So late last year, I wrote a post generally defending Red Jacket Firearms and their Discovery Channel television show, “Sons of Guns”, from those who considered it to be less-than-satisfactory.
Well here is me, saying I was wrong. Better Half and I have completely given up on Sons of Guns, barring the unlikely event that there is absolutely nothing else on the TiVo, in which case we will go read a book. So what caused the change of heart?
Was it Will Hayden’s positively atrocious management style? Yeah, I know, the whole “we have to get this done in three days / a week / etc. / whatever” schtick is nothing more than a contrived-for-television artifact employed to increase suspense and interest in the show. It still pisses off the Industrial Engineer in me, especially given how Will takes his “frustration” at his “short deadlines” out on his employees rather than himself, given that it was himself who got him into the situation to begin with. But that particular breed of idiocy was a “feature” of the show from the very beginning, so that is probably not it.
Was it the complete and total disregard for firearm safety in the shop? Again, this was a “feature” from the very beginning, what with fingers on the trigger, cameramen in front of (hopefully unloaded) firearms, blanks being shot off inside the shop without warning or hearing protection, and so forth, so probably not.
Was it the equivalent disregard for shop safety? I cannot count the number of times I boggled at people not wearing goggles, gloves, or hearing protection when they probably should have, and one of the shop employees literally walking into a vehicle-mounted smoke-grenade launcher as it goes off is simply inexcusable. But, again, consistent theme, that.
Was it the mind-boggling ignorance of the players? I swear, I have to seriously doubt if the folks on that show had ever heard of Google. Between their apparent inability to find and procure uncommon-but-not-extinct parts and ammunition, their astonishing lack of understanding when it comes to basic engineering and physics (yes, when you chop a barrel and then drill holes in it, the muzzle velocity of the round will suffer – I am not even a “gunsmith” and I know that), or just some of their decisions in general (Hey, let us give a massively-important project to some wrench-jockey who has never built this particular firearm before!), I was constantly wanting to beat my head against the boob toob. But, hey, that is just part of the appeal, right?
How about the general attitude of the show? Well, now we are getting somewhere. “Antagonistic working environment” does not even begin to describe the televised section of the shop, what with the domineering, damned-near-incapable-of-admitting-he-is-wrong-even-when-the-evidence-is-right-in-front-of-his-face Will lashing out at anyone who dares to disagree or question him, and then letting one of his shop-monkeys – and the least-skilled and -experienced one at that – marry his daughter*, more than telegraphing the fact that everyone else is screwed when it comes time for someone else to move up in the world. And do not even get me started on the whole, “This guy is outbidding me on gun auctions so get me his name and address and we will pay him a visit,” bulldren; I am honestly amazed that was aired, just due to the stalkerish and borderline illegal nature of it.
But that is just the tip of the “attitude” – throw in some excessive, scene-disrupting profanity in just about every segment of the show and a general taking-for-granted of some of the most skilled people in the shop, and, hell, I would have quit that shop… and it turns out that Vince actually did.
Which brings us to the real core of why we stopped watching “Sons of Guns”, which, coincidentally, is similar to the reason why we stopped watching “Top Shot”. I agree with Vince leaving RJF – the environment had simply gotten toxic with Will constantly relying on him, but simultaneously taking every opportunity to slight and ignore him – but I completely disagree with how he handled it (and, unfortunately, continues to handle it). I get his leaving and the motivations for doing so, but you do not simply pack up your bags and disappear without a fare-thee-well or even so much as a “this is where you send my last check”; you man up, you finish whatever task you are working on at the moment regardless of how it ended up in your lap, you tell Will – to his face – why you are leaving, you let your shopmates – who you know depend on you – know you are leaving, and out you go. Ducking and running is… well, unacceptable.
That said, Will taking somewhere around two minutes (as edited on the show) on national televisionto verbally harangue and abuse a random guy who was at RJF doing Will a favor, while simultaneously taking the opportunity to explore, in great depth and with markedly colorful language, Vince’s sexual proclivities, lineage, and general-purpose worth as a human being goes beyond “unacceptable”. I watch television to be entertained, not watch some loud-mouthed, narcissistic, blustering, self-proclaimed bad-ass abuse what little situational authority he has in the name of assuaging his apparently injured ego.
I have worked for and with people like Will before. I left the Navy because of people like Will. I sure as hell am not entertained by people like Will.
And so, thanks to television producers never seeming to get tired of never-ending drama llama parades, we have given up on “Sons of Guns” just like we gave up on “Top Shot”. Sure, the drama would have (or at least we assume it would have) been there anywise, but it detrimentally distracted from what I apparently wrongly assumed was the general purpose of the show – redneck-engineering cool old and new guns into shootable condition, and then using them to punch all kinds of holes in all kinds of things. Unfortunately, I am quite sure shows like “Sons of Guns” are part and parcel of why firearms are being slowly normalized once again in American society, but I – like many before me – have to wonder what kind of stereotypes and misinformation this show’s attempts at normalization are unintentionally – or intentionally – embedding in the American psyche at the same time.
You and I both know that Will Hayden and the rest of his circus are not representative of firearm owners or gunsmiths in general, but what about people new to the scene? I am pretty sure I do not want their first exposure to the firearm community to be some self-absorbed jackass verbally assaulting someone who has absolutely nothing to do with what he is so angry about…
(Of course, all of these determinations, comments, and criticisms are based on how Discovery chose to represent the events through their editing and filming; Lord knows what the actual truth is.)
(* – “Letting… mary his daughter” is the wrong phrasing, simply because his daughter and her husband, being of legal age, are welcome to marry whomever they so desire, but it is the only way I can think of writing it. Will, on the other hand, is not required to keep his son-in-law on as an employee.)