Life in New England sure has changed in the past few decades. Not long ago, gun manufacturers filled the Connecticut River Valley with industry-best firearms. Colts were made in Hartford, Parker Brothers shotguns were produced in Meriden, and Marlin Firearms were machined in North Haven. Oliver Winchester and Oscar Mossberg set up their shops in New Haven, while Sturm, Ruger & Company was a chip shot away in Westport. Drive north into Massachusetts and you’ll find Smith & Wesson in Springfield and Savage in Westfield. That’s an impressive list of some of the most innovative firearms manufacturers anywhere.
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New England’s Luxury Gun Ranges
Life in these bluest of blue states is a lot different now than it was a few decades ago, and that makes finding a shooting range pretty difficult. Open land in southern New England is pricey, and the shrinking number of shooters makes for a tough, if not impossible, business climate. In response to single-digit growth among shooters and the self-defense markets, three new ranges have popped up in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. They represent a new era in sport shooting and are sure to put a smile on every gunner’s face.
Each of these luxury gun ranges is located in close proximity to major airports and thus all New England hubs. Visit them on your way home from work or on your way up for a vacation. While your family is out shopping or relaxing at the beach, there’s no reason you can’t fire a few rounds. These venues make it easy.
Cape Gun Works: Hyannis, Massachusetts
Visitors to Cape Cod think of beaches, fishing, the Kennedy Compound and great white sharks. But Cape Cod is where the Pilgrims landed before continuing on to Plymouth. With their arrival came the blunderbuss, the first firearm introduced to the New World. It’s fitting that the oldest settled area in America should have a shooting range connecting the present with the past. The brand new, state-of-the-art Cape Gun Works provides that opportunity.
Brendon Bricklin, a lifelong Cape Codder, shooter and hunter, focused on entrepreneurial studies in college. He worked with many startups until he had an “ah-ha” moment that inspired him to follow the advice he had been giving others. It happened while Bricklin was on a business trip to Las Vegas. Fortunately for us, what happened in Vegas didn’t exactly stay in Vegas.
Bricklin and his business partner visited Front Sight, a cutting-edge shooting facility not far from the action on the strip. The entrepreneur was thoroughly impressed with every facet of the club’s professional approach to sport shooting, education and training. Upon his return home, he made a decision: Bricklin left a perfectly good career to launch a similarly professional shooting business in Hyannis.
Up and Running
Seeing a need for an alternative to the standard member-run gun clubs, Bricklin wrote the business plan for Cape Gun Works in 2012. The intended use for his venue was for walk-in customers and members alike. He also planned to provide a facility for training and educational classes not just for civilians, but for law enforcement and various branches of the military, too. All of it presented in a pristine environment. Permits for gun clubs don’t come easy in the Bay State, but Mama Bricklin didn’t raise a quitter. A multi-step process over several years requiring a $5 million investment is what it took for him to pull off the inevitable.
Bricklin first launched a brick-and-mortar gun shop in the fall of 2013. The business was well received by locals and visitors, and significant growth required a larger space. The store moved and expanded in 2014 and continued to gain momentum. All the while, Bricklin continued his search for the perfect range location. Finally, a commercial space came available on Airport Road, which triggered a three-year demolition and construction project. The range opened in 2017.
The Cape Gun Works Facility
Cape Gun Works is a 20,000-square-foot facility with new foundations, plumbing and electricity. Two shooting ranges with seven and eight respective galleries are sealed off from each other by ballistic-rated panels for safety. A HEPA air filtration system cycles out air every 90 seconds. Pistols and rifles may be used, and there are no caliber restrictions. Each of the 15 shooting lanes is 25 yards long and has electronic target carriers.
The range caters to walk-in shooters, offers a membership program for regular shooters, and hosts special events and corporate team-building exercises. Cape Gun Works schedules rearranged training sessions with law enforcement and the military throughout the year. A full 5,000 square feet is devoted to the pro shop, which also includes hard- and soft-line products from a wide variety of manufacturers.
In addition to firearm safety and training classes, Cape Gun Works also offers related classes, such as knife and self-defense training. Archers can enjoy the 3D archery range, and there are two lounges—one for the general public and a separate one for members. A full machine shop complete with welding capabilities was also built on site, offering a full suite of gunsmithing services.
