Sonoran Desert Institute

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

Walter Howard attends EANGUS conference

SDI Attends Another Successful EANGUS National Conference

Reno, Nevada, was the setting for the 46th Annual Conference and Expo of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), held August 26–30, 2017. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) has the honor of being a platinum sponsor for the organization and was fortunate enough to have its Chief Military Liaison, Walter Howard, attend.

The annual conference provided varying degrees of work and play to the over 1,000 airmen and soldiers who attended the meetings for business and professional development. The conference, as described by EANGUS, was “four days of meetings, keynote speakers, special events, professional development, and access to the EANGUS industry trade show.”

In order to bring a mood of fun and socialization to the event, the conference kicked off with a golf tournament at Wolf Run Golf Course and was followed up by an evening social. Attendees then got down to business. Caucuses were held for each of the seven areas that make up the EANGUS membership base, which is divided into regional groups of states. Afterward, the evening culminated in a Welcome Night event, leaving attendees enthusiastic for the rest of the weekend’s activities.

One of the primary reasons for holding the conference was to make key decisions on policies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of EANGUS and the help it provides to service members. National directors had a chance to meet with regional directors and state officials. This was not unlike the work done throughout similar organizations. The treasury report was given with in-depth reviews of the organization’s finances, and various amendments were voted on concerning the organization’s bylaws. One of the most essential services provided by EANGUS—scholarships—was discussed in detail.

Walter Howard described the four-day event as an “absolute success.” While organization events related to service can be quite political in nature, Walter’s account was both positive and unbiased, “[It was] a phenomenal interaction between attendees. I was able to attend an ESO briefing hosted by the Nevada ESO and attended by the ESSs of South Dakota along with five other schools. Topics covered were Federal Tuition Assistance, State Tuition Assistance, and VA Benefits. I was also able to set up a meeting with the EANGUS Scholarship Committee Chairman. Together, we are going to work out how EANGUS selects the scholarship recipient for the SDI/EANGUS Scholarship.”

Walter Howard went on to say that he found the EANGUS conference to be very productive. “This event is great to network with various leaders within the National Guard and showcase our education program. It further allows us to strengthen our relationship with EANGUS while building new relationships/partnerships with the other states and vendors.”

Sonoran Desert Institute was honored to attend such an important event for service members and their families. The school was invited to various state events and is excited to have had this opportunity. EANGUS has several decades of service to our nation’s military and SDI is happy to be a small part of it.

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Erik Heine

Erik Heine: Building a business after graduating SDI

It was the push he needed. Erik Heine’s first sergeant told him that when he got out of the military, he needed to find his calling in life. Erik enrolled at Sonoran Desert Institute, graduated in March of 2016, and immediately set up shop as a gunsmith. It hasn’t been easy, but NA Gunsmithing is a steadily growing business in Bakersfield, California, and Erik plans on keeping it that way.

Erik Heine is an extremely driven individual. After his conversation with his father about finding his path professionally, his enrollment in school was immediate. Erik enrolled in SDI’s Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program and within a month of graduating in April of 2016, he had submitted his paperwork to the State of California. By the time September rolled around, Erik was no longer a hobbyist gunsmith but was instead gathering clients at a fast pace. News had spread outside of his immediate group of friends and family, and Erik decided to make a full-fledged business out of his short-lived hobby.

“While in the military, I was used to military firearms and felt very comfortable with them. I realized when I enrolled at SDI that there was much more to learn about firearms in general. SDI taught me detailed mechanisms and how to properly work with firearms. There’s a big difference between breaking down a firearm and taking one apart properly,” said Erik.

Among the best things Erik learned, as simple as it may seem, was the proper cleaning of a firearm. “Oddly enough, the ability to properly disassemble any firearm and clean its mechanisms allows me to learn the inner workings and unique pieces of each firearm, whether I have worked with that model or not.” He then added, “Also…totes. Always have plastic totes. It keeps you organized, and if you take down a firearm in a tote, it might deflect a rogue spring from shooting across the room.”

