Sonoran Desert Institute

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

Shooting Sports Month Highlight: Bullseye Shooting

August is National Shooting Sports Month!

In honor of this auspicious occasion, we’re going to spend some time looking at different aspects of shooting sports — maybe one will pique your interest!

Today, we’re going to take a look into one of the most basic forms of competition shooting: bullseye shooting.

Bullseye shooting is a category of competitive shooting in which shooters are given a fixed amount of time in which to put shots on a target as close to the center as possible.

This sport requires the use of slow, precision fire, and as such could easily been seen as one of the more daunting of shooting sports categories — we’re talking a lot of pressure, all at once.

At the same time, as mentioned before, this is a very basic form of competitive shooting, with a large emphasis placed on your shooting fundamentals: sight picture, trigger control, breath control. Because you have a long time relative to other shooting sports events, competitors should nail these basics, but even if you can master the pressure, you’re up against a myriad of similarly-skilled shooters hitting bulls-eyes left and right.

You can see some incredible bullseye shooting with the NRA precision pistol events, and a mass of International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) events.

Let’s take a look at what they have:

  • ISSF 10 Meter Air Rifle
  • ISSF 50 Meter Rifle Prone
  • ISSF 50 Meter Rifle Three Positions
  • ISSF 300 Meter Standard Rifle
  • ISSF 300 Meter Rifle Prone
  • ISSF 300 Meter Rifle 3 Positions

The shorter ranges listed above are shot with small-bore rifles, where the longer distances are shot with larger bore rifles. The ISSF also has multiple pistol events:

  • ISSF 10 Meter Air Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Standard Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Rapid Fire Pistol
  • ISSF 50 Meter Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Center-Fire Pistol

Those falling outside of the center-fire and air pistol events are shot in .22LR.

Shooting sports are not just a fun way for experienced shooters to strut their stuff — they’re a fantastic way to introduce new shooters to the world of firearms.

Precision marksmanship might not be the immediate entry point for someone unfamiliar with firearms — if it is, more power to them! — but because of its simple, straightforward nature, bullseye shooting, or simply practicing putting shots on paper, especially with low-recoil firearms, is an easy-to-grasp activity with a built-in metric for success without too much pressure out of the competitive spotlight.

Take time this month to catch up with that friend (or three) that has said they want to give shooting a chance, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I promise, the time invested will be well worth-it.

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Revealed: SDI’s Master Gunsmith Explains Which Firearms Are Put in for Repair Most Often

Pretty much every type of firearm will find its way to a gunsmith for modification and/or repair at some point or another, but as we all know — some firearms will inevitably end up being in need of repair more often than others.

Curious about the topic, I reached out to SDI Master Gunsmith Kip Carpenter and posed the question to him: what firearms end up being turned in for repair the most?

The answer surprised me:

“Probably the most typical firearm that comes in for repair is the 12 ga shotgun… I really did not mind working on any but if I was going to pick my least favorite it would be the cheap pistols in 25 cal/.380 that are prone to have trouble from the factory,” he said.

Now, one of those categories of firearms doesn’t surprise me too much. Sometimes you can get a cheap firearm that really works for you — often, they’re just junk.

The other one does! I asked Kip what brands of shotguns ended up in sickbay the most often, and I was surprised again:

“Really the Remington, Mossbergs, Winchesters, and Bellini’s are the most common but you get all kinds,” he noted.

A Marine with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division loads a Mossberg 500 shotgun during a training exercise June 06, 2013. During the exercise, the Marines refreshed their patrolling, obstacle breaching and dynamic entry with shotgun skills.

I have to say — that surprised me. When I think “reliable,” I think Mosin Nagant first (out of a shameless bias), then firearms that require some muscle to chamber rounds! Any kind of revolver, pump action, bolt action, or even lever action firearm would seem to me to be the surest-fire way to ensure your gun was out of sick bay.

Plus, my first gun was a Mossberg, and the brand loyalty is real, folks.

Of course, in this day and age, all guns are more and more reliable as we go on. As the firearms market expands, the less collective tolerance we have for sub-par product. If you take that into account, what ends up in shop for repair becomes more of a numbers game — how many people keep 12 gauge shotguns around the house?

Quite a few — literally millions.

That’s good for everybody. It makes us safer and happier, and firearms manufacturers’ reputations grow all the more sterling.

Sometimes, however, you just get a freaking lemon.

The American Rifleman has a great five-step course of action to take if you’ve accidentally gotten a firearm that just doesn’t work.

1. Take it Back to the Seller

Of course, as with any other product, the first impulse we all have is to take it back to the seller. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a shot — even if that just means giving them a call and telling them about the issue.

