Duct tape (used for everything)
Building a range bag from the ground up requires a lot of trial and error. Ideally, everything we need can fit into a single bag for both competition shooting and practicing at the range. Keeping things as light as possible is perhaps the most challenging part. While you’ll undoubtedly make your range bag unique, using the recommendations above as a guide will ensure all the basic needs are met.