As if Shark Week, Dirty Jobs and MythBusters were not enough awesomeness for one television network, the Discovery Channel has gone and done it again. If you are a Discovery junkie like me, you’ve probably seen the promotional spots for the show Sons of Guns, airing for the first time tonight, Jan 26 at 9pm. Not only does the show feature a custom firearms manufacturer in the bayou of Louisiana, it just happens to include a girl as one of the primary cast members. As a female gun website proprietor, I could not be more excited.
I got the chance to chat with Stephanie Hayden of Red Jacket Firearms, the company around which the show is based, to talk a bit about her experience with guns.  She filled me in on what it’s like to be a girl in the gun industry, her weapons of choice and and much much more. Check it out:

NF: So Stephanie, how did you get in to firearms?

SH: Pretty much the same way you did. I wanted to just spend time with my dad. When I was a kid I can’t remember ever not seeing guns around the house.  My dad’s a Marine, you know, so it was always something that I was interested in. And my dad would do anything in the world for me. He said, “Come on, baby girl, let me show you how it works.” And it just went from there.

NF: Are you the only girl in the family?

SH: No, I have a sister, but she was definitely more of the ‘girlier’ girl type. She didn’t really get in to the guns as much. We’ve been able to get her out there and she does enjoy shooting, but she’s not as into it as I am. And, you know, we’re not gonna push it on her, we just want her to enjoy herself.

NF:Do you remember at what age you started shooting?

SH: I’d have to say the first time my dad ever actually let me shoot a gun I was probably only about seven, but that was, you know, daddy over the shoulder holding on after the three hour lesson of safety courses with a really low caliber gun. Being an avid shooter- I probably didn’t start that until about 15-ish. That was the age that dad was more comfortable with me having it and doing it on my own because I had been around it for a lot longer. It was more of a safety issue.

NF: I’m glad you said that, we try to stress safety to our readers and new shooters especially. I’m of the view that everyone who is competent and safe should shoot or know how to operate a gun. But the most important thing is safety.

SH: My biggest thing when I’m talking to anyone about getting into the sport- I say, “Go ahead and get educated on it before you just pick up a gun. They are not toys. They are fun, but they are not toys.” We joke around sometimes around here about them being toys, but in all seriousness you have to realize that they are weapons.

NF: They can be very dangerous-

SH: They can be dangerous in the wrong hands but they can also be a protector in the right hands.

NF: And they can also be fun.

SH: Oh yeah, definitely. That’s half of the appeal for me. I get to go out and play with some of the bigger stuff we sell and I’ve got quite a line of interesting weapons that are here. They are a lot of fun.

NF: I bet you do have some interesting weapons. Tell me about your collection.

SH: Personally, I’ve got a Polish Tantal and I’ve got a Red Jacket SBSG- that’s a short barreled shotgun. Those are my two favorites. I don’t really get into handguns too much. I’ve owned a Beretta, Smith & Wesson and a couple of other little things for personal carry. You don’t want to walk around with an AK on you [laughs]. That’s just for safety and home protection. The ones that I really enjoy shooting are like the Tantal. It’s got really low recoil and it’s just fun to shoot.

NF: I haven’t heard of the Tantal. What is that?

SH: It’s an AK-74. It’s a lot like the regular AK but it shoots a 5.45 round rather than a 7.62 so it’s a smaller caliber.

NF: Ok, cool, so there is less recoil with the smaller round. Got it. So other than shooting with your dad when you were little, are there any fun memories that you can recall when it comes to firearms?

SH: Really, it’s not the guns, it’s more the stuff I got to do with my dad when we were out showing off the guns. We did a lot of reenactments. Everything from Native American impressions to the Vietnam War. Those were probably some of my favorite memories of my entire life.  I also get to go and do the shows. At the Birthday Bash I’m the Red Jacket girl, so I get to do a lot of that kind of stuff and I get to meet a lot of people and things like that.

NF: That’s really cool- the reenactment culture, I would think, would give you a real appreciation for history and where our country has come from.

SH: Exactly- that was one of the main purposes behind it, actually. The things that I do know about my country I know because of the guns and the reenactments. It’s not from school books. Going out and doing that kind of stuff- when you live it, you really do learn it. I’ve gotten to meet some really incredible people and do some really incredible things just because of that.

NF: So when you go out shooting, is there any gear that you just can’t live without?

SF: No ma’am- My dad taught me to be a survivalist and that means you get exactly what you need off the land that the Lord gave you. There are things that I like to have. I like to have a knife. I like to have a fire starter kit. Tarps are great, you know, and a little bit of rope is really handy in a tight situation. You can make bows out of a tree and a rope and arrows out of rocks and sticks. The more you know, the less you need.

NF: What about when you go shooting? Do you enjoy shooting clays – skeet and trap – that kind of thing?

SH: I’ve gotten to shoot clays twice in my life and I’ve gotta tell you, it was fun, but I wasn’t really all that good at it. [laughs] I do like to use a shotgun. That’s a heck of a lot of fun. I do a lot of target shooting. And a lot of the stuff we do, especially with the shows and all, it’s really more of a show. We get to shoot a lot of guns, but it’s more of an area that you’re going in to. That’s what I really like to do – go out and get in to an area {on the target}. Not take it so seriously, you know. A lot of people take it so seriously. I understand wanting to hit your mark, you definitely want to do that. But just have fun with it, you know? It doesn’t really matter where you’re shooting or what you’re shooting at when you’re target shooting.

NF: So do you think that shooting is different for men and women?

