Pre 2018: Learn From The Best

Sonoran Desert Institute

Learn From The Best

Everyone’s heard the phrase “you’re only as strong as your weakest link.” When it comes to the leadership at SDI, there are no weak links. Our management team members have come from expansive backgrounds in higher education, and our faculty brings years of industry-specific experience to the SDI student experience. We understand that it can be difficult to connect with instructors at some online programs, and we work hard to make this process as one-on-one as possible. For example, our online gunsmithing program was recently re-vamped using insights from our SDI instructors. That means that our instructors are not only experienced, they’re more than well-versed in the SDI curriculum specifically. We are proud of our faculty and staff and aim to offer each of our students an easy way to get the help they need throughout their entire tenure as a member of the SDI family.

Advisory Board

Dan G. O’Kelly

Dan G. O’Kelly

Having been a life-long student of firearm design, history, manufacture and use, Mr. O’Kelly began his professional career with 10 years of experience as a Police Patrolman and Detective in Northwest Indiana. Having been a certified firearm range instructor since 1981, a builder, and a collector of firearms and ammunition, Dan is a factory trained Armorer for thirteen gun companies. He has toured and researched at numerous firearm and ammunition factories and firearm reference collections across the U.S., Europe and Africa, and has regularly presented at seminars on firearm enforcement/technology/markings/ammunition to law enforcement, licensed dealers and collectors. Having earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, he became a Special Agent in 1988 for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). His duties were the investigation of criminal law violations relating to arson, bombings, explosives, organized crime, drug trafficking, and alcohol/tobacco diversion. In 1996, he was assigned as the Lead Instructor of Firearm Technology on staff at the ATF National Academy. Special Agent O’Kelly was placed in charge of the ATF Undercover Training Program in 1998-99 and has successfully worked undercover netting international gun traffickers in Europe, as well as having infiltrated organized crime groups in the U.S. One of his most recent cases was covered by the New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine. He has been qualified as an expert firearm witness in U.S. District Court since 1990 and has been qualified to teach firearm interstate nexus and testimony for ATF since 2001. In 2000, he became ATF’s Resident Agent in Charge of the State of Delaware and in 2002 he was appointed as the Firearm Instructor Coordinator of the Tampa Field Division for the ATF. Mr. O’Kelly also served as an interim Federal Air Marshall for months after 9/11, has served on personal protection details for the President of the United States, protected several Foreign Ministers, and has served at the United Nations General Assembly. His extensive experience as a subject matter expert and trial witness has resulted in his being commended by the U.S Attorneys’ Office. In two cases he broke new ground, being able to testify to the interstate nexus of firearms that only appeared in evidence as photographs, resulting in federal felony convictions which included multiple bank robberies. Daniel has taught at the International Law Enforcement Academies of Europe and Africa and has taught firearm technology and markings seminars to thousands of law enforcement personnel and licensed dealers nationwide. In 2003 he co-wrote the program establishing the Certified Firearm Specialist program for ATF at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake

Jen is certified in Basic Pistol, Rifle, Personal Protection Inside the Home, Personal Protection Outside the Home, Refuse to be a Victim, is a Chief Range Safety Officer and is soon to be promoted to NRA Counselor. She says, “I absolutely love shooting sports and hunting. I take pride in training new or experienced shooters. I enjoy helping people receive their concealed carry permits and knowing I possibly helped them from becoming a victim. I plan to further my education in firearms, experience, and continue to be active in the NRA. I take great pleasure in sharing my knowledge of hunting and outdoors and learning from others.” Her most recent accomplishments include becoming a sponsored shooter in the sport of 3-Gun and filming her hunts.

Justin J. McShane, ESQ.

Justin J. McShane, ESQ.

Based in Harrisburg, Attorney McShane is one of the most highly qualified DUI and criminal defense attornies in Pennsylvania. Justin is a nationally renowned trial attorney and a lawyer who is recognized as having forensic science expertise. He successfully uses his superior knowledge, experience, and guts to defend citizens accused of crimes ranging from DUIs, underage drinking, drug possession, assault, and even capital homicide.


