Ken Hackathorn’s Take: Sage Wisdom From The Grandfather Of The Gun Industry

Ken Hackathorn’s Take: Sage Wisdom From The Grandfather Of The Gun Industry
By Ken Hackathorn for M4Carbine.Net

M4Carbine.Net  –
Ken Hackathorn
Ken Hackathorn

Strasburg, OH – -( One of the easy things for me to do at this point in my life is look back on 30 plus years in the firearms training field and note the trends that have evolved.

Many years ago (back in the day) I was flying home from a training gig, and I think after expenses I had cleared about $500 for a two day class with about 18 students….big money in those days.

The fellow sitting next to me was one of those that liked to talk…not my favorite passenger type.

He asked the usual things like where are you going and what do you do. I told him I was a firearms instructor, he had a rather pained look on his face and asked “is there any money in that?” I must admit, I was somewhat taken back in that, and, after some thought, replied, “pretty amazing isn’t it.”

In reality, firearms training was much like the Maytag repair man: there wasn’t much demand in those days. John Farnam and I were the only two traveling road shows in the USA early on. Now, there are as many firearms trainers as there used to be video stores. Like those, I predict that we are seeing the peak in the industry, and nothing but hard times ahead will be the rule for many of those now trying to make it big in this business.

I wish them all well, but I am really glad I am slowing to a crawl in the firearms training business.

For many years I wrote for various firearms magazines….got my start with Soldier of Fortune ( ). Col. Bob Brown asked me to do a column for the then new SOF publication.

I told him I didn’t have a clue about writing. His advice was, “write it the way you would say it, and I have editors to make it readable”. I wrote for various gun magazines for over 15 years, and it was mainly to get my name out there for my training business. Back then, gun rags were the medium for information if you were part of the gun world.

That has totally changed with the internet and TV becoming the newest medium. I chose to leave the gun writer world when it became embarrassing to be associated with what had become of the gun magazines. They had some really knowledgeable writers, but were rapidly being replaced by clowns that were clueless and would write whatever puff piece the editor wanted on guns and gear that were total crap. It got to a point when people I met would often say. “I read your articles all the time”. My response was “don’t hold that against me” as often the editors would alter the material submitted to a point that it was a surprise for me to read my stuff as it was to everyone else.

The company I had to keep in that arena got kind of hard to handle.

Now, after so many years of traveling far and wide teaching combat marksmanship to police, military, and private sector customers, I am nearly in the same state of mind as I was when I walked away from the gun writing business.

Please note, I never claimed to be “good writer”, but at least I tried to tell it the way it was.

Nearly anyone remotely interested in the Gun Culture is aware of the growth of firearms training in America. Most of it is okay, some mediocre, some pitiful, and a lot of it is pure ass clownery. At times I flinch when I see some of the stuff being marketed.

I’m an older guy, maybe a bit out of touch with much of what goes on in this world. I always felt that my job was to give the students their money’s worth. Sometimes they don’t get what they want, but they do get what they need. I take my job seriously. The scope of what I teach is serious shit….none of it is designed to be for pure pleasure. It can be very enjoyable to be skilled with small arms, but while I want my students to have a great time on the range, and have fun while training, I am not being paid to “entertain”.

Many of us in the small arms training field joke about students wanting “entertrainment.” Some instructors have taken this concept to new levels. Some make good money doing it. Good for them, but it is not my cup of tea.

In future installments of M4 Carbine’s Newsletter I will discuss many of the things I have learned and observed in the firearms training business over the last few decades. I have changed what I teach and how I teach constantly based upon the fact that “life is about change.

Sometimes we don’t like it, but it is the way things go. Some of you may not like what I have to say, or disagree with my comments. So be it. I am simply going to tell you what I have learned and what I have discovered. You don’t have to agree with me, and trust me, I won’t get into a pissing match with you on the internet over it. I do not post…never have…never will. There is NOTHING to be gained for me by going online to say anything. I admit that I had great reservations about even taking part in providing material for this M4Carbine.Net’s newsletter. I see it as a slightly newer version of the gun writing era.

Stay tuned, maybe you will learn something from my observations.


Check your flanks, good shooting, and remember…..don’t be an easy target. Move from one point of cover to another. Blend in with your surroundings, be the “grey man.” Don’t waste ammo; guys that do magazine dumps draw lots of fire. Stay safe.

-Ken Hackathorn

View Ken’s training schedule by clicking here.

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Mr. Hackathorn is simply the best. Thank you.


Excellent piece. As someone who is now probably as old as you or better I understand exactly the points you’ve made. As an instructor I shake my head and chuckle. As a student of Pat Goodale’s, for years, I also realize the advantage of instructors who use less to teach more. The practice of “charging less than you can, giving more than you have to” is fast dying in today’s “time is money” thinking.


Well stated, however I believe that, despite ever thinner wallets, we are on the cusp of another ‘boom’ in the self-defense industry. Trouble is being imported in vast quantities at tax payer expense. Soon the election slogan will be ‘A Glock in every pot and a M-4 in every garage’.

John Wydra

At 62, been following the likes of you, Evan Marshal, Chuck Taylor, John Farnam, Massad Ayoob, etc, the list goes on. Cooper, Keith, Askins, Skelton, etc. the new electronic writers seem to disparage the works of you folks. Trying to reinvent the wheel and calling it their own. Truly disappointing, I feel lucky to have had the experiences shared by writers like you all. I trust very few of the new writers as they all seem to be selling their version of Cooper without recognizing what he and the rest of you did in developing the craft. So thanks for… Read more »