GRAD SPEAK: Living the Dream with SDI Graduate Larry Summons Jr.

  • Drew Poplin
All images courtesy of Larry Summons Jr.

When I sat down with Larry Summons Jr., Thanksgiving had just come and gone mere days before. Yet, certain aspects of this year’s holiday still remained for Summons. The faint smell of homemade mac & cheese, the taste of his one-of-a-kind ginger tea, and the warmth that comes from one’s family could still be felt. 

But while he was surrounded by a plethora of exquisite stimuli, nothing was quite as abundant as the immense spirit of thankfulness. After all, there’s a lot that he has to be thankful for. Larry is the owner of Range 144-1, which is based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and has been seeing what he calls “his dream” come to fruition. But as with most dreams, this one was the culmination of hard work and dedication. 

Dream to Reality

Summons, a native of Baltimore, grew up possessing a fascination with firearms. As he puts it, “Even at a young age, I was pretty drawn to the mechanics of firearms. And my dad, you know, he had a bunch of firearms, so I was exposed to them. I even remember being young and taking my dad’s old pellet rifle apart.”

Of course, when one is dealing with gunsmithing, you can run into some issues early on. He continues, “I thought I could fix it, and parts flew everywhere. I couldn’t put it back together, so I just stuffed ‘em in there and screwed it back together. Felt like some years later where he was like, ‘Hey, you know I found out what you did. [laughs]’”

As he grew older, however, his attention turned toward military service. “My grandfather’s father joined the army—he served in the army. My grandfather served during Korea. My father served during Vietnam. So I’ve come from a long line of soldiers. So it was already there. Looking back at some of my old writings, even going into the ninth grade, I was already sure that ‘Hey, I’m going to join the army. I’m going to go in the infantry.’”


Larry during his time in the Army Reserves. 


By the time his nearly sixteen years of service in the Army Reserves was finished, Summons was at a crossroads. After his time serving, he (like many of our veterans) wasn’t sure what was next for him. However, the desire to still help others in need was burning strong. As he puts it, “I remember sitting in an interview to become a state trooper. That was another dream I had. And he asked me why I wanted to be a state trooper. My response was that I wanted to help people who didn’t know they needed help.”

Whether it was serving in the military, working an assortment of jobs, or even training the next generation of lacrosse players, that desire to assist and help has been a trademark of Larry’s life. Still, he did have one dream he had forgotten about: a “pie-in-the-sky” dream of opening his own range. As Larry explains, “My wife, she showed me the text message where one day I was like, ‘Hey, I wanna open up a range. We got one life, I might as well try it.’ But I had forgotten that I said it—forgotten all about it.”

Had it not been for one fortunate meeting with a premarital counselor, that text message might have become like many of the dreams couples share that ultimately never come to fruition.  But it was in that meeting, while discussing the topic of each other’s dreams, that Larry’s wife, Candice, reminded him of his desire to open a range. 

Enter SDI

Soon, Larry’s mind began to fill with ideas, and with his current job not cutting it, he knew he needed to make a move. But in order to fully realize his vision, he knew he needed some help in the gunsmithing department. So he approached his search for education with the same meticulousness that served him well during his time in the military. 

“I don’t believe in just kind of spitting in the wind and kind of seeing where it lands. You have to be really intentional about your direction,” says Summons. 

“Getting into a new industry is a new mission for me. So it’s doing recon and finding out exactly how to go about getting into this industry the best way and the most sure way. And not in a way that everybody else is taking, because everybody’s not going in the same direction. I just believe that as you kind of do your own research and homework, you find out you know who you are and where you’ve been in there.”


Image of Larry’s workbench


After some thorough research, Summons ultimately decided that SDI was his best choice. Almost immediately, SDI was able to assist Larry during the enrollment process. As he explains, “One thing that really impressed me was how helpful the staff was to ensure that my things got done. Like I really appreciated that. They stayed on top of me to ensure that I had my FAFSA filled out and that everything was correct. If I had any questions or anything, they were right there to answer.”

However, despite a strong first impression, Summons admits that there was some apprehension about attending a postsecondary institution. Oftentimes in gunsmithing, one must be willing to think both critically and creatively in order to effectively fix an issue. And for Summons, he feared an environment that was stifling and non-conducive to learning a trade. But as it turned out, with SDI, he found what he called “a breath of fresh air.”

He explains, “It’s all understood [that] we are all learning. We understand what we’re talking about. We’re going over the lessons, we’re helping each other out. And that’s where I really, really enjoyed taking classes and being able to talk to others like me. We just wanna make sure that we’ve got this concept down, that we can do this safely, effectively, and efficiently and provide a good service for our customers. That was a huge thing for me.”

Slow & Smooth with Range 144-1

After tons of hard work filled with many long nights, Summons finally completed his mission at SDI. But that doesn’t mean that the campaign, as it were, was finished. In fact, getting his gunsmithing education at SDI is just one aspect of his entire business plan. Ultimately the plan is for Range 144-1 to be something of a one-stop shop from the beginning. A place where he could operate a range, sell and work on firearms, and train students to be more responsible firearms owners.

Already having his FFL, his Firearms Instructor Certification through USCCA, and his education in gunsmithing with SDI, Larry is well on his way to fully realizing his vision. Still, he has no plans on rushing the growth of Range 144-1. As he explains, “I think with me it’s just being present [with] where my business is right now, providing instruction to the customers that I see, providing gunsmithing services, and as I become more confident, adding more services to that. Just kind of taking it day by day.” 

Not every dream is easy to chase. Not every journey is without its hiccups and obstacles. However, just days after celebrating Thanksgiving with his family, it’s those exact obstacles that Summons is ultimately thankful for. ”I’m grateful for all the closed doors. I’m grateful for the unsuccessful interviews. I’m grateful for all the plans that didn’t work my way, because they all led me here. And this is something that I wanted to do for many, many years. Going back to me being in middle school, this was a dream of mine to be able to work in the firearms industry and help others.” 

Let SDI Help You Realize Your Firearms Dreams

If you are like Larry and want to beef up your gunsmithing knowledge, why not follow his example and consider enrolling at Sonoran Desert Institute? Our Associates of Science in Firearms Technology and Certificate in Firearms Technology-Gunsmithng programs can help equip you with the tools you need to get started in the firearms industry. 

Larry Summons Jr. is just one of many who have benefited from their time at SDI. To read more stories like his, click here.

Want to listen to more of Larry’s story? You can check out our full podcast interview with him here

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