GORE-Tex Professional

Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn

I just got back from the SHOT Show 2017; have only missed three or four over the years. Always great to see old friends and see what is new in the firearms industry. Turnout was down from 2016, but this was expected. Back in the day, I wandered the isles like the rest of the nomads at SHOT, a gun writer of an earlier time (I was a pretty poor one at that). The media room at SHOT rarely saw more than 50 people seated at a time. Nowadays, thanks to social media and the blogger world, they are present in huge numbers and the role of ‘media pass’ means very little. As a gun writer, vendors were all over themselves to give me guns, ammo, and gear to test and hopefully write up in whatever firearms journal I was working for at the time. I quickly learned that nothing is ‘free’, and would not accept anything I did not see merit in or could actually deliver on.

Back in the day, there were many items that were just crap; the difference today is there is ten times more items that fit that description. It should come as no surprise that a trip through the new products display area was pretty much dominated by AR-15 style rifles/carbines/pistols, plus tons of accessories. When you hear the term ‘America’s Rifle’ applied to the AR-15 series of long guns, a trip to SHOT will really bring that point home. For the life of me, I don’t see how all these vendors of ARs and accessories can survive in the marketplace. The boutique makers of ARs, particularly the $2000 plus ones really amaze me. I have learned to take much of what I am told by the vendors with a grain of salt. Remember these salesmen will promise you anything including free delivery via alien spacecraft to make the sale. Details like “used by special operations or Navy SEALs” is a common line about the proof that their product is vetted. What they really means is that their product may be used by SF types in video games, or in the movies, but the last time I checked the arms rooms of the places I was training, I didn’t see Glocks with holes machined in the slides or M4s with exotic muzzle breaks or hand guards out to the muzzle of the weapon. It appears to me that everyone in this industry is building guns that look ‘cool’ for video games, or will give top level competition shooters a few milliseconds advantage in a major tournament.

I love the terms “it really shoots flat”, and “it doesn’t have any recoil”. I must stop and scratch my head on these dill rods. How can a recoil operated rifle or pistol not have recoil? Maybe they should adopt the term ‘lighter recoil’. An I am sick of hearing the reference to ‘flat shooting’. In the real world (the place where there is NO firing line and the targets are shooting back) flat doesn’t mean sh*t. The 1911 45 auto has never been referred to as ‘flat shooting’, but we have been shooting bad guys with it for over a century. I get it, softer recoiling guns are easier to shoot for most people. This can lead to better hits on target, but sadly for most end users it is just about launching more rounds down range quicker. Despite everything I have been exposed to in my career in this business, accurate effective hits on target is the heart and soul of Combat Marksmanship.

The extent of new products at SHOT is always exciting, but I have to wonder what will one more polymer frame striker fired pistol on the market really do better than the ones already for sale; some slight improvement, maybe, but make no mistake: GLOCK owns the market. In the USA, Smith & Wesson has second place with the M&P, while everyone else is sharing the remaining bread crumbs. The new CZ P10 C was pretty neat; I’ll probably own one. One individual at the CZ booth described the CZ P10 as the ‘Glock killer’… dream on. CZ would be successful beyond their dreams if their new pistol cost Glock just a flesh wound.

The Hudson H9 looks interesting, kudos to Cy and Lauren Hudson for thinking out of the box, and trying to do something different in self defense sidearms.

Many folks were jazzed about the announcement concerning SigSauer’s P320 winning the DOD Modular handgun selection. Is it going to end up in GIs holsters any time soon? I kind of doubt it. Just spending money on ammo and training would be far more beneficial, but the green machine has never had much interest in making soldiers skilled with handguns, for the most part they don’t really care if Pvt. Timmy or Tammy can use one effectively. They will end up being carried in condition three (empty chamber, loaded magazine in place) so overall, color me un-impressed with the whole military pistol topic.

