Primary Arms

Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

I note that the latest vibe from the FBI is that they are looking to go back to a 9x19mm pistol. Modern 9x19mm self defense ammo is certainly much better than just a decade ago. An educated guess as to the pistol they are looking at is the Sig Sauer P320. This is a very modern striker fired pistol that has many fans. I have fired them, but have no dedicated trigger time on one to make any kind of judgement. I can not but reflect that a few decades ago, my carrying a cocked-and-locked 1911 pistol was the cause for alarm by many as being dangerous. More than once I heard “Deputy, do you know your pistol is cocked?” Life is about change, and now the FBI is looking to adopt a pistol without any form of external safety; not even the trigger activated safety button made famous by Glock and copied by so many makers. Who would have thought…

The US Military is looking at a new service pistol (XM17) program. Apparently, it too will be a striker fired design. I still carry and prefer the 1911 pistol, as it meets my needs just fine. I teach with and try to use whatever pistol platform that most of the students in my class use. If a military class that may be a Beretta M92, often a Glock 17 or 19 is the choice. LE classes may require a Glock 22 or S&W M&P.

I am a fan of the H&K VP9, and currently use a Sig P226 for my overseas requirements. They all are fine sidearms. All serve their purposes well. Many people love to debate the which pistol is best. I have been around this business long enough to realize the weapon is not really all that important, it is the guy behind the trigger that matters. Yes, I have favorites, but whether it is one of my pet 1911s or Glock 17/19 issued to me for a training program, it is MY job to make it work. What I have learned after 35 years in this business is that it is my job to learn to use them effectively, and not to get married to one gun or design. Remember, in the real world we don’t always get to use the gun we want, sometimes we have to use what is available.

– 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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58 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

  1. Joe says:

    Here, here!

  2. Lisa N says:

    Sadly, there are numerous agencies that are forced to change their side arms because of the candidates they are forced to hire. They just keep lowering the standards so they have to chose a firearm that a sofa soft candidate can operate.

    It is truly sad to see once revered agencies lower the standards and hire people that can’t even do ten pull ups.

    • Mac says:

      Can you do ten pull ups? How many of this site’s readers can, if we’re being honest?

      • Lisa N says:

        The replies speak volumes of the lack of physical ability of the “Participation Trophy” generation. And yes, I can do far more than 10 pull ups and normally more push-ups than my male counterparts. I for one make sure I can exceed the standards required and have always stayed in shape my entire life. The pathetic “call of duty” warriors showing up in some military and law enforcement circles are embarrassing to both their country and the service they want to represent.

      • Sean F says:

        After 25 years as an officer and two major shoulder rebuilds…I let the rookies do ALL of the pull ups.

        “They just keep lowering the standards so they have to chose a firearm that a sofa soft candidate can operate”

        And? If the broad spectrum of officers/agents can carry and effectively operate a particular duty gun from the “big burly manly man” to the small of stature men and women…then the issue, by its very nature becomes moot.

        What is the REAL difference between a 9mm, a 40, and a 45 in REAL, not “theoretical” application? Exactly, just about, on par with, and nearly equaling ZERO. Defensive ammunition technology, especially over the last 15 years has closed whatever gap there may have been at one time.

        For a good portion of my 25 year career my issued pistol was a Glock 17 for uniform use, and I carried that or a Glock 19 when off duty. I never felt the least little bit “undergunned”. Why? I spent a LOT of time on the range, paid for a lot of my own outside training, and used the very best ammunition available. We were also issued the 40, and the 45 at one time or another and when we had the choice between the three…I still carried the 9mm. I had at least two more rounds in each mag, and the 17 was capable of delivering effective hits faster than the 40 or the 45.

        I never attached a fragile ego to the size of the hole in the end of my pistol. Standing a shade over 6’4″ and weighing in at 265lbs, I am not one of the “small of stature” crowd and yet…I still preferred the 9mm. I could shoot the 45 as well as the 9mm, if not as rapidly in a given string of fire, but hey…that’s physics at work. The 9mm runs faster in similar platforms. Again…with the 9mm, I had four more rounds in the magazine. The ability to effectively deliver accurate fire to a BG in a timely manner is a LOT more important than 1 or 2.43mm in bore diameter.

        People, especially those who don’t know, talk about “lowering standards” have never actually tried to actually get hired by a PD, and SO, or a federal agency. Yes, “some” of the physical standards have been lowered, or put on a more reasonable scale for some, but the academic, integrity, intelligence, and psych standards have gone WAY up. I was hired by two local agencies where I worked for 4 years, and then a federal agency where I spent 21 years before retiring and coming home to work again for a smaller local agency…and the hiring process was a LOT more stringent than it was back in 89 when I started my career.

