Pre-2018 Course Descriptions

Sonoran Desert Institute




(Listed in alphabetical order. Sequence for scheduling will vary)

AFY 100: Accuracy and Functionality: 4 Credit Hours

This course provides an understanding of procedures for cleaning, properly storing, and accounting for firearms. During the course, the student will examine techniques for the complete and comprehensive cleaning of firearms. Diagnosis of problems of firearm functionality will be explored. Functionality will be addressed for rimfire, centerfire, and black powder firearms. Additionally, firearm sights and sighting systems will be reviewed.

BBS 100: Basic Ballistics: 3 Credit Hours

This course will identify techniques for the development of ammunition. Included will be lessons on swaging and casting bullets. As an outcome of the course, students will be able to understand the basics of ballistics and techniques to develop more accurate ammunition.

BBS 200: Advanced Ballistics: 3 Credit Hours

This course builds on the outcomes of the Basic Ballistics course. The course will explain how ammunition accuracy is impacted by gunpowder and various projectiles. This course will address reloading techniques for various types of ammunition and will include article reviews discussing various firearm technology.

BTL 100: Basic Hand Tools Lab: 1 Credit Hour

In this lab, the student will engage in hands-on techniques with some of the gunsmith’s essential hand tools. The student will replicate appropriate tool methods on a variety of firearms with the aid of detailed diagrams and drawings. Techniques will be identified that gunsmiths apply in the use of files, rasps, hacksaws, drills, wrenches and screws. Maintenance techniques of these tools will also be identified.

CFL 100: Cleaning Firearms Lab: 1 Credit Hour

In this lab, the student is supplied with training lab tools. The student will demonstrate cleaning techniques by utilizing the tools from the lab to ensure a firearm will continue to operate properly. The lab provides step-by-step instructions on techniques to disassemble different kinds of guns and examine them for obstructions. The lab includes methods for cleaning and conditioning guns by removing greasy buildup, powder, and moisture.

FAT 100: Firearms Technology I: 4 Credit Hours

This course will describe techniques to replace the barrels of firearms. An outcome of the coursework is the formulation of techniques to fit the chamber and adjust the free bore and headspacing. Also, techniques to adjust the trigger pull on rifles, handgun, and shotguns will be described.

FAT 105: Introduction to Firearms: 4 Credit Hours

This course is an introduction to firearms technology and the field of shooting sports management. During the course the student will review firearm fundamentals and multiple types of firearms available. The student will be introduced to the necessary tools for comprehensive firearms repair

FAT 200: Firearms Technology II: 4 Credit Hours

This course covers the preparation and finishing of metal. Techniques for polishing, bluing, Parkerizing, and browning of metal are explained and practiced. Also included are methodologies for the engraving of metal that will allow customization of firearms.

FTA 210: AR-10 Advanced Armorer: 5 Credit Hours

This course presents a comprehensive overview of AR-10-style firearms. Discussed in the course’s lessons are the history, development, and practical applications of AR-10-style firearms, including their parts, the function of each part, ammunition types and calibers, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair. Also presented are sight options, considerations for building or buying your AR-10-style firearm, customizing the AR-10 with coatings and accessories, and a step-by-step lab for completing an 80% lower receiver, installing a lower parts kit, and adding on the upper receiver components.

FTA 215: AR-15 Advanced Armorer: 5 Credit Hours

This course presents a comprehensive overview of AR-15-style firearms. Discussed in the course’s lessons are the history, development, and practical applications of AR-15-style firearms, including their parts, the function of each part, ammunition types and calibers, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair. Also presented are sight options, considerations for building or buying your AR-15-style firearm, customizing the AR-15 with coatings and accessories, and a step-by-step lab for completing an 80% lower receiver, installing a lower parts kit, and adding on the upper receiver components.

FTA 220: Planning a Comprehensive Gunsmithing Shop: 5 Credit Hours

This course includes establishing a structured plan for a gunsmithing shop. Included are considerations for equipment, shop layout, functional plans, and acquisition of purchases.

FTA 225: Developing a Business Plan: 5 Credit Hours

This course includes establishing a formal business plan for a firearms related business. Included are the various stages of researching and outlining a plan, consideration of marketing, financial, and other general business factors and presentation of a formal plan.

