Starting from Scratch

  • Joey Upper

No Background, No Problem

There’s a common misconception that Sonoran Desert Institute’s School of Firearms Technology is just for those who have many years of experience dealing with firearms, whether in the armed forces, law enforcement, or otherwise. That isn’t true.

While a great many of our students are veterans, Sonoran Desert Institute is meant to instruct students from a broad spectrum of starting points, as one of our successful graduates, Ryan Baca, recently reflected upon.

“I think the cool thing about me was that, when I got into the program, I wasn’t in law enforcement; I wasn’t in the military,” Baca said. “I didn’t know how to work a firearm. As far as if something jammed or something went wrong, I wasn’t the person to go to. After going to SDI, I certainly felt a lot more confident in that aspect.”

Baca was unsure what his experience with SDI might look like. Choosing to go back to school, whether that’s after high school or a college experience elsewhere, is intimidating. While SDI works hard to create a curriculum that works with our students’ schedules, there are still deadlines. There is still a lot of work to do that will be reviewed by an industry expert. That’s not insignificant.

A Great Experience

For Baca, however, even with his lack of experience, he found himself having a blast. Pun intended.

“It certainly was one of the best experiences that I’ve gone through,” Baca commented. He takes pride in his ability to help friends and family with their firearms needs and, at the time of our interview, was still progressing toward getting his FFL, a process slowed by a move.

Baca’s fondest experience might be something less than a surprise, especially to those who have taken the liberty to peruse our course catalog. Ryan’s capstone, now known as Firearms Technology Elective, project was the ultimate contributing piece to his ability to be confident when working with firearms technology.

“Certainly the capstone,” Baca said when asked about his favorite course. “Obviously, that’s what everyone builds up to.

“You start off – some of these guys come into the program and they know firearms up and down. They’re just working towards getting the degree for that. In my case, I was completely green. I did not know anything. So getting to a point where I could build my own firearm was the ultimate goal.”

Sage Advice

Baca’s success story came with a tangible reminder of how far he’d come with SDI.

While more confident in handling firearms, Baca had a warning for current and potential students: This isn’t an undertaking to embark upon lightly.

“I would tell them to be prepared for details,” he said. “You cannot guess when it comes to firearms. It’s certainly one of those things that has to be done right, and so building that platform of (knowledge), knowing how to do it the right way is what I think SDI did a good job of doing.”

Ryan Baca is a 2017 SDI graduate.