Profile of Scott Tyler, professional sniper.
Credit: Photograph by John Lee
The range is now silent, even though 15 men have come by from various spots, shuffling and eager, to see the SEAL shoot.

"Going hot,'' Tyler says.

He appears to have no breathing at all, no motion, no nothing. His feet are laid out flat on their sides behind him because snipers do not give the enemy even the sight of raised heels as targets.

There is an explosion, and then silence. He racks the bolt, and a bright, smoking casing pops out. He picks it up and lays it carefully to his right. He shoots again.

When he shoots, Tyler keeps both eyes open and lets the floating circular reticules hover like a halo around the target. "I try to get in a good pattern of breathing, try to relax everything. I'll pull the slack off the trigger and know I'm at the point where only the mechanism is barely keeping the hammer back. You do not slap the trigger. You have to be in the moment. It's a little bit of an out-of-body experience." High-powered rifles are incredibly loud. They can be deafening. But Tyler has shot in war zones without muffling devices or earplugs. And a strange thing happens. "I don't hear the blast,'' he says. "I don't hear anything."

He mentions that many hunters – regular guys out for deer, longhorn, elk – flinch at the last moment, because they're not relaxed. Because they're thinking of what they're doing. A sniper can do what he does because – after months and months of training and study and reflection – he knows that he has done it all before thousands of times, effortlessly. "It's like golf,'' Tyler says, "except every time you swing there's an explosion in your face."

This gun, a gun he never used before, misfires three times on the range, and the scope has never been accurately adjusted, but when we walk the 218 yards – two football fields, two end zones – to the target, the Styrofoam square has three patterns of three holes, each of which could be covered by a quarter.