Each shop, however, has got their own policy when it comes to returns, the primary reason being that any gun leaving a gun shop becomes used goods right away — just like when you buy a car. Best way to prevent being stuck up a creek is a thorough examination before purchasing a firearm.

However, if you just get a raw deal, you can always go to step #2:

2. Contact the Manufacturer

Before trying your hand at the firearm (like we all have the impulse to do), give the manufacturer a call. Often firearms warranties for new guns can be voided when you get into a gun’s guts. Even if your gun is used but recently made, it’s worth checking for a warranty.

3. Repair It Yourself

It’s easy to want to skip to this step if you’re a student at SDI, but it’s better to progress down the chain as described. At this point, however, it’s time to see what you can do. If you can identify the part that’s broken or issue at hand and feel confident in your skill and ability to rectify it, make the gun usable again. Please be aware of what you can do, however, and what you need more practice in. Don’t be afraid to call in some help!

4. Visit the Repair Shop

Just like we discussed before, if you feel like you are out of your depth, don’t be afraid to call for backup! A reputable gunsmith can go a long way not only in repairing your firearm, but boosting your skill set, as well!

5. When All Else Fails: Sell It for Parts

If your gun has gone from “Bang!” to “paperweight,” and there just doesn’t seem like there’s anything you can do to fix the fundamentally ruined firearm, you can always sell for parts! This, of course, is a last resort option, not one you need to be considering unless you’ve checked all four steps above.

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Know Your Firearms History: M1 Garand Successfully Tested by the U.S. Military

It’s time to talk about the rifle everyone wants and loves — it’s time to talk about the M1 Garand.

Image result for m1 garand

That’s right, folks. Our first look into firearms history is going to target the gun, the myth, and the legend. The M1 Garand was famously called by General George Patton the “greatest battle implement ever devised,” and although its viability on today’s battlefield would likely be debated, there’s no question that in its day it was a force to be reckoned with.

According to the National Parks Service, development of a semi-automatic rifle that would give the United States an edge in combat in her next war — a war that just happened to be the grandest in scale in human history — began very quickly after the first world war.

Springfield Armory’s now-legendary John Garand had developed a rifle that would be adopted as the M1 in 1932. That rifle was finally approved for procurement in 1935 and standardized in the Army in 1936 — although the first production model was finally proof-fired, function-fired, and fired for accuracy on July 21, 1937, according to Olive Drab.

Image result for m1 garand

That rifle would be produced until 1957, and its numbers are staggering.

5.4 million were made over its production run, according to Olive Drab, of which 3.1 million were created by World War II’s end, the National Parks Service noted. The rifle saw use in three American wars — World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In fact, the rifle still manages to turn up in conflicts all around the world today.

Let’s take a look into the gun’s nitty-gritty details:

  • Action: self-loading, gas-action piston
  • Caliber: 30-06 Springfield
  • Operation Feed: 8-round internal clip
  • Overall Length: 43.43 inches
  • Barrel Length: 23.98 inches
  • Weight: 9.63 lbs
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 ft./second
  • Range: 440 yards

It’s worth noting that the above statistics, including the range, are from — other sources, including Range365, put the effective range out to 500 yards, and if you hop onto YouTube you’ll see folks doing some pretty impressive shooting at far beyond 500 yards:

That’s some pretty nice shooting!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can I add one of these gorgeous rifles to my arsenal?”

Well, you’re in luck! As of the time of this reporting, not only does popular website contain multiple Garand listings, but the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) still has a few rifles for sale, some of which are on sale for as low as $650.

If you feel like reviewing your firearm purchase in person, M1 Garands are frequently in the inventory of many used gun shops, and I don’t think I’ve ever once gone to a gun show where there wasn’t at least half a dozen for sale — often at comical markups.

Whether you wish to take one to the range or leave one in the past, there’s no doubt that this iconic rifle not only has contributed to our history, but the victorious outcome of the Second World War and subsequently the safeguarding of the free world.

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National Sports Shooting Month Highlight: Theo Susuras

Some shooters have been shooting their entire lives. For others, they didn’t begin to live until they started shooting. It was only five years ago that Theo Susuras started shooting and he’s only been competitively shooting for three years. In that short span, Theo went from “not a big gun person” to an award winning professional shooter.

If you’ve read Theo’s first feature with us, then you know his previous employer introduced a hesitant Theo to the wonderful world of firearms. After his first time out shooting, Theo became instantly hooked. Theo decided to take his love for the sport and turn it into more than a hobby by becoming a professional shooter. In honor of National Sports Shooting Month, we asked Theo what his favorite competition was and he answered quicker than you can fire a pistol.

