SIG MMG 338 Program Series

Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

Of the vast number of people that carry guns for self defense, only a very small number are competent with them. In my business to provide an enhanced level of combat marksmanship to the private sector, law enforcement, and military customer for the past 30 years, I have noted a number of trends.

While the overall quality of most training and practice has provided a higher level of skill, the increase of people from all three markets that now have access and carry sidearms has progressed very little than it was decades ago. Yes, we do know much more about how to train and prepare people to use their sidearms for self protection. But, that does not equal necessary skill across the spectrum. I am often asked to provide a skill check or ‘test’ for those that take their combat marksmanship serious.

I offer the following ‘Wizard Drill’. It is very simple, requires only five rounds of ammo, and can be shot on any range that allows work from the holster.

IDPA or IPSC (USPSA) targets are ideal. Place a 4″ circle centered in the head of the target. The handgun you use should be the one you carry, in the manner you routinely pack it. Ammo should be the self defense or duty ammo you carry as well. The time for each string of fire is 2.5 seconds. Start at 3 yards. On signal, draw and fire one head shot strong hand only at the head. Repeat at 5 yards, but you may use both hands.

Repeat at 7 yards, again both hands are permitted. Last, at 10 yards draw and fire two (2) body shots in the allowed 2.5 seconds. When you are done, you should have three head shots and two body hits. A miss is a fail. You can drop 2 points and past the test, anymore is a fail. Set your timer at 2.5 seconds. I allow 2.7 as that is about the length of the buzzer on most timers. If you are using a pocket carry mode, you may start with your hand on the gun in the pocket. Otherwise, hands normal at sides, no touching of the gun until the buzzer. Hits in the 4″ head circle or cutting the line are considered down zero, outside the circle but inside the head perforation is down one point. Competent and practiced shooters may consider this drill simple, but let’s be honest these folks make up less than one tenth of one precent of the people that carry firearms for self defense.

Try it, you may be in for a humbling experience. Don’t be surprised to find that those little 2″ airweight .38 special revolvers and pocket 380 autos are nearly impossible to pass this drill with. In police work we call this “a clue”.

-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

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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11 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

  1. Nate says:

    I’m sure this guy’s a great trainer, but I don’t know about he FBI Certified Firearms Instructor. I’ve never heard of that title The FBI PFI’s are all Agents and I don’t remember seeing this guy around Quantico. Possibly a field office or HRT went with him for some additional training and some how that involvement got inflated.

    • Curt Howell says:

      I don’t know about the title, but he’s taught at Quantico dozens of times.

      • Ray s. says:

        Maybe you should learn something about him before commenting. He’s one of the most well known and respected trainers anywhere.

        • Fletch says:

          “Certified” means he graduated the FBI FITP. The “certification” would be a fairly minor accomplishment considering his other credentials.

          Ditto what Ray s. said.

  2. Nate says:

    Not disrespecting the man. If Curt says he taught at Q-town a few times then I’m sure he did. I’m also aware of Mr. Hackathorn and his contributions to the field. I’m just pointing out that his bio doesn’t match up with my personal knowledge of how the Bureau operates. A few hosted courses does not a “FBI Certified Firearms Instructor”make. I’m unaware of that title.

    • bryan says:


      FBI Firearms Training Unit
      Our experienced firearms training instructors assigned to the Training Division also offer certification and recertification training to all FBI firearms instructors who provide training to agents in the field and in support of our state and local law enforcement partners.
      [Search domain]

      Simple Google search.

      You post on someone’s site and insinuate that a well known firearms instructor is lying on his bio.

      You showed a bit of disrespect whether intentional or not is all on you. Common get real man. You’re not adding to the conversation.


      The few Hackathorn drills I’ve seen have a grading system. As with most systems they are their to see where you fall and if you improve. If you want to work on a skill related to a drill he made you can. If you want to see how you improve there is a general guide. I can’t speak for Ken but I’m sure he would tell you to find your own way just as you’ve described. We all have to do that in the end.

  3. Tank says:

    People get too wrapped around titles, certifications, and skill levels. While we should all strive to be the best we can in shooting, tactical prowess, etc… you should determine for yourself how good you need to be. Sometimes good enough is in fact good enough. I don’t need to be some IPSC grand wizard super master to protect my wife and kids. Nor do I need to be on par with Mr. Hackahorn when it comes to shooting. I fancy myself a pretty fine pistol shooter, but next to Mr. Hackathorn I probably look like shit. Point is nobody needs his endorsement to be a good shot. Competent in his book, may be different than in yours, mine, or the next shooting instructor which we yearn so hard to shoot like. His wizard drill sounds great, I will probably give it a try, but I am not holding myself to his standard to determine if I am a competent shooter or not. Any instructor with decades of experience and a fancy bio can come up with a shooting drill, and claim it is the standard to which all should be judged. But that’s like saying the Army PT test is a true measure of a soldiers physical ability. There are plenty of amazing shooters, and world class instructors who aren’t CAG operators, SWAT members, or FBI Certified Instructors, titles do not make the man, nor his teaching ability.

    • mike says:

      Cool Story.

      I’ve heard of Ken once or twice. I think I’ll go with what he said.

      • Tank says:

        Sorry I didn’t mean to confuse you with logic and reasoning. No story involved, just pointing out fact. But go ahead and continue chasing Ken Hackathorn’s feats, since you are probably one of the people constantly seeking approval and enrolling in endless shooting classes to try to develop skills because you can’t learn on your own, or manage without constant reassurance.

        • bryan says:

          I hear what you are saying but I think you are reading too much into a bio. Is part of being an instructor for hire marketing? Yep. Welcome to America.

          But Bio’s help me see where a person is coming from. If a person is military and I want some help learning about home self defense perhaps there are better instructors that might fit my need?

  4. Jordy says:

    Didn’t the FBI offer an “Instructor Certification Class” many years ago? I’ve seen it referenced on many instructor bio’s.

    I am sure that’s what he is referring to.