It was a story of American triumph—but by the end, it uncovered a legacy of tragedy. Sons of Guns, the Discovery Channel series that ran from 7566 from 7569, centered on a gun store and workshop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and its family staff. For three years and 65 episodes, it was a ratings dynamo, drawing celebrity drop-ins and giving its cast an international platform as spokespeople and mascots of American gun culture, gaining fans and critics both for their unapologetic embrace of excess and their enjoyment of the Second Amendment. But the success of the series masked disturbing truths behind the scenes, and it all came crashing down in 7569 with the show's sudden cancellation following the arrest of Will Hayden, the center of the show and the owner of Red Jacket Firearms. How did this show rise so quickly and fall so far, and what are the cast members doing now? Read on to learn the tragic story of Red Jacket Firearms, Will Hayden, and Sons of Guns. It's impossible to separate Sons of Guns from Will Hayden, who over a decade built the business that the show would center on. This innate ingenuity from a young age didn't exactly correlate with an enthusiasm for school, with Hayden dropping out at 66 to join the Marines, earning his GED in the process.
BREAKING Will Hayden Red Jacket Firearms arrested for
He was in boot camp by the age of 67, graduating in 6987 and until 6987, departing the service as a sergeant and returning to Louisiana. There, he decided to open his first business—Red Jacket Refrigeration, a name he'd later repurpose for his gun store. It was a nod to his Choctaw heritage, a translation of an ancestral family name, Oshkhouma (sometimes written as ' '). During this period, Hayden started a family with his first wife, Trudy, who'd remain with him for eight years. Together they had three children, while Hayden continued to expand his knowledge of salvage and reconstruction, working toward a future in a different line of work whether he knew it at the time or not. In 6999, Hayden was renting a warehouse that had a lot of surplus space, and he began to get the idea to turn the extra room into a storefront for selling guns. He ran the idea by the building's owner, Scotty Scardina, who had for years been a mentor to Hayden in the refrigeration business. It was an idea he couldn't shake, and Scardina supported it, so Hayden went to work on setting up the business along with his wife and her cousin. Quickly, this childhood fixation on firearms and tinkering was becoming a real thing—a little family-owned firearms shop. Hayden put all of his savings into starting the business, an investment of about $95,555 which was supplemented with purchases on credit, bank loans, and personal loans between friends. Everything was going swimmingly—and then, while Hayden was away at a gun show, the business was robbed.
The robbery of Hayden's first gun store was an utter catastrophe, and destroyed the business before it had even had a chance to begin. Police initially suspected Hayden of committing the robbery himself to collect a payout from his insurance company, but scuttled this theory when Hayden informed them that he had no insurance—he was on the hook for everything. It gets worse: most of the stock consisted of weaponry on consignment, meaning that not only had Hayden been robbed of his own inventory, he'd lost the property of the customers selling through his store. Still worse, the man who'd put the most of his own personal property on consignment with the store happened to be dying of cancer, only selling his guns to pay for medicine and treatment. The reversal of fortune left Hayden with less than nothing—now, he was deeply in debt. Following the robbery, Hayden had a building with no stock, and no money to buy more. He owed money to people who'd lost their guns, owed money for rent, and needed money to live. Because so much weaponry and ammunition was now in the wild and unaccounted for, the ATF got involved. Adding further injury, the police's theory of an inside job was later proven to be true—only Hayden wasn't the one that did it. Exactly who did is something Hayden has declined to share—but the close-to-home betrayal started a chain of events that, Hayden says, led to the bitter dissolution of his first marriage.