“The open division is the formula one of racing guns. It is the all out anything goes division, focusing only on the speed and skill of the shooter. That is why I shoot in the open division,” says Theo.
Theo’s passion for competitive shooting has grown tremendously and he can already see the fruits of his labor beginning to blossom. This can clearly be shown in his favorite memory of shooting. Last year, Theo competed at the highest level and took first place in the open division at the Rio Salado Desert Classic. Keep in mind he has only been shooting for half a decade and competing even less.

While the open division is his favorite, Theo isn’t going to limit himself in his pursuit of greatness. Other than the open division, he’s also dabbled in 3-Gun, a competition involving a pistol, shotgun, and rifle.

“My experience with 3-Gun has been brief, but I have enjoyed every second of it!”

Between 3-Gun competitions and USPSA, Theo goes through about 3,000 rounds a month. His newest love my be pricey, but luckily for him he’s got a great job!

“Since my first day at SDI, I have felt like a part of the family. I was invited in and greeted with smiles and a helping hand!”

As an Admissions Representative at SDI Theo helps other who share his passion for firearms pursue their dreams just like he’s living his.

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Mark Lynn

Instructor Spotlight: Mark Lynn

Meet Mark Lynn, a renaissance man of machining. If you can think of something, he can probably build it. Heck, if you haven’t thought of something, he will probably get to it before you do. Mark owns an aviation service, writes for an aviation magazine, owns his own machining shop, works as a gunsmith and a blacksmith, and Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) is proud to have him as an instructor.

Mark came to Sonoran Desert Institute three years ago in the same way that most of its students do, he wanted more information. Despite being a gunsmith for 11 years, Mark has the continuous mind of a professional, always seeking to learn more information. After a few conversations, Sonoran Desert Institute recognized the knowledge that Mark possesses and instead of enrolling him as a student, took him on as an instructor for the program. Mark now teaches SDI’s FTT 231, FTT 111, and FAT 200 courses and he is very enthusiastic about the role he plays.

“I absolutely love how Sonoran Desert Institute has built its program. It’s the most in-depth online program I have seen, and the school is always working hard to evolve and better itself. You just don’t see that kind of thing with online schools,” said Mark. His favorite part about instructing students are those moments when, as he said, “You see the lightbulb go on. It’s a great feeling to hear a student suddenly get a concept you are trying to teach.”

One of the areas where Sonoran Desert Institute fields a lot of questions with hands-on experience. It is a logical question since the school is based online, especially in the area of machining. “SDI has done a great job with its program in giving the students as much hands-on experience as possible. My specialty is machining and there is a lot that I can teach students regarding concepts and the technical aspects of machining, but they really just need to get their hands on equipment. Outside of machining, the students at SDI really get a chance to do a lot,” Mark stated. He’s not without ideas on how to evolve the teaching of machining at SDI, some of which the program may see in the future. For now, Mark’s advice for aspiring firearms technicians in the program, “Go out and pick up the Machinist’s Handbook and look for local community college courses on machining. You must be proactive. A lot of the industry is moving towards CNC machines but to run these, you really have to have experience with manual machining. Luckily, most areas have a community college that teach these independent courses.”

In his spare time, Mark does what you would imagine he does from his resume. Mark flies and works on aircraft, turns out projects in his machining shop, works as a gunsmith and a blacksmith, is a firearms instructor, and is constantly trying to build his knowledge base. Mark’s hobbies look more like jobs, but that is the point with him. He loves what he does so much that it is not really work. “You know, I just love the transfer of knowledge. SDI is a great place for that,” he said. As a gunsmith, Mark stays especially busy taking on projects. Having worked for 11 years, he has built up a solid client and he has developed an affinity towards antique firearms, especially muzzleloaders.

Mark Lynn is passionate about Sonoran Desert Institute and it shows with the effort that he puts into his classes. He takes the approach of an instructor that is willing to learn and readily states, “Nobody knows it all, that is the point to working in education.” Sonoran Desert Institute is proud to have such qualified instructors as Mark on staff. Fortunately for the school, he is just one of the many highly qualified individuals teaching classes. To learn more about SDI’s programs and instructors, please visit or call 1-800-336-8939.

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Following up with SDI’s scholarship recipients!

Last year, Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) awarded three students with scholarship opportunities for the Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship, the EANGUS Scholarship, and the SGT Michael Beckerman Memorial Scholarship. Throughout the year, these exemplary students worked hard, kept up their grades, and pushed hard to achieve their educational goals. Sonoran Desert Institute followed up with these students to check on their progress in the program, to recognize their achievements, and to see what the future holds for these outstanding individuals.

