Sonoran Desert Institute

All the Latest News, Reviews and Developments happening with the Sonoran Desert Institute!

The 5 “W”s (And 1 “H”) of Visiting Your Local Gun Store, Part 1

The local gun store is a sometimes strange, often wondrous place. It’s an amazing way to get your hands on products you might be interested in but can’t normally reach, and often their used inventory is unbeatable in diversity and price — I’m a sucker for antiques, myself.

We’re going to take a moment or two and break down the “Who,” “What,” and “When” of visiting your local gun store. Maybe we can help you with your next trip!

Who- Who are you about to be dealing with? Is this a gun store you’re familiar with? A firearm salesman you’re familiar with? If not, have you read reviews on the store or heard about it from friends? This kind of information is vitally important to ensure you get the best for your money without ticking off your local small businessman. I’ll give you an example:

Two of my favorite local gun vendors, William and John, both own small firearms businesses, but operate them in very different ways.

John is an estate sale specialist, often with the majority of his firearms inventory being antiques. He exclusively sells used inventory. He prices his used inventory high intentionally- he’s one of those guys that doesn’t consider a sale a good deal unless he’s haggled for at least a quarter hour.

William is completely different. His inventory is smaller, and tends to be evenly split between used and new inventory, where he specializes in modern, affordable firearms and optics. When William sets a price on a piece of used inventory, he has set it as low as he can while still being profitable. If you bring him cash, he might be able to let you out the door for the tag price — that’s about as good a cut as you can hope for.

Both are perfectly valid ways to run a business — there’s nothing wrong with a little haggling, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with starting your prices low for the sake of your customers. However, if you approach one as you’d approach the other, you’re either going to overpay or offend a small businessman who’s already doing his best. Those are both real people, by the way, and I made the aforementioned mistake both ways before I realized I needed to prepare myself a little better — so there’s no judgment, here.

Homework is going to be your friend.

What- This one’s easy — What do you want? What are you hoping to get out of this trip? Is it ammo? Is it a rifle sling and case? Are you finally able to pull the trigger (ha!) on a new optic? Are you getting a new firearm? Do you want to raid the used firearm collection for a gem? Do you want to just shoot the breeze with the owner during a slow hour?

These are all absolutely acceptable reasons to check out a local gun store, and you can have more than one reason to go — but know why you want to go if you value your budget.

If you don’t care about your financial well-being, well, I wish you Godspeed and good hunting.

When- When are you planning on buying your intended product? Is this an immediate purchase, or are you laying some groundwork for a purchase or two down the road?

If you’re doing some on-the-ground research, it’s often a good idea to mention it to the salesman/owner. They might be able to help you anticipate future sales or updated models coming down the pipeline you may not yet be aware of. Plus, if you’ve got something you’d like to have in a month, you might be able to order it through them, minimizing the threat of whatever item you’re looking for being out of stock.

Have fun, and be prepared! We will be here shortly with the second part of this series: Where, Why, and How!

Read more

10 Rules You’ll Want to Consider at Your Local Gun Show

Most of us within the gun industry have been to more than our fair share of gun shows — they’re fun, a great way to pick up that one thing your spouse doesn’t want you to spend money on, and they’re a great way to network with other enthusiasts in the community.

I imagine that most of you have a pretty good idea already what to look for (and what not to look for) when you hit that showroom floor. That being said, recent tragedies among my friends (including one nervously asking me if a Kel-Tec PMR-30 was worth more than $600)  have led me to create a list of rules — dos and don’ts at your local gun show.

File:Rembrandt - Moses with the Ten Commandments - Google Art Project.jpg

Don’t think of it as “Joey’s Ten Commandments,” rather just consider it “Joey’s Ten Things You Might Want to Consider.”

Please feel free to treat this with a grain of salt. There is, of course, an exception to any rule, and only Sith deal in absolutes.

