How Liberty Bell Firearms Owner Used SDI to Springboard His Business

  • Joey Upper

Diving in the Deep End

Jaye Bell, owner of Liberty Bell Firearms, is decidedly outside the norm when it comes to planning his firearms career.

“My SDI story and my business story is definitely not what you typically see,” Bell said right off the bat. “I am 100 percent a dive into the pool, deep end, head-first, and then figure out, ‘Oh, no, I don’t know how to swim. I should probably figure this out!’”

The twists and turns his path has undergone bear that out, but the hard work and determination intrinsic to Bell has made his business prosper.

Working on Warthogs

Bell found his love for firearms while in the service. He’s served nearly 15 years with the United States Air Force and he still does to this day.

“I’ve been in the military since 2005, working full-time. … I was just really starting to get into guns more,” he said. He started experimenting with his own firearms to try to turn them into the best performers they can be.

He already had an amazing job: The Air Force veteran has an Air Force Specialty Code to make many others’ eyes light up.

“I do fuel systems maintenance for A-10s,” he said. “I really enjoy it. I got the supervisor role about six months ago.”

Hail to the Warthog.

But for Bell, an extremely driven man, that wasn’t enough.

“The more I thought about it, the more it was like, ‘I want to do something in the firearms industry, but I have no idea what to do!’” he said.

Enter Sonoran Desert Institute.

Finding A New Path at SDI

“I’m not kidding you, the same day I could not stop thinking about this, I got on YouTube and there was a video, and that video was titled, ‘How to Get Into the Firearms Industry,’” Bell recalled.

“I turned on this video, it was from Military Arms Channel, an interview with somebody … from SDI, and he talked about SDI and what SDI is, and what they do… and I applied. That minute. I got online and applied right then and there.”

That’s one way to get on board with SDI! After the quick decision to apply to the school, Bell actually found himself nervous to follow through on his acceptance.

“I was so scared to start – this was in November – I didn’t pick a start date until March!” he said.

He was terrified, but soon he learned that everything was going to be all right if he put the work in.

“I got two months into it and, and I just thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I love the school,” said Jaye.

“It roped me in so fast that in April, two months into school, I officially founded (my) business.”

Obviously, he didn’t have his FFL yet, and he didn’t have the ability to run the shop quite yet, but that didn’t prevent him from digging into what he loved.

“I was calling companies, building relationships with people, and getting dealer accounts, and figuring out, ‘OK, what do I want to do?’ The whole time I’m going to SDI and really enjoying it.”

Jaye clearly found the curriculum to be instrumental in what he wanted his future to look like, but there was one course he loved most of all:

“I think the 1911 course was probably my favorite by far,” Bell recalled. “I’ve enjoyed the 1911, but I’ve never built one, so when it came time to do my capstone… I built a Wilson Combat. I got all the Wilson Combat parts … and I built one for my dad. So the first 1911 that I ever built was a gift for him.”

SDI does not offer Wilson Combat parts to students, but can certainly appreciate the effort Bell underwent to make the firearm for his dad extra special.

However, Jaye found that what did come from SDI was extremely helpful in running his shop as a graduate.

“The tools that I use on a daily basis literally came from SDI,” he reported.

Putting Education to Work

Bell has found that not only was SDI an incredible opportunity to obtain a large body of knowledge pertaining to firearms technology, but that it can be the gift that keeps on giving!

“There’ve been a few times, some guns I’ve gotten in, and I’m going, ‘I don’t know how to take this gun apart!’ and I go back and I kept all my books, and I’ve been able to reference those. … Those books are there to help me.”

“SDI really, really fit well into my schedule,” he said, reflecting on his whole experience. “I think that was the biggest thing. I was working full time, I was prepping for a deployment, running a business and going to school all at the same time.”

Now he is nearly as busy as he was then.

“I run a shop full time, then I run a house, and then I run a second shop!”

As he has come to terms with the hectic schedule of work and family, he found that one small piece of the gunsmith industry would define his business: Cerakote.

“When I first started, I looked at Cerakote initially,” he said, “and I’m going, ‘I just don’t have the money to do that,’ … When I was on deployment, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I was like, ‘How can I get myself an oven that’s going to work without having to spend $5,000 to $6,000?’

“I started doing some research, and I found some cheaper alternatives to some of these higher-end ovens that still functioned just fine, that still get the temperature you’re supposed to have for Cerakote and all that good stuff.”

That doesn’t mean he didn’t sink time and money into the project. To accomplish his setup, serious renovation was required.

“I had to overhaul all the electric in the shop because I didn’t even have enough power to run my oven!” he said.

Once he was up and running, he practiced for months, getting to the point that he could take a customer’s product with confidence. The moment he opened up for business he was accosted by multiple new customers who wanted Bell to take care of their firearms.

According to Bell, that portion of his business now accounts for 75 percent of his total revenue.

“People want Cerakote. People want that custom rifle, that custom pistol. It’s great! I really enjoy it. I get to meet a lot of new people.”

“People want something they can call their own,” he later remarked, “and Cerakote (can be) the way to do it.”

Even in his interview, Bell proved that he’s the right guy for your Cerakote needs.

“There is no better feeling in the world than opening that case for that customer and their eyes light up and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I dreamed of!’”

Attached here is a Power Rangers-themed CZ Bell did for a customer:

Even as an active-duty serviceman, Liberty Bell Firearms is excelling in returning quality jobs to its clients, and SDI helped Jaye get there.

“SDI really (gave me) that foundation. … It’s the thing that made me want to do the thing that it is what I’m doing right now,” he said.

We’re proud to call Jaye Bell a graduate and a part of the SDI community.

Jaye Bell is a 2018 SDI graduate.