News of anything really impressive in service/assault style rifles was limited to different flavors of ARs and AKs, however there were plenty of 9X19mm AR carbines. They are great fun, and new competition oriented pistol caliber carbine divisions may make them popular. AR and AK pistols seemed to be present in many booths at SHOT. I think they are stupid; in my opinion, zero valid reasons for owning one. Of course, if you are a gang banger you need at least three. If you want to buy a AR/AK pistol, go for it. I just don’t know anyone in my circles that will take you serious if you show up with one, and prepare to be labeled a ‘jerk-bang’.

Overall SHOT is always entertaining, full of new ideas often on old platforms, and a great place to meet new people that are part of the Gun Culture.

– 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.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and each week they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

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34 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn”

  1. John Smith says:

    “accurate effective hits on target is the heart and soul of Combat Marksmanship.”

    This is a deeply meaningful statement and cuts through most of the marketing that is the modern weapons (and periphery) industry. To quote a respected warrior on tactics: “There are no special tactics. The fundamentals are the sexy part”…it would seem that it applies to design as well.

  2. Rosco says:

    We have three 9mm AR’s among those I shoot with weekly. They are fun, but their main utility is permitting us to run drills and scenarios on PISTOL-rated steel targets.

    We often run a pistol drill on steel and then run the same drill with the 9mm AR. This allows us some additional carbine practice with a weapon that has the same sighting system and manual of arms as our 5.56 versions.

    • Geoff says:

      This is a solid technical argument. Rock solid. Everyone else harps on NFA which is fine but this is really good.

    • MMc says:

      I am one of the three Rosco mentioned, and when I bought it I was thinking mostly of the utilitarian aspect, now I will freely admit it is a metric butt load of fun. Also many/most are gravitating to the 9×19 in pistols because it is effective, widely available and relatively inexpensive, and all those factors carry over to the carbine; 300fps is just a bonus.

  3. Mike Smith says:

    Mostly solid observations, but ol’ Ken needs a little help understanding the AR pistol thing. As long as we have the NFA, it fills a very useful niche.

  4. Easy E says:

    I also think that Ken misunderstands much of the interest in AR/AKs that are legally pistols. An actual SBR brings with it an extra $200 tax, a wait time that is the greater part of a year, and other legal hurdles to jump to legally obtain one and after obtaining one.

    The wait time to get the “okay” from the BATFE to actually take possession/build an SBR alone could cause people to show up at a training course with an AK/AR pistol as they await that permission. If I’m going to “not be taken seriously” when I show up at a course because I’m trying to abide by the law, then I would elect to take a course in which the instructors were more cognisant of the hurdles that law abiding citizens face.

    I know people who own AR/AK pistols for this very reason — they’re waiting on a tax stamp but may seek out training in the meantime.

  5. Dellis says:

    The 9mm carbine is great for my wife. She loves the “low recoil” and she only needs to worry about one ammo type for both her handgun and rifle.

    Personally, looking forward to the new CZ. The Hudson…no thanks. What’s next, a polymer 1911?!

    • Rosco says:

      Polymer 1911? I’ve got one. A Wilson KZ-45. I’ve had it for a couple decades. Nice pistol. Runs great. Evidently the market didn’t want it. It was discontinued years ago.

      • Dellis says:

        Ya I know, I was tryin to be sarcastic…which didn’t come across I reckon.

        ATI I believe has a polymer 1911 as does EAA. I’m sure they are fine guns. With a 1911 though I am of the purist side

    • john says:

      Kimber made one years ago as did Para but they wasn’t a big seller

  6. Matt says:

    I think the whole AR/AK pistol thing is silly trend as well. It is not much of a hassle to legally obtain a SBR, and frankly theres not much use for them past that. With a shorter barrel your reducing velocity and increasing flash, especially in 5.56. A 10.5″in Barrel is the shortest military configuration, and that is for getting out of vehicles and confined spaces.

    But in the civilian side, kids are making 7″in “pistols” just to show off at the range. Its all about fireballs and having all the attention. I think of it like lowering the suspension on a Honda Civic, no performance gains, actually damages the car in the long run, accelerated parts wear, but damn if it doesn’t look cool to the homies.

