New Oak Harbor business aims to educate gun buyers

Selling firearms isn’t where the transaction ends for Dean and Dawn Cox, owners of Snowowl Arms and Training Facility.

The Coxes said they always wanted to open a gun store, but aimed to set themselves apart from the competition by providing training geared toward first-time gun owners.

“Other gun shops just sell guns. They don’t provide the training that is needed for first time gun owners,” said Paul Burt, a customer and owner of Burt’s Saw &Mower.

“(Dean) has a knowledge of what’s going on,” Burt said.

Dean Cox is a Navy chief petty officer and master-at-arms with 18 years active duty and five years in the reserves. He also has 14 years in military law enforcement and 10 years as an instructor training supervisor.

Dean explained that he has always loved firearms and it was his dream to open his own range.

Dawn Cox said she encouraged her husband’s goal of business ownership, and she was on hand for the opening of Snowowl in August.

Dean Cox’s goal was to have a full outdoor range, but said they were unable to obtain financing for an actual range.

“Once you put gun store or gun range on an application, the interest seems to dry up very quickly,” Dean Cox said.

While their future plans still include opening their own firing range, Dean and Dawn offer an indoor laser range where Dean teaches the fundamentals of gun safety and marksmanship with realistic Glock-like pistols.

Dean Cox said it is a very effective training tool because customers do not have to purchase costly ammunition.

Dean said he understands that there is no substitution for the real thing, though, so he often takes his students for live-fire training at North Whidbey Sportsman Assn.

The association is extremely supportive of the work he is doing in teaching firearms safety and educating gun owners, Dean said.

On Whidbey, there is an abundance of advanced firearm training available, Dean said, but very little basic safety and fundamentals training for new gun owners.

Dean added that obtaining licensing was surprisingly easy. His federal firearms license allows him to conduct gun sales as well as gun transfers for customers wanting to conduct private sales of their current firearms.

“Our business model is not solely supported by selling guns,” said Dean.

Snowowl, he explained, averages only about 10 gun sales per month. The rest of the business is buoyed by the sale of accessories, including flashlights, knives and holsters.

While he’s the expert on firearms and training, Dean Cox said Dawn is the brains behind the business operations.

It is Dawn’s love for snow owls that resulted in the business’s name and logo.

Dawn Cox has a bachelor’s degree in health administration and is only six classes shy of completing her master’s degree in business administration.

Dean said he didn’t launch the business to make a fortune, but rather because of his love of guns.

“I didn’t want a real job after retirement,” he said.

Business has been slow but steady, and plans include adding more classes and, evenutally, offering a monthly Ladies Night.

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