When I heard that the Discovery Channel was going to be airing a new reality program, Sons of Guns, here in Baton Rouge, about a local business, Red Jacket Firearms, I was apprehensive that it would be a Cajun version of American Chopper, another program on the same channel where much of the show consists of a father and son swearing and throwing tools at each other, and then adding a bunch of shiny parts to a motorcycle frame at the last minute.
The crew then shows the buyer the bike, the buyer is always stunned at the shininess of the final product and is appropriately filled with awe. The father then concludes each episode by grunting that this was the best cycle (I assume that means the most chromy) that they have ever produced. So, I began by thinking that this would be similar, a boss screams and swears at his employees, they then make a shiny gun, and the customer is pleased that they have bought the most glittery gun in Louisiana.
Well, a friend of mine is a peace officer here. When I mentioned this to him, he laughed and said Will Hayden is nothing like the Teutuls. He said that they actually redesign weapons for police forces and the military, and have probably saved a number of lives through their work. So I figured I’d give the program a shot.
My friend was right; the program is usually about re-equipping some firearm to make it more usable. Most episodes, as faithful viewers are aware, usually involve the military and/or some police force. My own favorite episode was one where they enabled a veteran who had lost use of his arm to shoot his gun and go hunting again. It was very touching.
But the major difference in the two programs isn’t in the utility of Sons of Guns versus the glitter of American Chopper. It’s the way that Will Hayden, the founder and co-owner of Red Jacket actually treats his employees as if they are part of his extended family.
This program has become a cable hit, and the partner in Red Jacket, Will’s daughter Stephanie, has become a media sensation. She runs the office while Will and the boys put together some amazing pieces of machinery. But she is not a mere business person; she also knows more about the weapons than most of the customers that enter the store. She began hunting at the age of 12, and seems to be competent with most of the weaponry that the firm builds. Often, there is a portion in an episode where Stephanie gets the opportunity to shoot the weapons that the team produces, and she never appears to be gun shy. According to her biography, she rock climbs in her spare time. As regular viewers will acknowledge, Stephanie tops it off by being quite winsome.
Here is a video produced by the Discovery Channel where Stephanie shows and describes many of the guns sold by the company.