Has anyone gone to the Sonoran Desert Institute?

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We see it advertised on our favorite gun tuber channels. We see it on Instagram.

Had anyone actually gone to the SDI for a degree or diploma?

If so what was it like? Was it worth it? How hard was it to find a job afterwords? Did you have to start your own business?

I recently was laid off of my job and am thinking of different career options.

I'd love to hear about your experience!
 
I appreciate that they fund some of my favorite youtubers, but the only comments I've heard are negative.

That's hearsay though - I have no direct knowledge one way or another.
 
I have seen a lot of their ads on Fat Electrician YouTube videos. I looked at the syllabus and whatnot that is available online. I then read some reviews about their educational content. Essentially what I gathered out of that 2 hours worth of reading is that SDI is not a great school but it is better than nothing. What would be more desirable for a true gunsmith is full blown machine shop classes to competently run lathe, mill, CNC based tools, and wire EDM. After successfully mastering those machines a man is essentially capable of making any part imaginable, and that is the point at which learning how guns operate and the materials appropriate for given tasks. I quickly decided SDI was not something for me to consider or to recommend.
 
Sorry about getting laid off. Check with your state employment agency to see if they have education and training benefits that may offset tuition…

 
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Have a similar situation and finding re-training into an area that I have interest is a long starting journey. I've found it hard to absorb new material and especially so if pushing myself into an area that doesn't motivate. Long ago did some in the IT field but left it, now trying to get some of that tech absorbed by reading the various guides is in and out in a blink. LOL Not for me.

A local GS I talked with some years back about this. He has constant work now yet he cautioned that transitioning into his field he knows enough that cannot make a full run because of the sporadic work. He's been into it now for 20 years but those early years were very tough as he built up his clients. He has a pretty nice machine shop now though he still would like to buy some updated machines to improve his efficiency. He commented it is still tight that the business does not have the margin to buy as he'd like.
 
I saw a youtube video or two of people that actually attended. Reviews were fair, not raving. I attended a formal institution about 15 years ago and was curious how they compared.
 
The problem with the starting up a modern gunsmithing business model is that you will have to personally build your business one-brick-at-a time (no 4-6 franchises going live about town at once fulfilling gunsmithing issues) , read satisfying individual low margin profit for happy customers, whom may or may not decide to say something nice on the internet about their experience with your business entity. Tough road if one is a young person (any female gunsmiths ? not sure I have seen any on the net) trying to support his family.

The business capital for machining, tooling, building, insurance, taxes, licenses yadaah yadahh will make most loan officers balk
when they ask if you are applying for an unsecured loan ? HaHa.....what do you have we can attach as loan collateral sir, and don't say the equipment ?

Such a model implies one cannot hire several employees to do all the tasks to assist in gunsmithing, marketing, customer service etc....your gunsmith business namesake ball cap needs to be labeled such to spin-about to broadcast all the different individual tasks to execute in order to succeed. It will takes years if one pursues a "general" gunsmithing pathway. I get the impression as an outsider that the pursuit should be one of singular specialty, e.g. AR modifications, legacy firearm repairs and so on. Just compliance with BATFE regulations would be a monumental headache.

It seems going forward the individual gunsmiths industry will be one of a secondary interest to another full time employment job that pays the homestead costs.

I may well be naive on this topic. Bring the wiffle ball bats if you must.
 
A timely thread on the Snipers Hide forum. I've been a member for many years.
This is one topic today.
Considering specializing in barrel work.

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The problem with the starting up a modern gunsmithing business model is that you will have to personally build your business one-brick-at-a time (no 4-6 franchises going live about town at once fulfilling gunsmithing issues) , read satisfying individual low margin profit for happy customers, whom may or may not decide to say something nice on the internet about their experience with your business entity. Tough road if one is a young person (any female gunsmiths ? not sure I have seen any on the net) trying to support his family.

The business capital for machining, tooling, building, insurance, taxes, licenses yadaah yadahh will make most loan officers balk
when they ask if you are applying for an unsecured loan ? HaHa.....what do you have we can attach as loan collateral sir, and don't say the equipment ?

Such a model implies one cannot hire several employees to do all the tasks to assist in gunsmithing, marketing, customer service etc....your gunsmith business namesake ball cap needs to be labeled such to spin-about to broadcast all the different individual tasks to execute in order to succeed. It will takes years if one pursues a "general" gunsmithing pathway. I get the impression as an outsider that the pursuit should be one of singular specialty, e.g. AR modifications, legacy firearm repairs and so on. Just compliance with BATFE regulations would be a monumental headache.