    Don’t get me wrong I have two SBRs, but the main reason is to make them more manageable with a suppressor. Theres valid reasons for a shorter barrel, but with this whole brace thing the market has access to something it didn’t before. Now theres a lot of bad ideas, and very little good.

    • Jack says:

      At what point would NFA paperwork/wait time be too much hassle?

      I’m getting Form 4s back from Early May of last year. With the 41F/T surge I’m expecting those wait times to go up. I’ve only been a SOT for 4 years but the shortest wait I’ve seen for anything is 10 weeks.

    • James says:

      I get what you are saying there,but I have to disagree a little.Tons of bad Ideas for every class of firearm have been tried over the last few hundred years. They have a way of sorting themselves out. What we are seeing now is an increased rate of development first in AR’s( remember the M4a1+ contract? Ten year old civilian cutting edge),and now starting to develop in short barrel guns thanks to increasing civilian ownership.

      Yeah, AR pistols suck due to current laws, but give it some time, I mean we really have only scratched the surface for effective calibers for short barrels. 9mm guns are popular because of ammo cost and the range issues. .300blk is great but requires a bigger receiver. 6×35 seems to be going nowhere despite great promise. Something will come along! With optics there is no need for a 3 ft sight radius. All this technology and interest is going to drive us somewhere!

      Who wouldn’t want a compact,lighter, but nearly as effective rifle? With the current BS laws this is how we get there.

  7. erik says:

    I agree with everything Ken has to say in this article except his hate for the AR pistol. I can’t imagine he would feel the same about an SBR with a valid rifle stock. Anything shorter than 11.5″ is classified as a toy in my book, but when joined with a suppressor, anything over 11.5″ becomes way too heavy at the nose to be as effective as its shorter barrel cousins.

    With all due respect to Hackathorn, why am I a “gang-banger Jerk-bang” because I don’t want to pay $200 and have my fingerprints inked by my local LEO. We’re simply working within the retarded framework that the ATF has created.

  8. PLiner says:

    I always love reading the GF moments by Hackathorn. I don’t like them for the innovative thoughts or nuggets of wisdom, typically found in the GF Moments from others.

    I like them because I know I am going to read some really good crusty old man bitching and in some cases, rationalization of archaic TTPs over a modern day TTPs, that are generally unanimously agreed upon by other GF Moment contributors.

    While he does occasionally make some valid observations on certain topics, it is the manner in which it is delivered in his write ups that I find enjoyable. By the time I get to the end of one of his articles, I always feel like you could inject the phrase ” And stay off my god damn lawn!” to close it out and it would seem like the natural order of things. 🙂

  9. CWG says:

    Solid gunfighter tantrum ken. While if planet earth was covered in only glock 19s and 6920s we could all go on killing each other just fine, the massive consumer interest surge of “stupid guns” and “video game guns” drive massive capitol into growing, supporting, and sustaining the shooting community and industry. It makes shooting cheaper, mfgs more competitive, and drives incrementally improved technology and puts more people into the pro 2A camp to protect our rights.

    Your pseudo fudd attitude should probably go the way of 1911s and m14s. Because that shit is antiquated.

    • malac gilkey says:

      This. Thank you for wording it perfectly.

    • Jlegg says:


      I feel that I’ll have to stop reading Ken’s GF moments. They typically appear to be rants on how new and different is bad… The man does have a lot of knowledge and can make positive statements but GET OFF MY LAWN

      • 6.8 pumper says:

        I tend to agree. I have nowhere near the trigger time that Ken does but he always comes off as stuck in the “good old days” when I read his ramblings. I tend to take his opinion with less and less merit based on his negativity towards anything “new.”

    • Diddler says:

      He got one thing right, SHOT is overrun with “press” [read: internet dorks]. The number of times I got interrupted trying to conduct actual business, by some dork with a YouTube channel or blog was unbelievable. It’s comicon with real guns. Has-beans (who often weren’t), wanna-bes and neck-beards everywhere. I understand his frustration. The current trend of making guns as soft shooting as possible for non-competition use is also nauseating. The industry is rife with guys who “aren’t like those posers, we’re hardcore getting ready for the apocalypse” but has adjustable gas blocks and silly springs to make their gun feel like an airsoft BB blaster, don’t get it either. Ragged edge of reliability isn’t “hardcore.”

