The Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) is a reputable distance learning institution that has been serving residents of Arizona and its surrounding states since 1921. It is originally created as a gunsmithing school that is licensed to the National Radio Institute (NRI); the institute itself is formerly held by the McGraw-Hill Corporation, who in 1999 had authorized SDI to offer other academic programs. The institute is divided into three schools; namely, the School of Real Estate & Construction, the School of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Firearms Technology. It is its gunsmithing school where it derives much of its present reputation and high standing.
The SDI School of Firearms Technology is considered to be the oldest continuing home study and distance learning gunsmithing program in the U.S. It was founded in 1921 as the School of Gunsmithing by Robert Sally, a former World War I artillery officer and National Rifle Association (NRA) member, in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Sally was the great-grandfather of former SDI president and current owner Thomas Kube.) It was originally set up to carry on Sally’s interest in firearms and the subsequent experience that he had gained while serving in the military.
Today, the SDI School of Firearms Technology offers two gunsmithing programs: The Gunsmithing Certificate Program and the Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree in Firearms Technology. Both are home-based educational programs that are geared to provide students with the best gunsmithing instruction and training without them ever having to attend a formal academic institution. Gun hobbyists, collectors, competitive shooters, and other interested persons are all welcome to join the program. They are considered to be among the most comprehensive among the many gunsmithing degree programs that are being offered in the U.S. today.
The SDI Gunsmithing Certificate program provides its graduates with a certificate in gunsmithing, or 48 semester credit hours of academic work for those who are taking up a related applied or practical sciences course. Certificate holders are widely recognized as fully-qualified and expert gunsmiths who are trained on a tried and tested home-based gunsmithing curriculum. Participants of the program undergo eight training modules with each providing a step-by-step guide on the many fields that are to be found in gunsmithing. Each of the modules includes studies on the fundamentals of gunsmithing, troubleshooting, metal engraving, polishing, and refinishing, and the overall nature of the gunsmithing business. Within each module, students will learn the important aspects of firearms and everything related to them in detail, all of which can be completed in just 48 weeks. Your tuition will not only cover all the lessons and learning materials, but it will also include a comprehensive gunsmith tool and cleaning kit, gunsmithing catalogs, and SDI’s very own Achievement Kit, which is a set of special tools that will aid you on your training.
The SDI Associate of Science Degree in Firearms Technology, on the other hand, provides you with 60 semester credit hours of instruction and hands-on training scheduled over semesters of 16 weeks each. The course’s emphasis is on firearm customization and modification. It aims to provide its students with a thorough and deep understanding of how firearms work, thereby leading to a more personal level of gun expertise. Much of the course work is geared towards practical applications and hands-on knowledge. Among the stated objectives of this course include the identification of firearms, how to assemble and disassemble them, how to put in optic and metallic sights on firearms, correct rifle and handgun barrel work, and others. Some of the courses that are included in this program include Introduction to Firearms, Troubleshooting Firearms, Basic Hand Tools Lab, Firearms Technology, and Advanced Ballistics. The program also provides interested students to apply for a Senior Project where they can hone in their skills and knowledge in a professional setting. Just like the Gunsmithing Certificate course, those who take up this course will be provided with just about everything that they will need to study gunsmithing on their own.
The cost of both gunsmithing programs at SDI might prove to be a little steep for most, given the high quality of instruction that you can expect from them. The total tuition for the Gunsmithing Certificate program is $2,480; you can make an advance downpayment of $440 with zero-interest monthly payments thereafter at $170 each. The Associate of Science Degree in Firearms Technology, on the other hand, costs $10,200, which is payable each semester with amounts ranging from $2,210 to $2,890, depending on the number of semester credit hours that you enroll in. Military personnel can also take up these courses through the U.S. Military Forces Active Duty Tuition Assistance, the Military Tuition Assistance Reimbursement, and the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Education Services programs. Civilians, meanwhile, can apply for company or business reimbursement as a part of their current employee benefit programs, and through the favorable pricing options that SDI provides for those who undertake its career training facility.
SDI apparently does not offer job placement services for its gunsmithing graduates. However, it makes up for this by the relatively high level of competency and skill level that it imparts on its graduates, it being recognized among the pioneers of the home study gunsmithing program in the U.S. It has also partnered with leading businesses and institutions in the gunsmithing and firearm fields, including the NRA, Brownells, Midway, the American Custom Gunmakers Guild (ACGG), and the Firearms Engravers Guild of America (FEGA), all of which can readily take up the services of highly-qualified gunsmithing graduates from SDI.
The SDI School of Firearms Technology webpage, http://www.sdi.edu/schoolofgunsmithing.html, provides a wealth of information for those who are interested to take up the institute’s Gunsmithing Certificate and Associate of Science in Firearms Technology course. If you want more information on the school itself, you can send an email at [email protected] or call them at (480)314-2102. The institute itself is located at 10245 East Via Linda, Suite 110, Scottsdale, Arizona 85258.