Without any further ado, let’s dive in:

  1. If you’ve got a gun show that is running over multiple days, go on the last day — if you can, go during the last couple of hours.
    If you’ve got a gun show that’s a one-day affair (I don’t think I have been to one that short-lived personally) definitely go during the last couple of hours. It’s the same rule as a yard sale. Deals get made when the reality of lugging a gun home comes closer and closer.
  2. If you’re coming in with a firearm you intend to sell, either don’t sell to a gun shop or be prepared to accept a whole heck of a lot less than you want for it.
    It’s nothing against gun shops — they just have to make a living! Of course, with any private transactions please consult your local laws so you know that what you are doing is well on the right side of the law.
  3. Know your state laws. Period.
    Same goes for city and/or county laws.
  4. If you’re coming in with a firearm of any kind, you’ll almost certainly be asked to check it. Make sure it is unloaded before you go in.
    Checked it? Good. Check it again.
  5. When you enter, take a moment and breathe.
    Some of the worst transactions made in a gun show are made because people allow themselves to become overly-hyped by all the firearms around them. I can’t blame them — but you want to be a cool customer.
  6. Before making a purchase, look at every single table at the show.
    It might take 30 minutes — it generally takes me about two hours, but I’m pokey. It can save you loads of money, and gives you time to think about your haggling strategy. Plus. Guns are fun.
  7. Use extreme caution when purchasing a new firearm from a gun show.
    Very often, guns will be marked up much higher than in your local gun store or online. Come into the show having done your research on the firearm(s) you want.
  8. Haggle with sellers on used inventory.
    The sweeping majority of gun shop owners will mark up their second-hand wares in anticipation of an offer below their list price. Don’t be rude — just get the best you can for your money. They’re doing the same — it’s the wonder of the haggle!
  9. Do not allow yourself to compromise on a piece of gear that you had your heart set on before you got in just because you want to have left the show with something. Be patient –you’ll be so much happier. That off-brand scope isn’t likely to be the exact same as what you had your heart set on, even it’s perfectly good in its own right!
  10. Someone will be selling jerky. Sample that jerky.
    It will be excellent.

Now, I’m not the be-all, end-all in firearms authority. This might surprise you, but I’m not even the second to the be-all, end-all in the firearms community. So, I want to hear from you: what should be added to this list? What do you disagree with? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Read more

Sonoran Desert Institute Faculty Hightlight: Master Gunsmith Kip Carpenter

For some, gunsmithing is a job. For others, a hobby. But for Kip Carpenter, it is a way of life. The ever-savvy gunsmith is a master of his trade and has the experience to back up all his learning, both in the classroom and in life. As a young man, Kip got into gunsmithing with a friend and learned from his friend’s father, and learned how to shoot from his own father. He was also instructed by his god-father, a gunsmith and professional shooter.  Kip began gunsmithing when he was just 14 years old, an age where most haven’t even fired their first pistol. At this time he split his love for gunsmithing with another hobby, playing the guitar. Shortly after this Kip started reading up on anything he could get his hands on about gun repair, and ever since then we’ve been witnesses to history in the making.

Kip has amassed a treasure trove of certifications during his time as a gunsmith. His credentials include being a certified pistol smith, shotgun smith, rifle smith, rimfire rifle smith,  and advanced glock armorer. He also earned Armorer’s Certificate from Barrett Firearms on all of their long range rifles. The accomplishments don’t end there, as Kip is also a certified NRA instructor. Eventually, his passion and expertise came together and Kip opened up a shop in Colombia, Tennessee, where had moved to in order to help take care of his ailing father. While in the small town, Kip quickly noticed that the they were in dire need of a gunsmith. From enthusiast, to student, to businessman, Kip’s gunsmithing career has completed the cycle, as he is now not only an instructor at SDI, but also our Master Gunman. SDI’s VP of Academic Affairs Mike Olson perfectly summed up what Kip means to the institute.

“As a member of our faculty, Kip Carpenter has guided and mentored SDI students for years. His dedication to our student body has been demonstrated time and again by his willingness to work one-on-one with his students, help other faculty members, and answer any ‘gun question’ under the sun. In his new role as Master Gunsmith, Kip will lend his 30-plus years of experience in the firearms industry to guide the Department of Curriculum and Assessment in the development and revision of our courses while still bringing his expertise to SDI’s students in the classroom.”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, Kip really loves what he does. In fact, the only thing that Kip may be more passionate about is teaching. Being able to share all the knowledge he’s gained with the next generation of gunsmiths is what Kip loves most about his job. Their inquisitive nature and desire to learn as much as they can about the craft of gunsmithing reminds Kip asking as many questions as he could in his beginnings. Don’t take my word for it, Kip sums it up perfectly himself.

