If you think that Chief Petty Officer Chris Sajnog’s How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL sounds like yet another attempt to shamelessly cash in on the Navy SEAL cachet, you’d certainly could be forgiven for that impression. If you actually go to the book’s website, it’s highly reminiscent of the hard-sell approach favored by your typical internet snake oil salesman: multiple huge fonts, different colored text and action buttons (“Yes, CHIEF! I want to learn how to shoot like a Navy SEAL”). And when you find out this 120 page book will cost you $47 in print and $27 in Kindle format, you have to wonder if it’s yet one more on-line scam (The video FEMA doesn’t want you to watch!) . . .

You certainly could think all of that, but then you’d be missing an opportunity to pick up one of the best books I’ve read on developing the fundamentals of marksmanship. No, the book isn’t going to disclose any top secret Navy SEAL training or teach you cool moves such as changing the mag on your AR-15 with your teeth while hanging upside down from the deck of a ship. Instead, what is does is focus clearly and simply on developing the fundamentals of marksmanship.

I have no reason to doubt that this simple, but effective approach is the one used by SEAL trainers to develop BUD/S candidates into top tier shooters. As Chief Sajnog states, cool stuff is of no real value if you don’t have the fundamentals down pat. The book takes more of a combat shooting approach (as opposed to competition target marksmanship). While many of the techniques certainly are applicable to both areas, the overall focus is on the skills needed to survive a fight for your life. As Sajnog points out, there’s a big difference between the one-way range and the two-way one.

Yes, it is a short book. It took me about two hours this past Sunday to get through it and that included various distractions such as checking the pork butt and ribs on my smoker as well as dealing with various child-related interruptions. But the book is exactly the length it needs to be. I suspect that represents the ethos of SEAL training – all the information you need and nothing more. While I don’t personally know any SEALs, I’ve trained with other former military personnel including one instructor who was former 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force) and this approach seems to be a pretty standard one.

Chief Sajnog breaks marksmanship down into seven fundamental areas:

  • Shooting Platform
  • Grip
  • Sight Refinement
  • Sight Picture
  • Breathing
  • Trigger Control
  • Follow-Through

With few exceptions, this format pretty much mirrors much or what I’ve been taught by many of the ex-military instructors at the SIG SAUER Academy. Chief Sajnog devotes about a chapter on each of these subjects. Was a lot of this material stuff I’d already heard at one point or another? Sure it was. Does that invalidate it? Hell No.

Repetition is the mother of success and I’m far from an expert marksman, so I can’t hear stuff like this enough. As I went through the book, I found bits and pieces of information that will help me improve each of the seven fundamental areas. In some cases, it was a tip or trick that Chief Sajnog offered. In other, it was an explanation that made a somewhat muddy concept much clearer.

One of the things that bugs me about some instructors is their “my way is the only right way” mentality. Generally speaking, Sajnog tries to avoid that approach – if you have something that works for you, keep doing it. On the other hand, if you’re not getting the results you want, set your cognitive dissonance aside and try it his way.

That said, there are a few places where the Chief is pretty adamant, one being that you should learn to shoot with both eyes open. When I first started shooting, an NRA instructor in Basic Pistol told us this as well and I tried it for awhile but found that I could shoot better with one eye closed. Later instructors simply said to do it the way that feels most comfortable.

Sajnog has some pretty compelling reasons why you should try to develop the skill of shooting with both eyes open and he goes beyond mere exhortation by providing you with some practice exercises (both with and without a gun) that will help you train your eyes to shoot that way. He does acknowledge, however, that in some cases, it may simply not be possible for a person to shoot with both eyes open, but give it a solid try before coming to that conclusion.

In support of the book, Chief Sajnog created 12 YouTube videos that demonstrate the concepts he covers. Topics include standing, kneeling, and prone positions for both pistol and carbine, proper grip for pistols and carbines, finding your dominant eye, one handed shooting, finding your natural point of aim, and trigger finger placement.  These videos use “hidden” YouTube links so you need to purchase the book to get them. Sure, I could post them, but I’m not going to have an ex-SEAL pissed at me.

If you’ve been shooting for any length of time or have taken classes from a competent instructor, much of this book won’t be new to you. What will likely to be new is the clear and concise way these basic fundamentals are articulated.  You’ll also likely find some advice that runs counter to what you may have learned elsewhere. Set your preconceived notions aside and give it a try. It might work for you and it might not, but if you’re not shooting at the level you want to be, what’s the harm in giving something new a chance?

Overall, this is a great book for either the new or the seasoned shooter who wants to make it to the next level. This book is small enough and light enough to keep in your range bag. Scan the chapter you need a refresher on and then go to it.

