POLAND — Nestled off Maine Street, a clapboard house abuts a log cabin resembling an old Western trading post. A sign outside reads: “Anti-ISIS guns here.”

From the parking lot, a gentle tapping can be heard, as if someone on a far hill was roofing his house, a far gentler noise than one might expect from firearms discharging mere feet away.

A step inside the shop reveals a seemingly endless wall of rifles, shotguns, handguns — and yes, automatic weapons — watched over by an array of mounted animal heads.

Behind the counter, owner Joe Cimino and manager Roger Caldwell talk shop with customers, sportsmen and wish-listers. Both men are walking encyclopedias of gun and ammunition knowledge. A breezeway connects the main building and the gun range.

Once inside, a roaring HEPA filter greets shooters in the clean, six-lane range with foam baffles everywhere to absorb the sound.

“I learned a big lesson when I built that range; I didn’t check into the insurance first,” Cimino said. ” I built it and called the insurance company and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come out and insure my shooting range?’ That was the end of that.”

Cimino said he called seven other companies, all of which had the same reply.

“Getting insurance for a live-fire range, it’s very expensive,” Cimino said.

He guessed that the investment in construction, coupled with the exorbitant insurance, keeps others from building such ranges.

Each 55-foot lane has a bench and an automated system, allowing you to move your target to specific distances. Overhead in one lane, the rafters look battle-weary.

“People look at the ceiling and say, ‘How did that happen?'” Cimino said, laughing.

“The range adds a different aspect to this business,” Cimino said. “It allows someone to come in — if we have that firearm available, they can actually try that firearm. You can’t do that at Cabela’s. You can’t do that at any other gun shop.”

He said he had never “had an incident, but that’s due to the fact we try to get in your head when you walk through the front door.”

It’s difficult to make judgment calls, he said. “You come in and you go through all the paperwork, and then we watch you as you’re filling it all out. We’re not psychiatrists, but still, we’re trying to figure out if you are really legitimate here. We ask, ‘Were you in the military?’ That’s not a get-out-of-jail-free pass, but it does set my frame of mind and Roger’s frame of mind.”

Cimino and his staff then attempt to determine the shooter’s ability by asking whether he or she has a concealed weapons permit or has taken NRA or marksmanship courses. Shortcomings in firearms training will likely land you in the range with someone who has adequate training to mentor you, he said.

“It’s very hard, but we’ve managed to do OK,” Cimino said. “When you come in and face Roger and me, or whoever else is working here, you’re facing ex-military — all of us are — and we’re sizing you up for your demeanor. That’s the best we can do.”

A common question is whether they allow children to enter the range. It’s a question that Cimino has heard all too often, especially on the heels of the Arizona incident involving a 9-year-old girl who accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi in August 2014.

“We do let younger people in, but we certainly wouldn’t let them in with an automatic weapon; that’s for openers,” Cimino said.

“You know, unfortunately, there’s been a couple of accidents around the country,” he said. “Parents have let their child shoot a very short-barreled, fully automatic with the range people. I don’t understand, I just don’t know what they were thinking, especially that little girl.” 

Cimino does have fully automatic weapons available to rent — but not so fast. He’ll only do it on a selective basis for professionals, including SWAT, CIA, ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service, to name a few.

It’s kind of Cimino’s VIP lounge. 

Providing you or the person you are with have had adequate training, Cimino has a vast array of rentals on hand, including assault weapons and silenced weapons.

“You can rent any of the assault weapons — ARs, AKs, M-1s,” he said. “You can rent anything and go on the range. Generally, we rent any handgun for $20 for the day and you buy the ammunition. Rifles run between $30 and $50 for the day, plus ammunition.”

With the rise in custom-built rifles like the AR-15, Cimino, a licensed builder himself, says he’s weary of home-grown gunsmiths.

“When a guy comes in here and says, ‘I built that gun,’ I start to worry right off the bat because now he’s going to go on my range,” Cimino said. “He’s going to use that firearm, and I don’t know anything about that firearm.”

Cimino spoke of one such customer. “He had an AR. It was a home-built AR and it looked pretty nice, and he went in to shoot and he had a weird box of ammunition.”

One of the range rules is that if a weapon jams, the shooter is to stop whatever he or she is doing and find an employee for immediate assistance, he said.

The man with the weird ammunition manufactured in Turkey experienced a jam.

“Anyway, this one went off in the barrel,” Cimino said. “Through the grace of God, there wasn’t enough powder in the shell to push it very much farther than it did.”

The second round came up and couldn’t be fired because the tip of the projectile jammed into the bullet wedged in the barrel. If the second bullet had had enough room to fire, it would have struck the jammed bullet, potentially causing the rifle to explode.

Cimino also teaches firearms safety and concealed weapons classes in a realistic environment. Having the range allows Cimino to provide real-life training instead of using lasers or simulations.

“Getting a green customer who comes through this door, and they’re not tied to someone who showed them how to use a weapon, is really great for us here,” Cimino said. “It gives us a perfect opportunity to take someone from top to bottom and then we’re eternally grateful that we had that opportunity and when they leave here, we’re very comfortable that they can handle firearms.”

Cimino said his demographic has changed since he started offering classes. The number of women signing up for courses has grown from 10 percent three years ago to 50 percent, he said.

“And they don’t come in with their man or their husband. They’re coming in on their own or they’re coming in with other friends of theirs, other women.”

Cimino wants to enrich the shooting culture by teaching safety and respect for firearms.

“I think that everybody who shoots a firearm should have some type of training, end of story,” he said. “That’s what we believe.”

[email protected]

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(207) 777-3579

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(207) 225-3432

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