Stephanie Hayden of Sons of Guns on Discovery is a force to be reckoned with. She keeps the boys over at Red Jacket Firearms on their toes and makes sure the shop runs like the well oiled machine that it is. In our second interview with Stephanie, we’re talking Season 2, just what type of man she’s looking for and much more. Check it out!
Natalie Foster: Thanks so much for chatting with me again, Stephanie. I had so much fun watching the show during Season 1. Like most of your fans who watch the show, I feel like I know you all now. So how are you guys? How’s everyone over at Red Jacket since we last spoke?
Stephanie Hayden: We’re great. We’re super busy – we’ve got such a backlog it’s ridiculous, but we’re pushing guns out daily.
NF: That’s a good problem to have. What’s going on with the business? Have you guys hired anyone new?
SH: We’ve definitely hired on a few new hands. I’ve got two new girls helping me out in the office and about three or four new guys in the back of the shop that are getting trained up getting ready to be pushing some of these new projects through.
SH: Ya know, the only thing that is really different is the fan stuff we’ve been doing. Other than that, everything is kinda the same. We’ve built out the business a little bit, but not a lot’s really changed. We’ve definitely taken on bigger, badder projects this season.
NF: Can you give us a preview about it at all or is it still top secret?
SH: Oh it’s definitely still top secret. The network would kill me!
NF: So we didn’t talk about this last time and I’d really like to know: how did the show come about? Whose idea was it to do a TV show about Red Jacket.
SH: Jupiter Entertainment. We actually have always done little YouTube videos and things like that because me and my dad were always taking it to the extreme. We get out in the field; we play with these things. We find the best changes for weapons that are out there and we’re also into developing new age weapons. So with us putting it all on the internet, basically they just found us. They came across a YouTube video one day of dad shooting a machine gun in some bunny slippers and some pajama pants and they just thought it was hilarious. So they came down and spent a week with us and thought we were perfect for TV due to the “characters”, as they call it, that we have around here. That’s a nice way of saying that we’re an interesting bunch of Southerners. They just decided it would make great TV and, well, here we are.
NF: Let’s catch up on all of last season really quick; you had some pretty exciting things happen. What were the highlights for you? It was cool to see you meet a Medal of Honor winner and the night time bow fishing and all of that. You did some really cool things. What were some of your favorites?
SH: Actually, those two probably were my favorite things. Meeting Woody was incredible. He was the most vibrant 89-ish year old man you’ve ever met in your life. He had no problem getting behind the flame thrower. Just watching him go straight into old muscle memory – just hunker down with that flame thrower and give it his all, you know – the look on his face that I don’t even think TV captured – it was indescribable. Getting to see that man do that was… it’s what we’re here for and it makes it all worth while. The bow fishing thing was definitely fun. I bruised the heck out of my arm. I had a big old bruise on my arm for about three months after that experience, but it was fun. If you ever go bow fishing, definitely take an arm guard. It’s a very good idea. [laughs]
NF: Good to know. Had you ever done that night time bow fishing before?
SH: No, not at all. It just sounded like a pretty cool idea when the guys mentioned it to me. I’m always up for something new, you know? Around here here isn’t a whole lot to do. Might as well get out there and give it a try. It’s a blast – it really is. I’m dying to go back if I ever get some time off.
NF: I can’t believe you had never done it before. You looked like a pro.
SH: I had shot bows before. I started off on a bow and arrow. I used to horseback ride and shoot turkeys off of the horse, but that’s been quite a few years ago. That’s one of those muscle memory things, again, you get to where you just know how to work a bow. He did have to train me, though, because it’s different shooting in the water than it is to shooting into land because the water makes you look like you’re higher than you are. You have to shoot like 6 inches lower than you think you’re supposed to, which was kinda crazy. After I got used to that I did pretty well. I actually pulled in like five or six pretty big fish.
NF: That’s amazing. It’s totally inspiring. I can’t wait to get out there and do it at some point. Back to the Medal of Honor episode, that was a particularly intense one even for the audience. Watching your dad overcome his fear of fire that was induced by his childhood trauma was very emotional. (Note: Will Hayden was trapped in a burning building as a young child. This issue was highlighted in the Flamethrower/Medal of Honor episode.)