As with any education, SDI’s School of Firearm Technology gives its students the fundamental education to be comfortable when tackling more complex problems as well as the ability to start learning more complex skills. Erik was able to utilize these fundamental lessons as a platform to start his business, but he wanted to push himself further. Through mutual friendships, Erik befriended a local gunsmith with over 50 years of experience. Over time, Erik was able to prove himself as a willing student and has since been taught to use a lathe and milling machine. Though Erik is in business for himself, he keeps in close contact with his mentor, and, in turn, learns new skills each week. As part of their working process, every couple of weeks, Erik’s mentor tosses him a complicated project that is out of his skillset. It’s not so much to teach Erik anything specific, but rather to see how Erik solves a problem. “Sometimes I miss something or I get taught something, but it’s pretty great when I hear that I completed the task perfectly.”

Erik has now been running a successful gunsmithing business for over a year and has already expanded. He brought on his friend Mitchell Crow this last April to help him with the books as well as take on projects. Since bringing on Mitchell, the demand has continued to grow, and Erik has no intention of seeing that slow down. Recognizing the need, Erik is working his way through a bachelor’s degree in business and hopes to enroll in an advanced machining program soon. In addition to this, as part of their business model, Erik and Mitchell try to attend one advanced armorers course each year. This year was an advanced armorers course at Glock. The results speak for themselves: By focusing on a continuing education, building his skillset, and working hard, Erik is the owner of a growing business.

Being in business for yourself is one of the goals of most aspiring gunsmiths. Erik Heine is a great example to anybody seeking to do this, and he has some sage advice for others seeking to do the same thing. He had the following to say regarding his quick start, “I couldn’t have grown this fast without a mentor. I believe I would have grown, just very slowly. Having an experienced mentor has sped up my learning and his references are quickly speeding up my business.” In addition to his praise of mentorship, his additional lessons almost seem to come out of Kip Carpenter’s Top 10 Mistakes New Gunsmiths Make.

“I would love to spend all my money on new shiny tools. Mitchell and I have realized that we must have money squirreled away for the slow summer business season. My mentor taught me to save money on this by making my own tools when I can. Since he taught me to use a lathe, I make my own punches now, built a barrel floating tool, turned a screwdriver into a custom windage tool, constructed my workbenches, and even assembled a pair of pliers for a Springfield project I had.

“Bill your projects by the project and never bill clients based on time estimate. Some projects take longer than others and you don’t want to bill clients for your learning curve. Additionally, if something is taking longer than expected, you don’t want to limit yourself with a deadline. This can cause you to do inferior work, which would hurt your word of mouth reputation. It’s more important to do great work than it is to hit a deadline. Always try to keep your estimates project-related rather than timeline-related.

“You can’t please everybody. Recognize your skills, and if what your customer wants is outside of your ability, let them know. The risk of working on something outside of your ability is damage to your reputation. The risk of referring a customer to a more skilled smith is a reputation of honesty. I’ve fixed other gunsmiths’ mistakes and it’s always unfortunate to see a customer pay twice for one piece of work.

“Don’t be afraid to break stuff. Being tentative makes you less effective and makes you slow. Yes, you want to take the utmost care of a firearm, but anybody who works on a firearm is going to mess up. You’re going to scuff a firearm with a screwdriver. What will make you a real gunsmith is knowing how to fix those things if they happen.”

If there is anything to learn from Erik, it is to never stop building your skills in your trade. There is always something to learn, whether it’s how to work on the trigger mechanism of a unique firearm or how to file your taxes properly. An education like SDI is just a starting point for a career and not an endpoint. The professional world is competitive, and word of mouth will always be the most effective marketing. Erik has further enhanced his business by reaching out to his community and local businesses.

“I want my business to be a part of the community. We try to sponsor events. I have developed a great relationship with a local firearms instructor and have even gotten to know the local police department by routinely taking coffee to them from the Black Rifle Coffee Company.” Erik stated, “I don’t touch their service firearms, but I work on their personal firearms.”

Erik Heine had this to say about his biggest lesson as a gunsmith straight from his mentor, “There is a huge difference between a parts changer and a gunsmith. Anybody can change the parts on a firearm but it takes years of experience, constant learning, and a lot of work to be a gunsmith. You have to really put in the work to learn the skills of customization and how to fix broken parts. These skills can be learned by machining, using a lathe, finding a mentor or by teaching yourself, but you must learn them to call yourself a gunsmith instead of a parts changer. I credit SDI for giving me the opportunity to learn on my own time and build the foundation to start learning to be a gunsmith.”

Erik shows a unique ambition as a business owner. His hunger to learn, his ability to market his business, and his hard work have paved the way for success, and SDI is proud to see his progress. To learn more about Erik’s business, visit

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Field Studies Banner

SDI Field Studies: Giving SDI graduates and edge in today’s marketplace.

