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"The earth can shake

the sky falls down

the mountains all

fall to the ground

but I will fear

none of these things

oh, shelter me lord

underneath your wings"
—"Shelter Me", theme song

A Reality Show on Discovery Channel, Sons of Guns follows Red Jacket Firearms of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A combination firearms shop and custom firearms manufacturer, they're particularly known for AK-47 and Saiga (AK-style shotgun)-type weapons, and an M-16 pattern semi-auto rifle called the Katana.


Tropes used in Sons of Guns include:
  • Alliterative Name: Retired Marine, World War II Veteran, and Congressional Medal Of Honor recipient Woody Williams.
  • Anti-Air:
    • The quad MG42 rig was devised as a more affordable alternative to the WW 2-era quad .50 BMG anti-aircraft rig. They demonstrated it by shooting down model airplanes.
    • The crew rigged several anti-aircraft guns to simulate firing at several aircraft for a 4th of July show at the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Badass Beard: Vince.
    • Joe, Kris, Charlie, and Flem have smaller ones too.
  • Badass Grandpa / Retired Badass: Woody Williams, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, had his flamethrower restored and lit up a mock bunker...at the age of 87. Having won the medal for using flamethrowers several times at Iwo Jima, Woody strapped a flamethrower on for the show and lit up the bunker like he knew what he was doing.
    • Several WW 2 veterans including Woody got together to fire a restored anti-tank cannon in one episode.
  • Badass Teacher: Joe's main job is a high school teacher; Red Jacket is his SECOND job.
    • Up until season 3 where the demands of working both jobs became too great and he had to resign his teaching career to dedicate his time to Red Jacket.
  • Bait and Switch: A contest is held to determine who will get to fire the flamethrower. The winner is the shooter who gets 1 of their 5 rounds closest to the center of the target. The guys use pistols. Steph fires 3 rounds with her shotgun and puts several little holes closer to the center of the target than the guys. See also: Rock Paper Scissors, below.

 Kris: I've been bamboozled!.

  • Bald of Awesome: Will Hayden, also Officer Mike.
  • Bang Bang BANG: Averted; the crew always make sure to use eye and ear protection when firing weapons, the exception being with suppressed weapons where the sound of the weapon is reduced to levels that won't cause hearing damage (though eye protection is still worn).

 Will: You better eye and ear up people, because this little short puppy is going to be loud.

  • Bayonet Ya: One of the requirements for the zombie guns in the season 3 finale was that they be able to engage in melee combat once their ammo was exhausted. Both weapons were fitted with bayonets, one of them consisting of two spikes permanently mounted to the barrel.
  • The Big Guy: Officer Mike, who commissions Red Jacket to convert his 1919 to a shoulder mounted weapon. For the record, the 1919 is a massive machine gun that is typically resting on a tripod. Lampshaded even.

 Kris: Is he a big guy?

Will: He looks like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger got together, and got mean.

  • BFG:
    • The show could almost be retitled "BFG, the reality TV Series."
    • More specifically, one episode featured a Finnish 20mm Lahti Anti-tank Rifle. A gun that weighs a hundred and nine pounds!
    • The Lahti was later trumped by the Bofors: a forty-millimeter automatic cannon. The thing is towed on a trailer and the trigger is a foot pedal!

 Will: You have got fully automatic artillery!

