June 26, 2013STARK — Jacques "Jake" Pelletier, a native of Dummer who graduated in 1985 from Berlin High School, and his wife Crystal Pelletier, are both 20-year career Marines who have retired to Stark and together operate Raven Firearms Training (RFT), using the Dalton Gang Shooting Club's range in Dalton.
Once the couple finished building a house on Percy Peaks Road to replace a cabin that was already on the property they had purchased back in 2008, they began to focus on fulfilling Jake's long-held dream of starting a business that would meet the goals in their shooting school's two taglines: "Quality firearms instruction at an affordable price" and "Defensive skills for responsible citizens and armed professionals."
"Raven Firearms Training offers instruction to a variety of shooters, from beginners who have never touched a firearm, to expert marksmen looking to improve or add to their skills," Jake explained over lunch last week in a Lancaster restaurant. Raven offers a number of courses, from introductory to advanced concealed carry and tactical classes, designed for law enforcement. Crystal said she also offers some women-only courses, but many more courses are made up of both men and women.
"The training I offer helps women become comfortable and confident around guns in a relaxed environment," she said. "RFT uses a variety of guns to teach women how to safely handle and shoot a firearm."
When asked what brings most of their clients to their classes, Crystal replied, "Self-defense." She said she based this answer on the results of a pre-training questionnaire that clients are asked to fill out. They offer introductory courses twice a month, and regular follow-on classes. They offer classes in all kinds of guns: handguns, shotguns, and rifles.
"We love what we do, and when we see how much our students learn and how they become confident — not complacent — in their shooting skill, we both feel good," Jake said.
"We take training and safety very, very seriously," he continued. "We're able to offer the same training here in the North Country as larger places south of here at half the price."
"We're getting a lot of great reviews and repeat customers; running a shooting school is a lot of fun and very rewarding," Crystal said.
Jake has been appointed the firearms instructor for the Lancaster Police Department.
Some people carry a stereotype in their head that someone who carries a gun is looking for a fight, Jake acknowledged. In fact, he explained, their training includes techniques to avoid confrontation. "Drawing a gun is a last resort," Jake said.
Asked to talk a little about their backgrounds, Jake said that he had attended St. Patrick's school in Berlin and had enlisted in the Marines in 1984 while still a Berlin High student in the Class of 1985. His dad, Ted Pelletier, still lives in Dummer. When asked why they chose "raven" as the name of their shooting school, Jake replied that he had learned to call in ravens when he was a kid.
"I always planned to come back to Coös County," he said.
Crystal laughed and added, "He always said he was in 'exile' no matter where he was stationed or deployed." The couple met in California.
Crystal said she was born in South Carolina and raised in a small town in Maryland. When asked why she enlisted, she replied, "I was looking for adventure and travel." Jake chuckled when he pointed out, "She was always one rank ahead of me; she was a sergeant when I was a corporal."
Jake enjoys the time in the woods he spends hunting deer, but said that this last fall was his worst year. "I only saw one shootable deer and that was during the muzzleloader season," he explained. "I had it mind what I wanted to shoot, and I let this one pass me by."
More information is available on Raven's website at www.RavenFirearmsTraining.com; its business phone number is 636-2167.