Chief Sajnog has walked the walk, so when he talks the talk, it’s well worth paying attention. As a Master Training Specialist (MTS), BUD/S marksmanship instructor, and a developer of the SEAL Sniper training program, Sajnog has the credentials and the experience not only as a doer, but as a teacher. Yes, his manner of writing is blunt at times. And I can only imagine the ass-kicking his students receive when they do something stupid in one of his classes. But firearms are a serious business to be conducted by serious people.

30 Responses to Book Review: How To Shoot Like a Navy Seal

  1. I haven’t read the Chief’s book, but his approach looks sound. If I might toss another book recommendation in the ring, the book, “Combative Fundamentals: An Unconventional Approach” by Jeff Gonzalez is another approach to learning the basics of combative pistol and carbine shooting. Jeff is also an ex-SEAL, and runs Trident Concepts. You may have seen him as one of the coachs on the Top Shot show.

    Jeff’s book is a bit over 300 pages in length, and covers a wide gamut of tips, techniques, and tactics – much of the same material covered in several of his courses at Trident. He’s an excellent instructor, and I think it carries over into his book as well, which has 4.5 stars on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Combative-Fundamentals-An-Unconventional-Approach/dp/097544350X

    Disclosure: I helped edit the book for Jeff, but contributed no technical content. The good stuff is all his.

  2. I love that this story is only a few lines away from the one making fun of the idea that everyone can\should learn how to shoot like a seal.

      • It ain’t easy but I recommend talking to veterans. And when I say veterans i mean those who survived a real war/genocide. That is how my neighbour taught me combat shooting with an AK.

        Be warned though, these people don’t like talking aobut that stuff so you usually need to get to know them well.

        • Agreed, I have a good friend who was USN Security Group in the mid-1960’s. He still every now and then will break a tooth in his sleep because in his nightmare he “can’t get off that hill”. He preferred the M1 Garand “Because it would go through the tree and kill the (derogatory name for the enemy) on the other side, unlike the M16”. He taught me the very basics of shooting. I do believe I’ll buy this book though.

      • My good friend George “Tex” Ferguson had been there and done that. He was head of the “Bushmasters” in WWII. They were the outfit that reconned Pacific Islands before we invaded them. His bare chest looked like a road map of healed bullet and knife wounds. He was the coach of the Army pistol team that went to Moscow to compete with the Russians during the cold war.

        Surprisingly, when I asked Tex what the best shooting training for combat was… he said, the National Match Course. You know, bullseye shooting at little round black targets at a minimum of 50 feet, one handed only…

        I am not saying that I agree, but just because someone has been there and done that, does not make their opinion sacrosanct.

        Hard to argue with learning the fundamentals, though.

        Tex is an unrecognized national hero. Maybe I should write about him. Some great stories…

        • Not sacrosanct but you can learn things not always found in books. Though I do read books, it is interesting to compare the old literature and new literature. How tactics have changed.

        • Mr. Weingarten
          George tex furguson is my grandfather. He passed when I was stationed in Okinawa Japan with the marine corps. I was unable to make it home. I would like to touch base with you and find out more about my grandfather. Thanks.

      • Interesting question. How to shoot like you’re in combat. In my considerable military experience (including US Army Infantry training and combat in Vietnam) most people in possession of a firearm must first and foremost study, comprehend, and practice the fundamentals of marksmanship. Without that basic skill set behind you the chance of survival in combat is significantly reduced. After you have been to Grade School, move on the High School. The concept of education is the same.

        Combat shooting is based upon small unit tactics. Squads, platoon, etc. In that it differs from what most civilians believe is combat shooting. TV shows and movies are often quite entertaining and exciting, yet they rarely reflect the mundane reality that precedes the action sequence. When it hits the fan you must always fall back on the basic fundamentals of marksmanship.

    • I was thinking the same thing…

      Even if he’s not TRYING to cash in on his Seal fame he is still cashing in on his Seal fame. Which is shamful in my opinion.

      • Nothing shameful about trying to cash in on his background but the irony of it all is the Seals “Quiet Professionals” mantra, yet there’s more books, movies, games, etc about Navy Seals than there is any other SOF-capable unit out there. They are the DoD’s Barbie face for the public to admire, not trying to detract anything from their sacrifice because those guys earned their place just had to point out the irony. Besides….I’d rather learn how to shoot like Jerry Miculek.

        • Yeah I agree with you. Especially on the Jerry Miculek part, guy shoots so fast you can’t hear the shot.

        • Am I the only one here who finds Jerry Miculek boring to watch? Yes, I respect and appreciate the skill and the hours/years that went into honing it, but after a couple minutes, it’s boring.