FTC 301: Capstone Project: 5 Credit Hours

This course will provide the structure to plan, develop, present, and assess a shooting sports project that incorporates outcomes from other courses in the School of Firearms Technology. This course will be completed in consultation with a faculty member. The project will be based on an area of focus determined by the student and approved by the faculty member. Students may opt to use topics from other courses, including those in the optional FTA prefix series, as part of the project course. Note that optional courses may require additional fees.

FTT 130 (Formerly CZW 200): Customized Woodworking: 4 Credit Hours

This course will describe methods to replace and repair gunstocks. Techniques on ways to properly select the wood and to shape the stock will be described. Included in those techniques will be methods to fit the new stock to the action of a firearm. Included in this course is how to custom fit a gunstock to a customer’s specifications and how to install a recoil pad. Students will demonstrate the process of gunstock inletting, and a hands-on lab on this topic is included.

GSL 200: Gunstock Checkering Lab: 1 Credit Hour

This lab supplies the student with tools, templates, and stock blanks to recut worn checkering and to checker new stock. The lab provides for a demonstration of the skills required in gunstock checkering.

MTL 200: The Rotary Tool Lab: 1 Credit Hour

This lab introduces the student to the rotary tool. The tool is a portable, lightweight, hand-held device and is included with the lab materials. The rotary tool may be used to throat gun barrels, carve stocks, drill, engrave, grind welds, and polish and finish metal for the removal of rebluing and rust. Mastering the use of this tool by the student will ensure quality service and intricate craftsmanship.

SFL 100: Stock Fitting and Metal Work Lab: 1 Credit Hour

In this lab, the student will operate the tools needed to fit the stock and trigger to meet a gun user’s requirements for a proper fit. A model of developing and adjusting the proper fit for a gun user is included.

SSM 200: Shooting Sports Management: 5 Credit Hours

This course will provide the foundation to establish a firearms-related business. Included in the course is a review of the practices, rules, and laws that govern the operation of a firearms repair and sales business. In addition, the course is an introduction to bookkeeping and appropriate business record maintenance related to shooting sports. Advertising and marketing will also be described.

TSF 100: Troubleshooting Firearms: 4 Credit Hours

This course will describe methods to determine causality of improper functioning of a firearm and appropriate methodology to troubleshoot. The course will address rimfire and centerfire rifles and handguns, as well as shotguns. Also reviewed are techniques to convert (sporterize) military firearms to sporting arms.

General Education Course Descriptions

Arts and Humanities

AGT 100 American Government: 3 Credit Hours

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of American government and politics, focusing on the historical evolution of government and policies, and the major institutions and processes. Course goals include developing an interest in and understanding of today’s government, policy development, and politics, as well as developing critical thinking and information literacy skills in the areas of government and politics. Topics include the Constitution; federalism; civil rights and liberties; the structure and processes of the three branches of government; political socialization; interest groups and public opinion; political parties and the election process; and basic U.S. social, economic, and foreign policy. Students will examine institutional structures and how they interact with each other to explain the processes of government and how the historical development of the United States has affected the contemporary political environment. Instruction includes an analysis of the formal and informal processes by which public policy is made; how individual actors impact the contemporary political environment; and application of informational literacy skills in the study of politics. This class includes the following eText: Shea, D.M., Green, J.C., & Smith, C.E. (2011). Living Democracy, 2010 Update Edition, National Version. 2nd ed. ISBN: 0205798411.

Science and Mathematics

BSM 100: Business Mathematics: 3 Credit Hours

This course applies math fundamentals to business applications. Topics include a basic math review, business statistics, profit calculations, payroll, banking, interest calculations, insurance and taxes. Students will learn to solve mathematical problems; apply mathematical concepts to various business transactions and statistics calculations; and analyze business problems using mathematical equations. This class includes the following eText: Cleaves, C., Hobbs, M., & Noble, J. (2012). Business Math. 9th ed. ISBN: 0135108179.

ENS 100: Environmental Science: 3 Credit Hours

This course explores the relationship between man and the environment. Students examine the balance between natural resources and the needs of mankind as well as the scientific, political, economic, and social implications of environmental science. Students will examine the field of Environmental Science in terms of theoretical perspectives, economics, policies, and environmental ethics. Included is an exploration of population growth and demographic transitions; toxic substances and their effects; non-renewable energy sources and their impact on the environment; the biodiversity of earth and conservation biology and its benefits; and the foundations of environmental science. Students will learn how to analyze land use and planning for creating livable cities; evaluate soil as a system and its importance in the environment; describe the function of the earth’s atmosphere, its composition, structure, and changing global climate; and appraise the importance of water and marine ecosystems. The student will also understand how to examine renewable energy and analyze the types of waste generated and disposal methods. This class includes the following eText: Withgott, J. H., & Brennan, S. R. (2009). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories. 3rd ed. ISBN: 0136045316.