        And….we have the option of the Glock 17, 22, 34, 35 or 21 and the Smith & Wesson M&P pistols for duty guns….and I chose the Glock 34 in 9mm, mainly because at 50 years old, I like the longer sight radius and combine that with the 124gr +P+ Federal XTP ammo I carry on duty, I am definitely NOT undergunned.

        If we only had the choice of the S&W platform…okay, fair enough…I would carry the M&P 9 Pro with the 5″ barrel for the longer sight radius.

        I am not “married” to a pistol or caliber….but I damned sure prefer to date the thinner faster model than the fatter slower chick.

        I shoot the 9mm pistol in at least two matches a week….USPSA or Steel, and sometimes an IDPA match, and over the course of a stage the 9 will run (assuming I am doing my job) it a couple of seconds faster than the 40, and 3 seconds faster than a 45…and if I am shooting a 1911, which I still love…even faster because I have at least twice the magazine capacity. Yes…I actually do silly stuff like SHOOT and shoot a LOT. I don’t make my judgments from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy.

        The reality is this…MY personal preference in caliber aside…I’d rather have a 5’0″ 100lb female officer backing me up who shoots her 9mm (insert whatever platform here) magnificently, than a slow, pot bellied, burly man officer who shoots his 45 to mediocrity.

        But what do I know? I’ve only been DOING it for 25 years.

        • Lisa N says:

          Lot’s of assumptions by so many on this forum and much from those who like to say “I” this and “I” that.

          If you are trying to back up your opinion with experience then how about telling us about your actual firefight or combat experience with these weapons and calibres.

          Once again, If the 9mm did it’s great job properly over the years then there would be no need for the .40, .357 Sig and 10mm to be created.

          Just this past year we went bear hunting in Alaska. Did we use a .44 magnum or the popular 30 -30 like you see in deer hunting? No. We used the 45-70. Did we use it because we liked the number of cartridges it carried or the soft recoil? No we did not. We used it because we wanted to kill bears and it has a proven track record for killing bears.

          Most law enforcement in the US are qualified maybe one time a year and have very little combat experience. This is a fact. It is however interesting watching them post photos on facebook wearing commando gear pretending to be a member of the SAS.

          I am finished commenting on this topic. The replies once again prove the childish mentality of the audience.

          • Tank says:

            It’s a shame that bear didn’t maul your dumb ass. Just saying.

          • Jester says:

            Lisa, sweetie, it’s apparent you know very little about the performance of modern handgun ammunition.

    • BillC says:

      This is the dumbest thing I have read today. Name a single agency that keeps changing their duty pistol because they have fatties?

      • Sean F says:

        The biggest two reasons why departments change sidearms are advancing technology, and economics.

        Take NYC for example, when they were looking to replace 35 thousand plus revolvers with semiautos, they held trials, and Glock won. NYPD issues the Glock 19 to everyone, with some Kahr models and the Smith & Wesson Model 5946 DAO being an option. The Kahr is for detectives as a duty weapon, and command grade officers, while it is approved for off duty use by rank & file.

        As I remember…Sig, Beretta, Smith, Ruger, and Hk all submitted guns. Glock as Smith & Wesson won out….because they offered better deals than the rest, though I believe all of them performed well.

        BUT…the Glock 19, the 5946, and the Kahr models all fulfilled the different requirements of the department, worked across the spectrum of the personnel of the department and were an economically feasible proposition.

        In the aftermath of the 86 shootout in Miami, the FBI went into “oh shit we need new guns mode” to replace their revolvers….and cooked up the 10mm Model 1076 Smith & Wesson combo as being the “perfect” gun and ammo combo.

        Guess what….the full power 10mm was not a good choice across the spectrum of agents even with the big burly men, so the milder 10mm FBI load was developed, and it was decided that a smaller, less recoiling round in a gun that big was STILL not the perfect gun/load combo.

        So….it was an expensive debacle.

        Many times departments change guns because another manufacturer comes in with a bill of goods to sell, and makes a deal….and BOOM….the bean counters fall all over themselves to get in on the action.

        My department went from the Gen 2 Glock 17, to a USP 40, then back to Glock in 40 cal with 9mm and 45 being optional. The USP didn’t perform as well over all as the Glock, so it was another expensive debacle….but Glock took the USP’s off the department’s hands and sold Glock gun/light combos at a DEEP discount.

        The point is….it’s not about the gun or if an agency changes. It’s not about lowering standards, it’s about “what works” especially nowadays when we have the best guns we have ever had to choose from.

