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Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

The 1911 pistol, good choice for carry or a piece of history? The answer is a bit of both, but a 1911 pistol is not the ideal gun for everyone. Certainly one of the best if not the top selling handguns in America, the great 1911 does have issues. It is a pistol made by a variety of manufacturers and in various levels of quality. I grew up with the 1911, I carry one most of the time, and I have never felt under-armed with one. My 1911 pistols work and I know how to maintain them and keep them in top form. For the ‘non-gun guy’, it is a bad choice; they’re much better off with a Glock or S&W M&P.

I’m often asked, “is a high capacity pistol better?” YES. Are high cap pistol necessary? If you miss a lot, they are great. If you can shoot, the 1911 will solve most problems. Consider why you want or need a pistol, then pick a gun that fills that need. The 1911 pistol has always ‘spoke’ to me. The modern polymer pistols make great tools, but they have no soul. In my classes I always ask who does not own a 1911 pistol. Sadly, these days more and more students raise their hands than those who don’t. I always bow my head in shame. Every true American Patriot should own a 1911 pistol. That is a fact. You don’t have to carry one, but, you should have one.

As of late it has become popular to damn the 1911 pistol. For over a decade I have referred to the 1911 as “The Worlds Finest Close Quarters Sidearm”… and, “King of feedway stoppages.” I have seen 1911 shooters that are so good at clearing malfunctions that they can do them subconsciously. When asked what happened to their pistol, they will reply, “What stoppage?”. They have to do IADs so often, that they don’t even realize that they did one. LAV refers to this as ‘Malfunction Amnesia’. Make no mistake, 1911 shooters are the best Immediate action drill shooters in the world. If you want a really reliable 45acp pistol, check out the H&K 45, FNX45, Smith & Wesson M&P 45, or the new Sig Sauer P227.

In many ways the 1911 is like the Harley Davidson motorcycle: it is uniquely American, but requires extra effort to keep it on the road. Like the Japanese Samurai sword, it represents much of the spirit of the warrior class: honored, collected, past from father to son, and likened to with a near spiritual following. I love the 1911, carry one almost daily, but usually train and teach with the gun that most of my students use: one of those polymer pistols without a ‘soul’.

-Ken Hackathorn

Old Guy With A Blaster

Ken Hackathorn has served as a US Army Special Forces Small Arms Instructor, Gunsite Instructor, and NRA Police Firearms Instructor. He is currently an FBI Certified Firearms Instructor, Certified Deputy Sheriff with Washington County SO, Ohio, and a SRT member and Special Response Team trainer. Ken has trained US Military Special Operations forces, Marine FAST and SOTG units and is a contract small arms trainer to FBI SWAT and HRT.

Ken has provided training to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies and been active in small arms training for the past 25 years. He has written firearms related material for Guns & Ammo, Combat Handguns, Soldier Of Fortune, and currently American Handgunner and contributed to at least six other gun/shooting journals. Ken was also a founding member of IPSC and IDPA.

To see Ken’s Training Class Schedule visit aliastraining.com.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn they offer SSD readers hard earned words of wisdom.

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51 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

  1. Chris U'5 says:

    Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it Ken, thank you.
    As a UK citizen I will never have the opportunity to own a 1911 pistol which is a huge disappointment and one that I often ponder but you have summed up my feelings towards the 1911 pistol perfectly. I have spent countless hours reading about the design and history of the 1911 and even though I will never own one I feel like I know the pistol inside out and exactly as you said it is a pistol that speaks to me.
    Thanks again Ken.
    Chris

  2. mark says:

    Great article. Love shooting the 1911, but agree about the feedway stoppages.

  3. Bill says:

    It’s the sports car of pistols, like an old school Shelby Cobra. Still capable of extremely high performance, but it will bite you in the ass if you don’t know how to handle it. Non-car and non- gun guys and girls are well served by the respective Toyotas and Glocks that are perfectly adequate for most any foreseeable need.

  4. Bill says:

    It’s the sports car of pistols, like an old school Shelby Cobra. Still capable of extremely high performance, but it will bite you in the ass if you don’t know how to handle it. Non-car and non- gun guys and girls are well served by the respective Toyotas and Glocks that are perfectly adequate for most any foreseeable need.

    Too many 1911s suffer the same fate as a lot of high performance cars: they get inadequate or improper support, maintenance and “improvements” that make them finicky or unserviceable. BTDT.

  5. lightfighter says:

    ‘Every true American Patriot ..’ , ‘spirit of the warrior class’ , ‘spiritual following’ ,
    ‘soul’ … A complete load of fetishistic crap.

    If and when needed, I would happily kill a bad guy with a Makarov, a Glock or a Chinese made screwdriver – the tool and or it’s brand name do not matter.