It seems going forward the individual gunsmiths industry will be one of a secondary interest to another full time employment job that pays the homestead costs.

I may well be naive on this topic. Bring the wiffle ball bats if you must.
You are right on point a5werkes. Many of the people I went to gunsmith school with ended up gunsmithing as a part time thing. One exception where one could make it a full-time career is if they work for a manufacturer in production. I have found much better money in developing a specialty that I can teach as a firearms instructor. Once again I don't do it full time but it is a nice bonus to the full-time job.
 
You won't get rich doing gunsmith stuff. I do it as a sideline thing to make a little mad money. I do specialize in percussion revolvers and black powder rifles, no zip guns, strictly traditional guns and the occasional antique.
 
I never made any money at it. Had plenty of business for my part time work. I focused mostly on 1911s, S&W revolvers, and Ruger revolvers along with some sales. It was fun until it wasn't (I would have brought it to you tomorrow, but I need it yesterday). I resigned myself to the fact that I had to keep my full time job to support myself and allow my hobby to smei-pay for itself. Fortunately I made enough with my full time and other part time (National Guard/ Reserve) to afford the tools required and desired to do the work. I'm a tool freak. What can I say...
 
I've been hesitant to jump in here, but none of the local folks that I know who went to Sonoran has hung out a sign..

Several service people have taken their online courses under the GI Bill. I've kinda watched the process which consists of Sonoran sending "projects" for the student to finish. For instance, checkering or filing. Everything pretty simple from what I could see.

We do have several folks who are working w/ degrees from brick-and-mortar schools they attended and are doing fairly well. Of course, they had to attend that school. A couple did apprentice programs with established gunsmiths. Maybe three in a 100-mile radius have what I'd call productive businesses.

There is a lot of expense in equipment and FFL set-up. Spread over the years as a part-time endeavor may be the way to go. Anyway, a tough business to get established.
 
If I were at all tempted to give things a go it would likely be working on shotguns. Nobody out there is looking for a wrench to modify their Glock, and plenty have cigar boxes filled with old revolvers, but the guy who hunts with a shotgun will generally pay to have it fixed. Still the potential for serious profit seems dubious.

Over the years I’ve tried to incorporate various hobbies into money making ventures with some success; fixing abused bicycles, building fishing pole racks, and reconditioning kayaks to resell. Sometimes I made a crisp $20 for my several hours of effort, other times I doubled my money to the tune of a few hundred. Worth it to me to keep skills sharp but never a feasible livelihood.



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I can say the Lassen Community College gunsmithing program is very well done. I have taken several LE armorer courses from Bob Chavez, who heads it up.

They offer an actual multi-year program up in Susanville, Ca., so its time intensive for the full degree, but they also offer several summer courses on specific gunsmithing subjects as well.


Good luck finding what you are looking for. :thumbup:

Stay safe.
 
If I were at all tempted to give things a go it would likely be working on shotguns. Nobody out there is looking for a wrench to modify their Glock, and plenty have cigar boxes filled with old revolvers, but the guy who hunts with a shotgun will generally pay to have it fixed. Still the potential for serious profit seems dubious.

Over the years I’ve tried to incorporate various hobbies into money making ventures with some success; fixing abused bicycles, building fishing pole racks, and reconditioning kayaks to resell. Sometimes I made a crisp $20 for my several hours of effort, other times I doubled my money to the tune of a few hundred. Worth it to me to keep skills sharp but never a feasible livelihood.



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Funny you should mention shotguns. Except for pumps and autos, we don't have many here that will touch one. Superimposed and double barrels have lots of parts and are a close fit including even the cheaper Miroku-made Browning Citori's.

A bunch have ended up at my house, and for the most part, that's ok. I like working on them from time to time however, when someone walks through the door w/ a $20K Kreighoff, then I'm a gonna run.

The apprentice programs for fine shotguns are long and mostly overseas. Rich Cole, owner of Cole Fine Guns and Gunsmithing, went through Beretta's program which included time in every department. Andrew Wertenberger Chief gunsmith of Cesar Geirini went through training in CG's program. If you want a gun fitting done at Guirini, it helps to speak a little Italian to get through the accents. Anyway, fine shotguns be a whole 'nother ballgame.
 