  • Bling Bling Bang: A mild version results from applying a layer of chrome and some dragon tattoo paint art to an M1919 machine gun. See Doing It For The Art below.
    • Also one of the derringers Steph was shown when coming up with her garter holster was rather fancy compared to the others.
    • Will won an Auction for a matching pair of blinged-out Colt Alamo Commemorative revolvers which he gave to Kris and Steph as wedding gifts in season 2.
    • The custom BAR Jesse James had the crew make for him had the wood furniture (the stock, handguard, and pistol grip) replaced with aluminum that was custom-engraved just for him.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Watching the show, the viewer gets the impression that the Red Jacket crew aren't exactly thrilled about being on-camera for long periods of time, and have no problems expressing that irritation from time to time.
    • During a particularly stressful time when building a grenade launcher suppressor, Kris tried to warn the camera men that Will was about to get in a real bad mood, real fast. They learned it first hand.
    • The crew hooked up a Maxim machine gun to an interrupter to allow it to fire between propeller blades. Will specifically tells the viewers that he won't let the camera crew anywhere near the thing when it fires.
      • Earlier in the episode Will looked to the camera and stated that he'd have his employees do the heavy lifting carrying the box containing the Maxim into the shop.
    • Another time Vince storms off when Kris asks him for help on a project, and one of the producers is shown following him outside and asking him WTF was going on.
      • Another producer is shown talking to the cast trying to figure out what's happening when Vince abruptly bails on the team, leaving the shop unmanned, refusing to answer anyone's calls, and putting the wrong part in the desert AR.
    • Charlie, before shooting Kris with the paintball gun, turns to the camera and state, "I have an idea."
    • Charlie pushes the camera back before he and Joe go into the back room to do some explosives work.
    • In one episode, Kris nearly breaks one of the machines vital to the shop's manufacturing process; both Kris and Will essentially tell the camera crews to leave them alone.
      • Earlier in the same episode, Joe asks the cameraman if they can talk later on since he's busy at the moment.
    • In one episode, Will has one of the producers help him move a weapon due to him being short-handed at the moment.
      • Later in the same episode when Joe, Charlie, and Kris go to fire a potentially dangerous WW 2-era gun, will threatens to evict the camera crew if they don't tell Will where they went to.
  • Bring My Brown Pants:
    • When Will tests the modified M11 that can only fire blanks inside the shop.

 Kris: I'm out of the shop! I'll be back in 30 minutes! After I get some clean shorts! YOU BASTARD!

  • Bullet Time: This is a show about a firearms manufacturer/modifier. It would be sacrilege not to do this.
  • Camera Abuse: The behind the scenes episode in season 3 showed that the heat generated from the flame cannon was so intense that it MELTED one of the cameras, and nearly took the cameraman with it!
  • Clip Show:
    • Sons of Guns: Guns of Glory on Thanksgiving 2011 recapped the crew's favorite projects.
    • Not a regular episode, meant as a teaser into the third season; also, filmed before the finale of season 2, so it gives nothing away towards Kris' decision.
    • A season 3 episode went behind the scenes with the Red Jacket crew answering viewer questions and showing scenes from previous episodes.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Will let loose with this when the original design of the Gatling shotgun blew up.
    • He dropped another one when talking about Vince after some poor schmuck made the mistake of mentioning him while talking to Will.
  • Cool Bike: Will's Harley Davidson motorcycle.
  • Cool Boat: The USS Kidd, a US Navy destroyer that fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima (surviving several enemy air raids and even a kamikaze attack) and was memorialized as a museum ship.
  • Cool Car: Several:
    • The "War Wagon," Will's modified Ford Bronco with a railing for mounting machine guns.
    • The shop has also acquired a military surplus "Deuce-and-a-half" transport truck.
    • Joe drives a baby-blue Ford Mustang.
    • The "Light Recon" pickup with railing.
    • Charlie's 1986 BMW
  • Cool Guns:
    • Particularly the large-caliber machine guns the crew works on; they've also worked on some interesting historical pieces. The shop makes its living mostly off of Saiga (An AK-47 variant) conversions into cool guns (such as automatic or supressed shotguns).
    • Really, the entire show is a combination of this and Gun Porn.
  • Cool Mask: The crew occasionally wear bandannas in a way that covers their nose & mouth, such as when Kris and Vince had their "duel".
  • Cool Shades: Every member of the Red Jacket crew has sported these at one time or another, as have several of their clients.
  • Cool Sword: A hybrid machete/katana, meant to combine the swinging strength and coolness factor of a katana, with the raw chopping power of the machete. It is very cool.
  • Crazy Prepared: The Red Jacket flashlight gun. It looks like a little black briefcase with a flashlight built in. It folds out into a modified M11. And it has a hidden compartment with emergency wilderness survival supplies included.
    • In a recent episode, Will described Ted Nugent as "semi prepared" after he had pulled out a glock, two spare magazines, and a PPK. Will then showed Ted a full-auto Glock 18
  • Crossover: With American Chopper.
  • Death From Above: One episode had the Red Jacket crew find a way to door-mount a MAG 58 machine gun on a helicopter. The episode ends with them raining lead on some junked cars.
    • Also the Soviet 82mm mortar. Incoming!
  • Doing It for the Art:
    • Supposedly, Will OK'd the motorcycle-machine gun because he had never gotten the opportunity to create a gun for purely aesthetic reasons.
    • On the Sons of Guns: Guns of Glory clip show, the crew reveals that the motorcycle gun was actually a fairly practical design and it wound up working better than they originally thought.
  • Don't Try This At Home:
    • A fun snippet that's different every time begins every episode with a short spot with one or more of the crew warning about the dangers of what they do, both mechanically and legally. Will and the crew are professional gunsmiths, and a good portion of what they do in the shop (particularly full-auto conversions and suppressors) is legal only by licensed professionals. Some of the repair work on guns can get pretty dicey at times as well.
    • As well as the development and use of various explosives (Joe is often said to have come up with a new "mixture")
    • After having a drag race between Will's Harley and a Porsche Cayenne on a private road near the shop, will looks to the camera and tells the viewers that unless they happen to own the street they're racing on, not to do it at home.
  • Dueling Shows: With another Discovery Channel series, American Guns.
    • Will got together with Rich Wyatt from that show to co-host a documentary on the top 10 shootouts in history which aired following the season 2.5 premier.
  • Dumb Blonde: A girl hired on by Steph to help her with the front-end work; she couldn't hardly do anything right, and was fired the same day she was hired.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Often done when test-firing a recently repaired weapon, right before cutting to a commercial.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto:
    • The show frequently ends with junked cars being used as targets, said cars often being rigged to explode when fired upon.
    • Joe is very enthusiastic about this part of his job.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:

 Will: That is why you spend $1,500 on a grenade launcher. So that you can launch grenades!

  • Extended Disarming: Ted Nugent stopped by and displayed the fact that he was carrying at least 3 handguns. No knives were seen, but...
  • Eyecatch: Season 3 starts doing this. Mostly of shots of wanton acts of destruction from previous episodes.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Foreshadowing: An unintended example; when Vince took over construction of the desert AR from Kris, the camera focused in on Vince putting the wrong buffer in the gun, causing it to malfunction later on.
  • Full Boar Action: One episode has the boys coming up with a gun powerful enough to take down feral hogs.
  • Gatling Good: The Gatling shotgun.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Averted; eye protection is mandatory whenever a weapon is fired.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Vince is very visibly jealous of Will picking Kris to lead the desert AR project.
  • Grenade Launcher:
    • When designing the Master Key (See Shoot Out the Lock below), Will had Joe find a guy with a M203-equipped assault rifle. Unfortunately, it didn't help at all. Will shot it and bought it anyways for $1,500. As Will stated when Stephanie confronted him on his reason for buying it, "the sheer inability to continue life without it."
    • Will and the crew go all-out to convert a full-auto-only grenade launcher into a SUPPRESSED select-fire grenade launcher with increased accuracy. They blow up a building and a car with it.
    • The crew rig up a Sheriff's patrol boat with smoke grenade launchers, as well as the aforementioned suppressed grenade launcher.
    • In season 3, episode 1, Joe leads the team in outfitting a British Ferret armored vehicle with quite a few grenade launchers intended for riot suppression.
    • The season 3 finale has Will strap a grenade launcher on a custom anti-zombie M16.
  • Girls with Guns: Steph, as well as the women who come in to look at her line of ladies' rifles.
  • Gun Stripping:
    • Happens a lot, not much details shown on screen though. They are gunsmiths, after all.
    • Not counting Will, as he didn't participate, Vince is the shop's fastest stripper, winning $100 for doing it the fastest while also blindfolded.
    • Vince shows Kris how to break down an old German Luger, which disassembles quite easily.
  • Hand Cannon: The .50AE Desert Eagle one customer brought in. Kris actually built a stock onto it so the customer could handle the recoil of that monster.
  • Handguns: It's a gun show.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: A retired Army General who came to observe the demonstration of the desert AR requested that he not be filmed and remained in an SUV with tinted windows during the episode.
  • Heroic BSOD: Joe seems to go through one after witnessing a violent shooting while attending a Halloween party in New Orleans in the third season.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Completely inverted. The suppressors simply bring down the noise level of the firearm to where you don't need ear protection. See Useful Notes On Silencers for a good explanation. The show has some good scenes on how they actually work and sound.
  • Important Haircut: As a condition of joining the Red Jacket crew, Will made Flem cut off his pony tail.
  • Infant Immortality: Cruelly averted in the first episode of season 3 when a child dies in Joe's arms following a shooting on Halloween in New Orleans.
  • Initiation Ceremony: See Secret Test of Character. Also, when Flem starting working at Red Jacket, Will made him cut off his pony tail.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • The World War II flamethrower.
    • Later taken Up to Eleven with a custom-made flamethrower the size of a tank cannon.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: "Live Free" is tatted across Vince's knuckles.
  • Man Child:
    • These guys are gun nuts, it was bound to happen. In particular, the time when Will splurged on a grenade launcher comes to mind.
    • But mostly, it's Kris.