Communication Arts

ENG 101: English Composition I: 3 Credit Hours

This course develops written communication skills with an emphasis on understanding the writing process, analyzing text, and practicing writing for personal and professional applications. Students will learn to implement the steps of the writing process; identify essay components; and write effective and grammatically correct paragraphs and essays. Instruction includes how to analyze the role of reading and writing in academic and professional careers; apply strategies to achieve clarity and effective style in writing; differentiate between writing patterns; identify sentence types and parts of speech; discriminate between proper and improper use of punctuation; and to implement correct spelling. The student will also examine and then apply strategies and guidelines for writing an effective research paper. This class includes the following eTexts: Arlov, P. (2010). Wordsmith: A Guide to College Writing; 4th ed. ISBN: 0136050549. Aaron, J. E. (2010). The Little, Brown Compact Handbook. 7th ed. ISBN: 0205651631.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

PSCH 101: Introduction to Psychology: 3 Credit Hours

This course introduces human behavior. It includes the study of the theories and concepts of psychology including the scope of psychology, biological foundations and the brain, sensation, perception, motivation, personality, learning/memory, emotion, states of consciousness, personality theories, cognition, lifespan development, and applied psychology.

In this course, students will examine the field of psychology in terms of history, key perspectives, issues, and current trends. Instruction will cover scientific and research methods; the anatomical structures and physiological functions related to psychology; sensation, perception, heredity, and genetics; consciousness, sleep, sleep disorders, and hypnosis as related to psychology; the underlying principles and basis of the psychology behind learning, memory, and experience; cognitive abilities and intelligence from a psychological perspective; the different phases and stages in human development; the different motivation theories; and the psychological basis of emotions. Moreover, students will examine sexuality and gender in relation to psychology; psychoanalytic approaches and humanistic theories to explain behaviors and traits in personalities; health psychology and approaches to health management; different mental disorders; psychotherapy, differing methods, and their effectiveness; the importance of thoughts; trends in social behavior; and the impact of social influences. This class includes the following eText: Ciccarelli, S. K. & White, J. N. (2012). Psychology. 3rd ed. ISBN: 0205832571.


BUS 101: Introduction to Business

This course provides students with an overview of business in an increasingly global society. Topics include the business environment, ethics, management, marketing, production, information systems, financial elements, entrepreneurship, and global business. This course serves as an introduction to business terminology, concepts, environments, systems, strategies, and current issues, and provides a solid business foundation for more detailed and higher-level study in subsequent courses. Students will gain an understanding of the key components of contemporary U.S. and international business in addition to the role of ethics and social responsibility within this sector. Included is an examination of how businesses can be organized and structured; the key strategies, tools, and issues involved in operations; and the key financial concepts involved in enterprise. Students will be instructed in how to analyze the various functions of and approaches to management, marketing processes, forces, and issues in a business enterprise; and to develop a business plan incorporating sound concepts, systems, and strategies. This class includes the following eText: Ebert, R. J. & Griffin, R. W. (2011). Business Essentials. 8th ed. ISBN: 0137053495.

Ballistics and Reloading Certificate – Non-Credit

The Ballistics and Reloading Certificate non-credit program provides the student with an understanding of the basics of ballistics and ammunition.

Potential Work Applications for Ballistics and Reloading Certificate Completion

This course is designed for the hobbyist. Students seeking to practice as a gunsmith or in a firearms-related industry may require federal and/or state approvals. A student who desires to work in the industry may need to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). This is required if the student intends to repair firearms for compensation. A student employed by a business that has an FFL may not be required to obtain an individual FFL. A student who desires to repair only personal firearms is not required to obtain a firearms license. Because of changes in requirements, the student is advised to regularly review the requirements for the FFL with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The student can find this information on the AFT website (

Sonoran Desert Institute does not guarantee job placement or employment. Disclosures regarding job placement or employment are included on the enrollment agreement and in this catalog.


