A Hands-On Education Pays Off

  • Joey Upper

Building on Success

Benjamin Turner’s body of work at Sonoran Desert Institute is impressive, and we weren’t the only ones to think so.

Turner pursued and acquired both his Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate and his Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree. During his course of study, he ran a local gun shop, which might lead some to wonder: Why pursue a degree in a field in which he was already successful?

Turner, like the excellent student he is, loves learning. But Turner is one of those special minds that loves to learn about learning.

A Baseline

“That’s tough,” Turner said when asked to describe SDI in a sentence. “With that, one thing that comes to mind is you’re not going to learn everything right away… What it is going to teach you, it’s going to give you the blueprints to learn everything else you can.”

Turner felt himself equipped with the tools necessary to take on a career in gunsmithing.

“It gives you a baseline,” he continued. “It gives you a starting knowledge of the broad spectrum of gunsmithing. A lot of people think that it’s just straight gunsmithing. No. There are tons of different branches of it. All different styles of it, you know: pistolsmithing, rifles… everything about it! Cerakote, woodwork, there are so many branches of general gunsmithing, and SDI’s coursework and programs allowed me to get my foot in the door, to places that I don’t know I’d have been able to (otherwise).”

With hindsight, Turner’s path from what he thought and what he enjoys to where he is now is pretty clear. Back then, exploring a variety of subjects was just breaching the surface of a world he loved.

The Importance of Field Study Partners

“I actually have two favorite courses that I took while I was a student at SDI,” Turner recalled. “The checkering course was phenomenal. It’s a skill to be acquired. It’s not something that you can master overnight. Also, the advanced AR-10 and AR-15 courses really opened my eyes to that spectrum of gunsmithing and it really helped me pursue the career that I have today.”

“A year-and-a-half later, I produce Armalite .50-caliber , bolt-action rifles, and all of the AR-10s and AR-15s from entry-level models all the way up to three-gun competition rifles.”

“What might he mean by that?” you might wonder. Well, thanks to a suggestion by one SDI student services adviser and a lot of hard work on his own part, Benjamin now works for Strategic Armory Corps, one of our field study partners and owner of a few brands you may be familiar with: Surgeon Rifles, McMillan Firearms, AWC Silencers, Nexus Ammo, and Armalite.

“During my coursework at SDI I was running a local gun shop,” Turner said. “I received an email from one of the student counselors saying ‘Hey, there’s a company in North Phoenix named Strategic Armory Corps, and they are hiring for an entry-level gunsmithing position.’ When I went up there for the interview, I realized the company hiring – one of their subdivisions was Armalite. If anybody knows anything about ARs, ‘AR’ stands for ‘Armalite Rifle.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be a blast!’ After the whole interview, I got a walkthrough, and 90 percent of the company were veterans, and I was like, ‘Yes! I want to work here. This is what I want to do.’

“A year-and-a-half later, I produce Armalite .50-caliber , bolt-action rifles, and all of the AR-10s and AR-15s from entry-level models all the way up to three-gun competition rifles.”

“If I knew somebody considering SDI as an option,” Turner reflected, “I wouldn’t tell them. I’d show them.

Show, not Tell

SDI helped to prepare Turner for what has turned out to be an amazing career in the firearms industry, and we couldn’t be happier for him.

“If I knew somebody considering SDI as an option,” Turner reflected, “I wouldn’t tell them. I’d show them. I still have all my course books and the projects that I did while I was attending class, and I would show them. Hands-on. This is what the school is about. This is what they offer. This is what you will get out of it.”

What more can be said?

Benjamin Turner is a 2017 SDI graduate.

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