Ray Vaughn
Advisory Board

Ray Vaughn, a full-time professional gunsmith, is no newcomer to the firearms industry. With 20 years’ worth of gunsmithing in the Atlanta area. Ray has also spent time working for the Ginn group as a contractor and as a depot level armorer at Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem. He holds multiple certificates of training from Colt, Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson and more.

Additional Faculty and Staff


Randy Scott

Randy is a graduate of Welch College in Nashville, TN with a degree in Bible and Education. He has worked for 43 years as Senior Pastor at churches in Arkansas. He is a chaplain for the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and works closely with officers from Troop C, Arkansas State Police. Randy is a long time member of the NRA


Mark Lynn

With 10+ years of professional machining experience and current leadership of machining operations for M&M Services, Mark has a background as an expert and is a tireless advocate for firearms. His credentials include NRA membership and certification as an NRA Instructor for Basic Pistol, PPITH, and PPOTH. He has 6 years of combined experience instructing students in both firearms operation/safety and machining operations and is a Chief Range Safety Officer. Mark has strong technical skill operating and maintaining welders, cutters, presses, punches, benders, formers, mills, and lathes. Mark is also a Kitplanes Magazine Author who studied Aviation Management and has received FAA Certifications of SEL and MEL (Single Engine Land) (Multi-Engine Land), is an EAA Air venture Metal Shaping/Gas Welding Instructor, and is affiliated with Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America ABANA.



Aaron Krieger

Aaron has spent 5 Years as a writer and host of the wildly popular We Like Shooting Show, 2 years as a Graphic Designer for Tactical 16, 12 years working with the GM police vehicle division, 2 years as a member of Canton, MI’s CERT Team, and is Tactical Combat Casualty Care Certified.


Erik Shaw

Erik has 15 years of Firearms experience and is an Army Veteran having achieved the position of 1SG, has multiple deployments to his credit, and was awarded a Bronze Star in 2014. Erik attended the University of Pittsburgh, for Space and Missile Defense Command, was an NSA at FT Meade Maryland, is a frequent guest on Fox News and has been featured in various national and regional printed media outlets. He has a Computer Network Administration degree, has Graduated from the International Firearms Specialist Academy, and is working towards another degree in Homeland Security. Erik is also a founder and president of Tactical 16, which is a publishing company that focuses on helping veterans tell their stories to cope with PTSD and TBI-related symptoms. Erik is also a member of The PX3 Patriots All Veteran/Celebrity All-Star Softball Team that tours the nation raising money for Veteran groups that are assisting with serious issues that are plaguing our Veterans as they transition into civilian lives.


David Nash
Faculty, Reloading

Avid shooter for 30 years
Rimfire expert
Reloading fanatic
22Plinkster stats:
-Largest rimfire channel on YouTube
-Largest target channel on YouTube
-Largest trick shooting channel on YouTube


Robert (Bob) Lee
Faculty, Firearms

BA – Regis University, Denver, CO
MBA – Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
Infantry Officer – United States Marine Corps, Republic of Viet Nam
30+ years’ experience as Executive Director and Corporate Officer for two highly rated proprietary educational institutions.

Mike Petronella

Mike Petronella

23 years retired Law Enforcement
15 years SWAT
Factory certified Armorer Colt, Beretta, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Sig-Sauer and Smith & Wesson
BA California State University Fullerton-Criminal Justice


Danny Guckenburg
Faculty, Firearms Technology

MA Social Work – Arizona State University
CPT Arizona Army National Guard (Ret)
Medical Service Corps Officer – AZ Army National Guard
Readjustment Counselor

Kip Carpenter

Kip Carpenter

AS Degree High Tech Institute, Orlando FL
Graduate of two Gunsmithing schools

High risk security, Dignitary protection agent
Gunsmith since the age of 14 and owned and operated his own gunsmithing and firearms shop.