“Getting an online education in gunsmithing does not make you a gunsmith.” This statement, as well as similar ones, can be seen across message boards for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) and other schools alike. It is impossible to ignore, and the answer is an easy, “Yes, this is true.” The fact remains, though, that getting a job as a gunsmith or starting a successful business as a gunsmith is what makes you a gunsmith.

The statement, “Getting a degree in (blank) does not make you a (blank),” can be substituted with any degree such as accounting/accountant, engineering/engineer, or marketing/marketer. Similarly, putting on a space helmet does not make you an astronaut. But, getting an education in aeronautics or engineering, working at NASA, and going to space does. Sonoran Desert Institute has recognized the competitiveness of today’s marketplace for graduates and has added the Field Study Program to their already comprehensive education in order to give their students an edge.

Let’s look at the big picture of today’s marketplace and the achievement of higher education to understand how SDI’s Field Study Program fits in.

Today’s Marketplace

Today’s job market is highly competitive for college graduates. Over the last decade, statistics have shown numbers as low as 27% for college graduates finding employment in the same field as their degrees. Research also shows a mixed review from graduates as to whether their education has helped their career or prepared them for the professional marketplace. No matter if they’re graduating from a university with a degree in engineering, accounting, or from a trade school for plumbing, all graduates struggle with the same market and are constantly trying to increase their odds of having a successful career. While opinion may vary, labor statistics show drastic differences in how education levels affect unemployment and wages. Some of this sounds dire, right? Not so much. Let’s look deeper.

More of America’s workforce has college degrees than at any other time in history. This has flooded the employment pool with qualified applicants. In past decades, having a college degree drastically increased your odds of a high salary and a great career because not as many potential employees had degrees. In today’s competitive environment, you must simply do more to separate yourself from the pack. This can be done through the building of essential skills outside of your education or by finding industry internships. The requirement of separating yourself from the pack spreads across every industry in America, and SDI’s students and past graduates are not exempt.


In the past, completing courses in higher education has been a quick fix for professionals in the job market. “Just get your degree and you will be set for life.” While an education does help you stand out from the pack, it is no longer a guarantee.

An education tells an employer that, in addition to understanding the foundational principles of their given field (accounting, engineering, gunsmithing, etc.), this person is someone who has likely accumulated critical thinking skills and can work independently or in a team. It says that through extensive reading and writing, this is an individual who has a stronger likelihood of being able to communicate effectively as well as to learn new information. And that by learning history, psychology, environmental science, and mathematics, this person has a greater chance of looking at separate pieces of information and tying them together. For example, understanding how economic conditions affect businesses, how this psychologically affects the general marketplace, and how this knowledge can be applied to create a business that better adapts to similar conditions in the future is something an educated candidate would be better prepared for.

While these generalities can be made regarding graduates, there are still no guarantees for finding work in the field of your education. This is because there are also no guarantees to the employer that the applicant is proficient in these skills or that they have the intangible skills necessary to be a successful employee. These intangible skills relate to the individual’s personality. Can this person think on their feet? Is this person a team player? Is this a negative person or a positive person? Education shows up easily in a resume but it is the interview process that seeks to reveal if these skills exist and whether this person is a good fit. This also falls within the realm of starting your own business. If you have an education, your chance of success is increased; but if you have not worked on your intangible skill set, it can be a serious setback.

There is one last piece to ensure your success as a professional, and that piece is experience.


Nothing beats experience. This is a general truism that echoes across every industry. Would you like to hire an employee with 40 years of experience or would you like to hire a young employee with no real-world experience? This is a dilemma faced by every employer for every position they have ever hired. That is also why SDI has created the Field Study Program.

SDI’s Field Study Program is set up to give students the following benefits:

  • Established relevant industry contacts and networks
  • Application of coursework and labs to actual work situations
  • Increased relevant career-related experience
  • Enhanced background experience to strengthen resume
  • Potential permanent placement with a Field Study partner
  • A competitive advantage over other candidates seeking positions
  • Strengthened relevant verbal and written communication skills
  • A potential reference from a Field Study sponsor

The challenge of gaining experience is something that every student faces. Until actually working as a trauma surgeon, no med school student knows what it’s really like. Therefore, before becoming licensed to practice on real people, doctors must serve long internships after having gained a quality, foundational education. While SDI’s Field Study Program will not require 10 years of your life, it does give participants a higher level of hands-on experience that cannot be found in any educational program outside of an internship or entry level position.