    Despite Ken’s credentials and abilities, this kind of ridiculous philosophy only reinforces the religion of the weapon as death dealing talisman – leaving the weak minded, untrained and lazy to believe that they only need to buy ‘_____ ‘ to be the complete American Spec Ops warrior.

    Ken should hang his head in shame for thinking this way as opposed to hanging his head in shame because most of his students don’t carry his favored model of rune inscribed flaming sword.

    • L.F. says:

      And how fitting that he used a Harley-Davidson to compare it to; an overpriced motorcycle that you have to dump even more money into to keep it running, and dump oh-my-god more into to be “custom.”

    • pnwto says:

      You read way too much into that.

    • Tank says:

      I am glad that I was not the only one that was taken back by the attitude of this expert. There is nothing wrong with defending your choice of firearms, but to claim that all true patriots should carry one, thats ridiculous. Sounds like the old “mines metal, yours is plastic” arguement. Probably the same type of guy who would call me a comme bastard for driving a Toyota pickup truck. I have had average 1911’s, and top of the line 1911’s, the only thing in common is that I don’t have them anymore. But, I guess that is because I was an idiot who didn’t know how to baby them and show them the deserved love they needed. I guess my polymer gun doesn’t live up to his expert skill and credentials, there just isn’t enough soul in my Glock. I guess soul is something I will have to pay extra for to be able to defend myself and my family.

    • mitori says:

      When he says these things he does so with a grin on his face; he’s not being completely serious. I’ve spent a few days on the range with him, he’s a funny guy and a realist. He loves 1911s but mostly shoots Glocks.

  6. Joe says:

    Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn
    The Springfield 1903 rifle, good choice or a piece of history? The answer is a bit of both, but a 1903 rifle is not the ideal gun for everyone. Certainly one of the best if not the top selling rifles in America, the great 1903 does have issues. It is a rifle made by a variety of manufacturers and in various levels of quality. I grew up with the 03′, I use one most of the time, and I have never felt under-armed with one. My 1903 rifles work and I know how to maintain them and keep them in top form. For the ‘non-gun guy’, it is a bad choice; they’re much better off with an AK, or AR variant.

    I’m often asked, “is a high capacity rifle better?” YES. Are high cap rifles necessary? If you miss a lot, they are great. If you can shoot, the 1903 will solve most problems. Consider why you want or need a rifle, then pick a gun that fills that need. The 1903 rifle has always ‘spoke’ to me. The modern polymer and aluminum rifles make great tools, but they have no soul. In my classes I always ask who does not own a 1903 rifle. Sadly, these days more and more students raise their hands than those who don’t. I always bow my head in shame. Every true American Patriot should own a 1903 rifle. That is a fact. You don’t have to sling one, but, you should have one.

    As of late it has become popular to damn the 1903 rifle. For over a decade I have referred to the 1903 as “The Worlds Finest Trench Rifle”… and, “King of running out of ammo.” I have seen 1903 shooters that are so good at reloading that they can do them subconsciously. When asked what happened to their rifle, they will reply, “What?”. They have to do reloads so often, that they don’t even realize that they did one. LAV refers to this as ‘Amnesia’. Make no mistake, 1903 shooters are the best speed reload drill shooters in the world. If you want a really reliable .30-06 rifle, check out the Browning BAR, M-1 Garand, , or the new Remington 700.

    In many ways the 1911 is like the Harley Davidson motorcycle: it is uniquely American, but requires extra effort to keep it on the road. Like the Japanese Samurai sword, it represents much of the spirit of the warrior class: honored, collected, past from father to son, and likened to with a near spiritual following. I love the 1911, carry one almost daily, but usually train and teach with the gun that most of my students use: one of those polymer pistols without a ‘soul’.

    • Joe says:

      Whoops!
      In many ways the 1903 is like the Harley Davidson motorcycle: it is uniquely American, but requires extra effort to keep it on the road. Like the Japanese Samurai sword, it represents much of the spirit of the warrior class: honored, collected, past from father to son, and likened to with a near spiritual following. I love the 1903, patrol with one almost daily, but usually train and teach with the gun that most of my students use: one of those AR-15’s without a ‘soul’.

  7. seans says:

    So this guy admits he carries a firearm not based of performance, but pride. Well at least he is honest. Completely misguided and stupid opinion, but honest.

    • SSD says:

      He’s also a master at it. His POV is going to be a little different than yours or mine,

      • seans says:

        Master at what exactly. A weapon that at this point which the ability to use as a defensive weapon is inferior to cheaper and far more reliable options.

        • SSD says:

          Ken is a master of the pistol. That you don’t know that is a good indicator that you shouldn’t be commenting on this thread.

  8. BAP45 says:

    Wow guys, relax. All he says is that it’s a good gun but not for everyone.

    • pnwto says:

      It seems there’s an overreaction every time someone says ,”yes, the 1911 doesn’t make too sense given the competition on the market, but it works for me so there’s that.”

