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Sons of Guns & Ammo

An Inside Look at the Helicopter Machine Gun Build

by Will Hayden   |  August 30th, 2011 60

I woke up the morning of the Universal Helicopter Mount and stabilizer test you saw last week on Sons of Guns in the helicopter machine gun build, feeling like I had razor blades coursing through my veins. We had a helicopter, a prototype mount, a MAG 58 machine gun, a gyroscopic stabilizer and enough rounds to blow some stuff up. We had a great range area, exploding targets and a combat trained pilot who really knew how to put you in front of the target.

Adrenaline? I felt like I had 20 gallons a minute pumping through me all day.

We were able to work with Paradigm, a really great outfit, getting their mount and gyro put together with our MG for full testing. The way the connection with the company came about was that Chris, who you saw on the show, had a custom gun shop out of Laffeyette, La., doing Class III and custom work .We’ve known him for quite a while, swapping parts back and forth until he shut down just last year to go over to Paradigm. When his new boss needed a GPMG and a little help with a custom MG mount, he knew where to go .

Paradigm had the universal base mount and the gyro-stabilizer, but they’re not a gun company, so they didn’t have a machine gun to mount, and they weren’t quite sure how to set it up to take advantage of their gyro system. They tried something similar to this before with an AR-15 that worked out pretty good, but with a heavy .308 belt-fed, they needed a whole new way to get all the pieces tied together. The point of the mount is that you don’t need a dedicated gunship.You can move it into any helicopter, strap it down and go. The point of the gyro stabilizer is that, once the gunner’s zeroed in, it helps tremendously in holding the gun on target.

Our goal was to produce the same accuracy that the gun would produce on the ground, even if the pilot was executing tactical maneuvers during combat.

What I found in the air was that Paradigm was right. We were about 160 to 200 feet in the air going back and forth at about 20 knots, and I went through a 200 round belt and never left a torso-sized area of the target. We did straight on runs with the gun (at a much higher air speed), blew the hell out of some cars and pretty much put the set-up through every test possible.

I’ve shot out of a helicopter before, but that was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen in my life. Those boys wanted to test their system and prove their theory, by God, it worked with flying colors.

A few folks have said they’ve never seen me that excited–at least on camera–and I think they’re probably right. Until you’ve dove in on a target, doing 60 knots at treetop level and just obliterated it, well, it’s hard to describe :). Try it sometime, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

One of the absolute best parts of the day was seeing Stephanie’s face when she stepped off that chopper. She has heard me talk about it, she’s seen pictures of me from my time in the Corps, but she’d never got to experience it. When she finally landed I said, “see, I wasn’t crazy all these years.”

One of the things that we never forget when we’re out testing is our soldiers and Marines who are doing it for real, holding the line between us and those who would destroy us. When we’re doing something like this, what we’re thinking is “OK, how’s this going to work when some terrorist is shooting at you?” End of the day, I think the stabilization system will help our men in their job of killing the suckers.

See you next week boys.

  • Brian

    Is there any advantage to the mag58 versus the m60? Or is it just a variant? Amazing, the amount of creativity and engineering that needed to go into this project.

    • Will Hayden

      It is a completly different gun . I find the MAG58/240 to be a much more reliable weapon , as well as being much smoother shooting then the M-60

      • Brian

        Thank you. Off topic but I would like to get one of your AK's in the future but unfortunately I live in CT where the AK system in 7.62×39 is not available. Though variants like the VZ58 (which I have due to lack of options) or an AK in 5.45 is fine. I don't know exactly why or how many states have such laws but I know there would be a nice market here if you can do such a thing. Great show, see ya next Wed.

  • Jeff Knox

    The MAG58 is the M240 in US service with the M240B being the most prominent variant. The M249 (SAW) is in many respects a scaled-down M240. It's interesting that in the clip above they never mention the US designation M240 and that in the file footage showing the MAG58 firing they actually include a couple of shots of M249 rather than M240s. I guess they figured that a machinegun's a machinegun and no one would notice the difference.

    • Will Hayden

      We built a MAG58 , it has a different feed and top cover then the 240 . We've since gotten the parts to retro ours into the 240B configuration . I didn't see the episode , so I can't speak for what they used from "file footage" but I expect you're right , editor somewhere just didn't know the difference or thought it didn't matter .

      • Joe Catanzaro

        This is a common editing error I've noticed it many times. When you have an editor putting a show together from alot of file footage who is not always there when filmed often mix up the time line.

    • Brian

      Thank you for clarifying that.

  • Sean

    Isn't it illegal to arm non-military aircraft? Who is this for? In what capacity would they use it?

    • Steve

      Right! Who and what is this for???

    • wnettles

      I guess that a militia or national guard owned helo would be considered a military bird. They would probably use the machine gun to dispense projectiles in a controlled pattern. And, by the way, lots of things are illegal these days, but, it does not seem to stop the Congress or the President from doing them.