By pairing hands-on experience with a foundational education, SDI’s students can give themselves an advantage that is rare in any industry. If those same students put continuous and conscious effort into their intangible skills, such as quick thinking under pressure, positivity, team mentality and conflict management, they will attain an undeniable advantage in the job market.

There is as much to learn about today’s job marketplace as there is about educational advantages. Large volumes of research and books have been written about these subjects—far beyond the scope of this article. But in the end, whether you’re a student, graduate, or potential student, it will be up to you to put in the effort to increase your chances of success.

To learn more about SDI’s Field Study Program and to apply, please visit:

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GunLearn Blog Image

SDI Staff Attends IFSA GunLearn Seminar

When offering an education in firearms technology, it is important that your staff be knowledgeable about the subject. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) takes pride in the fact that they have a well-qualified staff of experienced firearms experts. And they recently took it a step further by sending three of their staff to St. Louis for the International Firearms Specialist Academy (IFSA) GunLearn Seminar. SDI President, Traci Lee, Vice President, Wesley LeMay, and Director of Faculty Services, Sara McGilvray, took the trip to St. Louis, and this is what they learned.

The IFSA GunLearn Seminar specializes in the training and accrediting of firearms professionals to become Certified Firearms Specialists. As written on the IFSA GunLearn website,, “CFS certification establishes that a person is a competent professional in the field of safe and accurate firearm and ammunition handling, and identification.”

While Wesley LeMay has a strong military background and is no stranger to firearms technology, Traci Lee and Sara McGilvray have strong backgrounds in education, but are relative novices in their experience with firearms. Despite the varying degrees of firearms experience among the three, they were all able to take away valuable information from their experience with the IFSA GunLearn Seminar.

The three-day event put on by® provided all attendees with a challenging environment regardless of experience. Traci Lee had this to say, “The course challenged the various levels of experience that were in the room, without completely overwhelming a novice like me.” Wesley LeMay echoed this sentiment, “This was my second opportunity to see Mr. Dan O’Kelly teach this seminar, and I continue to learn something new each time.” Attendees were instructed on firearm safety, mechanical operation, ammunition, silencers, destructive devices, court testimony, gun parts, and categorization based on GCA and NFA guidelines. SDI staff was also educated on the firearms regulations surrounding the school, which utilizes 80% lower receivers and muzzleloaders. Follow-up discussions were engaged after each day’s lesson to ensure that each attendee could address all of their questions.

GunLearn Seminars are offered in person and as online-based programs much like Sonoran Desert Institute’s School of Firearm Technology. All of their instructors, including Dan O’Kelly, have at least 30 years of experience and are always able to bring a substantial amount of knowledge to the table.

SDI was grateful to have the opportunity to send staff to a seminar that could provide so much education in such a short amount of time. The fact that both experienced firearms experts as well as firearms novices came away with enough knowledge to feel comfortable fielding firearms-related questions speaks to the strength of GunLearn’s program. This seminar is highly recommended and the school’s staff can rest assured that SDI will continue to educate them through this program.

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Caitlin Mullins Banner

Staff Spotlight: Caitlin Mullins

Five years and still going strong. Caitlin Mullins started working at Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) while in college and needed a part-time job. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Anthropology but has stayed on with SDI, playing an increasingly important role in the school.

A lot of college students seek part-time work just to earn some money while attending school. These positions are usually vacated after the student graduates and they decide to move on to a position related to their degree. Caitlin has taken a different route. She has fallen in love with the school, her co-workers, and the overall culture at SDI. The reward has been an increased level of responsibility as well as making many friends along the way.

You might not recognize Caitlin’s name, but if you are currently a student, chances are she has seen yours. Caitlin has taken on an increasing role in student services and is one of the engines that make the school work. One of her primary duties is to update student information, help with acclimation to the school, and process transfer credits. If you have enrolled at SDI or if you have transferred credits into an SDI program, Caitlin is the person to thank.

One of Caitlin’s favorite parts of working for SDI has been helping students who have never taken courses in higher education or students who have not attended school in a long time. She makes sure everybody has all the information on hand to help them succeed. Caitlin stated, “While we put students’ success at our school in their own hands, I take a lot of pride in making sure they have everything they need to do so.” This part of giving responsibility to students can be a bit of a tightrope. There is a delicate balance between trying to help everybody and making sure that students are taking their own initiative.