SH: Yeah, he’s always had issues with the whole fire thing. We didn’t realize how bad it was until that came up. But I was proud of him. I loved seeing him get out there and do it. I mean, he’s not gonna put a product in someone else’s hands before he tests it himself. So I definitely knew he would, but to see him do it… man, I was proud of him.
NF: So, of course, Girl’s Guide wants to know if you’ve seen a growth in female customers? You’re such an inspiration to so many girls that might be intimidated by guns. Have you seen an influx of women at all?
SH: Not so much with the weapons that we sell, but a lot of the weapons that we sell aren’t necessarily catered toward women. Now, I have had husbands order some of the .410 or 5.45 type weapons that we sell for their wives to get them into it. I have seen that. And I’ve seen a huge influx of female fans on my Facebook pages and stuff like that. Other than that, not a whole lot. We get a lot more women that call in, but as far as actual sales to women – not as much as I’d like to see, but we’re working on that. I think we need to work on designs that are really geared toward the women before we can open up that market. With rifles it’s just kind of hard. They look at the fact that it’s a big gun and they just assume that it kicks.
NF: Yeah, they look a lot more intimidating than they actually are.
SH: I have noticed that we’ve gotten more inquiries about it since they’ve seen me shooting on the show. They say, “Well, if you can shoot it, I’m twice as big as you are, I can do it, too.” It just takes getting behind it. Getting rid of the fear, you know, and just having the courage to get back there and do it.
NF: What would you recommend as a first Red Jacket gun for a chick?
SH: It depends on whether they want a shotgun or a rifle – most women who call in want the shotgun because it’s practical. They use it going hunting with their husbands and things like that. I recommend the .410 which is my signature gun – the .410 ZK SBS. It’s the blue gun that I carry. We won’t make another one like it. We do offer the blue, just not on that gun. But that’s the one I recommend for most women who are looking for a shotgun. If you want a rifle, they can make the .223. It’s a very light round for a female. All of our weapons, of course, are very easy to shoot. AK is by nature one of the simplest guns on earth next to a 5-shot revolver. Those are the two I recommend – the .410 shotgun and the .223 rifle.
NF: Tell me about the response you are getting from women who write in to your Facebook page.
SH: I definitely get a lot of positive messages mostly for not being… gosh, how do we put this PC-wise? I don’t show my butt off in every episode. [laughs] I make sure to educate myself so I can be an educated woman on the show which is something that is lacking on a lot of shows with females. It’s not that we don’t put any “sexy” in it – it’s not that. But at the same time there is a difference between sexy and slutty, as my mother always said. I get a lot of credit for that – for keeping class on the show and for being willing to get out there and do this stuff with these guys. They say, “I can’t believe you’ve got the nerve to get up there and do it.” But I’ve been around it forever, you know? That makes it a little easier. I also have full faith in the people around me, so when they say, “Get on it,” I usually just do what I’m told. [laughs]
NF: You have a really good team there at Red Jacket. You often seem like a family.
SH: Oh yes, every person here is family. Whether it’s by blood or not, they’re still family.
NF: That really comes off on the show. It just seems like you guys have so much fun. Moving on, I saw that you passed your NRA Basic Pistol course with flying colors. Are you shooting handguns more often.
SH: I am – my dad actually bought me a Glock 26 so that I would have something for carry. You’re not exactly gonna strap an AK on your back. I mean, you can, I have, but it’s not really the best thing for walking around the mall. He got me a little mini Glock 26 and I’ve gotten really good with it. When I first started shooting with it I was pretty bad. I was pulling to the left. I actually got back there with Chris and he helped me out. For somebody who’s not a gun guy, it’s kinda crazy to get your shooting advice from him, but a lot of times you learn from somebody outside of the family a little better. Dads kind of automatically expect you to be good and all of that stuff, so it puts a little bit of nervousness on you and you don’t want that. So going with somebody who just says, “Ok, you don’t know how to shoot this, let’s get you taught,” takes some of that preemptive nerve off of you. He got back there with me and he’s never been a huge gun guy but he’s a natural with handguns, which is incredible.
NF: Funny you say he’s not a gun guy. I just assumed you all were.
SH: Well, he’s more of a gun guy now that he’s worked here for a couple of years.
NF: So when it comes to the show, you guy have no idea what’s going to air, do you?