“What I love the most about being an instructor is passing on the knowledge and history to a new generation of future gunsmiths, so the art of gunsmithing will continue long after I am gone. I also love the questions these young men and women ask me it reminds me of me; I would ask all kinds of questions to gain any knowledge I could and I see the same desire in our students and it makes me so proud of them! I tell you I have the greatest job in the world being at SDI”

So what advice does this Master Gunsmith have for those interested in getting into the trade?

  1. Learn all you can learn from reading books to hands on to just asking question. The master admits that he’s still learning till this day.
  2. Have confidence in yourself and do not be afraid to mess up it happens you learn from it and move on!
  3. Don’t commit to anything you are not trained to do it will just get you in a bind with the customer and damage your reputation, also be completely honest!
  4. Always obey the laws!!
  5. Enjoy what you do and take pride in your work and work space! No one wants to leave their firearm with someone who seems unprofessional or disorganized.

SDI gives Kip the ability to share his love and knowledge with young up-and-coming gunsmiths and he couldn’t be anymore grateful. Kip has been with SDI for three years and sees the school as one big, happy family. Everyone from SDI from the faculty to the students are thankful to have Kip on the team and hope he’ll be with us for many years to come.


Read more

Medal of Honor Highlight: Ed “Too Tall” Freeman and the Battle of Ia Drang

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest, most prestigious decoration awarded to those servicemen and women for gallantry and bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Fewer than 4,000 individuals of the millions who have served between its inception in 1863 and today have received it, and a great many of them received it posthumously.

This is one of their many stories. All information provided in this article is provided by Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

Ed Freeman, born 1927 in Neely, Mississippi, was a veteran of three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and more famously the Vietnam War.

Freeman actually served in World War II as a Navy man and the Korean War as an infantryman — at an incredible 6’4″, the man was actually considered too tall to be a pilot.

In 1955, the height limit for pilot school was raised, however, and Freeman was finally able to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Initially, Too Tall — the nickname stuck — flew fixed-wing aircraft. That didn’t last for long, however. He soon switched to helicopters.

You may think you know of Too Tall’s exploits from the hit war film We Were Soldiers, and while the movie does an excellent job portraying a large portion of the events surrounding Freeman’s actions, it doesn’t fully capture the context in which he performed what he did.

Freeman flew a battalion to the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 to engage North Vietnamese forces in what would turn out to be the first major battle of the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately for those being transported, after they were dropped off it was discovered that they were wildly outnumbered. Ammunition and medical supplies were drained quickly as casualties climbed at an alarming rate.

The fighting was so fierce, in fact, that medevac helicopters refused to fly in and pick up the wounded. The request was made of Freeman’s 16-helicopter unit for volunteers to extract wounded and bring in supplies.

Freeman stepped up. Freeman’s unit commander, Major Bruce Crandall, stepped up. That’s it.

The two men flew multiple times into a tiny, emergency landing zone created because the original landing zone was compromised.

The emergency landing zone was about 100 yards from heavy fighting, and the lightly-armored UH-1 received multiple hits from small arms fire.

Freeman carried out 14 separate emergency rescue missions and extracted dozens of wounded, many of which wouldn’t have survived without his bravery.

Freeman and his commander kept what remained of the battalion alive. Too Tall was commended for his actions, but did not receive the Medal of Honor until George Bush presented it to him, for his gallantry and bravery far beyond what was required of him, in 2001.

Remember his name.

What do you think about this story? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know your thoughts!

Read more

Medal of Honor Highlight: Thomas Hudner, Korea’s First Nominee

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest, most prestigious decoration awarded to those servicemen and women for gallantry and bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Fewer than 4,000 individuals of the millions who have served between its inception in 1863 and today have received it, and a great many of them received it posthumously.

This is one of their many stories. All information provided in this article is provided by Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

Thomas Hudner, born in 1924, had no real plans on flying a plane when he graduated the United States Naval Academy in 1946. Not too long after he had entered the service, however, he had both served aboard ship and at Pearl Harbor and wanted a greater challenge. He volunteered for flight school.

He became a F4U Corsair Pilot.

