Lowa Zephyr Mk2 GTX

Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

Get on any of the internet tactical/gun forums and you will note an array of people arguing about meaningless issues like the proper way to press the magazine catch on their pistol or carbine, or some such topic. We see folks getting wrapped around the axle about issues that are not really all that important. One topic that gets some real traction is the issue of whether you should reload your pistol or carbine before it goes empty or at slide/bolt lock. Some instructors teach to count your shots and always reload before the gun goes empty.

Yea, right. They haven’t been in many shootouts if they believe in that sacred cow.

I once asked Jim Cirrillo about when did you know to reload in your many shootings. Jim used the NYPD issue 4″ Heavy Barrel M10 S&W .38 special revolver. He was a highly skilled PPC competitor, so in theory he should have been able to count 6 times or sense when his revolver was empty…right? Well, Jim’s answer to my question was very straight forward, “When the trigger went ‘click-click’ two or three times, I knew it was time to reload.”

The game boys of USPSA often complain about IDPA because IDPA dictates either slide lock reloads or tactical
reloads from behind cover. A common line from them is,” I want to reload when I want to, not when I have to.” I
would like to have a full head of hair and a 32″ waist line too, but reality is that you rarely get to reload when you want to, most of the time it is when you are pulling the trigger and there are no loud noises.

Running around the range leaving a trail of partially loaded magazines may be great fun when you can plan on how many targets you will engage with 2 rounds each, but just doesn’t work out very well in a world where you don’t know how many targets you will have to engage or how many rounds it will take to make them stop doing what it is that requires you to ventilate them. Plus, most folks don’t always have a large number of spare magazines on them.

Hope for the best scenario, but you damn well better prepare and train for the worse. I note that many folks now advocate carrying just one spare magazine in their hip pocket. Bravo for at least carrying a spare, but remember, if you ever need it, you will need it real fast. A belt pouch is a much better solution when that time arrives.

-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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21 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

  1. Felix says:

    True words Mr. Hackathorn.

  2. PNW_Tree_Octopus says:

    Well, we all know the most tactical way to drop a mag is to dynamically slam the button with your forehead, duh.

  3. JohnC says:

    “Some instructors teach to count your shots and always reload before the gun goes empty.”

    This is why autistic savants make bad-ass shooters.

    • river tam says:

      And I’m living proof of that. Also, I can kill you with my brain.

      • JohnC says:

        Did you know that the human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds given adequate vacuuming systems? (This made my day. +1)

        • defensor fortisimo says:

          (Actual poster)
          The browncoat in me has had a hankering for a rewatch lately, I couldn’t resist 😉

  4. Will says:

    If you have pulled the trigger, and are behind cover for a few seconds, it makes sense to change out for a fresh mag. Put the other one in a pocket/pouch for latter.
    Will your mind think about it when you are getting shot at? Likely not.

  5. John Meyer says:

    Ken is a great instructor, if you take his class and apply what he says you will improve your skills.

    • Trajan says:


      When I play USPSA (in limited due to AIWB and the Vickers parts put me there too) I still just do slide lock reloads. I’m not very good at it (USPSA) though.

      Sometimes I carry a reload, sometimes I do not. No real excuse.

  6. Tim says:

    This was awesome. Great Gun Fighter Moment for sure.

  7. JP says:

    I love when IDPA people talk. Rules left to interpretation. Rules changed to benefit those who can’t hack it anymore. Rules here. Rules there. Can’t shoot or reload on the move. Have to reload in a certain way at a certain time. Have to shoot in order we say. Can’t compete at certain events unless you do these events first cause we don’t want real shooters coming in and winning. You have to sign this, ” SIGNED UNDER THE PAINS AND PENALTIES OF PERJURY THIS ____ day of February, 2014.” Or how about the FAILURE TO DO RIGHT PENALTY…..WTF is that? It’s left to to the interpretation of the RO. IDPA is a joke. That’s why anytimE A USPSA shooter shows up they freak out cause they know who is gonna win. Everytime.

    • ninjaben says:

      I will shoot pretty much anything, 3 gun, USPSA, IDPA, Long Range, EIC/bullseye matches. I believe all shooting makes you better, though I do hate some of the rules of IDPA, I get procedural all the time for dumping almost empty mags. I have done this is combat. Policed up later or immediately as situation allowed. However, I do like some of the mental problems they add into some of the stages. I just can’t wait till someone figures out how to balance test of physicality with test of shooting, without it being too biased one way or the other. That I think will be interesting.

    • Mike says:

      That’s OK JP…keep training yourself to run out in the open with an unloaded pistol and try to load it when on the move. What’s the worst thing that could happen…other than getting your ass shot off…right? And by the way…we shoot on the move when we have to in IDPA…but shouldn’t a “real shooter” like you know that?

  8. Taylor says:

    Glad to see he’s not inciting riots with comments about warrior spirit and patriotism (or lack thereof) this time… this one was a lot more interesting and helpful.

  9. Dellis says:

    And here I always thought I was a bit overboard carrying 2 spares! Glad to know I am in good company.

    Has anyone blanked out about their conceal carry, gun and spares, while trying on shirts at some clothing place? Yea…..it can generate some looks! “What the hell is he loaded up for?”

  10. cj says:

    i’m reminded of the world’s greatest secret agent, Sterling Archer, and his impressive ability to count shots even when the enemy is firing at him

  11. sabasarge says:

    Finally, somebody willing to say the emperor’s naked!
    Thanks Ken!

  12. peter gonzales says:

    Great outlook and perspectives on common sense “gun fighting”. I have a request. Happened to come upon your site as it was shown on a previous facebook comment from a FB friend. He is a retired sheriff and writer for a shooting magazine. I unfortunately had to re-do my entire face book site and lost his name which I “think” to be Wilson. Can you assist me i recontact and again add him as a F B friend?