With the successful completion of this certificate, the student should be able to do the following:

  • Understand the reloading techniques with various types of ammunition
  • Understand the basics of ballistics and techniques to develop more accurate ammunition

Total Program Cost

Tuition is $1250 with no additional fees, for a total program cost of $1250, which includes all course materials, content delivery, and shipping and handling.

Tools and Equipment

Tools and equipment are provided by the Institute and included in the total program cost. These items are shipped to the student with other learning materials and will belong to the student. Students need to have access to a firearm for certain courses and may need additional supplies to complete certain projects. Please visit the following link for a comprehensive list of supplies required for completion of assignments, per current course offerings.

Completion Requirements
To earn a Ballistics and Reloading Certificate, a student must do the following:
  • Complete all coursework required in the certificate program
  • Complete the program with an overall passing grade
  • Complete all program requirements within six months
  • Meet all financial obligations to the Institute
Completion of the Ballistics and Reloading Certificate does not require additional specialized training, practicum, or externships.

Required Lessons – Non-Credit Offering
Category Lessons
Program Related Basic Ballistics
Development of the Modern Cartridge
Advanced Ballistics
Metallic Cartridge Reloading Fundamentals
Reloading the Bottleneck Case
Reloading the Straight-Wall Case
Shotshell Reloading Fundmentals
Reloading the Shotshell
Introduction to Bullet Swaging
Bullet Swaging
Total of 11 Non-Credit Lessons Required

Non-Credit Lessons Descriptions

Chapter 1 – Basic Ballistics

– In this lesson, the science of ballistics is examined. Included in the materials are expectations of bullets of different calibers and their trajectory, wind drift and allowances, breech pressure, recoil and velocity.

Chapter 2 – Development of Mondern Cartridge

– This lesson explains the history and identification of cartridges. Reviewed are the different types of bullets and their uses: lead, jacketed, full-metal, soft-point, hollowpoint and wad-cutting.

Chapter 3 – Advanced Ballistics

– This lesson builds on the outcomes of the Basic Ballistics lesson. The lesson will explain how ammunition accuracy is impacted by gunpowder and various projectiles.

Chapter 4 – Metallic Cartridge Reloading Fundmentals

– This lesson covers both metallic cartridge and shotshell reloading, and provides the student with a basic understanding of the needed concepts and safety protocols for building quality ammunition. Included is advice on press and accessory buys, component necessities, step-by-step instructions, as well as brass cleaning and sorting.

Chapter 5 – Reloading the Bottleneck Case

– This lesson covers die sizing and resizing operations for the bottleneck case. Included are case priming, powder measurement, case seating, crimping, and decapping, as well as other required processes.

Chapter 6 – Reloading the Straight-Wall Case

– The lesson explores the specific differences in the process between reloading straight-wall cases and bottleneck cases. Case priming, powder measurement, case seating, and crimping for the straight-wall case are covered in detail.

Chapter 7 – Shotshell Reloading Fundamentals

– This lesson details the fundamentals of shotshell reloading. The student will learn about each of the components that go into a modern shotshell and how to put them all together, as well as how to identify and understand the different shotshell propellants. Additionally, the different manufacturers of shotshell reloading presses will be discussed.

Chapter 8 – Reloading the Shotshell

– This lesson covers the eight fundamental steps in the reloading process. The student will also learn how to reload buckshot and slugs and how to manage loads in extreme temperatures.

Chapter 9 – Casting

– This lesson is an introduction to bullet casting and serves as a basic primer for making one’s own bullets. The student will learn how to make the ingots used for casting, how to cast the bullets, and then how to size and lube them.

Chapter 10 – Introduction to Bullet Swaging

– In this lesson, students will gain a solid understanding of what swaging is, how it compares to other bullet-making processes, and how to utilize the equipment and materials available to begin swaging custom bullets. This lesson covers the principles of bullet swaging, the terminology used, how swaging differs from casting, and the different presses and types of swage dies that fit them.

Chapter 11 – Bullet Swaging

– This lesson builds on the previous one by providing instruction on how to actually swage a variety of bullets. Students will also learn how to change the nose and base shapes, as well as be introduced to the tools that are needed to swage bullets. Lead, jacketed semi-wadcutters, full jacket, flat base, rebated boattails, shotgun slugs, and airgun pellets are just some of the types of bullets that the student will learn to swage.