Certified professional gunsmith. Pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns
Practical gunsmithing
Pistol smith
Rifle smith
Rimfire rifle smith
Certified Barrett armorer all rifles
Glock armorer
Glock advanced armorer
NRA pistol instructor
NRA protection in the home Instructor
NRA metallic cartridge reloading instructor
NRA shotgun shell reloading instructor
Tennessee hand gun instructor
Several law enforcement and security certifications

James Mead

James C. Mead
Faculty, Firearms Technology

Associate of Science in Firearm Technology, Sonoran Desert Institute
Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
Master of Public Administration, Central Michigan University
Supervisory Special Agent
Firearms Instructor/Armorer, 2012-Present
Special Agent, 2001-2015
Intern Special Agent, 1999-2001
U.S. Army, 1996-2003
U.S. Army Basic Training, AIT, PLDC, & BNCOC
Glock Armorer Course
Active Shooter Threat Training Program, FLETC
Firearms Instructor Training Program (Distinguished Weapons Expert), FLETC
Use of Deadly Force: Myths and Reality, FLETC
Inspector General Transitional Course, FLETC
Labor Racketeering Training Course
Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Training Program, FLETC
Hostage/Crisis Negotiation Course, USAMPS
REID Basic and Advanced Interrogation Courses
Protective Service Course, USAMPS
Apprentice Special Agent Course, USAMPS
Law Enforcement Leadership Training Program, FLETC

Chester McCoy

Chester McCoy
Faculty, Firearms Technology

BA Morehead State University -Physical Education/Health Education
MA Union College- Administration, Principal K-12
United States Marine Corps Veteran
20 years in education
8 years as a high school Head Football Coach
3 years school administration
2 1/2 years US Bureau of Prisons correctional worker-teacher

James Ryan

James Ryan
Faculty, Firearms Technology

Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Communication – Gonzaga University
Master’s Degree in Communication Leadership (pending) – Gonzaga University
Digital Content Producer for online learning environments – 8 years, presently
Writer/Commentator We Like Shooting Show/ – 3 years, presently
Video Production (TV/Film/News) – 15 years, presently
Savage1r YouTube Channel content creation – 9 years, presently

Jason Celmer

Jason Celmer
Faculty, Firearms Technology

Union Institute & University
Bachelor of Science, Criminal Justice—Management

Over 30 years of experience in the safe handling, maintenance, and firing of small arms.
Over 20 years of experience in small arms marksmanship and tactics instruction.
Law Enforcement Professional with over 20 years’ experience and education in criminal justice.

Instructor Certifications:
Firearm Instructor/Rangemaster
Select Fire Instructor
Simunition Instructor
Less Lethal Devices (40mm/37mm, 12Ga, OC, CN)
Distraction Device Instructor (Flashbang)
Laser Sight Instructor
Patrol Rifle Instructor
Law Enforcement Response to CBRNE Incidents
Law Enforcement Protective Measures for CBRNE Incidents
Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings
First Responder to Active Shooter

Armorer Certifications:
Sig Sauer (220, 226, 228, 229, 230/232,239)
Colt (AR, M16/M4)
HK (USP, G36, 416)
Ruger (556, Mini-14, LCP)
Remington (870,700)

Extensive experience trouble shooting, diagnosing, and repairing small arms of all types from around the world, 1860’s to Present Day.

Doug Datish

Doug Datish
Faculty, Firearms Technology

Bachelors of Arts, concentrating on History- The Ohio State University

NFL Alumni
National Champion at The Ohio State University
Co-Founder and Producer of Reaper Outdoors Productions- 4 years
Executive Producer- Reaper Outdoors: Survive the Hunt
Co-Founder and CEO of Juniper Management- Presently
Co-Founder of Alpine Springs Rehabilitation and Recovery Centers- Presently
Lifetime Outdoorsman and Firearms enthusiast
Health and Fitness Expert

Coaching Certification, State of Ohio
CPR/ First Aid Certification
SERT Certified

James Palmer

James “Chris” Palmer
Faculty, Firearms Technology

Gunsmithing Certificate/AR-15 Armorer’s Certificate – Sonoran Desert Institute
Bachelor Degree in Information Technology Remington College
Associate Degree in Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance National Aviation Academy
2009 Commercial Pilot License

DHC-8 First Officer US Airways Express/Piedmont Airlines Roanoke, VA.
Flight Instructor and A&P Mechanic Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology