I’m not sure if Ken Hackathorn is choosing selective memory or just waxing nostalgic. In his interview with Recoil magazine he lambasts organized competitive shooting. There are no concrete examples, just the usual suspects of empty, unsubstantiated claims. Details here:


Part of his claim is pining for the good ol’ days:

When I first started out in the private sector, Jeff Cooper influenced me. I wrote a letter to him in ’75 and told him I would like to learn more about his combat shooting techniques… When IPSC started, in the mid ’70s, it was combat shooting. We were drawing from holsters, shooting multiple targets, reloading under stress, using varying courses and it was “radical.” For the first five or six years, people showed up with guns that represented what people really carried — and then it started to evolve. I think Americans uniquely tend to bastardize everything they get involved in, and you started seeing guns and holsters made strictly for IPSC competition. Then the mindset of the real hardcore competitor shifted to trying to gain an edge by any means, and it gravitated to the point that it lost any relevancy to the real world.

– Ken Hackathorn

Ah, the good ol’ days. Back when things were right and pure. When combat shooting was real world and participants only used true and proper carry gear. Nobody tried “to gain an edge by any means” like those conniving competitors and their fake equipment today.

Not so much.

When practical shooting was in its infancy in the late 1950s, there was no competition-specific gear for it. Over time, top competitors began learning what techniques, training approaches, and equipment worked best by looking to the winners. By the end of the 1950s participants began using competition-specific guns and gear.

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The 1911 began surfacing as a dominant platform but the as-issue gun didn’t always have the nicest trigger or adjustable sights as found on revolvers. They also sometimes exhibited less-than-stellar reliability with anything besides military round nose ammunition. Competitors took their Government models to custom gunsmiths to retrofit adjustable revolver sights and have trigger and action jobs done. None of this was found on actual carry guns of the day, military or police, but competitors did it to gain an edge. Some  early competitors noted that merely having a handgun reliable enough to always complete a match without a single malfunction was an advantage.

Combat shooters of the 1950s and 1960s were using “rooney” guns, that is, firearms modified with the best-known modifications of the day and intended to win competitions. Jack Weaver points out this happened at the very beginning, decades before, with competitors using competition-specific “ring holsters.” Of course, not every idea worked out…

However, competition demonstrated what refinements did prove reliable and useful. Most of these have since found their way into readily-available aftermarket accessories and into factory production guns.

This was also true of holsters.

“A gun belt holster can be very safe and very fast, but only uniformed personnel can normally wear a weapon on a gun belt. The defensive pistol is much more often and more usefully carried on a trouser belt; therefore the gun belt holster is largely restricted to military and police situations, and formalized competition.

While practical shooting is as free from regulation as possible, it finally became necessary to specify that all holsters used in practical competition be truly practical. This pretty well rules out the gun belt holster except for policemen who choose to wear the equipment that they are required to wear on the street.”

– Jeff Cooper
Complete Book of Shooting
Outdoor Life Books
Copyright 1965
page 283

IPSC, USPSA, and IDPA all use belts that fit through the regular trouser belt loops for this reason. Those “rooney” gun belt holsters were influenced by competitive Fast Draw which had its heyday at the same time practical shooting started. In fact, the very first practical shooting competitions organized by Jeff Cooper at Big Bear called Leatherslaps were influenced by and marketed around the Fast Draw and cowboy/wild west chic popular at the time.

It could be argued popular entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, and others had an influence on directing modern handgun shooting:

Here are the pictures to prove it This collection of photos are of combat competition equipment used by Jeff Cooper and other competitors in the 1950s and 1960s.


These holsters and guns popular in the 1950s and 1960s weren’t based on real carry gear. They were custom-built competition equipment designed to win contests, just like today. That is a good thing. I’ll let Jeff Cooper explain why.

It is said that competition is the life of trade. It is equally true that competition is the life of marksmanship. Not only does the universal drive to excel spur us to prove our shooting to be better than the next man’s, but contests bring us into contact with the best men in the field, show us what our standards of performance must be, and test new developments in equipment and technique.

The man who works alone, or who completes a standard training program, may develop a useful degree of skill, but he will be most unlikely to discover more than about 50 percent of his potential unless he competes regularly and formally with his peers. For this reason, any sportsman’s association or gun club is remiss unless it conducts regular local matches for its members.

– Jeff Cooper