I had already gone through the Firearms Safety Course required by the commonwealth to apply for a License to Carry. Approximately nine months after applying and paying $100, I received a postcard in the mail stating I’d been approved for a license. After getting out of work, I had some errands to run, two of which had to be done at the Shrewsbury Town Hall.
When I went into the police department to pick it up, I showed the postcard to the dispatcher, and she buzzed me into an area looked like where the secretaries and administrative assistants worked. I approached the window and showed them the postcard, and in return they pulled my license out of a bucket, and simply asked for my ID to verify that I was who I said I was. I apparently also had to sign the LTC. I was also informed that my PIN would be mailed to me within a few days. When asked what that was, apparently, it was a number I’d have to give when I go buy guns, accessories, or ammunition. I was also handed a copy of what amounted to the summary of the firearms laws in Massachusetts, with a copy of the details involving the 1998 Assault Weapons Ban.
Many people, once they have their gun permits, they’ll go out and purchase their first firearm, accessories, and/or ammunition. While I’d been exposed to the gun culture through Wisconsin, and had the desire to learn more, I also knew that my wallet was limited. For some people, guns are part of their lives, and it is to them what cellphones are to the average person. It hadn’t been that way for me. Over the course of a few months, I’d decided I wanted to learn to shoot since the lesson I had through the safety course was more about laws, safety, and watching the instructor handle a firearm, versus ‘live fire.’ I needed some hands-on training.
It turned out that many gun clubs in Massachusetts offered some basic courses on handling, but you had to be a member, pay fees, and volunteer your time, none of which I wanted any part of. Eventually, after enough Googling, I came up with the Mass Firearm School in Holliston. Their pictures showed a very clean facility, and they seemed to geared both behind education and shooting at a range. They also featured a small retail store from which you could buy weapons, ammunition, and accessories. After ‘trolling’ their site for a few months, I finally decided to make an appointment to learn. I also called and had a friendly conversation with one of their employees who was extremely helpful in matching me up with which classes I’d need to take. It turned out that they offered basic pistol courses, all the way up through training how to use a weapon tactically.
Eventually, I signed up for an evening block called “Private Instruction with MFS Instructor.”
The night of the appointment, I got there about thirty minutes prior to the appointment, so I just relaxed in my car. It was interesting to note that not a single person entering the school was wearing their gun on them, but rather transporting it in a case.
Five minutes prior to my appointment, I walked in and told the clerks that I was there for a private lesson. I was also asked what my experience level, and I explained what a novice I was, even though I’d already gotten my license. The clerk was cleaning a gun, and re-assembling it, so he invited me to check out the retail store.
The retail store was nifty – first time I’d ever been in one. As many jokes as I crack about the availability of guns, or about the unconstitutionality of the compliance list, there were quite a few to choose from. All of their handguns had to be about $500-$700, and shotguns had to be just shy of $1,000. They sold a variety of ammunition, holsters, cleaning accessories, and other types of arms-related accessories. Fifteen minutes later, the instructor came to get me, and we went into one of the training rooms. As such that I paid for, he asked me what I wanted to learn, and I explained that I’d taken the basic safety course and it was more rules and white-paper, than hands-on.
The instructor was less than thrilled, but continued on. He proceeded to show me precisely how a handgun works, how it fires, and how a magazine is loaded. The process by which a gun fires did go a little over my head, but I wasn’t wholly interested in the process, as much as I wanted to understand how to detect (a) when a gun jammed, (b) how to detect when the magazine was empty, and how to disarm the weapon. He’d also brought a handgun that was rigged in such a way to fire a red dot like a sight would, once the trigger was pulled. This handgun also came with two plastic rounds that were used to help instruct how to load a magazine, and the actions taken when you unload the barrel.
He also spent a considerable amount of time with me on shooting stances, which was a good thing. Since a decent amount of my time will be spent at a range, versus carrying a handgun, I wanted to get range mechanics down. It took me a few tries to get the stance correct, but he was good enough to correct me. He also took me step-by-stop through the process of how to correct a handgun jam, which turned into an unloading lesson. All semi-automatic handguns have a switch that will eject the magazine, and a slide by which you can jerk backwards to clear any excess ammunition out of the barrel. He eventually ended the lesson by have me go through the motions of loading the gun, ‘firing it,’ and then unloading and clearing it as if I were at a range. It wasn’t perfect, but I did it to his satisfaction. He did mention that I could use some more practice with unloading and loading, but I figure that would just come with time. I also made the observation that he likely gets many first-timers who are uneasy, to which he responded that it happens regularly, but he feels that the instructors there are relaxed and their goal is to teach, as they are a school.
After leaving the classroom, he asked me if I wanted to go to the range, and I declined. I was a little tired from the day, plus, I was feeling some anxiety as there were many things in the instruction that I wasn’t confident I could do after an hour-long lesson. In the end, I paid for my lesson, thanked him for his time, took one of their schools’ cards, and headed out.