The biggest reason I gave up getting paid for working on guns is gun owners.
They all expect immediate service and don't want to pay for it. Because they're "good" customers.
I went to the US gooberment's school of fixin guns. Worked for them from 21y 6m.
 
When it comes to higher skilled technical work like gunsmithing, watchmaking, etc, you cannot learn it through an online or correspondence course.
Put it this way, if you were an aircraft owner, who'd you want working on your engine or air frame.... a guy who took an online course, or the man who attended a professional training school?

Here's the hard, cold facts about gunsmithing.

If you're planning on being in the business as a pro, you're not going to get there with a correspondence or some kind of online course.
Businesses that hire gunsmiths want people who they KNOW have learned the job and can do the work.
That means a diploma from a GOOD attendance school like Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad College, Lassen College, or one of the others.
Show up looking for a job as a gunsmith with a correspondence course or online "diploma", and they'll file your application in the waste can.
They may be nice enough to not laugh in your face while they do it.
This is just the way it is.
They need PROVEN skills and knowledge, and you don't get that by mail or online.
You can get a correspondence course and start your own business, but I'll take any amount of money that you'll bust out in less than a year.

Working as an apprentice to an established gunsmith.... first there are almost no gunsmiths who take on an apprentice, and YOU pay THEM.
Few businesses will hire an apprentice trained man because usually they've never heard of your trainer and without a national reputation his recommendation is worthless.

A machine shop course to teach you how to run a lathe and milling machine is very good to have, but DO NOT think that being a good machinist makes you a good gunsmith.
Most good gunsmiths are good machinist, but most good machinist's are NOT qualified to be gunsmiths, and often are terrible at it.
There's the idea that a real gunsmith is standing over a huge milling machine making an intricate part.
A real gunsmith spends the vast amount of his time sitting at a bench with screwdrivers and stones working on some small part.

Military and police armorers and are NOT gunsmith's.
For the most part, they're parts switchers. They remove defective parts and drop in new parts.
If a gun needs more involved repairs, they're sent to a higher level to the REAL gunsmiths.
True military gunsmith's have a much higher level of training, and are almost always career military personnel. Getting into this level isn't easy.
At the very top are the true gunsmiths working for military marksmanship or special operations units.
There are very few of these people and they're the absolute cream of the crop with many years of training and experience.
Police armorers are almost badge wearing cops, and these days some guns are shipped back to the factory and the cop is issued a temp gun for use.

Starting up a gunsmith business takes BIG bucks for machinery and tools. You'd be starting off COLD with no customer base, and you'll starve out quickly for simple lack of paying customers.
Remember, something like 40% of all business's bust out, no matter WHAT they are or who's running them.
That's simply new business attrition.

Also, remember as a self-employed gunsmith, you're NOT a gunsmith.....You're really a businessman who gets to spend a few hours a day doing gunsmithing.
MOST of your day is spent doing businessman things like filling out forms for the government, talking to potential customers, ordering materials and parts, and dealing with unreasonable customers.
If you're lucky, you'll get to do a little gun work somewhere in there.

The only way to make it starting out on your own is to have a "day job" and gunsmith on the side.
Still, very few make it this way either.
It's tough to put in 8 hours on the main job, then come home and do a little gunsmithing, and STILL have to do all the businessman stuff.

If you're really serious about this, bite the bullet and go to the best attendance school you can.
At least 6 months to a year before you graduate, start looking for a job.
By graduation day, you should have a FIRM job offer.
Go to work for a company like one of the gun makers, a custom gun maker, the government, or for one of the industries who employ gunsmiths for research projects.

Spend some time working for the OTHER guys. THEY'LL be doing all the businessman stuff while you put in a solid 8 hours gunsmithing and really learning the trade.
After you've built up your skills, established your reputation as a known quantity in the industry, built up a customer contact base, and bought the equipment a little at a time, THEN you can go out on your own.
However, you're STILL subject to that 40% bust-out rate for new businesses.

Last, DO NOT expect to make a lot of money as a gunsmith.
If you figure it by the hour, most self-employed gunsmiths are making not much more than minimum wage.
Few if any of them are working ONLY 40 hour weeks.
The only gunsmiths who wear nice watches or drive nice cars are people who own large gun businesses and employ gunsmiths who do the actual work.

To be a gunsmith you pretty much have to be one of those odd craftsmen who gets his satisfaction doing high quality work without much in the way of financial return.
There's an old NOT joke...."Hows a large pizza and a gunsmith alike? Neither can feed a family of 4".
 
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