      • Stephen

        Is there any more blatantly false propaganda you'd like to share? That kind of childish hysteria is really helping our great country. Goebbels would be proud.

    • Tom

      I would guess it will possibly be used by some of the American security contractors who are currently working in Iraq or Afghanistan. A lot of them use helicopter support for dignitary convoy protection and so forth….

    • Will Hayden

      Without the proper paper and clearances , very much so . I'm sorry , I thought we made the customer's clear ; Paradigm S.R.B. . They are a firm based out of Houston .

      • Ron Smith

        To comment on Paradigm's customer base, a new emerging market for defense aviation is low cost counterinsurgency/counterterrorism using conventionally modified airframes. For example, Lockheed Martin is converting its T-6 prop trainer for light attack roles. This allows a smaller nation to field an effective air power for much less than dedicated platforms of the US military. So this platform would allow the same flexibility for helicopters. Would imagine it would be perfect for the Iraqi/Afghani governments for example.

  • Ned Weatherby

    I don't have TV – and from watching the video it doesn't look like I'm missing much.

    The video had to be bleeped several times in a minute and twenty seconds. The fellow can't get an idea across absent using profanity on TV. His son/employee – a gunsmith or something or other, is amazed about the prospect of mounting a machine gun in a helicopter: "What's next, mounting guns in a spaceship?"

    Too bad this is the TV example of gun industry folks: Gun experts who can't speak without vulgarity or profanity; and other gun experts who are simply amazed about the prospect of mounting a gun in a helicopter – something that's been done for around a half – century.

    Just the image we want to portray to the general public. Little wonder so many children can't speak without vulgarity – they've been taught by TV personalities. Now I understand why kids swear like sailors in front of little old ladies at the grocery store – they've been shown that it's "cool." This is the example that's being set?

    Jeff Cooper said: "Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind trying to express itself forcibly."

    • poppagriz

      I totally agree with this posting above…I was turned off with the first episode with all the bleeps, same goes for most of the other so called reality shows on TV. Poor image for American firearms sportsman. Trash talk and camies don't make experts. Compare these guys to Top Shot, at least the Top Shot candidates, walk the walk, and no profanity bleeps. And they shoot real challenges. . .No need to continue the series on my account, cause I already quit watching it.

      • Stephen

        Gimme a break. These are real people working on real guns and using real language. If you don't like it, then go whine somewhere else.

        And Top Shot is boring because the main competition is only a small part of the show. The entire last half (or more) of each episode they set up the elimination event, and it's mostly just a waste of time. YAAAAAAWWWN.

    • Will Hayden

      Ned , I've had to read your post several times , you give me a lot to think about . I've never considered myself as some kinda "personality" or as representing anything . To me , I'm a builder , who , this last year has all of a sudden got a mic on and 4-5 camera's following him around . I'm not doing or being anything that I've havn't always been . I've never had to consider how I would be "taken" . And I sure never thought anyone would want me to be somebody that could be held up as an example for the kid's . Well , like I said , you give me somthing to think about , I'll work on it . Will

    • Will Hayden

      Ned , Kris's excitement wasn't that a gun could be mounted on a helicopter , but rather that we were doing it and that he was part of it .

      • Joe Catanzaro

        Unlike Ned & Poppagriz I like your show and when I participate in exciting events I may let out a few expletives my self. There is a reason why they call it reality TV. If they think it's bad for kids than as parents they shouldn't let their kids watch it. Will please keep it real, that's how I like it.

    • michael cooke

      perhaps u might consider parental discretion !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Old Farmer Davy

    RIP, Colonel Cooper, one of America's best. I warnt too impressed, I mean, it was cool and all. But imagine some little mofos on the ground shooting up at YOU. Or in another aircraft doing that. Takes some of the fun and piss and vinegar out of you, and I speak from experience long ago, in the Bronze Age, on Uncle's choppers and fixed-wing gunships in southeast Asia. Also picture the chopper pilot having to juke and twist and dive around at tree-top or roof-top level to avoid that stuff. Good way to lose yer MRE lunch. And I love the way a lot of these guys have their killer faces on all the time and walk real tall. Charlie didn't walk tall but he walked fast and loose and silent and could take any of these dudes in a nanosecond. Just sayin.

  • Steve

    "By God it worked with flying colors". Hmmm, I hope God isnt for this kind of thing.

    • wnettles

      I don't know….. God seems to have killed a heck of a lot of folks, according to the Old Testament. Seems God does what he wants in that respect. You might ask him.

    • Pierre

      No of course not. God is only for the crusades, the inquisition, French Wars of Religion, and the Taiping Rebellion. He would NEVER condone something like this

  • Bakerman

    OK, you put limits on altitude so the gun didn't shoot the blades. Did you limit the swing so it doesn't shoot the copilot or the tail?