Image result for f4u corsair

By late 1950, the young flier was serving over the skies of Korea in the first of the “hot” wars sparked by the Cold War.

On December 4, Lieutenant Hudner was flying his plane with five others on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Korea. Hudner was wingman to one Jesse Brown, who happened to be the Navy’s first black pilot.

While Brown was strafing enemy positions, he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. He was unable to bail out or escape the area thanks to his current altitude and the height of surrounding mountains. Hudner helped Brown attempt a crash landing, and miraculously, Brown survived that landing.

Brown had managed to crash-land his plane, wheels down, in a nearby clearing. However, as one might expect, it hadn’t gone perfectly, and the fuselage was badly damaged, pinning Brown in the cockpit in the frigid North Korean clearing.

Hudner couldn’t stand for that.

Figuring one miraculous landing wasn’t good enough, and knowing rescue helicopters were a significant distance away, Hudner landed his own plane in a hilly area. He left his plane and braved the snow-blanketed landscape to reach Brown.

The news wasn’t good. Brown’s leg was clearly crushed, and Hudner wasn’t able to extract him by himself.

Hudner did the next-best thing — all that he could. Unwilling to consign his comrade to oblivion alone, Hudner continually packed the smoking engine with snow and talking to the struggling Brown as he lapsed in and out of consciousness all the way until a rescue helicopter arrived. Even then, the unflappable Hudner worked with rescue for forty-five minutes desperately trying to extract Brown.

Brown passed in that clearing.

Hudner and the helicopter pilot were forced to return to base camp, and later on the captain of the Leyte, the carrier Brown and Hudner were assigned, ordered the downed plane napalmed so that the body could not be extracted by the enemy, and so that Brown could have a warrior’s funeral.

For Hudner’s acts above and beyond the call of duty, Hudner received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman on April 13, 1951. Jesse Brown posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Remember their names today.

What do you think about this story? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Read more

SDI’s New Headquarters Grand Opening a MASSIVE SUCCESS!!

As most probably know, Sonoran Desert Institute moved headquarters to 1555 W University Dr Ste 103, Tempe, AZ, punctuated with an official grand opening event March 2.

What some of our remote SDI family might not know is how well that grand opening went!

The SDI Grand Opening event was an absolute blast. With better than 100 folks in attendance, and plenty of food to go around, the air was laced with energy as folks witnessed our new headquarters’ debut.

“As an online school, we don’t always get to see our students, graduates, and faculty,” Traci Lee, President of SDI, commented. “It was so motivating to have the energy of those groups participating in the grand opening event!”

“Nothing inspires me more than to hear the success stories from our graduates!”

“The Grand Opening was a huge success!” Jennifer McInnis, Vice President of Growth and Marketing, added. “We got to meet SDI students and grads and their families, talk with community leaders, and really show everybody what SDI is all about.”

Among the members of the community in attendance included Tempe city council member Robin Arredondo-Savage — an avid proponent of education — one of many delighted to welcome us into the community!

Funnily enough, Mike Olson, Vice President of Academic Affairs, noted that same excited energy indicated by McInnis and Lee in the opportunity he saw:

“For me, the theme of the day was opportunity: the opportunity for SDI to grow both in size and capability; the opportunity our organization brings to Tempe as a successful business; the opportunity that distance education creates by offering access to high quality education to individuals nationwide; and of course, the opportunities that Sgt. Michael Beckerman’s memory imparts on potential future students.”

The Sgt. Michael Beckerman Military and Veteran Services office’s opening, too, brought focus to an already momentous day. Our Military and Veteran Services office is named after an SDI student who lost his life on deployment, and at its dedication we were blessed to have members of his family in attendance, including his mother and daughter.

“The most emotional part of the day was the dedication of the Sgt. Michael Beckerman Military and Veteran Services office,” McInnis reflected.  “Michael’s family was on hand, and I think it’s really meaningful that his story will forever be a part of our story at SDI.”
The attendance of our friends, family, and new community helped to usher in a new era for SDI — we couldn’t be happier.

Read more

Know Your Firearms History: The German PAK 40 [WITH VIDEO]

As Americans, we are lucky to live in the age in which we do.