  9. Bill says:

    The truth of the telling is by looking at who carries it, not who doesn’t. Very few people are “forced” to carry a 1911, so whatever works for you. The people forced to carry a 1911 or who do so by choice seem pretty pleased, so why knock it?

    So far I’ve never attended a shooting autopsy where the person being posted could tell what kind of gun was used to kill them. But that’s just me.

  10. Dellis says:

    I don’t believe I ever read where Ken said you MUST own AND carry an 1911 to be a “patriot” but rather every patriot “should” own one, whether you carry it or not.

    Why? Well it has a great deal of history, it’s a service model a war pistol and in that sense it has “soul”. Not every Japanese person carried a katana yet when people speak of Japan images of samurai warriors almost always come to mind. Thus the 1911 being identified with the samurai katana. I get what he means. I own a 1911 and love the gun. Plenty of upgrades and in a SHTF case ammo and parts should be plentiful, much like a Glock.

    Now my main reason for posting here…..HOLY tear jerkers CHRIS from the UK!! I feel so bad for you my friend because while you may never own a 1911 you perhaps know more about them than 90% of those who actually own one. You perhaps even appreciate the history and character of the gun more than most actual owners.

    You, Chris, have reminded me just how blessed we are to live in this great country. Thank You.

    Dellis

    • Chris U'5 says:

      Thank you Dellis, you certainly are blessed to live in such a great country.
      I am obviously in no position whatsoever to discuss the advantages of one pistol over another but when I look at the 1911 I see an amazing piece of design and engineering with an unparalleled heritage that still has its place in the modern World.
      I think it would be fair to say that those of us that regularly visit SSD are firearms enthusiasts or ‘Gun Guys’ therefore I would have imagined that everyone would want to own a 1911 and as Ken said “You don’t have to carry one, but you should have one”

  11. Mike Nomad says:

    There is no doubt that Mr. Hackathorn knows how to run a 1911, and that it is wholly suited for him. His “Soul Surfer” rebop rubs me the wrong way.

    If you want to get into the Soulful American Spiritual Patriot trip, use a wheel gun. It was good enough for SEAL Team Six Plank Owners, and S&W now has several that hold eight rounds instead of six.

  12. Bill says:

    People don’t use wheel guns? Or people carry wheel guns, other people don’t realize it. Personally, I have issues with S&W declaring the original Model 10 a classic. Hard to imagine how I survived serving warrants and making felony arrests carrying one and a backup J frame, or a “backup” 1911, having our choice of backup and not duty gun.

    • Mike Nomad says:

      To be clear, I’m not bagging on wheel guns. I prefer them over semi-autos, and I used to own many, before I had to take Use By People Other Than Me into account.

      Funny you mentioned the Model 10. I guess it’s a classic: It has been around a while… One of my two favorites is the Model 64, and the 642 was indeed my Concealed/Back-Up Little Friend.

  13. Fox says:

    I enjoyed this post Ken. I am glad there are men out there of your character, who still share their thoughts and experiences. If you did not take something away from his piece, then you are unfortunately missing out. When a weapon is crafted, and not just manufactured- it takes on what Ken refers to as a “soul.” When you dedicate the majority of your life to a craft, in Ken’s case a modern day Samurai, you can tell the difference between crafted, and manufactured. When one is crafted, it takes on a function and beauty all its own. I too believe this to be true in the 1911. But when you look at the way our country is heading- it makes sense why many would disagree with Ken’s philosophy, because we achieve satisfaction in the cheap and convenient, Myself included. We want to buy something already available that the professionals use ready for the range. When you commission a weapon, vs. buying one on the shelf, you are getting closer to the spiritual core of the warrior, and the relationship he has with his weapon. I saw this post as an invitation to experience what Ken has, not to go and sell all of your polymers or stop shooting them, but to explore a design that is uniquely American that has more than proven its worth.

    • lightfighter says:

      Fox –

      I’m all for supporting American manufacturing and the valuable trades and skill sets that make it possible and It’s perfectly fine to celebrate something that is beautifully designed or made.

      What I find completely incoherent is ascribing soul and mystical powers to inanimate objects: The soul is in the maker of the object, the craftsman – not in the object itself – there is no transmutation.

      This ancient slight of hand is at the core of all marketing; If I only buy THIS then I’ll be the complete ‘_____’, warrior, man, whatever …

      In reality it takes days, months and years in the gym, on the mat and at the range

      And being tested.

      Regardless of whether a gun is purchased ready made, or custom built, the cheap and convenient satisfaction comes from the idea that If I buy THIS make or model then I’ll really be a warrior, patriot, man etc

      This is the worst kind of mysticism and I daresay it borders on witchcraft or sorcery.

