SDI: How Does Online Gunsmithing Work?

Ever wonder how online gunsmithing classes work? Rick Casner from the Sonoran Desert Institute fills us in. 


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About SDI


Sonoran Desert Institute is a DEAC accredited, online school that helps students learn the skills and techniques they’ll need to be successful in the firearms and unmanned technology industries. SDI’s faculty is comprised of professionals with decades of industry experience, and our programs are designed to combine modern learning methods, hands-on training options, and the flexibility of online education.

Sonoran Desert Institute was founded in 2000, and was approved for training by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education in 2001. The Institute was accredited in 2004 by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC is listed by the United States Department of Education as a recognized institutional accrediting agency for distance education. The DEAC is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

At its inception, the Institute offered Gunsmithing as a program, which ultimately became the foundation for SDI’s growth. Key to the success of the Institute is its comprehensive approach to easily understood curriculum, attention to providing quality service to its students, and the flexibility of its instructional model.

In 2012, Sonoran Desert Institute was acquired by the Trade Training Company, LLC. This transfer was approved by DEAC and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. In 2014, SDI introduced armorer courses as part of its programs.

Also in 2014, SDI applied to DEAC for Title IV Certification. In 2015, after receiving approval from DEAC, the institute submitted its application to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to offer Pell Grants and Direct Loans to students in the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology. This change was primarily prompted by the Department of Defense’s regulatory change linking eligibility for Active Duty Tuition Assistance to schools approved for Title IV funding. Recognizing the high percentage of military students in our student population, SDI deemed this as an important initiative. SDI began offering Title IV funding to students in January 2016. In January 2018, after receiving approval from Department of Education, SDI also began offering Title IV funding to students in the certificate program.

In June 2018, SDI was granted a 5-year renewal of accreditation and in fall of 2018, SDI transitioned to become an employee owned company (ESOP). SDI takes pride in upholding the standards of multiple regulatory bodies while continuing a student-centric focus on academic quality and superior service to students!

In January 2022, SDI introduced the School of Unmanned Technology and began to offer the Certificate in Unmanned Technology – Aerial Systems program.

Remote Learning

Some might wonder how online education is possible for hands-on things like gunsmithing. Casner admits he was skeptical when he first heard of SDI, before he even joined the school. He explained that at the center of gunsmithing is considerable amounts of theory that must be learned before you can get hands-on. This includes the theory behind each firearm type and the way everything works as a system. Once students have learned the theory, SDI sends out physical kits for students to learn on. This gives them the convenience of working from home. Oftentimes, students receive materials to use as references before they get into practical application to assist with fully understanding theory. 

Before I learned how to drive, my dad taught me how pistons, valves, and a clutch work. When I started driving a manual transmission, it made sense. The same applies to gunsmithing. If you understand the way something works, or is supposed to work, it helps you to be more effective and have better troubleshooting skills. 

SDI courses include physical textbooks, but are transitioning to more technology. Lectures will include video, animation, and writing to help students with different learning styles. While cutaway firearms have been used for years and are also great tools, animation and technology allow several processes to be shown simultaneously. 

Casner noted that to assist with the learning process, SDI students have access to dedicated professors who are readily available by phone and during office hours to answer questions. For those who prefer a different method, email and Zoom conferencing are also options. 


SDI offers both an associate (60 credit) and certificate (32 credit) program.

Both run year-round, giving the student flexibility on how quickly they complete the programs. The certificate program generally takes about a year, while the associate program takes approximately two years. These programs are not “learn at your own pace” as there is a structure, but they offer a flexibility that makes it easier for students with day jobs and families to complete them. (Students also don’t have to move!) 


Check out the Sonoran Desert Institute if you’re curious about or interested in remote gunsmithing courses! 

Contact SDI online:

Or by phone: 480-999-4767

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Gavin Gear

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