  • Emmet

    Does the gyro mount compensate for ALL the maneuvering of the helicopter? The spin of the bullets used to cause a pronounced arc of flight in a turn… 308 is really only effective against personnel.Not much of a standoff vs. an RPG.For a light helicopter, it's surprising noone has come up with a Recoil/Gyro Stab system for

    the25mm chain gun used on the Bradley

    • Marcus

      There have been chaingun weapon kits produced for helicopters, such as the MH-60 DAP, but they're typically mounted on stub-wing pylons and used like rocket pods.

  • JC

    Some of the previous posters act like their surprised. Hmm. Suns up, try looking around and see what you can make out!

  • dave

    There are lot's of private security companies that could use this setup working all over the world.

  • Grandpa

    Retired, helicopter pilot, Texas wild hog hunter… background, gave me thoughts of other wealthy individuals who hire $400/hr helicopter rides to shoot wild hogs that are guilty of distroying crops, gardens, yards within the 24/7 open season rules. Most use semi-auto rifles in the .223 to 30-06 caliber with limited success from videos I've seen. Setting aside most comments, a legal gyro stabilized MG might be an asset for the State of Texas Game Wardens to consider using to seriously reduce the over-population of these horrid distructive bad dangerous hogs. Until you actually see one with 5" tusks weighing in around 350+ lbs, that can run like the "wind", you may not understand how being safely above with lots of fire power could be a good thing. Food for thought!

    • Will Hayden

      Grandpa , I spend yesterday and last night dealing with a couple of 400 lb hog's , both ended up within 20 yrds of us . If you're talking about pure eradication , yeah , maybe so . Paradigm had already tested their system with a semi AR with good results , that might be a way to go .

    • Derek Huffman, AZEX

      Those sows are good eatin'! Had a customer bring a whole pork shoulder from a feral he downed while shooting out of his ultralight. Delicious!

    • michael cooke

      damn right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




  • Todd

    Will, Had a chance to shoot a M240 last week in Scottsdale, what a rush! I can only imagine what that would be like to shoot it out of a helicopter…maybe someday!

    • Will Hayden

      They really are incredible , finest GPMG in the world . Didn't someone have a Huey up at Knob Creek a few years back that guy's could rent to do a run with ?

  • Jay

    Wonder if the helicopter rig would work on FRED

  • Derek Huffman, AZEX

    I, for one, applaud Will and the crew for being themselves, even with cameras following them around. It's the height of superstitious sophistry to believe that some words are inherently "bad". This isn't "Ozzy and Harriet" America anymore. In some ways, that's great. In some ways, not so great.

    However, the stranglehold that "holier than thou" Christian types have over the public airwaves continues, and likely will continue.

    Character isn't the words one uses to express themselves when they get excited or convey passionately held beliefs, it's doing the right thing when no one is looking. Observe all the sure-to-say-the-proper-thing politicians and clergy who commit acts ranging from mere unethical behavior to unadulterated Evil. But, they didn't say any bad words so they must be good people, right? Utter stupidity.

    • Will Hayden

      Yeah , I'd probably come off better if I had a writer to script my "character" . lol Good seeing you here Derek , we've never met but I have seen some of your work , "top notch" would be the appropriate term . Keep kicking ass in Az. , we'll make it over there one day . Will

  • Derek Huffman, AZEX

    Also, it's not illegal to mount guns on helicopters or any other aircraft, so long as one is shooting safely and in accordance with local and State Law.

    Mike Dillon does it all the time, as do dozens of different guys hunting feral hogs in Texas and feral goats on islands out in the pacific. They have permits for the shooting of the animals, but typically, the method of dispatch isn't a concern of those issuing the permits for feral animals and, of course, doesn't apply when folks are just doing training or gun runs.

  • Jacob Herman

    Sons of Guns is a TV show. It is made for the point of people turning their sets on. Will was nice enough to allow Discovery to film the great work he does. I met him personally and find Will and the crew to be great! The firearms they produce are top notch. I was at the filming of a show, and I can personally say that the level of safety during live fire is top tier.

    If you do not like the show, or how it is produced then I have an easy solution. Change the channel! Maybe you can watch something sponsored by The Joyce Foundation, or The Brady Campaign.

    Will brings thousands of viewers every week the joy of seeing something they would not get to see otherwise. Its sad as gun owners we cannot stand behind companies like Red Jacket, and be proud that in United States of America freedom loving Americans have the choice to watch such an interesting show.

    • michael cooke

      EVERY gun owner in america should join the N.R.A. Only 10 to 15% of owners are members.Want to continue owning and enjoying the firearms,join today.Hopefully a lifetime membership for you would be a good decision !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Zoot Cadillac

      Interesting post Jacob. Considering at the time you were the actual ( rather than the dramatised ) CEO of Red Jacket, later becoming the Vice President of the company.