Between the work that Caitlin does in admissions as well as in student services, she wears a lot of hats. “I can definitely say that no day is ever the same.” Whether it is updating student information, transferring their credits, answering their questions, or addressing concerns by sending out informational packets, Caitlin takes pride in the help that she provides. The enjoyment that she gets out of the job is reflected in the many success stories of SDI’s graduates. It’s one of her favorite parts of the job—seeing a student graduate and find success after attending the school.

SDI, being a school that revolves around gunsmithing, also gives Caitlin an opportunity to immerse herself in the firearms culture of American society. This is a cultural segment that Caitlin is familiar with. She grew up in Kentucky, shooting with her father and her friends. While she does not do her own gunsmithing, firearms have always been a part of her life. This aspect of the job has been a large part of why she has spent five years working for Sonoran Desert Institute.

Caitlin loves her job, which is evident in her enthusiasm and commitment to the school. But when it comes time to decompress, she enjoys attending concerts in the Arizona area, gardening, and, as she stated, “Lots of reading.” Caitlin also has a special interest in sign language and seeks out opportunities to volunteer for interpreting.

While you may not know her name, if you attend SDI or if you have already graduated, you can be assured that Caitlin Mullins has put in a lot of hard work on your behalf. She has seen the school grow from students having to mail in projects to now being able to use the dynamic online environment offered. And she is excited to see what the future holds for Sonoran Desert Institute.

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Journalist Blog Cover

So You Want To Be A Firearms Journalist?

“It’s a great program but there is way too much writing!” This is a comment seen often on SDI’s Facebook page as well as in email correspondence the school receives on a regular basis, especially regarding SDI’s associate’s program. Without going into the details of how writing is an essential part of higher education, it is easy to empathize with this feedback. Writing can be a drag if you are forced to do it. Somebody enrolling in a gunsmithing school may not be accustomed to writing a great deal and it may not be an expected part of the education. Seeing value in writing can be difficult, but seeing writing as learning to communicate…that’s a different story.

“So, you want to be an outdoor writer?” This was the subject of an article that floated across our emails at SDI awhile back. It detailed the competitive world of trying to make a living by writing about outdoor pursuits. Many people pursue this route and visualize making a living by hunting and fishing. This article on outdoor writing introduced prospective writers to the grind involved in this line of work. Writing is indeed a difficult career and is highly competitive between writers. The intent is not to tell Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) graduates to go out and become writers. The intent is to demonstrate an avenue to gaining more business as a gunsmith by utilizing writing in your approach to marketing.

When a gunsmith opens his doors for the first time, it is a daunting exercise. The gunsmith typically has their nerves wracked with the stress of constantly trying to find new clients. Writing about gunsmithing, about your experiences as a gunsmith, and about the various firearms you encounter can be a terrific way to expose yourself to a wider audience as well as gain credibility in your industry.

“Isn’t marketing expensive?” Nope, not at all. Utilizing writing as a method of marketing your business may possibly be one of the cheapest routes you can take. Most businesses need a website and there are countless free blog-based websites out there. WordPress is one example. Your domain name will be your only cost. You can literally have a domain name and create a website in about a half a day. Your website does not have to be fancy; it just needs to communicate what you do and why your services are valuable. And that’s where writing comes in.

Once you get your website up and running, just start writing. You can write about your daily projects, your challenges as a gunsmith, problems you see with certain firearms, and heck, you can write about anything you like so long as you make it relevant to your business. Expand the viewership of your writing by starting a business page on Facebook. Your writing will now be exposed to those who have liked your page, and in turn, those writings will be exposed to their friends. No purchasing of ads, no radio spots, just free marketing.

Let’s say you don’t like writing articles. Let’s say you would rather make YouTube videos and post them as part of your marketing. Without a solid foundation in writing, your YouTube videos may lack needed coherence that could validate you to a viewing audience. By utilizing your writing skills to refine your ability to tell a story, you can start producing higher quality videos.

“What does writing have to do with gunsmithing?” By itself, not a lot really. However, if you have a business or plan on starting a business, the ability to communicate will be one of the most significant keys to your success. If you want to operate a gunsmithing business, now writing becomes a very important part of gunsmithing. The reason for this is that writing reinforces the ability to effectively tell a story to an audience. That ability will be a daily requirement for you as a business owner.

