Grad Feature: The Success of Chris Miller

  • SDI Admin

“This is the best decision I’ve ever made.” Chris Miller gets excited when he talks about Sonoran Desert Institute. He is currently working full-time as the head gunsmith at Phelan Gun Range and part-time as a scuba diving instructor in Southern California.

Like many ex-military, Chris developed a fondness for firearms while serving. It was a passion that stayed with him after he left the service. “Everybody I work with is ex-military. We get to work with firearms all day, and we love what we do.”

Chris was previously working full-time as a scuba diving instructor for a sporting goods store, but the store closed and Chris found himself with a lot of time on his hands. As he began to explore his options, he realized that there was not a lot of opportunity for scuba diving where he lived in SoCal. “I always tinkered with guns. It was a hobby of mine and I wanted to see if there was a way to get into the industry. I figured my best bet was to gain some certification to increase my chances. I was home a lot after my employer went out of business, so I figured it would be a good time to put my G.I. Bill to work for me.”

When Chris was investigating his options, he centered on SDI’s programs. Chris had this to say about his time at SDI, “It was really convenient. My wife was in school as well, but she had to leave the house for class. I could hang out at home, take the kids to school, and concentrate on my own education.” Chris completed SDI’s Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate, Advanced Armorer Course, Ballistics and Reloading Certificate, and wants to come back for the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology program.

One of the duties that Chris has at his current job is function checks. These, he remarked, are the best part. “I can’t believe I get to do this every day. This is really a dream come true for me. I leave work three times a week, load up the dog, and go to the range for function checks on rifles that I am working on. Seriously, part of my job is to go shooting three times per week.”

Working in Southern California, one might expect the state’s strict gun laws to negatively influence his workload. “Not the case,” said Chris. “With all the gun laws passed in California over the past few years, the firearms that were all owned before the laws passed required modifications to make them legal. I would say that a majority of our business involves bringing firearms up to legal specifications.” This, combined with the numerous 3-gun and cowboy action shooting tournaments, has made Phelan Gun Range a busy place.

Chris is ambitious about his career as a gunsmith. He has recently expanded his role by working on the marketing side of the business. He has taken the lead at Phelan Gun Range by creating YouTube videos, keeping the website up to date, and working on Facebook. “In six months, we have accumulated the same amount of traffic as our local sporting goods store as well as Bass Pro Shop. This feels like it’s just the beginning for us and I’m always trying to grow our viewership.”

Chris shows a special amount of determination. He took ownership of his career by gaining the credentials necessary to make himself appealing to potential employers. And he has further developed into a contributor in the firearms industry by working on the marketing side of the business. His is a story of success in the firearms industry, and SDI is glad to play a role.