          He’s like the Yngwie of shooters.

    • Useless anecdote…

      When I worked in private security, my company had the contract to provide security for the Navy Seals movie production in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area.

      The “Secret Seal Base” concrete bunker with Little Creek Navy Base in the background, plywood with a fake concrete paint coating. Took forever to build for one quick shot. I had a Norfolk cop tell me that the concrete plant next door used to have a night watchman who had his gun taken by some Seals who were goofing around and undertook an ‘unauthorized training mission’ one night. They geared up, swam over, came out of the water and overwhelmed him before he knew what was happening. I bet he pooped his pants, I sure would have.

  3. Thanks, good review.
    When you don’t have the scratch to go to a shooting academy or clunic for a three day weekend or 5 days its good to read, test, reread, review, and drill.

  4. As I kind of said in my review – try and set aside the whole “Navy Seal” thing. This book is a rock solid review of fundamentals. It really encapsulates the skills that we all need to have and in that respect, its brevity works to its advantage. It really did contain much of what I have learned in the training I have taken over the years and it serves as an excellent reminder/refresher for the experienced and a great starting point for the new shooter. At $37 its a bit expensive, but it covers most of what you’d get in a typical one day shooting class at a good school. Compare its cost to the $200 or so you would pay for said one day school and its a pretty good deal.

    • $37 is basically two boxes of ammo. A book that will help you improve your skill is much better money spent than burning through the two aforementioned boxes of ammo, and getting the same old results.

  5. Stuff that anyone can learn from some who is not trying to cash in on what title they have been bestowed. There’s no magic in shooting like a SEAL, just the ability to shoot and the practice to understand the process…

  6. Accusing Chief Sajnog of trying to “cash in” by writing a book on shooting is heavy handed. This Nation has been at war for a long time (12+ years directly and arguably fighting skirmishes constantly since the late 80s) and has trained a large number of a generation of men nothing but how to make war. For many of these guys, it is all they know, so they are going into business selling their skills and knowledge as a product. Combine that with a sense throughout apple pie America that our way of life is under attack both internally and externally and you have a market for skilled warmakers like the Chief who can successfully sell their product to eager customers. This same trend is also behind the widespread militarization of Police in training methods, tactics and equipment. Ultimately, Chief Sajnog is effectively using brand recognition to frontally sell his product. You can’t blame him for that.

    I do agree that the whole “quiet professional” bit has run its course. It simply doesn’t ring true anymore when every time you turn around one of these dudes is hawking a book, movie, training, or gear to the masses with “former SEAL” or “former Special Forces” in 48 pt bold on the cover. That being said, I will probably download and read the book before the weekend is over.

  7. But as many TTAG folks will remind us. You don’t need none of that there fancy-pants training. Just load up your handgun, stand in your lane at the local indoor range and poke holes in paper that you hang twenty feet away.

    Good to go.

    • Yep. See lots of those guys at the range. Funny thing is that they never seem to get any better no matter how much lead they sling.

  8. Bought it based on this blog post. Read the whole book in one sitting on a 3-hour flight.

    How do you shoot like a SEAL? Well… it turns out it’s the same way anyone else (who adheres to the basic principles of marksmanship) shoots. The book is a decent primer that covers the commandments of competent shooters. I enjoyed reading it, despite numerous typos / misspellings. There was really nothing new or earth-shattering.

  9. My decision to buy was due to buying my first rifle. I’ve been shooting handguns for 20 or so years, but never owned a rifle.

    The customer service at Center Mass Group is top notch. No lie here folks. I left a message because I was having trouble ordering and they called me back. Me, a nobody from Fly Over Land. I wish I could tell you who I spoke with but they were polite and succinct.

    Their website is sorted and I got my book in less than a week, a signed copy. I say a signed copy because though I’m not a collector of fine reading materials, I’m tickled this one is signed because it’s the best book on shooting I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a bunch. If you’re into…what is it called…”Tacti-Cool” then you’re wasting your money, this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you want to shoot better, MUCH better, you’ll want to read this, twice, and go to the youtube vids, often.

    Look, there may be nothing new or earth shattering in this to a seasoned veteran of combat but the way it is explained, the exercises shed a good bit of light on the situation of shooting.

    Now is when I kick the dirt and look at my feet. I’m re-training myself on how to shoot because of this book. Not easy, but I’ve retrained myself to play trumpet once, tuba and baritone (yes, I was a band kid) so I understand muscle memory. I’m not good again, yet, but I will be.

  10. This book is now available on Kindle for $2.99 (or free to read as long as you have Kindle Unlimited) or paperback for $6.97.

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