SH: I think the only difference in shooting between men and women is that we look better doing it in heels. We’ve gotta put up with a lot more flack. You’ll constantly hear men talk about how much more they know, but once you’re in there and you’re shooting all of that kind of goes away. When they actually see that you know what you’re talking about and you know what you’re doing- it’s like any other industry that’s predominantly men. You’re gonna have to prove yourself.  And that’s ok. Educate yourself and do it.

NF: That’s a great message.

SH: I definitely do want to make sure that the women out there do understand that this is not something you should be afraid of. Get out there. Get yourself some good training. Don’t get trained by a family member unless your family member is a professional. A lot of times that causes frustration. Things often go unspoken because they expect you to know certain things or because of personal issues. Go to a class. Get a professional. Let them take you through the course. Let them show you all of the safety info. You’re gonna get a lot more out of it doing it that way. Then once you get some good education, get out there and have some fun!
My dad taught me safety, but he had other people in the industry go over things with me. I pick up information from all different kinds of shooters from all different age ranges because everyone’s got a different view point and the more you know the better.

NF: So the motto over at Red Jacket is: “ If you can dream it, we can build it.”

SH: As long as it is not completely ridiculous or illegal. That’s our disclaimer on that.

NF: Right, of course. So what is it that makes Red Jacket so unique?

SH: It’s the only place in the world where you can do the things we do with an absolute passionate loving family atmosphere. That’s what makes us different. A lot of people get caught up in the business of things and let that kind of run away with them. And here we’re strictly about our family and making something for our family. We want it here for generations to come. The show’s great and all, but we’ve got a company here and we’ve got our own goals in mind and things that we want to do. That’s what’s really important to us, you know, and that comes off in the atmosphere here.  It’s just really fun to be here and really enjoyable to do your job.  We go to work everyday and everybody here wants to be here. [laughs] We genuinely get upset when we can’t go to work. How many people do you know that can say that about their job?

NF: So what is the future of Red Jacket? Where do you think it’s going for you?

SH: With dad you can never tell what he’s gonna do as far as the weapons go. He does plan to keep making the same types of rifles that he’s making, but he’s always looking for something new. We really just want to continue to stay on top of the industry and really move forward with development. We’ll come out with new, different ways to make things better and more beneficial to the shooter.

NF: Do you guys make anything specific to women or tailored to women? Do you do custom weapons?

SH: When we customize the weapon we take the customer – the person – into consideration. When we’re making a gun and we know that it is for a woman we’re gonna ask things like, “How are you on recoil? What’s your size?” Because it really does matter. You don’t want to put a really big heavy weapon that’s got too long of a butt stock or something with a long barrel in a very small framed 5’4” 120 lb girl’s hand. She’s gonna be uncomfortable, she’s not gonna enjoy it and it will honestly deter her from shooting again. So if we’re doing something like that we’re gonna talk to the customer fully- we’ll find out about you. What do you want to use this for? Is it for your home? Is it for sport? Have you done this before? How educated are you with it? And what are you looking for? So that we can put our ideas of what we think is best for them with what they’re looking for. We’re usually very good with coming to common ground and the people are very satisfied with what they get.

NF: How often do you make guns for women?

SH: Honestly, not as much as I’d like. I’d like to get a few more in. But that has been one of the great things about the show. It’s put us out there a little more and more women who are into shooting – and there are plenty of them out there – more of those women have found us and have realized that we are a woman-friendly place. Come to us, we’re not gonna treat you like you’re ignorant or anything like that.  In the gun world you get a lot of that sometimes. We assume if you are calling and asking for a weapon you probably already know a little bit. Then we actually talk to you [laughs] and find out the rest.

NF: Yeah, I’m glad you said that. I’d really like to turn the tide of men being condescending to women about firearms.

SH: The most important thing to do when that happens is to stand your ground. Be strong. Let it roll off of you. Don’t get frustrated. Like I said before, if you feel you need to prove yourself, well, do it! Get out there and just shoot and show them that you are educated. As soon as I start actually talking with guys, they completely change their tone. Once they realize that I do know what I’m talking about and that I am educated – I am a shooter – their tone completely changes and they’ll treat you like any other guy that’s into the sport.  It’s just that there are girls out there who aren’t educated who will talk about what their boyfriend talks about and they come up with incorrect information. It’s not through any fault of their own, it’s just the information they were provided. Don’t just listen to your boyfriend. Don’t get on internet forums and talk to armchair commandos to find out about it.  You want to really educate yourself.  I can’t stress that enough.

NF: Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to about the show?

SH: Man, I am loving the fact that I am getting to do all of this in a way that the world can see. We’re getting to meet a lot of really really cool people. I’ve met WWII vets – so many cool people I couldn’t even begin to name them all. We’re getting to show the world that people who have guns aren’t bad guys. What we’re doing here is just focusing on craftsmanship and the people and what they need. And we get to show people that. Its a very educational show. Every clip I’ve seen and every clip everyone else has seen – they tell me, “Wow,  I didn’t know that.” And that is so exciting for me. That people are getting to learn so much about what they can do. I get calls asking me if suppressors are legal. They say, “I thought you couldn’t do that.” I say, “Well, yes sir. In most states they are legal.” You do have to pay for them just like you would a car, but you can buy them. That’s one of the greatest things about it. Just getting the knowledge out there.

*****

Stephanie was absolutely lovely and we’re extremely grateful that she took the time to speak with us.  We at Girl’s Guide to Guns are looking forward to watching her on the small screen and learning a thing or two from her expertise. You can catch Sons of Guns Wednesdays at 9pm on the Discovery Channel.

For custom weapons, contact Red Jacket Firearms at the link below.

http://www.redjacketfirearms.com/