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Tactical Fitness: Training With Firearms Prior to Enlisting

Tactical Fitness: Target Practice

Many Americans grow up with guns, some do not have that opportunity. Regardless, teaching military shooting is different than hunting and shooting targets in the back yard. Sometimes avid hunters are the best shots in the class, sometimes they have to break bad shooting habits that a person new to guns does not have. Here is a question about preparing for military from a young teen.

Hello Mr. Smith,

I am 14 with the aspiring dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.

I have very little experience with guns having grown up in sheltered suburbs unlike the rural, outdoor environments that many SEALs grow up in. I have fired about four guns in my lifetime, and not at any real targets or with much knowledge on how guns work or anything else. I've shot some rifle rounds at a lake in my uncle’s backyard. That should tell you all you about my knowledge of firearms.

Should I try to become familiar with firearms and perhaps hone my skills by going to the range when I turn 16?

Hunter – you have some great goals at your young age.  My advice to you is to enjoy your teens and get the most out of school and athletics that you can. Play sports, join a team, keep doing well in school, and learn to be a team player while building up leadership experience.

Those are skills that will help you well in the military – any branch of service. I did not start training for SEALs until I was 19 in college however, I played three sports in high school, made good grades, became team captain for clubs, etc. That helped more than anything you can do right now.

I would not worry about shooting. It is good to have some knowledge of weapons, but if you build up too many habits, it is likely you will have to unlearn those bad habits.  Re-learning shooting the way the military teaches could be a more difficult learning curve. But there is nothing wrong with taking lessons and learning gun safety, nomenclature, maintenance and assembly of a variety of weapons the military uses.

You have many options to get TO SEAL training. If you are considering going in as an officer, you need to get college accomplished at some time.  You might as well do it while you are young, and then you can have the option to enlist or go to OCS and become an officer. If you get an ROTC or Service Academy slot, you will graduate into the officer pipeline.  Something to consider about when you go to BUDS.  

Stew Smith CSCS

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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