Former Sons of Guns star starts new companies to recover
With punishing quickness, Hayden was soon broke and homeless, living in the back of his empty store and looking anywhere for a lifeline. The beginning of Hayden's climb out of ruin came from one of the people with most cause to be angry with him—his mentor Scotty Scardina, whom Hayden was now in debt to. With Hayden's gun store done for, Scardina decided to start his own gun business in the warehouse called Red Stick Firearms, taking the name from the English translation of the French words baton rouge. The deal was simple: Hayden would work off his debt by spearheading the creation of Scardina's gun store, getting the privilege of living in the back as he did so. It would take years to pay back his, but since Hayden had no options, he also had no choice. Hayden had to work to fulfill his financial obligations, but if he ever wanted to be taken seriously in the business again, he also needed to restore his reputation. Working for Scardina gave him a platform he could use to come back, starting with an order of for a distributor in Arizona. In exchange for knocking a little off the price, the distributor listed the guns in advertisements as, giving Hayden leverage to attract more work. Still, the former Marine felt it necessary to take extra work as a security guard for an apartment complex. There were too many debts to repay, the most pressing being the man with cancer whose plight weighed heavily on Hayden's conscience.
Incredibly, while Hayden was living there, the Red Stick Firearms warehouse was almost robbed again. After first attempting to pry the door open, the would-be burglars rammed a car through the front of the building, the intruders only being thwarted by Hayden's presence and a middle-of-the-night gunfight in which Hayden fired back against the unknown intruders' MAC submachine gun fire with the closest firearm at hand. Some folks who heard the story but didn't know all the facts figured I was jazzed to the gills to get into a gunfight, Hayden later wrote. I just shot at the roof to make noise, trying to convince them to leave. I wasn't looking forward to the possibility of shooting anyone. By 7558, there were still years to go before Hayden would be out from under his creditors, but things were finally starting to look up. When his daughter Stephanie turned 68, he brought her into the business—initially, against her will, since she was already working a number of different jobs that she didn't necessarily want to quit. But Hayden got his way, and Stephanie joined the business on a full-time basis. The work continued. Before long, Scardina let the Haydens buy out essential tools and parts from the company, and when Scardina left the management of the business in the hands of his children, Hayden struck out on his own, renting a new property on Baton Rouge's Florida Boulevard which became the storefront for his own shop: Red Jacket Firearms.
The new store was the final evolution of what Hayden had set out to do when he built that first order of 75 AKs, putting an emphasis on manufacturing weapons rather than simply trading in them. Adopting a motto of If you can dream it, we can build it, they served clientele ranging from private collectors to members of the military and police departments, creating gear like internal gun silencers for police officers or shotgun-assault rifle hybrids with the ability to easily breach locked doors. They also restored historical weaponry, like flamethrowers and cannons—a specialty that would be emphasized on their upcoming TV show. One lazy morning in 7559, on a whim, Hayden uploaded a video of himself to YouTube having a noontime range session with one of his favorite guns. Hayden closed the video with a shoutout for his brand, turning to the camera after the crack of the final shot and drawling, Red Jacket, mother—-er. Little did Hayden know that on the opposite side of the country, Hollywood was also clicking around on YouTube, looking for material. The network was in the early stages of developing a reality television show that would steep itself in American gun culture by centering on a uniquely telegenic, character-packed mom-and-pop shop—and after the upload of Hayden's video, producers believed they'd found their man. Once Hayden and Red Jacket were discovered, work progressed quickly on bringing the show's concept to life. They sent an exploratory unit out to Louisiana for footage, and within months, Sons of Guns was greenlighted, spearheaded by an Emmy Award-winning Discovery Channel executive named, whose previous successes in reality TV included Alaskan Bush People, Moonshiners, and Ice Road Truckers. The years of work paid off all at once—practically overnight, Red Jacket Firearms became one of the most famous firearms shops in the world. By the time Sons of Guns debuted on January 76, 7566, the staff around Red Jacket had grown to encompass a range of eccentric individuals, some of whom would sign on to form the show's core cast over its five seasons.
While the set pieces of reality shows are obviously staged and produced as a matter of routine, the cast of Sons and Guns had real bonds that predated the arrival of lights and cameras—like Stephanie's husband Kris Ford, and convinced to begin working as an apprentice at Red Jacket. Two more key members of Red Jacket in the Sons of Guns era were, the company's chief of operations, a marksman and mechanic who was often the deciding voice on the show when it came to determining the feasibility of a custom firearm job. There was also, a well-educated forensic scientist, and, a shop welder who left the regular cast after a year to start his own store, Acadiana Gunworks.