        So….blah blah blah….OMG it HAS to be 45 or you’re a limp wrister…..blah blah blah….it’s all BS.

        Effective fire, delivered with skill, and speed is a LOT more important nowadays than caliber when it comes to 9, 40, and 45.

        Most of the caliber cowboys aren’t really shooters anyway, and I can guarantee none of them have been through a dope house door, or had to put their gun to work.

    • Bill says:

      SARCON// Yeah, that ergonomics and human factors stuff is for pussies //SARCOFF

      • Lisa N says:

        There are hundreds if not thousands of police departments that stay with the 9mm pistols because their standards have been lowered and the weak wristed candidates that can barely qualify. There are also many large agencies like the NYPD that carry double action only because they can’t be trusted with normal automatics. When you have both weak wristed male and female candidates showing up and being forced through an academy you need to have a nice and easy pistol for them to qualify with.

        • Ben says:

          I’m a big, burly, manly man, created in the likeness of Adonis himself, and I have anything but weak wrists. I shoot competitively and can run a .45 ACP 1911 with the best of them. That being said, I run my glock 34 much faster. My point is: if modern defensive ammo ballistics have all but closed the gap between 9mm and .45 calibers, why wouldn’t I go with the one I can put rounds down range faster and more accurately with? Everybody will shoot 9mm better. Fat asses and Adonis’ alike.

          • Lisa N says:

            Nobody said anything about overweight people. The term “Sofa Soft” is what we use for those who weak and out of shape. It is interesting that some automatically thought of overweight / obese people that most likely can’t pass the basic physical fitness requirements either.

            You can’t deny that standards have been lowered over the years to allow those that are out of shape and unqualified to enter the ranks of the U.S. military and in law enforcement.

            • Ben says:

              Sure, I’ll concede that not all out of shape people are fat. As long as you concede that all shooters, regardless of fitness or skill levels, can run 9mm faster than a larger caliber.

            • Mike P says:

              I bench 275, have a grip strength measured 160lbs in my right and 140 in my left. I Crossfit.

              I carry a Glock 19. So do most of the big trainers.

              Let me ask Pat MacNamara what he carries when I take his class and if you want to call him out of shape, I want to be there for the Lultz.

    • SLG says:

      I try to be very polite in the comments here, and appreciate the level of experience many here have. However, this has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Everyone and their sister has an opinion on the “switch” to 9mm. Hiring/training practices have nothing to do with it at the federal level, and though I certainly can’t speak for all agencies across the country, I have yet to meet a local agency that followed Lisa N’s thought process. But hey, if it makes you feel better, and let’s you tell the guys how many pull ups you can do, more power to you. BTW, NYPD still mandates a trigger pull test during the hiring process, (# of reps in a minute) and though I wouldn’t call it rigorous, their candidates are in pretty good shape when they get hired.

      • Lisa N says:

        There are plenty of law enforcement firearms instructors who will tell you off the record and point blank that they reason they initially stayed with certain 9mm firearms is because they have a large department and it makes it easier for them to qualify the less qualified. The truth might hurt some of your precious 9mm worshipping feelings but its just a fact you can deal with it Butchy.

        And no, you can’t speak for agencies around the country.

        As far as the NYPD it is a fact that they make the gun makers add a heavier trigger to their pistols. They can barely hit the broad side of a barn and this has been proven over several years as they have hit innocent civilians over and over who were in the area.

        • SLG says:

          My comment about not speaking for all local LE agencies was obviously over your head. No worries.

          As for instructors speaking “off the record”, I will say that in my experience, the vast majority of firearms instructors in the public sector, LE or Mil, are simply not qualified. Their teaching ability or lack there of, has not caused any that I know to wish for a 9mm. Usually the worst offenders are the ones who cling to their larger calibers. I don’t personally carry a 9mm, but I have and would be happy to do so again. Though Ken is correct (as always) that the 9mm has come a long way in the last 10 years, that is really more in the intermediate barrier penetration tests than any other area. It has worked just fine for many years. It is after all, only a handgun round. It has never been the deciding factor, it is always the shooter that matters most.

          • Lisa N says:

            No, the 9mm hasn’t performed just fine over the years. Why do you think they have spent years and years trying to change the round and get it to do things it hasn’t ever been capable of? Why do you think so many SWAT teams in the U.S. have not used it and won’t use it?

            The language barrier may make my messages come across a bit off but some of you commenting here sound like airsoft “operators” instead of members of a real military unit or law enforcement agency that have had experience in actual combat or serving duty.

            • tazman66gt says:

              Uh oh, the “if you don’t agree with me you must be an Airsofter” reply. Quite a desperate reply.