  Kris: I love my job!

  • Meaningful Name: Will keeps the origin of the Red Jacket name a secret until Season 3, when he reveals that it's a translation of the name he chose for himself in the Choctaw language. He is of Choctaw descent on his mother's side.
    • Also Hilarious in Hindsight, since when explaining this, he says 'I am Red Jacket.' One of the first episode introes starts along the lines of "I'm Will Hayden. I am Red Jacket. This is my place."
  • More Dakka:
    • The show has several examples, epitomized by the "Triamese." The "Siamese," two fire-linked M-16s wasn't enough for Will. The crew puts together the "Triamese," THREE fire-linked M-16s. More Dakka indeed.
    • A customer wants to put together a quad-.50cal for demonstrations at air shows. Because this would cost $60,000 + ~$4-$5 per bullet, they instead build and mount four MG-42s, which costs only about $8,000 and $0.30 per bullet. Still gets the job done, despite various mechanical difficulties.
    • Another customer asked for the shop to restore a Japanese WWII fighter autocannon. Will declined the project due to the age of the gun, as it could have blown up when fired. Unbeknownst to him, Joe decided to start working on it behind Will's back, though Will eventually found out about it. The crew took it out to fire without Will's permission, which Will didn't take too kindly to. He managed to stop them from firing it just in time. To make up for the customer not being able to fire the autocannon, Will told the boys to grab every gun they could carry out of the shop (unsurprisingly, Steph grabbed a gun and came along with them) and they all proceeded to shoot the ever-loving shit out of the Japanese Zero mockup that they were going to use as a target for the autocannon. It was glorious.
  • Mr. Exposition: Will, Joe, or Charlie often plays this when laying out the details of the main build to the rest of the crew.
  • One of the Boys: Steph. She knows more about guns than most of the customers, is a better shot than most of the other employees, and refuses to use handguns because "they're a way up to a real gun".
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • When Will is vehemently against actually firing the flamethrower they fixed, Steph has this reaction. As it turns out, Will is deathly afraid of fire.
    • Also Will and the threat of wild dogs. He has his reasons.
  • Perma Stubble: Will often sports this more often than not.
  • Pet the Dog: While no one at Red Jacket is particularly mean, it was really sweet when Will had them build a shotgun mount on an ATV for a retired Marine who had his right arm paralyzed, and then gave it to him for free.
  • Pink Product Ploy: Steph takes off in this direction with an easy shooting, lightweight rifle wearing a coat of white paint. Then, over her father's objections, plays it laser straight and promises to offer it in pink.
  • Pistol Whip: In addition to the bayonet of his anti-zombie M16 in the season 3 finale, Will also smashed the hell out of several "zombie" targets with the butt of the rifle.
  • Product Placement: A lot of the custom guns they build use Magpul accessories.
  • Puppy Dog Eyes: How Steph convinces Will to fire the flamethrower.
  • Rare Guns:
    • Almost once an episode, a customer shows up with a rare firearm that someone at the shop gets over-excited about. Most of these guns wind up repaired and fired, with interesting results. Some of the older pistols can get downright scary to shoot, because they're unpredictable as to whether or not they may simply explode in your hand.
    • Also inverted, as they've had several guns come across that, while sometimes still rare, are not as rare as thought or outright fakes; see the Coffee-Grinder rifle and the pair of Lugers.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: The custom guns are frequently prone to malfunctions during the design and construction phase; the worst being the gatling shotgun and desert AR.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Epitomized by the Lefaucheux; an incredibly rare French double-barreled revolver that held twenty rounds.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors: When the crew had a dispute about who got to shoot the flamethrower, they go to the shooting range and have a best-of-5 shoot-off, "Red Jacket Style." Whoever is the most accurate, wins. See also: Bait and Switch, above.
  • Rules Lawyer: This is bound to happen anytime firearms and firearms rules, regulations and laws are even mentioned.