SH: Oh no, we don’t see it until y’all do. That’s why we get so excited and can’t wait til the episodes come out. I’m ready to see what all they caught, you know? When there’s somebody following you around with a camera all day, you’re never really sure what they’re gonna use. It’s crazy to see how they condense your month down in to one hour.
NF: I think that a lot of people really think that you guys have more control over what airs than you actually do.
SH: They do! We got so chewed out for the fact that we don’t show NFA rules and guidelines and all that in the show. The problem is, paperwork is boring and it doesn’t make good TV, so they ended up editing out all of that stuff. They show it every now and then, but there’s so little of it, you know? So it’s another thing we’re trying to work on. We do have some control as far as stuff like that goes. We made it a really big deal to the network. We were like, “Guys, you cannot show us selling these types of weapons without explaining how we’re allowed to do that. It’s not fair. It makes everybody out there feel like they can own these types of weapons without any type of clearance. They don’t understand that you have to go through certain ATF forms to be able to get these. So this year they’ve been a lot better about actually taking that on and trying to incorporate that in to the show to where it’s more “TV fun”.
NF: Someone on some forum I was reading was chewing you out for the “suppressor versus silencer” thing.
SH: Yep, and really, who cares, right? You know what’s crazy, that Silencer/Suppressor thing – we went back and forth on it for months because everyone around here calls it a suppressor. It doesn’t silence the weapon, it suppresses the weapon. They wanted us to use the term – they actually asked us about using the term “silencer” instead to make it more TV friendly. There are certain things they do like that. They’ll never say, “Hey, I want you to go do this with this person.” They don’t do that. But they will ask us every now and then to use a different terminology so it’s easier for the viewer to understand. They showed me shooting a 37mm flare launcher. We called it a grenade launcher and we caught so much heck over that. But it made it easier for people to understand what it was. Yes, I understand that everybody who shoots guns would know exactly what I was talking about if I said, “37mm flare launcher.” But, the 15 year old kid watching with his dad has no clue. He knows “grenade launcher” from Gears of War, you know what I mean?
NF: And a lot of the producers, most of the time, are not gun people, so they don’t know.
SH: We’ve gotten a lot of that stuff cleared up. A lot of that is just first season stuff just because the people didn’t know. They didn’t know how to portray this stuff to non-gun owning people. Just little things that you have to work out within your first season. With this season it’s changed a lot. The store has changed. The people have changed. Our positions within the company have changed. We’ve all grown, so you’re gonna see that. You’re gonna see that Chris is no longer just the guy in the back playing around. He’s actually a floor manager. Vince is taking on more and more crazy, outlandish projects. I’m no longer a general secretary. I’m the NFA Specialist here and that’s all I can do – we’ve got so much volume going. It’s definitely changed. There’s a lot that’s different. But also a lot of the same. All the stuff that y’all loved and some growth, let’s put it that way.
NF: Ok, I have to know, do Vince and your dad seriously butt heads that much?
SH: [laughs] Yes. [laughs] But Vince always remembers his place. Of course, dad is the main guy here and sometimes you just do what you’re told. A lot of times it comes down to timing and it’s just like, “Don’t ask questions, just do what you’re told. ” Dad’s been doing this stuff forever.
NF: I kept thinking, “I bet they edited that – I bet they get along better than that, ” because every episode it looks like Vince is about to get fired.
SH: Ok, they do edit it a little bit for effect, I’m sure. They do get along. They are friends, but they do still butt heads when it comes to some stuff.
NF: That makes me feel better because I like Vince so much and I don’t want him to get fired! [laughs]
SH: No, no, he isn’t going anywhere.
NF: Good! OK, so I asked a people on Facebook if they had any questions for you, so these are a few of our fan questions: What firearm do you carry and why? Of course, you just said the Glock 26 – so that’s the one you carry day to day?
SH: Yes, it is. I also carry a little .22 long rifle miniature pistol revolver. The reason I carry it is because it fits on my ankle or on the inside thigh. It’s perfect for concealed carry when you want the little clutch instead of the purse or something like that. It’s just so super tiny I can put it inside my bra.
NF: Have you seen that new bra holster?
SH: I saw it on your page! I said, “Oh my god, that looks so cool! I’ve got to find that and try it out one day.”
