Morgan Hill resident Ryan Lokey, 28, spent more than two years acquiring a series of permits from all levels of government to open his new store in an inconspicuous, barely labeled unit of a strip mall in south Morgan Hill, but it was worth the wait because he is finally allowed to preserve and pass along his lifelong passion of precision firearms marksmanship to others.
Lokey opened Lokey Firearms on Vineyard Boulevard in August, with his parents, Dave and Gretchen, helping him run the store.
The gun dealer specializes in self-defense and tactical firearms, including popular varieties of revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, as well as high-powered AR-15 models, shotguns, and some long-range bolt-action instruments. An $11,000, 6-foot-long, .416-caliber Barrett model 82-A1, which can shoot accurately from up to 2,500 yards away and has been used by the military to detonate roadside bombs in overseas battle zones, greets customers as they enter the front door.
Lokey hasn’t sold one of those models yet, but it gives the customer – who is likely already familiar with firearms – an idea of what his inventory offers: “precision and accuracy.”
The store has been steadily busy since it opened, mainly catering to an unexpectedly high population of law enforcement officers who live in Morgan Hill and work for one of many agencies in surrounding jurisdictions.
“We had no idea how many law enforcement officers live in this town,” Ryan Lokey said. “That’s been our bread and butter.”
Purchasing a firearm – especially an AR, for example, that can range from $1,000 to $3,000 – is an important decision, and many customers spend a lot of time in the shop, sometimes making multiple trips to feel out which weapon is right for them. Lokey, who has been shooting in competitions since he was 11, enjoys helping customers through that process as much as he enjoys making a sale.
“It’s a big investment,” he said. “It’s something you’ll have forever, and pass on from generation to generation.”
Plus, he added, “Shooting is no fun if you’re not hitting your target.”
At the age of 11, Lokey started competing. He quickly became a member of the California State Shooting Team.
“I was a (National Rifle Association) distinguished marksman before I was driving,” said Lokey, who has no law enforcement or military experience. “I was shooting from 1,000 yards next to Marines and Army guys.”
After he graduated from high school in San Jose and had to start making a living, he worked in construction and heavy equipment operation. After a few years he realized even if he doesn’t have time to shoot as much as he used to, he could make a living pursuing and promoting his longtime passion.
“My grandfather told me, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Lokey said.
The shop, which is next-door to Box Seat Sports Grill, has only been open two months, but Lokey is already having fun. The shop “evolved” into a family business as Ryan’s parents joined him in the shop which is smaller than a 7-Eleven convenience store, but plenty busy.
“It takes more than one person to run the counter,” said Dave Lokey, 62, who was the general manager at a water treatment company before going to work for his son. A credentialed marksman himself, Dave is an NRA-certified shooting instructor.
Ryan said his grandfather was the first member of his family to put a gun in his hand. His great-uncle is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and his uncle is a sheriff’s deputy, he added.
Security is heavy at the shop, combining a list of specific measures required by authorities plus precautions added by the store’s owner, who has to protect an inventory that is almost as costly as it is deadly.
“We have a lot more security than the average gun shop,” Ryan Lokey said.
First, Lokey spent about two-and-a-half years acquiring numerous permits and licenses from federal, state and local authorities, allowing him to sell high-powered rifles, large-capacity magazines (or clips), and to sell firearms that only licensed current and former law enforcement personnel are permitted to purchase.
The shop has a closed-circuit security camera system which Lokey, his parents and the police department have live access to 24 hours a day.
The front and rear doors and windows are made of a reflective glass that outside passersby cannot see through. A collapsible iron gate on both front and rear entrances is closed each night, and a row of concrete pillars inside both doors is designed to prevent the more ambitious burglar from ramming a vehicle into the store.
And each night after he closes, Lokey has to remove all of his handguns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition from their display cases and wall racks, and lock them up in a safe.
Plus, Ryan and Dave Lokey carry visible handguns strapped to their belts while they’re working at the shop – another federal requirement for gun shop employees, Ryan said.
Morgan Hill police Capt. Shane Palsgrove said Lokey has been “responsive and responsible” in working with the city and implementing security measures since he settled on the location of the store in March.
“He has a lot of security measures in there to limit the risk,” Palsgrove said. “It was something we scrutinized very closely.”
Lokey doesn’t have any immediate plans to expand, though he wants to eventually carry more hunting-related firearms and ammo.
For now, the shop is busy enough. A steady stream of customers entered Friday afternoon, and it was difficult to get Ryan on the phone Monday as he was continually helping customers.
Another unique aspect of the shop’s inventory is they carry rifles made in Morgan Hill by Franklin Armory. Lokey has already seen customers opt for the Morgan Hill-made models after comparing them to Smith & Wesson rifles, which Lokey also carries.
“People see a rifle made in their hometown and they want to pick that up,” Lokey said.
Franklin Armory, which prefers to keep a low profile, has enjoyed doing business with Lokey Firearms.
“They’re intuitive businessmen who understand how to listen to the customer and help them find the fit they’re looking for,” said Jay Jacobson, president of Franklin Armory.
Lokey also hopes to attract the attention of cities and counties in the area who are looking to make large purchases for firearms or ammunition.
Morgan Hill police Chief David Swing said the city generally prefers local vendors when spending money and would consider buying from Lokey when and if they need to, though other factors such as price come into play.
“Whenever we look to purchase equipment, we always look to see if there’s a local vendor,” Swing said.