    • Every so often, a client comes in with an idea or firearm that is dubious in its legality, and Will has to come up with a way to make it work legally, or come up with an alternate solution that IS legal.
    • Example: when an archery champion comes in looking for an arrow-gun (an above-water harpoon, essentially), he also asks if they could make some exploding arrowheads. They can (and most certainly did), but he could only fire them under Red Jacket's supervision and couldn't actually buy or take the exploding arrows with him.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • Will has a sort of hazing ritual for new or potential employees. He makes them do terribly demeaning grunt work like cleaning out the toilets or picking up the dog kennel, because he says that the surest way to tell someones work ethic is to see how well they do a bad job.
      • Unknown if Flem had to do any of this, as he was the only person who came in with welding experience and actually brought guns he had made to the interview; he was shown going pretty straight from interview to some basic welding, no poop in-between.
    • What Will ends up doing to Kris when Kris wants to start dating Steph. Kris had to decide which he wanted more, to work at Red Jacket or ask Steph out. He was willing to give up what he loved to go after Steph. Will admits that he didn't know if he wanted it clear to Kris or to himself, but Kris passed.
  • Semper Fi: This is almost never brought up, but Will is a retired Marine. Will is also very supportive of military projects which may wind up being used in the field, and military members often appear on the show.
  • Shoot Out the Lock:
    • Will, at the prompting of SWAT Team Consultant/Mercenary Marco, decided that simply having a guy using a shotgun to shoot out a lock then switching to a rifle took to long. So he took an M16 and mounted a shotgun on it. He called it a Master Key, because it can open any lock.
    • To be fair, though, it's not really an original idea.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Steph often qualifies, often seen behind a .50 Barrett. One episode had a girl with a .50AE Desert Eagle.
    • Which, because of editing, caused some minor controversy with fans, many of whom didn't believe that Steph actually fired a Desert Eagle. She put to bed that she did and has fired one, on the fan Q&A special.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: In one episode in season three, a certain rock & roll legend's name was blocked out by guitar riffs and the mouth of whoever spoke it being blurred out.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: The guys and gal at Red Jacket know their stuff.
  • Special Guest: Several throughout the series;
    • Mikey, Paul, Jr., and Rachael from American Chopper drop by to shoot some guns.
    • Ted Nugent was bound to wind up on the show. He was given Red Jacket's prototype 1911 pistol as a gift.
    • New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, who is friends with Vince, comes to Red Jacket for several upgrades to his gun collection. Later on, Vince and Garrett had a contest where Garrett would attempt a field goal and Vince had to shoot the ball before the kick reach the uprights. Vince lost the contest 5-1, and thus all of the work on Garrett's guns was on the house.
    • Professional exhibition shooter Tom Knapp visited the shop in the 3rd season; he holds the record for shooting the most clay disks ('pigeons' as they're known in skeet shooting) out of the air and performing various other feats with shotguns. He commissioned the Red Jacket crew to build him a blunderbuss for another trick shot he had planned.
      • Though he didn't specifically ask for a blunderbuss, simply something that would allow him to break the record for most pigeons shot from a single fire gun. Even he was surprised when they showed him his new gun.
    • Jessie James visited the shop in season three, and worked with the crew to build a custom Browning Automatic Rifle. A preview of Jesse's own Discovery Channel series was played during a commercial break as well, and he appeared a couple episodes later to take depivery of the gun after it returned from an engraver.
    • One season three episode had the crew procure a revolver owned by Elvis Presley for Joe Perry from Aerosmith.