The Preserve at Boulder Hills: Richmond, Rhode Island
When you first see the sign for Boulder Hills at its entrance, you’d think you were entering a ranch in the Rockies. But this town is just over the Connecticut border in the southwestern part of the state. At its core, The Preserve at Boulder Hills is a private/public club situated on just less than 1,000 acres. While it offers golf, fine dining, fly fishing and deluxe accommodations, The Preserve is dedicated to the shooting sports. There are sporting clays courses, Five Stand, Continental shoots and walk-up hunts. One of the newest activities is the recently completed, state-of-the-art indoor shooting range.
The Preserve at Boulder Hills is the legacy property of serial developer Paul Mihailides. “I wanted to create a property for family and friends, and to have that venue be filled with like-minded sportsmen and women. We all need a reprieve from the world, particularly those of us who like to shoot and hunt,” he said. Also, coastal states and flat land go hand-in-hand. With that in mind, Mihailides acquired the 1,000-acre property largely because it has the second highest elevation in Rhode Island.
Shooting Options at The Preserve
Earmarked as the longest underground shooting facility in the country, Mihailides completed the indoor shooting range in 2018, is. Four rifle lanes extend to a whopping 150 yards; a Meggitt wireless target retrieval system transports targets that distance. There are an additional 16 rifle and pistol lanes, each of which tap out at 100 feet. There are no caliber restrictions. Other designated indoor lanes allow patrons to partake in 3D archery and simulated golf.
To complete the club, Mihailides added a Firearms Training Simulator (FATS) for use in training military and law enforcement personnel. The simulator, a $150,000 training tool that creates real-time experiences, projects military engagements or response calls similar to those received by law enforcement onto a screen. Pistols replicating brands commonly used by police officers and military personnel use computer chips, not bullets, to “fire.” Lifelike recoil comes from the pistol’s deployment of nitrogen gas, and a wide variety of scenarios work shooters through each course.
Indoor shooting ranges of this size can be difficult to maintain during seasonal weather changes, but Mihailides put his decades of experience as a developer to good use. A heating, cooling and ventilation system maintains air quality while providing an climate-controlled temperature appropriate to the season. Next door to The Range is The Sporting Shoppe, a 15,000-square-foot retail store featuring hard and soft goods from many manufacturers. Two members’ lounges are complete with private safe rooms and lockers for three membership types. Some memberships entitle shooters to enjoy other activities that make up The Preserve at Boulder Hills. For more information, please visit thepreserveri.com.
Weston Shooters Club: Weston, Massachusetts
Located 15 miles west of downtown Boston, the town of Weston has the highest per capita income in the state. That affluence makes it an unusual place for an indoor shooting range, but that didn’t stop club founder Victor Grillo from building a $1 million shooting range and thereby fulfilling his dream. Grillo always wanted “a place to have a cigar, have a drink and shoot a gun.” Now he’s got it.
The Weston Shooters Club opened in 2014, and it’s a small, intimate, private club. Featuring eight shooting lanes with electric target carriers, sound-deadening technology and a rubber backdrop, the club focuses on pistol shooting. Smaller-caliber rifles are allowed, provided that they are chambered for pistol calibers like the .22 LR, 9mm and .45 ACP. No high-powered rifles are allowed at the range, and shotguns are prohibited. To cycle in fresh air, Grillo uses a HEPA air filtration system. Located just off Route 95, the Weston Shooters Club is small, unique and worth a visit.
Situated in an affluent suburb of Boston, the Weston Shooters Club has a social lounge with a kitchenette and a bar for post-shooting cocktails. For those who wish to mix business with pleasure, a state-of-the-art boardroom with a conference table, whiteboards, Wi-Fi and projection capabilities completes the setting. Members may rent private lockers to store their shooting gear, and there is a gun cleaning area, too.
The club offers a variety of classes aimed at beginners (Introduction to Shooting) through intermediates (Massachusetts Concealed Carry Class) and even a crossover class (Introduction to the AR-15). Don’t be shocked to see a parking lot full of Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs. Inside you’ll see Berettas, Smith & Wessons and Glocks. For more information, please visit westonshootersclub.com.
This article is from the spring 2019 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your physical copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com. For digital version, head over to Amazon.