Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

The training market is flooded with instructors that all want you to give them your money so they can make you into a ninja warrior. The guy in your community that was a NRA instructor last year has bought himself a set of 5.11 clothes (ninja black hopefully), a drop leg holster for his blaster, and added 13 items to his economy priced AR. Now, he is the local ‘tactical shooting instructor’. Like most things in life you get what you pay for. In most case’s it is a matter of in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

If you plan to invest your money wisely, do some research on the instructor. Does he have a reputation for giving his students their money’s worth? Keep in mind that nearly all the shooting instructors have a specialty based upon their life experiences be it Law Enforcement, Military, or competition backgrounds.

It is your job to determine if the specialty that they provide meets your expectations or learning requirements. One of the most commonly encountered things that happens in my business is questions concerning another trainers range rules or individual class requirements. The question is ,why do I teach something different than instructor A or B? In reality, we all have differences in our instruction, it doesn’t mean any of us are wrong, we just have different approaches to solving the problem.

I advise most students that take my or anyone class with the attitude that you take away those things that you like or think you can use. Anything you get from the instructor that you don’t agree with or dislike, simply push the delete button. Select the guy you want to give your money to based upon his reputation to deliver the information you are looking for, his ability to explain and justify his teaching methods, and most important his ability to correct or improve your performance.

Go to training with an open mind and positive attitude. Pay attention, show up prepared, be ready to come to the line when called, and work hard to not be ‘that guy’.

-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.

Tags: ,

15 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

  1. Ed Hickey says:

    Well said! I look forward to learning something from all of you.

  2. AssaultPlazma says:

    Why does everyone seem to hate those Tru-Spec/5.11 Cargo Pants? Calling anyone who wears wannabe operators and whatnot? (and no I dont own any)

    • Dellis says:

      I own a good number of them because they are durable, great pocket locations with good size and can go from a dinner date to the range.

      I see the 5.11 and or “tactical pants” as updated cargo pants and work great in a shop workspace.

      • T says:

        Thank you. 5.11 pants (I have several pairs of the TDU variety, basically updated BDUs) are very good, for the price especially. Although to be fair, if one is wearing a “tactical tuxedo”, it’s usually all 5.11. Preferably in Multicam.

    • chris says:

      i wear my 5.11 pants frequently to ride my ATV, work in my garden, work on my chicken coop, etc.

      I also wear them to the range.

      I could wear my OCP pants from afghanistan, but i like to not stand out as much haha

  3. E-Rock says:

    As always, sage advice from the godfather. Thank you Uncle Ken.

  4. Dellis says:

    Mr. Hackathorn, how come they never came to you and offered you the role as James Bond? You’d be a natural!

    If you’re reading this how does one get into training/instructor roles and be seen as legit if never served in the military/LEO? I appreciate any direction, thanks.

    • Bill says:

      Conversely, having been in LE or Mil doesn’t mean a person is qualified to be an instructor. Unfortunately, being able to perform a psychomotor skill doesn’t mean that someone can teach it. Good instructors know adult learning theory, particularly as it pertains to psychomotor skills, are good diagnosticians and are able to be ‘therapeutic” with shooters who are having issues.

      I personally am a little leery of instructors who don’t document and don’t work off any lesson plan. They may have taught the class a thousand times, but that lesson plan or checklist ensures consistency, quality and safety.

      Good instructors are also good students, who learn something every time they teach, and will incorporate that into future classes.

      • Dellis says:

        Thanks Bill, appreciate your time for a reply.

        I want to further my own training but time, not so much the money aspect, is where I have issues…which is why the money is not an issue, cause my time is spent working!! Irony eh? Anyway I have been to a few handgun classes in my local area and I know I got duped when an hour into the class the “instructor” looks around as if lost and says….

        “OK, let’s see what else we can do here”

        Likewise other trainers that are popular turn out to be asshats, like recently the Cory and Erika stolen valor debacle. I don’t want to give people like that my money.

        I’ve been told I can teach well as I have to teach my employees all the ins and outs at my shop to make them productive. So I reckon I will start with an NRA instructor course and see what happens.

        Thanks again

      • Wrong way to look at it – instructors who have to constantly refer to a lesson plan don’t know the material well enough to be teaching it or taking students money for it. You have an instructor who is referring back to a piece of paper to tell him what to do next you have a problem.

        • Riceball says:

          But what about someone that’s a new instructor, someone that has a lot of expertise but is new to teaching? Wouldn’t you expect someone like that to occasionally refer to a lesson plan, after all, they have to start somewhere and it’s not realistic to expect every trainer out thee to years and years of training experience. I mean, even as experienced as both you and Mr. Hackathorn are you weren’t born with that experience and I’m sure that the first time either of you taught an extensive class you must have had at least some sort of cheat sheet to refer to every now and again.

  5. Mike Mike says:

    I suggest to people to look for handgun instructor who is a USPSA/IDPA/3Gun competition shooter. They are great at teaching the basic fundamentals such as grip, stance, sight alignment, weapon presentation, proper loading technique, not riding the trigger/proper trigger manipulation, and range safety. Why are these people good at teaching? Almost all were taught by someone who knew what they were talking about. Competition shooters are extremely helpful to each other and know how to give advise to people without being brash or making you feel stupid if you don’t know something. I never met a comp shooter that was afraid to ask for help and that’s a great quality in an instructor…shows humility. Comp shooters make the best instructors. Once you have a good basic understanding go sign up and shoot a comp match. Its like anything in life, the more you do it the better you get.

    • I’ve trained with the best competition shooters who have ever lived and learned many things but proper trigger control is not one of them – their idea of mastering a trigger is to make it as light as possible. Sorry to tell you your wrong on that point of discussion

      • Dellis says:

        Ya I did shoot a worked CZ75 at a competition and that trigger would go if you sneezed next to it!

        Thanks for the input Mike Mike, I do shoot competitions just not as often as I would like

      • Mike Mike says:

        That’s about as dumb a statement as I have ever heard from a so-called professional. I said nothing about making the trigger lighter. I know you shot USPSA and IDPA and you damn well know what I am talking about and I know why you did IDPA cause you couldn’t hack USPSA. I said, “not riding the trigger/proper trigger manipulation” ,manipulation as in NOT JERKING/slapping THE TRIGGER! Im sorry you sucked at comp shooting and are slow of foot but that’s not my fault or the fault of every other comp shooter that can wax your ass. Call Leatham or Miculek and tell your nonsense to their face…you want the numbers? Sorry to tell you but your WRONG on that point of being able to read what I wrote.