  14. bulldog76 says:

    my rock island has jammed yet i guess ive just gotten lucky …….. little known fact your gi 1911s will run better than your higher end ones why you may ask why well the tolerance to tight of tolerance and you will suffer more jams and problems but the gi spec ones have looser tolerance like an AK it will run in 90% of conditions outs there

  15. Eric I am officially submitting you for Sainthood based on your ability to tolerate clueless disrespectful assclowns like the majority of the ones posting in this particular thread

    Ken Hackathorn has done more for the tactical shooting community than all these punks put together times ten – losers like this are exactly why no one with a real resume takes the Internet seriously

    • pnwto says:

      This is why you rock LV.

    • Terry B says:

      +1

    • Mike Nomad says:

      Mr. Vickers,

      I’m not sure if I am part of the “clueless disrespectful assclowns” or “Clueless, disrespectful, highly soulless and unpatriotic assclowns,” but, this thread has gone into a strange place.

      No one here is impugning Mr. Hackathorn’s CV (or yours, for that matter). What has happened is that a number of people, to varying degrees, have called Mr. Hackathorn on some of the comments he made at the top of this thread. I am definitely in that group.

      That said, I do have / have had favorite tools: Preferred hammer, screwdriver, file, shinai, cutlass, pistol, rifle, etc. I could give you long lists of quantitative reasons for the qualitative outcomes.

      And with that said, I do stand by my original comments. To get back on the beam…

      I think the lack of quantitative detail and qualitative boundaries as part of his argument are where Mr. Hackathorn ran afoul of the mobbe. And yes, you are quite correct: Virtual / Electronic Brickbats are always easier to fling.

      VR,

      Mike

    • Ed Hickey says:

      It all comes down to the way they were raised and not having respect. They all need some discipline shoved up there ass. I can’t believe what I’ve been reading lately.

      • Ed

        Spot on

        I agree 100%

      • Jon Meyer says:

        I agree. Being only 25, I am often disappointed with my generation.

        • Ed Hickey says:

          Not having respect effects all generations. Don’t be dissapointed & be proud of yourself. Serve our country if you can. I think Israel has it right where everyone serves & gets a taste of the military.

  16. Joe says:

    I dont understand how someone could, within the same article bemoan that to few shooters choose to own a 1911, and then state the handgun is “the king of feedway stoppages”. The basic concept behind a handgun is defensive in nature. No one would choose to carry a knife that failed to function often, drive a car whose motor dies randomly, or fly in a Wright Flyer on thier cross country business trip. The G.I.’s, and Grunts that got handed a M-1 Garand probably had a few old salts that bemoaned the passing of the 1903. Times and technology change.
    Flintlock-percussion, paper-brass cartridge, Krag-1903, 1903-M-1, Steel framed 100+ year old design to polymer frame 30 year old designs. The G.I.’s that fought and died in the trenches of the Great War were no more true patriots than the men who died in some God forsaken 3rd world shithole carrying a Mk-12.

  17. Bill says:

    I guess Stradivarius violins, Gibson guitars, P51 Mustangs and hand-knapped projectile points are mystical talismans and have no cultural, social, aesthetic, or practical value.

    Some things just represent an gestalt of design and utility that transcend the everyday, but they aren’t for everybody, and I didn’t read that in the original post, though I think an AR15 belongs over every American’s fireplace, being the Kentucky Long Rifle of our times. Frank Lloyd Wright designed amazing homes, but having visited several, I appreciate his vision and craft, but couldn’t live in one, solely for the fact that he was short, built homes with low ceilings, and I’m too tall. That doesn’t make them “bad” nor a modular double wide “good,” it’s just what I can afford and fit in.

  18. Jon Meyer says:

    The 1911 is a great pistol and you cannot dispute that. It might take a little more finesse in the long run than most modern day pistols but it will get the job done. Shoot and carry what you are most comfortable and proficient with. Seek regular training and avoid becoming complacent. Ignore the brand jockeys, naysayers, bandwagon hoppers, Monday morning quarter backs, armchair commandos, key board operators, etc. What might work for you, will not work for another. Hardware is not applicable across the board, but software is.

    I carry a G19 but 1911’s are my favorite pistol, and always will be.

  19. Joe says:

    With all due respect to Mr. Vickers, and Mr. Hackathorn. I dont see any comments that could be construed as disrespectful. This is a free country, or used to be anyway. If Mr. Hackathorns opinion cannot be questioned than why post it on the internet, in firearms publications, or any other semi-open forum. Commentors are merely commenting. Not insulting them or personally attacking them, yes some of it is a bit satorical or ironic, perhaps even slightly humorous. But I don’t belive anyone commenting here is attempting to in anyway offend.

    • Bill Tidler says:

      Exactly! Mr. Vickers, and Mr. Hackathorn are VERY qualified pros with outstanding credentials but I carry what I choose and I don’t lose any sleep over what they carry or recommend. As always, “Opinions are like azzholes; everybody has one.”