  • Spent Shells Shower: Quite frequently, especially when the crew is firing automatic guns.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    • Averted as hard as it can be possibly be averted. Steph mans the front of the shop, and many times ends up surprising the hell out of most of the customers about how much more she knows about guns than they do.
    • Often the boys at the back of the shop are doing something that requires Steph's attention in addressing testosterone-fueled idiocy, to the point where she'd probably wishes for just one day where she can stay in the front office.
  • Stock Footage: The show often uses this when showing weapons in action on the battlefield, often with Will giving a brief rundown of the history of said weapon.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Possibly the biggest reality TV explosions this side of Myth Busters.
  • Team Pet: Although not often seen, the Red Jacket crew have a pit bull terrier named Grover kept in the garage. A prospective new hire's willingness to clean up after him is usually a deciding factor as to whether or not they get a job there.
  • Techno Babble: Joe goes into this a bit when explaining to Kris how to operate the C&C machine (a machine that precision-cuts parts out of blocks of metal). Most of it goes completely over Kris' head.
    • Joe, again, starts to go off explaining all the cool functions of a handheld night/heat vision scope to their clients, before Will interrupts and says to save it for later, when they're not blowing stuff up.
  • Those Two Guys: Some of the odd projects, like a gun that shoots a knife, wind up in the hands of Joe and Charlie, who go off on their own to work on something.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The show's easiest flaw to spot, the editing of the opening trailer ("On this episode of Sons of Guns...") and the commercial breaks give away way too much as to what is going to happen. It becomes much less "What's going to happen next?" or "Did they make it?!" and more "Huh... okay, so how did that happen?"
    • Towards the end of the third season's opener episode on its original airing, a preview of the next episode was aired during a commercial break showing Kris getting excited over the prospect of working on the USS Kidd destroyer-class ship. It kind of ruined the suspense of whether or not Kris would really be leaving Red Jacket to be with Steph by the end of the episode, practically making Kris' fate with his job a foregone conclusion.
    • The second season finale dealt with all the desert-AR troubles and Vince's jealousy and spite coming to a head. Also, serious questions arose as to whether the team was going to have a functional weapon to show (with the stakes being raised with an increased time frame and a retired military general coming to see the product). Then, even before the opening credits roll, we see shots of them shooting the gun and blowing stuff up, as well as Vince's empty bench.
  • Up to Eleven: A lot of the custom guns made on the show take existing concepts and crank them Up to Eleven.
  • Wall of Weapons:
    • Will's office has 3/4 of the walls covered with guns. It's also the background used for the crew's individual testimonials.
    • And the last 1/4 is only missing guns because that wall is mostly a window.
  • Weaponized Car:
    • Mounting the .50-Caliber Machine gun on top of the War Wagon.
    • Outfitting a sheriff's patrol boat with a mounted machine gun and belt-fed grenade launcher.
    • Just bolt in a pedestal mount and add a __________ to the Deuce-and-a-half. Fun times for all!
    • A season 2 episode had Red Jacket outfit a Chevy Suburban with a remotely-operated machine gun turret on the roof.
    • One season 3 episode had the crew rig up several weapon systems on a Porsche Cayenne, which had already been modified to be bulletproof before the Red Jacket boys got ahold of it.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?:

 Steph: Why exactly did you get this? (a $1500 grenade launcher)

Will: The sheer inability to continue life without it.

  • Why Did It Have To Be Fire?: When Will was three years old, the house he was asleep in burnt to the ground. Understandably, he is deathly afraid of fire.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Will and Joe worked with Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide and competed to see who could build a gun that could protect someone in such a situation, and tested them with a mob of mocked-up zombie targets. Will's gun even had an EOTech sight with a biohazard symbol instead of the normal reticule.
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