              • Lisa N says:

                I had a reply to the topic. Did you? No, you didn’t. I also commented on the simplistic child like replies made by those who chose to attack posters instead of having valid arguments.

                • Tank says:

                  Here’s a valid argument. You’re a dumb cunt. I will stoop to that level. Bam! bitch.

            • Shep says:

              Odd, you don’t seem to have any hint of a language barrier but do seem up to date on the latest en vogue gun forum sneers. You also seem quite up to date on American news/gossip. It’s almost like you’re a male using a nom de plume but of course, we should believe that you’re a crack shot Israeli female who can do much more than 10 pull-ups ,right?

              • Chuck Haggard says:

                The 9mm has in fact worked just fine, for over 100 years, even in police work.

                My former agency, including the SWAT team, has shot quite a few people with the issued 9mms we had, and to steal a quote “None of them were unimpressed with the cartridge”.

                Non experts are rife in the US police field, especially in the area of guns. “What people say” is typically full of shit.

                • Lisa N says:

                  The statistics don’t lie. They 9mm has failed over and over again and this is well documented. I also have personal experience with it so you can run the drill as long as you wish if the sound is appealing to you. Kind of pathetic labeling qualifications and background of people who you don’t even know.

                • Kenneth Wise says:

                  Agreed, the last four suspects I had to shoot never came back from the grave and told me my “9 sucks”

              • Lisa N says:

                Do you have a personal problem with opinionated and women serving in the military?

                It appears I have my own personal internet stalker in you Mr. Shep. I find it amusing that you are now stalking my comments but not offering facts and information about the topic at hand.

                • Airborne_fister says:

                  If you serve in the military. When have you ever seen an al Qaeda or ISIS guy do a damn pull up. I never have. But I have first hand seen them destroy an MRAP and kill, wound, or maim a BAMF in the army.

            • Rob E says:

              Wow, SLG is an airsofter? Perhaps if a person had even a vague understanding of whom they were speaking, they’d shut their mouth and learn from them instead of trying to justify their idiot remarks. It’s patently obvious that your knowledge of the reasons why and for the 9mm in LE circles is based on water cooler talk or internet forums for the invalid and not on actual discussions with people who understand shooter performance or ballistics. Do your homework

              • Lisa N says:

                Dear boy, the facts are out there if you wish to find them. Do you go online each day in grandma’s basement telling others to “shut up” because you don’t like their comments?

                If what you say is true then why are so many agencies carrying the .40 or the .45 instead of the 9mm?

                Why is the .40 .357 Sig Sauer being used instead of the 9mm in so many agencies if the 9mm did the job so well?

                You see… I have facts to back up my comments. I don’t need to make personal attacks against keyboard commandos.

                • BB says:

                  Well then why do tier 1 units run 9mm? I could care less about what some old timer, who carries a .45 bc it leaves a bigger hole mentality, says.
                  I also don’t care how many pull ups a person can do, I will take a person who does 8 or 9 but thinks twice as fast as the person who can do 20. Now if you can do 20 and think fast, well then your ahead of the game.

                • SLG says:

                  I’m as guilty as anyone for the personal attacks here, so blame me. I’m really not going to go into all the actual reasons why agencies use what they use, but suffice it to say, the specific caliber that an agency chooses often has nothing to do with real world performance, and instead is based on numerous other factors, all of which you seem oblivious to. We are talking about handgun calibers here. They all suck. If only it was as simple as you believe it is.

                • Tam says:

                  If what you say is true then why are so many agencies carrying the .40

                  Because Glock and Sig and Beretta and Smith & Wesson wanted to get their hands on all those suddenly-valuable 9×19 pre-ban mags in the mid-’90s and so spun a lot of hooey about the po-po being “undergunned” w/9mm.

                  Apparently the sales pitch really took with some people.

                • DAN III says:


                  You need to get back in the kitchen where you belong.

                  • Mr_X says:

                    “Lisa N” sounds a lot like our favorite internet-troll-of-all “Lance” who is seemingly found everywhere….


    • Airborne_fister says:

      If you serve in the military. When have you ever seen an al Qaeda or ISIS guy do a damn pull up. I never have. But I have first hand seen them destroy an MRAP and kill, wound, or maim a BAMF in the army.Now if your a cop gunning down a suspect. I guarantee you that they do not do a single pull up. Unless they are locked up.

  3. MS Gunfighter says:

    Ken’s BRILLIANT as usual! He’s right up there with Lt. Col. Cooper!!! REGARDLESS of all the bribes/kickbacks, the .45 ACP SHOULD be the caliber. Bigger bullets make bigger holes. Bigger holes leak FASTER! I thought we settled this medical argument in the 1920’s. …grip safety, thumb safety, trigger, YEP, this old man will wear his 1911’s until he dies!

