Firearms have a way of attaching themselves to certain people, becoming a part of their image—Teddy Roosevelt and the Winchester, Alvin York and his M1917 rifle, Elmer Keith and the Smith & Wesson 29, Jeff Cooper and the 1911 and the Scout Rifle, John Wayne and single-action revolvers, and so on. Many firearm trainers adopted the 1911 as their handgun of choice, with it becoming indelibly connected to their persona. Ken Hackathorn is one such person.
The first time I met Ken Hackathorn, a long-time friend of Bill Wilson, he was carrying a Wilson Combat 1911 in a Wilson holster while teaching a class in the hills of Arkansas. When the first drill required demonstration, Ken did it with the skill only years of working with the 1911 can bring.
Since his early years at Gunsite, Ken has trained countless shooters to utilize the 1911 and other modern handgun platforms. Ken’s skill is not limited to the 1911. He is intimately familiar with almost anything that spits a bullet from the barrel: ARs, shotguns, polymer-based handguns, the MP5 and more. His students have included non-commissioned citizens, law enforcement officials (federal to local) and members of the military.
Few trainers are more knowledgeable about the 1911 than Ken Hackathorn. Perhaps those years of training folks and Ken’s knowledge and affection for the 1911 platform led Wilson Combat to offer a 1911 bearing his name—the Hackathorn Special, which is a 1911 designed with every feature Ken likes and thinks you need on a serious pistol “…and nothing you don’t.”
The original 1911 began life as a full-size, all-steel pistol with a 5-inch barrel, a grip long enough to fit any hand, and the capacity for seven rounds of stubby .45 ACP full metal jacket (FMJ). Many believe the full-size 1911 is the epitome of effectiveness and reliability. After all his years of working with full-size 1911s, it seems Ken prefers it as well.
The Hackathorn Special starts with Wilson Combat’s carbon steel full-size frame and 5-inch slide. Both are CNC-machined and then fitted, shaped and contoured at the hands of a Wilson pistolsmith. That same pistolsmith fits a 5-inch, stainless, match-grade barrel and bushing, adding a flush cut reverse crown to the muzzle. The Hackathorn Special uses a traditional spring, recoil spring guide rod and a solid plug. From this starting point nothing but the best parts—Wilson Combat Bullet Proof parts—are added and fitted by the gunsmiths, to comply with all of Ken’s design parameters.
Starting with the slide, Wilson adds its Snag-Free Front Sight with a green fiber-optic tube to the front dovetail, matching the sight base to the frame’s contours. Horizontal, 30-lpi serrations run longitudinally from the front sight across the flattened slide top to the dovetail-mounted rear Battlesight.
The Battlesight appears to be the latest evolution of Wilson Combat’s time-proven Combat Pyramid Sight. A speedy sight to use, the higher profile Battlesight has a generous 0.145-inch notch dropping deeper than its predecessors and terminating in a “U” shape. The notch area is recessed into a pocket, providing a crisp, protected sight picture. Perfectly executed 40-lpi serrations run horizontally across the non-recessed portion of the concave back of the Battlesight.
Dual set screws secure the Battlesight to the slide. The slide rear has 40-lpi serrations, including the Wilson extractor, which merges well with the sight. Battlesight edges are radiused, but an external shelf makes for easy one-hand slide cycling.
As expected on a custom pistol, the Hackathorn Special has a lowered and flared ejection port with cocking serrations fore and aft. As an extra touch, the bottom edge of the slide has been broken—“Heavy Machine Chamfer on Bottom of Slide,” Wilson Combat calls it. The final touch is fluting on the exterior of the barrel hood, which is said to redirect grunge, the accumulation of which could potentially cause a malfunction.
The Hackathorn Special’s frame has a trim, well-shaped, single side Bullet Proof Tactical Thumb Safety produced by machining from a solid block of hardened billet steel. A Wilson Combat slide release, with its low-profile but easily operated shelf, stabs through the frame, with the shortened shaft exiting the opposite side of the pistol into a countersunk area.