“So, you want to be a firearms journalist?” SDI’s programs teach students to be effective communicators. It is an essential part of owning and operating a business. Writing is not a nuisance that you merely need to get through. It is an area that should be concentrated on as you advance in your career. Writing should be incorporated into your business on every level. Will you be an acclaimed journalist? Not unless you pursue that career path. You will, however, be effective at communicating the message of your business to a prospective audience.

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Blog Post Cover

Brakes, Flash Suppressors, and Compensators, “Oh My!”

Most AR-15 platform firearms are equipped with some form of muzzle device. Muzzle devices can be attached to almost any firearm, and for those who do not wish to attach one, there is the option of porting your barrel. This presents a huge variety of options for firearm owners, and so SDI is often asked for recommendations. The following are some basics to help you better understand the world of muzzle devices.

People often refer to a muzzle break as anything that goes on the end of a firearm barrel. This is like calling a Mountain Dew a Coke. Muzzle devices fall into six primary categories: flash suppressors, brakes, compensators, sound forward/blast deflectors, combination devices, and sound suppressors. Firearms are loud and utilize a controlled explosion. The sound and explosion have to go somewhere, which is where muzzle devices come in.

Flash Suppressor Devices

Flash suppressors, like most of the devices on this list, are fairly self-explanatory. When the primer ignites the powder in a shell case, the resulting gas has no other route than to follow the bullet out of the chamber. This creates a flash as the heated gas rapidly exits the barrel, expands, and interacts with the oxygen outside of the barrel. Adding a flash suppressor to the end of a gun barrel disperses the gas, keeping it from heating to the point of combustion and thus suppressing the flash of the firearm. This device is meant to be used to hide the location of a shooter in low light or nighttime situations; there is no other added benefit such as a brake or compensator. Another solution to muzzle flash is by using chemicals to increase the burn efficiency of the gas expelled from a cartridge. Since this article concerns devices, chemical flash suppressor technology will not be highlighted.

Muzzle Brake Devices

A muzzle brake is a muzzle device intended to reduce the felt recoil of a rifle (the force that causes the rifle to push into your shoulder). The muzzle brake does this by deflecting the gas created when the rifle is fired out of the ports of the brake. This sounds similar to a flash suppressor as well as a compensator, but they all do very different things. The deflection of a muzzle brake does not cool the gas; therefore, the flash is still visible. The gas being deflected by a brake pushes the energy of the rifle in an outward direction, therefore reducing the force felt by the shooter. Something to keep in mind is that if somebody is standing next to you, they will be subject to a significant amount of sound, hot gas, and potential debris.

Compensator Devices

A compensator device is designed to reduce the amount of climb on your barrel after the shot. This device by itself does not reduce recoil or flash. It is often combined with a brake, and you will often see ports for compensation on a muzzle brake. For the purposes of this article, though, these two devices are completely separate in function. Compensator devices can be recognized because the ports are in the opposite direction of muzzle climb. These ports push gas out of the top of the device, which pushes against the climb of the barrel.

Sound Forward/Blast Deflector Devices

Sound forward or blast deflector devices should be renamed “Good Neighbor” devices. These devices have in mind the ear drums of those standing next to you at the range or those comrades in arms that may be standing alongside the shooter. Muzzle brakes have a disadvantage that involves projecting the energy of a firearm straight out to the side of the shooter…directly into the face of the person standing next to them. Sound forward/blast deflector devices solve this. Often these devices will fit over existing muzzle brakes as long as they are compatible. These devices function by taking all of the gas and debris that was projected to the side of the firearm and redirecting it. Keep in mind, sound forward/blast deflector devices are blocking some of the functionality of a muzzle brake, but your friends at the range will thank you.

Combination Devices

You can’t have the best of all worlds, but sometimes you can come close. Combination devices will perform both flash suppression as well as muzzle brake tasks. Sometimes, you can even find them with compensator ports. Keep in mind that with combination devices, the more diverse the function of a device, the less efficient it will be. Compensators work because they push out enough gas to stop the climb of the barrel. If there is less gas to push out of these ports because they are being directed out of the brake as well as the flash suppression ports, the effect on muzzle climb will be less effective.