Sure, we have a mess of problems, but we have made a lot of exciting concepts a reality: everyone gets a vote (if you’re not a felon), violent crime is far less than it has been in recent decades, despite what some would have you believe, and in the field, we have the world’s best and most advanced military safeguarding our freedoms.

We’re also incredibly lucky we don’t have to contend with PAK 40s anymore, as our fathers, grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers had to do.

The PAK 40 is one of those inventions turned out by Germany during the Second World War that showed that not only did the United States need to up its technological game, but they were way late to the party.

For those unfamiliar with this massive firearm, the PAK 40 was an anti-tank artillery piece created by Germany to upgrade their anti-tank arsenal in the face of ever-increasing levels of proficiency in Soviet armor.

File:Pak40 cfb borden 3.JPG

As most of you are already aware, the back half of the 1930s saw a race between the major powers to see who could hold the technological advantage when it came to arms and armor. One of the resulting creations — really a product of general German rearmament — was the PAK 36 — a 3.7 mm, which the Tank Encyclopedia claims to be the first German anti-tank gun.

The piece acquitted itself extremely well during the Spanish Civil War, but was reportedly believed to be in need of upgrading to stay ahead of the ever-cycling armament-armor circle. That upgrade materialized in the form of the PAK 38, a 5 cm gun.

That’s a good bit of firepower. However, as the Tank Encyclopedia notes, “soon after the factories geared up for production, the German military became aware of newer tank designs by the Soviets (thanks in part to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) and therefore ordered an upgunning of the Pak 38.”

That upgunning eventually turned straight into a new gun — the PAK 40.

About here is where I’d normally insert another photo — but I found a video instead. Check it out:

Isn’t that incredible?

“This gun is a beast! As you can see the muzzle blast is incredible. The WWII German PAK (PanzerAbwehrKanone) 40 was developed in early WWII but didn’t see widespread production until about 1941. The gun was often used by allied forces whenever they would over run German positions which shows the effectiveness of the gun,” the YouTube publisher, PossumPopper89, noted in the video’s description.

The extremely effective gun saw use until the end of the war, and had a reputation for being able to put a hole in just about anything fielded against it.

The gun shown wasn’t in the excellent, fighting shape it is in the video above.

Specifically, it didn’t look so… reasonable.

“This gun was resurrected from an art museum where the owner had painted it pink!” PossumPopper89 reported. “It was restored to working order and the federal paperwork required to build and possess this gun was obtained. It is not legal for an ordinary citizen to have a working field piece like this.”

The scourge of thousands of tanks on both fronts — painted pink.


What do you think about this gun? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Read more

Meet the New Military-Centered Netflix Series You’re Going to Have to Watch

As most are aware, the wildly popular streaming service Netflix has recently ramped up their production of original films, shows, and mini-series.

This is largely thanks to their quest to be attractive to consumers not just for shows you miss from TV, but for those who miss premiering shows they might experience if they had cable — Netflix would love to be the new cable, and many would argue that they are well on their way to making that happen.

We get the benefits of that with some fantastic new shows, one of the more recently-released is particularly exciting.

It’s called “Medal of Honor.”

I bet you can guess what it’s about. The new show, which first aired November 9, will highlight some of the greatest acts of valor this nation has ever known.

The eight-part anthology will cover eight Medal of Honor recipients from World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan: Sylvester Antolak, Edward Carter, Vito Bertoldo, Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, Joseph Vittori, Richard L. Etchberger, Ty Carter, and Clint Romesha, according to Task & Purpose.

The stories of these eight men’s heroism will be shown through a combination of cinematic recreation, historian, veteran, and military leader commentary, and archival footage. The trailer is powerful.

“When you read citations of [Medal of Honor] recipients, often times it would not be far fetched to think to yourself there is no way this person could have done this,” Mike Dowling, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and the technical advisor for the series, told Task & Purpose. “Only they did do that, and their stories deserve to be told.”

“Everything we did that day, we didn’t do it because we hated the enemy,” Romesha says in the series trailer.

“Combat is not a great thing to be in, and it’s not a motivation to hate, by no means. It’s a motivation to love your brothers.”

Greater love hath no man.

For those who subscribe to Netflix, get ready — this is likely going to be a powerful series.

What do you think? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Read more