Calais Rod and Gun Club to Expand Range, Offerings

By Lura Jackson

 

Nestled in the woods of Charlotte, overlooking scenic Round Pond, the Calais Rod and Gun Club quietly boasts one of the best facilities for firearms and outdoor enthusiasts in the region. The club recently received a nearly $50,000 statewide grant to expand and enhance one of its three ranges – an initiative that signals the club’s desire to reach out and attract more members, especially from the younger portion of the community. 

Founded in 1939 to promote social, responsible and educational use of firearms, the Calais Rod and Gun Club has approximately 300 members today. Members are able to come and use the facilities of the club any time between dawn and dusk, or they can participate in regularly scheduled skeet and trap events. The club has a 200-yard rifle range, a multipurpose range, and a pistol range – the latter of which is being expanded to a 50-yard multipurpose range suitable for all small caliber guns, bows and crossbows.

“This is, in my opinion, one of the better clubs in terms of facility or property,” said Jon Southern, executive board member for the club and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Recreational Safety Coordinator. Southern teaches all over New England and has been to clubs across the region. 

The expansion of the small caliber range will resolve the deficiencies of the existing range, which had some safety concerns, Southern explained. “It really wasn’t a suitable range,” Southern said. “We’d have to take groups of kids to the bigger ranges, which was a little intimidating for them. It wasn’t ideal.”

In addition to the expansion and reorientation of the pistol range, a new indoor firing hut will be built for use during inclement weather. A moving deer target will be built at the end of the range, and safety lights that flash when someone is on the range will be installed. The lights will indicate to all those on the course to lower their guns. “It will be considerably safer,” said Michael Seymour, president of the club. 

“Part of this is to improve public access and public participation in events that we do,” Southern said. The club already offers two hunter safety classes, NRA safety classes, and ATV classes, but the new range will enable those who attend hunter safety classes to practice their shooting in conjunction with the training. “That’s not often done with classes, since most facilities that teach don’t lend themselves to firing actual rifles,” Southern said.

The grant, which is part of the state’s Range Access Improvement program, required the club to match a portion of the awarded funds. The club has done so through the in-kind donation of sand and by selling some of the lumber removed to make room for the new range. While the club was notified that they had received the grant last winter, final approval wasn’t complete until this past July. Work began immediately, and Seymour anticipates a completion date of July 4th, 2018.

“Washington County is so lucky, it has two of the finest clubs in the whole state,” Southern said, referring to Calais Rod and Gun and Pleasant River, which offers a primitive skills class. Southern said that, if there is interest, the Calais club may partner with Pleasant River to bring a winter or fall primitive skills class to this area. 

Clubs such as the Calais Rod and Gun Club play an integral role in enhancing public safety, Southern explained. In addition to providing ranges for multiple law enforcement agencies – from the Border Patrol to the Coast Guard to Pleasant Point Police Department and beyond – to practice their skills, the range is often the first touchpoint that new gun owners have. “I think clubs play a key part [in gun safety],” Southern said. “They’re obviously the first place that a lot of new gun owners go to.” New gun owners that only go through retail channels miss out on the experience of learning how to best use their new equipment. Furthermore, gun clubs encourage gun owners to bring their family members, teaching responsible use and interest by proxy.

“I wish the people of the area could appreciate how lucky they are to have a facility like this, especially for such a low membership fee,” Southern emphasized. Being from England originally, Southern said that such facilities do not exist in his homeland, and if they did, there would be thousands of dollars a year in fees to join. Even in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, community members are required to pay hundreds of dollars and wait for several months to join similar clubs. There is no waiting list at the Calais Rod and Gun Club due to its expansive ranges. 

Aside from firearms and ATV usage, the club openly encourages new activities, such as a fly-tying workshop that was held there recently. To find out more about the club, contact Michael Seymour at 454-7129 or seymourinc@gmail.com