Sound Suppression Devices

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the functionality of a sound suppression device and not the legality of the devices. Sound suppression devices function by deflecting the hot gasses produced when shooting a firearm and keeping them inside of a contained unit. This prevents the gasses from exiting the barrel at the typical 3,000 psi and reduces them, in some cases, to around 60 psi. Sound suppressors also require subsonic ammunition (below 1,100 fps) in order to function properly. If you use sonic ammunition, you will hear the bullet breaking the sound barrier regardless of the suppression on the firearm. Sound suppression devices are subject to high heat and will do so very rapidly. These devices function by containing hot gas, and therefore the transfer of this heat happens quickly. Too many shots too fast and you will not have a functional sound suppressor anymore due to heat damage.

As with any firearm or firearm device, the choice comes down to personal preference and how it will be used. Take into account where you will shoot your firearm, and always be conscious of other shooters as well as how your equipment will affect them.

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SDI’s 2017 Scholarship Receipients Are An Impressive Class

SDI’s 2017 Scholarship Recipients
Sonoran Desert Institute offers three annual scholarships to its programs. And each year, three recipients are chosen to receive them. Here are the highlights of this year’s three recipients.

SDI/EANGUS Scholarship Recipient, Adam Purtell
Adam Purtell has just enrolled at SDI and will be starting his Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program in November 2017. He would eventually like to enroll in the associate’s degree program. Adam first heard about Sonoran Desert Institute from his friends/co-workers and decided to do some research on his own. He liked what he saw. Adam served 22 years in the Air Force and later enlisted in the National Guard, where he has been for the last 11 years, and works as a weapons inspector. He is also a police officer in New Jersey, is the force’s weapons maintenance instructor, and is a licensed NRA instructor.

By taking courses at SDI, Adam is seeking to increase both his credibility in his already impressive resume as well as in his knowledge as a weapons instructor, and is also seeking to specialize in the AR-15 platform. With his current status as a maintenance instructor and inspector, he felt that adding gunsmithing to his knowledge base could only enhance the work that he currently does. Adam conveyed that it is one thing to inspect a rifle and another thing altogether to know the mechanisms inside and how to troubleshoot those mechanisms. As with any true professional, Adam’s primary goal is to help his fellow National Guardsmen as well as his fellow law enforcement professionals. SDI is sure that he will accomplish this goal and is excited to have him as a student.

Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship Recipient, Warren Scotter
Warren Scotter first investigated Sonoran Desert Institute’s programs online after it was recommended to him by friends. He was impressed by the amount of detail presented on the SDI site and made up his mind to enroll. His enrollment process was made a bit easier by Admissions Advisor Vanessa Boyer, who recommended that he apply for the Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship. Warren was very thankful for her help in that process and stated that he thought it was very easy to navigate. Warren called his enrollment at SDI “an answer to prayer.” He is currently an EMT/firefighter in Washington and will be starting on his associate degree in September. Warren is an active outdoorsman and hunter. He has been reloading for five years and hopes to enrich his education in firearms science so that he can do more work and build up business. He already has a terrific foundation, as his background includes many years of professional woodworking.

Warren is a proud family man and a great example of the quality of students that attend SDI. It will be exciting to see how he progresses through SDI’s associate degree program.

SGT Michael Beckerman Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Andrew Howdyshell
Andrew Howdyshell heard good things about Sonoran Desert Institute from friends, and upon further investigation, liked what he saw. Andrew is diligent and did a lot of research on SDI, comparing it with other schools before enrolling. He has served in the Army for 10 years and is currently transferring out of service. He is set to begin his associate degree program in August and will be adding to an impressive resume with an associate of science in Collision Repair as well as a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security. Andrew was grateful to have received this scholarship so that he can use his GI bill to fund his son’s education instead of his own. As a testament to his inspirational qualities, Andrew’s son will be following in his dad’s footsteps by attending a school for fire science.

Andrew was primarily impressed with the level of knowledge and experience possessed by SDI’s faculty and staff. Equally impressive are the levels of experience and knowledge Andrew will be adding to as he works on his associate’s degree. Andrew will be updating the school on his progress as he goes through the program.

The selection process for this year’s crop of students was stacked with quality individuals, and so choosing the recipients was extremely difficult. Sonoran Desert Institute is proud to have such a terrific group receive these scholarships and represent the school as they further their education. If you are curious about SDI’s scholarship programs, please view the enrollment pages at

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