GRAD SPEAK: Talking Family and Firearms with Rodeo Mccumber

  • Drew Poplin

Born and raised in Branson, MO, Rodeo Mccumber spent much of her life familiar with firearms, but not intimately acquainted with them. As she puts it, “I watched my dad buy and trade rifles often as a child. I was curious about them but my dad never let me handle a firearm growing up, so I kinda had no choice in the matter until about 5 years ago.”

However, once she got a taste of them, it was love at first shot. This didn’t come without learning curves — or a couple of bruises. As she explains, “I was looking to buy my first rifle and, at first, I was overwhelmed because I knew nothing about the logistics of the different calibers. So I asked my friend to let me shoot all his rifles ranging from .243 all the way to .308 caliber. I remember while trying out these rifles, it was freezing cold outside and my friend wanted me to try his .270 rifle. He told me that it really kicks hard.”

After some initial fear, she finally gave it a shot (pun certainly intended). To her surprise, it wasn’t bad at all. But her story continues, “Then he handed me a 12-gauge shotgun and I got knocked back with a bruise on my shoulder. Afterward, he laughed and said, ‘Well, Rodie, I bet you wish that you held the shotgun a little tighter to your shoulder, huh?’ But it grabbed my attention. Call me crazy but I fell in love with firearms from there on out.”

From there, her love for firearms continued to grow more and more. However, it eventually became clear that firearms would become more than just a hobby to Rodeo.

Finding Her Aim

Being a former high school dropout, Rodeo received her high school diploma from Penn Foster on New Year’s Eve of 2020. From there, she tried the college experience, starting with photography and then shifting to human resources management before ultimately deciding to place her education on pause. As she explains, “If I am going to pay a lot of money for education, it will be something I enjoy learning and doing for the rest of my days.”

She wouldn’t have to wait terribly long to find the right fit. While she was scrolling on social media, she happened to come across an advertisement for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI). It was then that something clicked. According to her, “When I saw the ad, I was like ‘Now I can see myself doing that for a living!’ I was in awe of the fact there was an online school for firearms.”

Seeing how her love for firearms was growing and knowing she needed to start her career, Rodeo decided to take the leap. On December 6, 2021, nearly a year after she received her high school diploma, she embarked on this new journey, deciding to enroll in the Certificate in Firearms Technology – Gunsmithing program (CFT–G).

Honing Her Craft at SDI

Not knowing what to expect, Rodeo went into SDI with an open mind. It was an experience that she found to be quite enjoyable. So much so that when she completed the CFT–G program, she re-enrolled months later, this time in SDI’s Associate of Science in Firearms Technology program (ASFT).

While learning a lot at the school, one of Rodeo’s favorite aspects of SDI was its online nature, saying, “My favorite part of school is getting the packages in the mail. It’s like getting a present for my birthday or Christmas.”

That said, her time at SDI wasn’t without some struggles. During her time in the associate program, she was in the midst of an abusive relationship. While this significantly interfered with her education, she expressed that the school was eager to assist her in whatever way they could. Ultimately, Rodeo overcame this and graduated from the program on March 17, 2023.

When asked what her biggest educational takeaway was, she believed that learning the importance of safety and patience was vital to her success at school. As she explains, “Safety is key and to always take my time! I make more mistakes when trying to rush. After several courses, I started to learn how to be patient.”

The CZ Dream

Two months after graduating from SDI, Rodeo was able to use her passion and newly acquired skills to start a new job with major firearms manufacturer CZ-USA. Describing her emotions when finding out that they were interested in hiring her, she said, “Let me tell you, I was so excited that I ran from one end of the house to the other.”

Ultimately, her excitement for the opportunity got her a job with the company. Soon, she was on her way to Kansas City, where she would ultimately become a shotgun technician with the company. But the hard work was just getting started. As she describes it, “When I was hired I had to follow and watch these gunsmiths for like two weeks, which was daunting.”

After learning what she could from observing the gunsmiths, she asked if she could take a crack at two different shotguns so she could familiarize herself with the firearms. Getting the approval from her boss, it didn’t take her long to realize that she really enjoyed the work. In her words, “I emailed my boss and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ It was not even two minutes before he came in and said, ‘Be careful of what you wish for!’”

But Rodeo was absolutely loving what she was doing. Before long, she started showing up to work an hour early each day to prove to her employer that she was up for the task. It was this dedication, drive, and vigor that ultimately earned her an important role fixing all the shotguns in the warranty department.

Looking Forward to What Is Next

Unfortunately, not all good things last as long as we would like. While she loved her role and her co-workers, and was excelling at CZ-USA, another role was calling: the role of dutiful, caring daughter. Growing up in a family suffering from deafness, Rodeo was no stranger to the responsibility of caring for her kin. And now, with her stepfather’s health getting worse, she knew she needed to come back home to act as caregiver.

However, this is not the end of her career in gunsmithing as it is still a career she is actively pursuing. While she is currently searching for employment closer to home, she has decided to continue her studies with SDI, enrolling in the Certificate in Firearms Technology – Handgun Specialist (CFT-HS) program. She’s even considering acquiring new skills outside of firearms, as she now is eyeing enrolling in SDI’s unmanned technology program.

Reflecting on what her education at SDI means to her, Rodeo had this to say, “SDI has had a big impact on my life and I’m very loud and proud to be a graduate.” She went on to add, “SDI is where you want to go for your firearm educational goals.”

The pride goes both ways as we are very excited to see where Rodeo’s passion and hard work take her next!

Follow Your Firearms Passion at SDI

Are you, like Rodeo, in love with firearms? Would you like to learn the skills and techniques you need to be successful in the firearms industry? Start that journey with SDI! Click here to read more success stories from our graduates.

Spread the love