Having never fired a gun before in my life, I was eager to take up an invitation to join the Amherst police Aug. 16 for weapons training at the Amherst Sportsman’s Club on Cooper Foster Park Road.
The city’s officers make it out to the range about four times each year to hone their skills.
“Some of it’s basic stuff and some is more advanced,” said Lt. Dan Makruski. “We’ll be back here in November after the time change so we can do this in the dark with some flashlights.”
Makruski showed me the proper loading and firing procedure for a Glock 21 .45-caliber pistol and an M4 rifle. After walking out to the range, he continued to instruct me as I fired off rounds with both guns.
The feeling of responsibility was almost overwhelming at first, I told Makruski. I was surprised by the Glock’s kick-back and the accuracy of the M4 for a first-time shooter.
He was very patient and informative, having me fire from both a stationary position and while moving side-to-side.
“Training has gotten a bit easier for officers,” he said. “Officers now have to hit 20 of 25 shots for qualification and it used to be 40 of 50. I’m not a big fan of things getting easier. To me, things should be more difficult as the world gets more difficult. A lot of departments were hurting for money after the recession hit and some cutbacks affected training.”
He said the Amherst police recently switched over to the Glock 21 model for about $75 apiece.
“We were able to trade in our old ones and they went toward night sights on our new guns,” he said. “It’s not a bad deal at all. About 30 to 40 percent of departments across the country are going to 9mm models. That lets you carry a few more rounds and those guns may be a little easier to shoot. Our officers are confident in their skills with the Glocks, though. The majority of our guys would rather shoot what we have.”
For new gun owners or inexperienced shooters, Makruski said not to go cheap.
“You get what you pay for with a gun,” he said. “If you buy a cheap, garbage gun it’s not going to last you very long. You don’t always need to go top-of-the-line, but a cheap weapon isn’t going to do you any favors marksmanship-wise.”
Retirees joined the officers that day to take part in the training. A group of officers also took part in an indoor stun gun tutorial.
“Qualified retirees can fire their handgun and carry pretty much anywhere with a concealed carry license,” said Makruski. “It’s pretty much just like having a regular concealed carry license.”
William Hall, Amherst police chief for 23 years before retiring in 2000, was on hand to take part in the training.
“There’s a huge sense of deja vu,” he said. “You get to see all of the new guys and it’s good to meet the ones that came in after I left. We didn’t come out here as often in my day. We were lucky to get here two times in a year because the city didn’t help with ammunition costs back then.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times Amherst police officers, sometimes joined by retirees, go to the Amherst Sportsmans Club on Cooper Foster Park Road for weapons training three to four times a year.