Warren Scotter

Warren Scotter will be graduating from Sonoran Desert Institute in August 2018. He had this to say about his tenure so far, “I have really enjoyed attending SDI. The Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship has been amazing for me and there is no way I could have attended school without it.” Warren is a hard worker and has turned in excellent grades over the past year. As with most students, his favorite parts of the course work are the labs, although he pointed out, “I understand that it can’t be all labs, but even the writing of papers has been fun. I’ve learned a lot!” Standout courses for Warren have been the muzzleloader build as well as the checkering lab. Warren is almost at the finish line for his program and he’s got big plans. “I’m not giving up my career as a firefighter, but I’m getting things in order to start a side business in gunsmithing.” He loves working with his hands and gunsmithing is the perfect outlet for him to pursue his passion as well as earn some income. His goal is to grow the business into something he can do in retirement and with the effort that he has shown in the program, he may be able to do much more than that.

Adam Purtell

Last year, Adam Purtell was awarded the EANGUS scholarship due to his exemplary background and personality. Adam is a highly driven individual and has been able to balance life obligations, academic obligations, and his vocation as an arms instructor. This past year, Adam was required to go on deployment and was worried how it would impact both his education as well as his scholarship. “The admissions advisers at SDI have been extremely helpful. I talked to them in advance of my deployment and they helped me get everything in order. I was able to go on deployment and return without any hiccups in my education.” Adam has decided to start using some of the gunsmithing training as well as the material he has accumulated at Sonoran Desert Institute to help his work as an arms instructor, and his goal is to improve performance in his instructional classes. What impressed Adam with the program was that despite working as an arms instructor and being trained with firearms, there was a lot to learn in the SDI program. “I really loved the books that were provided during the program and the cleaning kits we received as students were awesome!” Adam will be graduating in August and will continue to put his accumulated knowledge to good work as an arms instructor. There is no doubt that Adam’s students will benefit from his knowledge and the hard work he has put in at SDI.

Andy Howdyshell

Andy Howdyshell received the SGT Michael Beckerman Memorial Scholarship in 2017, and it has helped him immensely in the pursuit of his educational goals. “There is absolutely no way I could have attended school without receiving this scholarship,” stated Andy. He has been able to post excellent grades, fulfill his family goals, and maintain his professional career, all despite medical complications from his military service. Even with all the juggling of his obligations, Andy is taking on side projects with firearms to further improve his abilities. He hasn’t gotten to the point, though, where he feels comfortable seeking an income from working on firearms, which is a testament to the high standards he sets for himself. So far, his favorite class in the program has been Reloading & Ballistics. “I really enjoyed the information covered in this class. I have never reloaded before and I found that the information covered in Reloading & Ballistics could greatly improve my overall knowledge of firearms.” Andy is set to graduate Sonoran Desert Institute in 2019.

These students are true examples of what it means to attend Sonoran Desert Institute. SDI prides itself on helping students achieve their academic goals while pursuing their passions; but without hard work, sacrifice, and diligence, the school can only take students so far. Warren Scotter, Adam Purtell, and Andy Howdyshell embody these qualities and there is little doubt they will achieve their goals.

If you are curious about SDI’s scholarship programs, please visit

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SDI’s wild crazy summer is just getting started!

Busy, busy, busy! That is how the schedule was for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) in May of 2018, and June does not look much different. There have been weightlifting competitions, tattoos, and even a meeting with forensic scientists…CSI eat your heart out! Here’s how things have gone this past month and a taste of what we have to look for from SDI.

Summer Strong 2018

SummerStrong 2018

Watching somebody squat 645 lbs or do 700 lb deadlifts may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is impossible to deny that seeing it in person would make your jaw drop. This is how SDI’s chair of public relations, Garett Bischoff, and vice president, Wes LeMay, spent May 18 – May 20. SummerStrong is an event put on by Sorinex™, an exercise equipment company and industry leader. It is a showcase of epic strength and endurance, as Wes LeMay can attest. He put on the weight vest at SummerStrong and showed what he was made of in the Sorinex Challenge.



What better way to encore from SummerStrong than to go to the world’s only tattoo and firearms expo. Ink and Arms takes place every year in Wilmington, North Carolina, and this year it took place on the weekend of June 1–June 3. Garett Bischoff, who has been on the road since SummerStrong, was joined at Ink and Arms by SDI Field Team member Dustin Johnson. Both Garett and Dustin know plenty about ink and plenty about firearms, so they were deep into their element and extremely busy spreading the word about Sonoran Desert Institute.



