Profile of Scott Tyler, professional sniper.
Credit: Photograph by John Lee
It's worth noting that Tyler does not especially like guns. He owns only a shotgun, which he has never shot and which he needed when he lived up in the hills of the Sierras with his wife and young daughter (he is recently divorced) as protection from meandering bears. He has never hunted, never killed an animal, never even shot at an animal.

Hemingway once wrote: "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." But that is not strictly the case for Tyler. He left the service voluntarily, because he felt his principles were being violated by a superior's decisions. It had to do with responsibility – his for the men under him. And he could not live with his conscience.

He admits he is still searching now, trying to come up with a lifestyle that embraces all that he is, all that he has done. Without a permanent address, he's basically living in his pickup truck. He's dating, and he wants to marry again, have more children, continue his art, and live "in a Mongolian yurt along the Pacific coast."

A nice vision. But it must coexist with Tyler's memory of, for instance, the first time he was fired upon in Baghdad: "We were in the back of a Humvee and I thought it was cigarette ashes flicked from a car. Heard nothing, had no idea where it was coming from. Just sparks skipping across stones." The man riding next to Tyler said, "Motherfucker! The turret guy just hit me in the back of the head with the turret!" But the turret was high up. He'd been shot in the neck. By a sniper.

A man, a thinking man, a philosophical man, chooses to be a sniper, to fight his war from a distance. And why would he do so?

Maybe because he can say this, as Scott Tyler does: "If you're shooting from 700 yards, you become the scope, you go down it, you become the tip of the bullet, you project yourself 700 yards. You're there."