Wilson’s Concealment Bullet Proof Beavertail Grip Safety with raised rear palm swell is blended perfectly to the frame. “Concealment” appears in the name because the rear grip tang has been bobbed, or minimized, to reduce chances of snagging during the draw. The obligatory undercut triggerguard does a great job of raising the hand, and the perfectly executed 30-lpi checkering on the frontstraps and backstraps locks the hand to the frame. Providing additional insurance that the hand is secured to the frame, a set of black G10 Starburst Flat Bottom Grips is included. The grips include a nice dished-out area to aid in reaching the marginally extended magazine release.
Wilson Combat’s One-Piece Mag Well is fitted so seamlessly to the frame you have to look closely to see the hairline crack. The One-Piece Mag Well’s chute is a cavernous hole to facilitate (and almost guarantee) a smooth, rapid reload. It does extend the grip about 0.25 inches, but it is not a problem for magazines wearing thick baseplates or bumpers. However, those with flat baseplates require a little extra effort to ensure positive seating.
Everything is fitted perfectly, and the pistolsmith’s contouring made the pistol just right for carrying. The gentle “melting,” or carry bevel, is perfect. Although I always say nothing is final until after range time, I knew the pistol would perform no less than flawlessly. Never in my hands has Wilson Combat firearm stumbled or failed; I expected the Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special to prove no different.
The pistol arrived from Wilson Combat in a Corrosion Inhibiting Polymer Storage Bag, which held a nice gun rug with two Tactical Elite magazines.
It’s always nice to get a day at the range. It is better when there is a new holster and good ammunition for the outing. Wilson Combat furnished both for my range trip.
The company’s new Lo-Profile II holster is the latest iteration of their Lo-Profile design: a pancake-style utilizing two belt slots and a forward cant, allowing the holster to conform better to the wearer’s body. Aided by the low-cut front, draws from the Lo-Profile II are quick and smooth. Reholstering is also easy thanks to a sewn mouth reinforcement band.
“The Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special has all the accuracy you need, and lots more!…”
The Battlesight rear and fiber-optic front form an excellent combination and worked well for me. A moment in the shade demonstrated the benefits of the Battlesights’ wider U-shaped sight notch in reduced light.
I did not put the Hackathorn Special through any special drills to see how it performed under various conditions—it will perform like a 1911! I did, however, shoot a number of basic drills to examine the pistol’s handling.
All of the drills fired were accomplished with no problems from the Hackathorn Special. Even throwing in magazines from a number of other companies could not get this pistol to choke. Then I moved to the accuracy portion of the evaluation. You would think that with a pistol built by Wilson Combat and ammunition from the same company, accuracy would not be a problem. It wasn’t!
Of all the 25-yard groups I fired from the Wilson Hackathorn Special, the largest was a still miniscule 1.30 inches wide, which is a great group, especially from a dedicated combat pistol. The average of all three averages was a very respectable 1.17 inches, with the smallest group of the day being 1.05 inches.
According to Wilson, this pistol is “geared towards the needs of the serious defensive shooter.” It’s a fighting pistol, if you will. A gun could produce groups double what the Hackathorn Special produced and still be more than adequate for defensive use. The Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special has all the accuracy you need, and lots more! In the right hands, it is more than capable of making the headshot that should rarely be tried.
The Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special is a fighting handgun offering excellent performance and reliability. It would make a perfect concealed carry for those who have mastered the platform. Not only that, the Hackathorn Special is a beautiful example of what custom gunsmithing can produce—flawless workmanship that’s simply a pleasure to see.
Is there anything I would change on the Hackathorn Special? Just one thing, and for me it’s an ergonomics thing: slimmer Starburst grips or a short trigger. Ken’s hands are larger than mine, and even with the medium trigger it is a stretch to get the pistol to fit my hands really well.
Is there a Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special in your future? Do you want a reliable fighting pistol with features specified by a top trainer with 30+ years of experience who has fired countless .45 ACP rounds? Do you want a pistol executed as only a top custom shop can? If so, then look no further than the Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special!
For more information on the Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special, visit WilsonCombat.com.