This unique event showcased firearms companies such as Guerrilla Armament, Krause Arms, Keres Tactical, Osprey Global, The Rock Guns and Accessories, Tactical Sourcing, and the SDI team had the fortune of hanging out with Ryker Tactical. Headlining the tattoo artists of the event were Jasmine Rodriguez, Josh Payne, and others too numerous to mention (see them here)! Adding to the atmosphere was a lineup of events such as Best Tattoo Portrait and Best Leg Tattoo. This event has been so successful over the years that Ink and Arms is adding another event to accommodate the crowds twice per year. There will now be an Ink and Arms show in September in addition to their already successful June show.

Coming up, the SDI team will be traveling to Charleston, West Virginia, for The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners 49th Annual Training Seminar. This event presents industry professionals with best practices and industry research results. SDI is a proud attendee of this AFTE event and will be communicating information on firearms troubleshooting, handling, and visual identification.

AFTE 2018

AFTE 2018

Having a busy events schedule is always exciting for SDI. As our resident road warrior, Garett Bischoff, stated, “The level of events we are attending really gets the energy and enthusiasm up at the school and the positive feedback we receive just reinforces the progress we are making in our curriculums!” Stay tuned for further updates from SDI and its upcoming events on its Facebook page.

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Garett Bischoff

Meet SDI’s Garett Bischoff!

While viewing the Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) Facebook page or Instagram account, you will encounter pictures and videos of Garett Bischoff. A man of his stature, sporting a mohawk and possessing the charisma of a television announcer, is something that you do not miss. Garett is SDI’s Chair of Public Relations and he has worked very hard to get here.

Garett grew up just north of Scottsdale, Arizona, in a small town called Cave Creek. He keeps his roots there but in the last ten years, Garett has traveled all over the globe. Mr. Bischoff began his professional career by attending the Motorcycle Mechanic Institute and graduating with certifications in Late Model Harley Davidson’s and VRods. This marked the end of his motorcycle mechanic career and the beginning of painting and construction. Starting out as a commercial and residential painter, it was not long until Garett was running his own crew. Garett’s family had a house in Cody, Wyoming, and this presented an opportunity to travel, so he found work there and began to run painting crews in Wyoming and Arizona. While working in Arizona, he met his wife, a worker on one of his paint crews. As he describes it, “She was stuck in a painting bucket with me one day and had no choice but to get to know me. The rest is history.” This story could end here, but Garett had other ideas for his career.

Although Garett didn’t live like the child of a celebrity, he is professional wrestling royalty. His father, Eric Bischoff, is the former president of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and former general manager of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw brand. He’s also notorious for being the guy that talked Hulk Hogan into going bad. Despite his father continuously trying to talk him out of it, Garett wanted to follow suit into the wrestling industry, and after years of training, he got his shot with KnokX Pro Wrestling Academy. Garett did not want to rest on his laurels and decided to change his name to avoid looking like he had a silver spoon in the wrestling industry. He wanted to prove himself and he did. Getting his first shot as a referee for TNA Impact Wrestling on Spike TV, he proved he had the right stuff to wrestle. Eventually, the story broke that he was Eric Bischoff’s son and it was time to step into the ring.

Garett’s wrestling career was a success and lasted five years. You can find his highlights all over the internet, and one of his favorites is of Ric Flair elbow dropping him while he was on a stretcher. Garett has traveled all over the world as a wrestler, including two matches in Wembley Arena in London. Sensing his career coming to an end after a five-year run, Garett stumbled upon Sonoran Desert Institute and kept in touch with some of the staff. After a few months of expressing how much he liked the concept of the school, he was brought on to the Field Operations Team and his career at SDI began.

Garett, as always, kept it blue collar in terms of his work ethic at SDI. Just as he had done in his wrestling career, he wanted to prove his mettle by working his way up and not relying on any name recognition that he had from wrestling. He traveled the country as a representative for SDI, talking to potential students for the school and educating the general public. This job required a lot of time and effort and it paid off. It was not long before Garett was managing the Field Operations Team, and eventually, it was decided that Garett should manage the external appearance of the school as a whole. Thus, his role as Chair of Public Relations was earned.

Garett can now be found at some of the largest events in the country, making the SDI name a known commodity. He is singularly focused on the reputation of the school. Some of his proudest moments while on the Field Operations Team have been watching students succeed after his initial conversations with them, and that dedication toward student success drives his approach to the SDI brand.

Garett’s role as Chair of Public Relations is relatively new but his approach is not. He will continue to grind and prove his mettle with the dedication and work ethic he has shown throughout his professional career, and SDI is glad to have him as part of the team.

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