    • Rolf says:


    • Chuck Haggard says:

      “…there is no appreciable difference in the effectiveness of the 9 mm and the .45 ACP cartridges.”
      Vincent J. M. Di Maio, GUNSHOT WOUNDS: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques SECOND EDITION, Page 150.

  4. MS Gunfighter says:

    Ken and Dave, WHO was the sheriff deputy who responded to the range master, “Damned right it’s dangerous. That’s the reason I wear the damn thing!”

  5. Paul McCain says:

    “I have been around this business long enough to realize the weapon is not really all that important, it is the guy behind the trigger that matters.”


    That’s just crazy talk.

    I heard on the Internet that if I add $2,000 worth of upgrades to my Glock it will make me an awesome shooter!!

  6. tcba_joe says:

    I don’t get cause for alarm on not having a trigger blade safety. It’s only a safety to keep the trigger bar from moving rearwardwhen dropped. That’s it. It’s no more a safety than an out of battery “safety”.

    The P320 accomplishes this internally while being just as safe.

    The most obnoxious thing Glock has every done was to market the triggerblade safety as equivalent to a thumb safety, when in reality it’s nothing more than a drop safety.

  7. JCY says:

    FWIW sig has a thumb safety version of the 320 available for mil/LE.

  8. OldCop876 says:

    Ken, good words here. When I teach courses for certain agencies I am amazed at the number of people who tell me they can “only shoot” this gun or that one, even some who claim to be instructors. Wow, I just have to shake my head at that one.

    When you opened talking about the 9mm, I immediately recalled some of your writings from the 80’s and early 90’s when everyone seemed to be clamoring for something else. You made the bold statement (for then) that in the future you saw the 9mm becoming the number one choice in defensive handgun cartridges for civilians. You sure called that one accurately back then and it was not the conventional wisdom at the time.

    I’ve always respected what you have had to say. Thanks.

  9. Disco says:

    If I were king of LE calibers….everybody would use 10mm or .357 Sig.
    Every patrol rifle would be 6.5 Grendel.

    Because I am antisocial and uncivil

    • Tam says:

      10mm and .357SIG are to pistol calibers what skinny jeans and manbuns are to men’s fashion. Fact.

      “Do you know what caliber my carry gun is? Probably not, it’s pretty obscure.”

  10. Shep says:

    I’ve been shot with a .45ACP JHP. I carry a 9mm.

  11. Dellis says:

    Would not “placement” trump caliber in the grand scheme of all this insanity? A .45, 10mm, 9mm, or a .22 in the right spot would all have the same effect correct? Either death or immobilization, at least my puny brain sees it that way.

    Obviously that would be in a perfect world where stress and adrenaline are kept at bay. So given that we do not have that perect world I would opt to protect my life and my family’s with a larger round that has a proven record of knockdown/stun power while still maintaining control of weapon under stress.

    Is a 10mm badass? Sure it is but is it the best caliber choice to be barking in your hands, or ONE hand when SHTF? For me personally I carry a 9mm and/or .357

    Then again I eat cheetoes in my bean bag while doing 16oz curls to failure. that Lisa N!!

  12. DocGKR says:

    I personally know SLG, Shep, and Chuck Haggard–what they say is factual and accurate. Likewise I have trained with Ken H and agree with what he wrote in this article. On the other hand, I don’t know “Lisa N”, nor is what she saying correct. FWIW, I have been involved with this issue for quite a while and my background was placed on the internet by DOD here:

    • majrod says:

      Interesting presentation. I wish the M855A1 had been included in the assessment.

  13. DocGKR says:

    majrod–at the time of that public briefing, both Mk318 and M855A1 were restricted/classified and could not be discussed in an open source document. One of the best open source assessments of M855A1 is here: One might also look at the legal documents associated with the Army theft of the M855A1 design here: MARCORSYSCOM has also done superb testing comparing M855A1 with Mk318; although the results are not available publicly, they are referenced here:

  14. Bobby Sands says:

    Didn’t get a lot out of this “Gun Fighter Moment.”

    He rambled around talking about the FBI pistol procurement, the Sig 320, attitudes toward pistols without external safeties, and how he has to shoot different pistols for different classes. Somewhere in there he reminded us that he prefers a 1911 before rattling off some other pistols that he liked. He ended with telling us it’s the shooter, not the weapon.

    Alias should spend some of that extra money they make from ‘accidently’ ‘overbooking’ classes on an editor for Hack.