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
- Sight Refinement
- Sight Picture
- Trigger Control
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.