Brandon Webb’s first book, The Red Circle, is a very good book about his life, experiences and especially about the Navy Special Warfare (NSW) Sniper School that he help reorganize and teach. The Killing School is not about an actual sniper school but it is about a theoretical school that special operations, and even regular infantry snipers, go through as they graduate from being a grunt to being an experienced sniper with actual combat kills. This progression starts out with the student being a non sniper, then becoming sniper trained, then heading to combat, making the first kill and then surviving. This is Mr. Webb’s description of what the Killing School is. The concept is fine and when coming from someone with his experience we recognize that he is speaking from a position of authority on the subject. The intent of the book is no more than to outline to the reader how a person progresses and earns his PhD from the Killing School. How much of this idea and writing is Mr. Webb’s and how much is Mr. Mann’s is unknown, but the book is written as if from Mr. Webb’s perspective.

In order to help illustrate this progression through the school the authors use four real world soldiers and their progression through, and graduation from, this theoretical Killing School. It is five if you count Mr. Webb’s own story. The other snipers are Alex Morrison, Rob Furlong, Jason Delgado, and Nick Irving. If you have read books about recent combat snipers you have likely read about these four, or at least heard their names mentioned. The authors do a good job presenting new and different information about each of their lives and experiences and you can tell there is a personal relationship between all four and the authors.

The problem with the book is that it constantly switches to viewpoints of the different individuals every page, even sometimes on a single page. This jumping around makes it very difficult to follow what is going on and it doesn’t allow the reader to get as involved with each sniper as they otherwise could. In my opinion, if the book were laid out into four sections, one for each of the four snipers, and then stuck with that sniper as they went through the entire Killing School, it would have been easier for me, the reader, to get attached and care about the sniper. As it is written, it is difficult to track who is where and when. Especially since all four combat stories covers a period of about 15 years. The other area the book fell short in was with incorrect data. This really surprised me given Mr. Webb’s background. One section indicated the M40A3 was chambered in .30-06 and not .308/7.62, another mentioned drastically incorrect shooting angles, another mentioned jump speeds for airborne operations hundreds of miles per hour faster than is possible, and there were others. These are not horrible issues and do not affect the philosophy of the Killing School, but it was surprising and leads me to believe not much of the book was written by Mr. Webb or proof read by any of the four snipers mentioned.

The book isn’t a bad read if you are looking for some gritty hands on type of story telling about actual snipers and you don’t mind the author jumping all over the place. Do be aware it does contain a lot of killing and the typical glorifying of snipers, some out of character for a former SEAL. The parts written by Brandon Webb about himself are probably the most down to earth and best parts of the book. The rest of the book is just okay.

 

 

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