      But yeah, Mr. H, technology and TTPs improve. The carbines you pimp for big companies are vastly better than what you were issued in the Vietnam days, right?

      To the gent above, I also get my nerves grated by the M14 zombies. They are a clueless lot who are enamoured with a mediocre rifle that had one of the shortest service lives of any US rifle. Ever. “Yeah, nuh uh, they wouldn’t have pulled them out of grease and bunkers from 50 years of storage to use in the GWOT if they weren’t the best rifle of all time!” Or maybe there weren’t enough SR25 to go around and Big Green didn’t provide funds for them for a long time. M14, great at lying in the prone and shooting with irons. M14, worst manual of Arms of modern rifles. Lovers of M14s in the face of logic-fudds who are too slow to realize the manual of arms sucks.

      • LGonSoldierSystems says:

        This is about the only thing that piques my interest in the ARA world right now. Jim Sullivan has a small group still refining the AR – primarily BCG/Buffer.

        This video shows much promise.


  10. JEREMY says:

    Get off my lawn!

  11. Roy says:

    In Minnesota, training with an AR outdoors in the winter is often unsafe due to icy or inhumane temperature conditions on the range. A slip and fall can take a student out of work or worse. The 9 mm AR allows training on indoor ranges. While more limited in value, it nonetheless provides a training opportunity otherwise precluded.

  12. JKifer says:

    I love crusty ole full of piss and vinegar comments…. makes me feel better for only being 32 and fucking hating everyone.. caffeine and hate right..

  13. some other joe says:

    TL;DR, don’t believe the hype.

    Or, yeah, there’s a lot of niche stuff and incremental improvement. And if you want to build something new, like a new striker gun, a lot of industry inertia to overcome. Some of these things look like a lot of fun, some make no sense, and GET OFF MY LAWN!

  14. 2Recon says:

    There are old gunfighters.
    There are bold gunfighters.
    There are to few old and bold gunfighters.

    They are old and bold for a reason. They know what works. Gucci and tacticool don’t work. Listen. Think. Understand. LEARN!

  15. Rosco says:

    Just to be clear, the 9mm AR’s that we are using are “rifles”. One is an SBR, the others have 16″ barrels. The ability to get in some AR practice on pistol-rated steel or pistol-only indoor ranges is beneficial.

    I’m not very interested in the AR “pistols”. There may be a niche or two they fill, but I don’t personally have the need for one.

    • bloke_from_ohio says:

      AR pistols are only as popular as they are because a barrel that is a tenth of an inch shorter than 16″ buys federal prison time if you don’t pay to play first. If it were not for NFA silliness there would be a lot more SBRs with actual stocks instead of AR pistols with braces.

  16. JB says:

    I love the ultra butt-hurt comments from the Mall Ninja crowd.

    Well done Ken.

  17. Disco says:

    Old Man Yells At Cloud.
    Film.at 11.

    All I know is plenty of RIS IIs are near the muzzle and a Glock is better than a Sig and all I want the gun to do is work.

    Per “Vidya game” guns, BFD. It gets younger people who vote into guns. Not everybody has to be a death dealing face shooter.

    At the end of my road, I’m gonna screw every hairy armpit hippie chick I can find. Sheeeit….I do that now.

  18. Ryan Snow says:

    At the end of first paragraph Ken is noted that he refuses free “crap” to endorse and praise while his good friend Larry is the king of endorsers. Upon reading crap I almost instantly thought of FireClean

  19. Ragnar says:

    Mr. Hackathorn must have accidentally taken a Viagra this morning instead of his Lipitor. He’s FIRED UP!

    However, I think this was his main point:
    “Overall SHOT is always entertaining, full of new ideas often on old platforms, and a great place to meet new people that are part of the Gun Culture.”

    Today his nickname is “The Tuna Clipper”, ’cause he’s trolling hard.