      Well spun.

  • Jacob Herman

    Will I think the guys at the Creek had a older Saco M60 mounted.

    • Will Hayden

      right on , they still doing it ? I've got to make it up there one day .

      • Joe Catanzaro

        Will, you would really like the Knob Creek event it's right up your alley, lot's of shooting, explosions and all manner of fire power you can think of plus alot of military stuff on display and a huge gun show. It's been several years since I've been but the last time I was there they had a loch and the pilot was trimming the trees it looked quit exciting.

      • Jacob Herman


        Last time I was there the helicopter shoot was auctioned off for charity. They have the shoot twice a year. You can buy parts for about every machinegun on the planet. It sucks when it rains though. Place turns into a mudpit that would stick the duece and half.

  • Chad

    Love the show Will, keep it real. I think it's funny that people waste their time on these comments. Goes to show what kind of life they really have. If you don't like it don't watch it and stop commenting no one here cares if there Is a bleep here and a bleep there. As far as kids, why are they still up at that time?

  • Thinking Man

    "(T)hose who would destroy us" wouldn't be trying to 'destroy us' if US yahoos weren't in a foreign country getting their thrills destroying foreigners with the same glee shown here by these overgrown boys with their deadly toys. If you're in another country and "some terrorist is shooting at you", you're the terrorist, and he's defending his country, just as you would if it were the other way around.

    • Larry Huffman

      The name "Thinking Man" is a direct contradiction of the content of his letter. I enjoy your show, Will and will continue to watch as long as it is on — which I hope will be for a long time to come.

      Many years ago, when I was a deputy sheriff for a time, my .357 and a 12 gauge were the extent of "my" arsenal. I am amazed at the stuff available today.

  • kyle

    This show is for entertainment not for information. I like the show. if you have a problem with it watch G&A tv. Red jacket is just a company trying to make it in these hard times.

  • Wayne

    Will and ALL the Red Jacket Crew,

    ANY armorer like Red Jacket or AZEX (I too I have seen some of your work, and as Will said "TOP NOTCH!") that can build and bring solid and reliable innovations to give our service men and women in harms way "an edge" has my deepest respect and praise.

    And, I use the term loosely, Thinking Man… I do believe you should take a couple military history courses on foreign and domestic conflict before you open your pie hole again.

    As several others have said, CHANGE THE CHANNEL if you don't like what you see!

    Thanks, Will Hayden and crew for one of the best shows on cable!

    Hope to still see you crankin' 'um out in your 80's!!??

    Kindest Regards,

    Wayne D. Fincke

    Federal Security Escort Officer

    Uranium Enrichment Facility

    Urenco USA

    Eunice, New Mexico

    P.S. HEY WILL! Where's my Red Jacket 1911!!??? LOL!!!

  • Larry Huffman

    Anthony, same advice others gave above. Change the channel and keep your uncalled-for venom to yourself.

  • Ben

    Love the show! Its always fun seeing the expression on your face when that next idea pops in your head. I very much appreciate your professionalism when it comes to safety. I admire you and your staff asking questions to assure you that the client is an educated/informed buyer rather than selling or modifying guns for anyone who comes to Red Jacket. Congratulations with all your success! How about some more handgun mods/creations? Thanks for a break from all the not so real world jersey shore seems fake (reality) crap on tv and giving us a decent unscripted interesting show. By the way your employee Chris seems like a real nice guy from what gets put on the tube. Maybe he might be a good match for your daughter. Sorry, don't kick me. Keep up the good work!

    • Will Hayden

      Hi Ben , well, thank you man . We don't do much pistol work , but odd things do come through the shop . If it pop's up , it'll get filmed . Kris IS a great guy , I hired him for a worker , took him for a son . You know , all ya'll see on tv is 2-4 months in the past . About all I can say is …. well , let's just let it play out . Will

      • shannon

        You should try to build a tommy gun mixed with a twelve gauge shotgun

  • Dave

    Will, yours is one of the best shows on tv. I alaways like to see what build will happen next. The show on the 20mm was great. Please keep it real, who cares about a couple of bleeps, like they don't use a couple of choice words themselves. Keep it up, and keep your powder dry!

  • David

    Great show, Will! You can't satisfy everybody, all the time, and being from Louisiana, I'm well used to colorful language, and there are some, that are always going to complain. I guess that's why prayer is being taken out of schools, too many PC nuts worrying about one complainer. Keep up the great work!

  • chad

    Did you get a STC (supplemental type certificate) for this fixed mounted gun mount? Just curious because I highly doubt the FAA would be too happy mounting a machine gun on a private reg'd helicopter.

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