Ayoob: Why You Need to Know About Gila Hayes

By Massad Ayoob
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Ayoob: Why You Need to Know About Gila Hayes

September 7th, 2022

6 minute read

The Armory Life is always interested in famous gun people who use Springfield Armory firearms. One such person is Gila Hayes.

If the name rings a bell to you, perhaps it’s because you belong to a certain armed citizens’ mutual self-defense organization and read her column in your monthly newsletter. It may be that you’ve read one of her three excellent self-defense books, or taken one of her skillfully-taught classes. Or, just maybe, you had a flashback to when she beat you at a shooting match.

Gila Hayes interviewed by Massad Ayoob
Massad Ayoob (left) interviews Gila Hayes (right) for The Armory Life, 2022. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

In the Beginning

A young Gila May was running a newspaper in a small town in Washington State in the late 1980s, when, after six months overseas, she settled in Seattle. Even then, Seattle wasn’t exactly the safest city in the nation, particularly in the Capitol Hill area where she had settled. Among other things, that was the stomping ground of the notorious Green River Killer.

Gila Hayes and Brady Gunns at a training class
Gila Hayes (left) with Brady Gunns (right) at a non-dominant hand shooting class at Firearms Academy of Seattle. Her pistol is a Springfield 1911-A1 in Blade-Tech holster. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

“I decided I needed a substantial means of self-defense,” she recalls today. For her first handgun she bought a little hammerless revolver, which had just been reintroduced by its manufacturer. Before long, she had augmented the five-shot 38 Special with a .40 caliber autopistol.

She sought training and devoured it eagerly. It was then that she met the man she would eventually marry, Marty Hayes, who had established the Firearms Academy of Seattle, circa 1990. A quick learner, she was soon tapped by editors to write for guns magazines, and became a regular contributor to Women & Guns among other publications.

The Writer

Gila’s work appeared in many magazines, and she won renown as one of the best firearms/self-defense instructors of either gender. She wrote three excellent books in the field of her constantly-growing subject matter expertise: “Effective Defense: the Woman, the Gun, the Plan (1994), “Personal Defense for Women (2009), and “Concealed Carry for Women” (2013).

Gila Hayes books
Gila Hayes’ three books have stood the test of time, and all are available on Amazon.

As the first decade of the 21st century drew to a close, Gila along with her husband Marty and their colleague Vincent Schuck founded the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN), essentially a fraternal organization banded together to help defend armed citizens in court after they had used justified force to protect themselves or other innocent parties.

Gila is the operations manager at the ACLDN, supervising the staff in their daily activities. A part of her duties still includes writing: Gila puts together the monthly newsletter, the ACLDN Journal. As a public service, this newsletter can be accessed even by non-members here. Published the first of each month, the Journal is a treasure trove of commentary from attorneys, expert witnesses, and top trainers in the fields of self-defense and use of force.

The Shooter

Married to a highly successful competitive shooter, Gila got the fever and joined Marty at matches around the country. These included the National Tactical Invitational in Pennsylvania, and more. Both of the Hayes believed in continuing education for instructors, and both competed in the GAS (Gunsite Alumni Shoot) multiple times at the fabulous Gunsite training facility in Paulden, Arizona.

Gila Hayes shooting in a training class
Gila Hayes, foreground, at a shoot-off with her 9mm Springfield 1911-A1 pistol. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

During the period when Gila and Marty were both part-time cops and full-time instructors, they competed and often guest-taught at the annual seminar and shooting contest hosted in Yakima by WSLEFIA, the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors’ Association. That latter event was a 3-Gun shooting tournament: pistol, shotgun and carbine. Gila always did well in all three categories, but is best remembered for the year she won the shotgun event.

The shotgun shooting had been hotly contested, and resulted in a tie for first place; Gila was one of those finalists, and the winner would be decided in a shoot-off. A slim 5’ 6”, she knows how to manage 12-gauge recoil, and while she appreciates the advantages of an autoloader her favorite shotgun is the slide-action. The shoot-off, it was announced, would be with rifled slugs at 100 yards. While there are low-recoil slug loads available, Gila had determined that her particular Vang-comped 870 was most accurate at that distance with 12-gauge Brenneke slugs, so that was what she used.

Gila Hayes in shoot house training at Gunsite
Ms. Hayes wields her Springfield 1911-A1 cautiously while going through a shoot-house at Gunsite. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

And she won with it. Local legend has it that when the buffed-out stud cops discovered a slender woman had beaten them with 12-gauge slugs out of a pump gun, a palpable reduction in testosterone was noted.

Something similar happened at another match, and I happened to be there for it: the Washington State Bowling Pin Shooting Championships, back in the early 1990s. Shooting heavy bowling pins three feet back off the table requires ammo with power and momentum, and as I recall Gila was shooting Cor-Bon .45 ACP +P out of a 1911. She won the OSS (Ordinary Standard Shooter) division in Stock Gun class, shooting against the men. The pistol she used was a 1911, which brings us to…

The Guns of Gila Hayes

Gila’s first handgun was a .38 Special, and she was good with revolvers. In one of my books, there’s a picture of her with the perfect 250 out of 250 score target that she shot under time with a 3”-barrel .38. That said, though, she quickly gravitated to autos. At various times she bonded with a range of compact and handy autos in .40 and then 9mm Luger. However, the 1911 seemed to be the “handgun sweet spot” for her.

Gila Hayes with a 9mm Springfield 1911
Gila Hayes on the range with her full-size Springfield 1911 9mm. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

She doesn’t remember today whether the Mark Morris Custom 1911 she won that state championship with was a Springfield Armory or a Colt, but she told The Armory Life that she quickly became a fan of the former brand.

Says Gila, “When I started, there were no 9mm 1911s in current production. Then the angels sang, and Springfield came out with a full-size 9mm and an Officer’s size subcompact 9mm. I acquired both. They had a memory bump on the grip safety; our local gunsmith, Dennis Justice, ground those down to fit my hand better. The trigger reach was a little long for me — I’m 5’ 6” with proportional size hands — so Dennis installed a short 1911-A1 trigger on each. I like to shoot with the distal joint of my index finger centered on the face of the trigger, and that made it just right. It fit perfectly. I put thousands of rounds through those guns. They just ran.

When Springfield Armory introduced the EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) in 2005, Gila became an early adopter: It was love at first touch, as it were. “I fell in love with that short-barreled EMP,” she recalls fondly. “We were all into Crimson Trace LaserGrips, and John Rievley, who was then with CT, custom made some LaserGrips to fit it. I ran with that for a long time.”

Gila Hayes carries a 4-inch Springfield EMP
Gila Hayes carries the Springfield EMP 4″ pistol as her daily driver in a Five Shot Leather IWB holster. Photo: Hayes Family and ACLDN

She continues, “When Springfield came up with the 4” barrel EMP, I got one for Christmas. I liked it even better. I had John Ralston at Five-Shot Leather make a holster for it that I use to this day. My 4” EMP has a bobtail grip and carries nice, and it feels wonderful in the hand. Now, a full-size 1911 feels kind of bulky in my hand.”

That EMP with two spare magazines of 9mm JHP remains Gila Hayes’ daily carry to this day. Springfield Armory pistols helped her gain fame as a shooting and self-defense instructor and shooting champion. She is definitely a “satisfied customer.”

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Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob is a renowned firearms expert with decades of experience in the firearms community. He's the author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles and has extensive experience as a law enforcement officer, competitive shooter and expert witness.

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