Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is author of the #1 New York Times Best Seller American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. He is also president of Craft International, a world-class leader in training and security. Craft offers specialized courses for military, law enforcement, and corporate operators, and limited civilian training.
Kyle and the Craft training cadre are offering a civilian training event called the Rough Creek Shoot Out Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2012. It’s a rare opportunity to be taught by the same top-tier instructors who train the men and women who serve our country and local communities. Registration is $2000, payable before Oct. 26, and the event is limited to 45 participants. Location is the Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in Glen Rose, Texas, located about an hour southwest of Fort Worth.
As SEAL Team 3 Chief, Kyle served four combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere. For his bravery in battle, he was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation. Additionally, he received the Grateful Nation Award, given by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Following his combat deployments, he became chief instructor for training Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper teams, and he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual. He currently lives with his family in Texas, where he devotes much of his spare time to helping disabled veterans.
In advance of the Rough Creek Shoot Out, the Cheaper Than Dirt Chronicle recently had a chance to ask Kyle about Craft International and his experiences with training civilians.
CTD: What do most civilians want to accomplish at an event like the Shoot Out?
Kyle: Be able to shoot weapons that civilians would never be able to own, learn some marksmanship tips, and have the opportunity to hang out with combat vets.
CTD: What’s the biggest difference between a military or LE operator and civilian student? Fitness? Psychological state? Field craft?
Kyle: The biggest difference is the mind set. Mil and LE are willing to put their lives on the line for people they have never met, and will never meet. We take the tasks at hand more serious. It’s not just for fun, it’s our way of life.
CTD: We saw your video interview with Belinda Luscombe of Time magazine. She looked kinda jumpy. Was it the skull logo on your hat? Or was she surprised to be talking so casually about the reality of wartime sniping?
Kyle: She is not a supporter of the war, and I’m sure it made her nervous that I was so casual about doing my job. She saw me as a person who doesn’t value human life. It’s just the opposite. I value American lives so much that I was willing to kill, or be killed, to protect them.
CTD: Your online materials say, “Craft International offers training to groups of law-abiding civilians looking to increase their own self-reliance to protect themselves or their families, or to increase their long-range rifle skills as sportsmen.” Sniping isn’t usually thought of as a self-defense measure domestically. Do civilian students look at the craft as a pre-emptive defensive response?
Kyle: We do not teach civilians sniping. We do teach precision shooting, which can be employed in self defense and hunting. If someone wants to be a sniper, then they need to enlist in the military or in law enforcement.
CTD: In your experience, do most of your civilian students have the ability to turn on the switch that allows them to shoot in self defense? Or do they understand and accept that in a SHTF scenario that it’s do or die for them and their family and friends?
Kyle: I think most people, when confronted by that situation, would chose to protect their lives and those of their loved ones. But until they are in that situation, they may think of shooting someone else as barbaric. They tend to believe it would never happen to them. Most people live in a dream world, and do not recognize the threats all around us. It only takes one time to open their eyes.
CTD: Except for the .50 BMG, what’s the difference between a good deer rifle and a sniper’s rifle? Remington’s M24 bolt-action sniper rifle in .308 Winchester has a composite stock housing a 40-X action. Is the M24 that much better – more accurate, more reliable, more durable – than the commercial Model 700 XCR, for example?
Kyle: Hunting rifles are very light. They are still accurate and dependable, but you don’t need to shoot round after round in defense of your life. Sniper rifles are heavier and more accurate. They are also designed to withstand the elements and harder conditions. When sniping, your life and those around you can depend on the function of that rifle.
CTD: It would seem that the area around Odessa, where you grew up, presents many of the same shooting conditions you might find in Afghanistan — lots of mirage, not much cover, lots of wind and dust, long shooting distances. Did growing up in West Texas help you during your tours?
Kyle: My dad raised my brother and me around guns. We were shooting all the time, and hunting. That is what helped me the most. It doesn’t matter where you grow up, it all depends on your mind set, and how bad you want to achieve something.
CTD: You did a lot of your work with the .338 Lapua Magnum. Is the .338 Lapua too much cartridge for most civilian shooters? How do you match civilian shooters to rifles and cartridges?
Kyle: For civilians I always ask what they are using it for. For most hunting, a .308 will do the job. I feel that is the best all-round caliber. When going after bigger game and farther distances, then it can be stepped up to a .300 Win Mag or .338. Most people don’t even realize the effective range of their rifles, or are not familiar enough with their rifle, so they have to go up in caliber.
CTD: In your Precision Marksman course description, you say that students will learn how to effectively judge and estimate distance, read wind, use the Mil-Dot reticle, set up shooting positions and platforms, and account for other environmental variables through manipulation of their optic systems. What’s the toughest area of long-range shooting that most civilian shooters have trouble mastering?
Kyle: The hardest part is reading wind. That is a perishable skill. Even for a skilled sniper, if you don’t do it for a while, you can lose it. The only way to be really good at it, is to constantly do it.
CTD: What do most civilian rifles need most to be better long-range tools?
Kyle: You need a good reliable rifle that can maintain accuracy, but it doesn’t stop there. That is just one part of the equation. The ammo should also be looked at. I always see people buying nice rifles, and then putting a cheap scope on it. Unfortunately, when it comes to scopes, you get what you pay for. The most important part of long-range shooting is the operator. You have to know the basics of shooting, and practice, practice, practice.
CTD: What’s the biggest misconception civilians have about the craft?
Kyle: If I tell you that, then I will have to kill you.