NF: That’s on our list. I’m dying to try it, too.
SH: I’ve been waiting for you to put up your review on it. I kinda thought you’d have one.
NF: It’s coming! I promise! So did you modify your Glock at all?
SH: No, with a handgun you don’t want to add a lot of stuff to it because it can get caught on other things. I just kinda left that one alone. I’m a decent enough shot not to need a laser. The only thing I could imagine putting on it would be a flashlight for night time stuff. You don’t want a whole lot of extra stuff. You want to keep concealed weapons as small as possible. I’ve always been a firm believer that there isn’t any accessory you can’t use by having the proper skill. Except maybe a flashlight. A flashlight would be handy. There are a couple of really good companies out there that make accessories that are built into the internals of the weapon. Crimson Trace, LaserLyte – they both make different types of accessories like that. I’m looking around, I just haven’t gotten my hands on anything yet.
NF: Next fan question: What is your favorite firearm and why? You did answer this last time we talked. Is there an update?
SH: My favorite weapon is the weapon that goes “bang” every time. [laughs] I can tell you that I love my Tantal. That is the smoothest shooting weapon out there. My short barrel shotgun is the perfect home defense or rabbit hunting weapon that I’ve ever seen. Then again, I can also tell you that our new AR piston driven system is absolutely incredible. There are just too many. [laughs] It depends on what you’re using it for. As far as fun to shoot, you’d have to give me a category – machine gun, long rifle, handgun… there’s just so many.
NF: Let’s go with the exciting one. How about the machine gun.
SH: My favorite machine gun would have to be the 1919 Browning. It’s usually on a mount or a bi-pod so you don’t have to worry about the kick factor, which is really nice. It’s a really even spread on ammunition. When you’re laying out what dad calls the “force line”- when you’re drawing the wall with ammo – it keeps a really even pattern. It’s one of those weapons that we have had hardly any problems with. We’ve done a couple different models with it. One of them you’re gonna see coming up on our show. That weapon is probably one of my favorites that we’ve done. I think it’s in the second episode this season.
NF: People have been asking this one quite a bit in our search bar. Everyone seems to want to know this: does Stephanie have a boyfriend?
SH: Ah, well… I’m not really looking right now. [laughs]
NF: [laughs] Understood. So what kind of man do you go for? What’s your type?
SH: I’m really big on the fact that if I’m gonna be with somebody it’s gonna have to be somebody who is – well, they’ve gotta connect with the type of business that I’m in, you know? They’re gonna have to get along with my family, which is everybody here at Red Jacket. I’ve got a very big family and they are all armed to the teeth so it can’t be some jerk who thinks he’s the biggest baddest thing around because I can introduce him to that guy.
NF: Another question from a fan here – One woman just applied for her Class III license. What Class III gun would you recommend for her first one?
SH: It depends on who the person is, really. Is that person someone who just wants to have fun guns or is it someone who is serious about getting in to manufacturing and design? If they just want cool, fun guns to play with that they can’t normally have, that Browning 1919 would be perfect. If it’s someone who is looking to get in to manufacturing, research and design, I would start with some of the earlier weapons. Start with your basics and learn from there. The PPSH is an awesome gun. I never would have known it if we hadn’t had one in the shop and played with it and realized all the cool factors about it because it just doesn’t look like it’s that incredible of a weapon. But it’s won awards for a reason, you know?
NF: So there are a few rumors flying about a little cosmetic surgery, if you know what I mean. Care to confirm or deny?
SH: I hear that all the time! No, I have not had any “enhancements.” We can go ahead and dispel that myth right now.
NF: Good, you’ve got a cute figure. No need to go changing anything. Ok, and the last question I have for you is what is on the horizon for Red Jacket?
SH: We’re just steadily expanding. We’ve got some new Red Jacket weapons coming out – we’ve got that new 1911 that we just released. We’re now getting in to the AR market, which we’ve never done before. We are also in research and development on a pump version of the shotgun, so we’ve got a lot of new stuff coming out on Red Jacket’s production line. As far as with the show, well… I can’t tell you all that. You know better. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Spoken like the truly commanding and fun loving personality that she is. Thanks, Stephanie, for that fantastic interview. Check out Sons of Guns on Discovery Wednesday nights at 9pm/8pm Central.