View Full Version : Gy. Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock Ii

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:41 AM
NORFOLK, Va. (Mar 1) -- Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II, United States Marine Corps(Ret.), was laid to rest Friday, February 26, at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia. Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock was 56.

South Viet Nam, 1966. A flash of movement caught the eye of a young Marine Military Policeman who was keeping watch for possible enemy action. As he observed, he could make out a figure crouched in the distance, working busily with something he couldn't quite see. The man was in civilian clothes... but... there was the rifle slung over his back - the telltale mark of a Viet Cong guerrilla. The enemy soldier continued about his task, oblivious to his danger as Sgt. Carlos Hathcock brought his M-14 to bear. The range appeared to be between 300 and 400 yards - child's play for Hathcock, who had won the 1000 yard Wimbledon Cup Match at Camp Perry only the year before. The rackgrade weapon he now held was a far cry from the finely-fitted National Match M-1 he had used in competition, but it was certainly capable of making this shot. With his M-14 rested comfortably, Hathcock verified his target - yes, definitely armed - and adjusted his position slightly. He let the front sight settle naturally, centered on the crouching soldier, who appeared to be placing a booby trap. Hathcock felt his chest tighten and his heartbeat increase;

although already Distinguished and a world-class competitive rifleman, he was still new to combat and the killing of men. As he silently eased the safety forward, his right hand settled firmly into place on the small of the stock. He was in his "bubble" now a zone of total concentration. He exhaled, and there was the front sight: on target, crisp, in razor-sharp focus. and centered in the rear sight aperture.

The rifle was absolutely still as he took up the slack in the two-stage trigger, and then applied the final pressure. Such was the depth of his concentration that he was only vaguely aware of the rifles' report as it jolted against his shoulder. As the bolt cycled, the empty case skittered brightly across the ground to his right, and the M-14 settled back into Position, cocked and ready for a second shot. None was needed, however. The enemy guerrilla laysprawled, no longer a threat. Sgt. Carlos Hathcock II had made his first kill. Officially, it was unconfirmed - one of fourteen unconfirmed kills he was to make before his assignment as a Marine sniper. However, that didn't concern him. It was simply a job that had to be done. By his actions, Carlos Hathcock had certainly saved the lives of several brother Marines scheduled to patrol the area being mined that day.

Hathcock went on to an illustrious career as the Marine Corps' top sniper in Viet Nam, with 93 confirmed kills and countless more unconfirmed. His exploits are legendary. He stalked enemy snipers, infiltrated an NVA general's headquarters, and pinned down a company of enemy soldiers for several days, to cite only a few. Known as "Long Tra'ng" for the trademark white feather he wore to taunt his enemies, he was so feared that when the standard bounty on U.S. snipers was eight dollars, his head was worth several thousand. Severely burned in combat during his second tour in Viet Nam, he recovered and returned to active duty. However, due to his extensive burns and to the insidious onset of multiple sclerosis, he was unable to resume rifle competition at his former level. Now retired on disability, Hathcock leads a quiet life at home.

I first read of Hathcock in 1987. At the time, I was still fairly fresh out of the Army, and was competing in rifle silhouette - both smallbore and Highpower Rifle. I spent the rest of my free time hunting deer, and Carlos' marksmanship and fieldcraft abilities soon captured my imagination. The more I stalked the Alabama forests and dabbled in longrange shooting, the more he came to represent what was possible for the well trained, motivated and disciplined individual rifleman. Over the years 1, along with thousands of fellow rifle competitors, absorbed Carlos' story as part of the lore of shooting, alongside other noted American marksmen and soldiers such as Sgt. Alvin York. Time passed. This year, while at Camp Perry, I was reminded of Carlos' declining health, and I resolved to attempt to help in some small way. I approached the editor of Precision Shooting about interviewing Carlos for the magazine. Dave Brennan, who was also familiar with Hathcock's situation, was as enthusiastic as I was, and the plan went forward. Now, eight years after reading his story, I was finally to have a chance to meet the man behind the legend! As I parked my rental car in front of a neat, red brick house in Virginia Beach, Virginia, it became apparent the I had found the right place. On this sunny, fall day - appropriately enough, the Marine Corps birthday - American and USMC flags fluttered from a mast in the front yard.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:41 AM
A late-model pickup, scrupulously clean, bore the custom license plate, "SNIPER". Then, the hard reality of Carlos' illness hit home when I saw the well-built wheelchair ramp and handrail leading to the front door. And, finally, there was Carlos Hathcock himself, smiling pleasantly as he walked to greet me. My first impression was almost exactly what I'd expected. A slender man, with a trim, athletic build and a firm handshake despite his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, Carlos wore crisp blue jeans, a neat shirt, spit-shined shoes and, ever the Marine, a fresh haircut. As he ushered me into a comfortable living room filled with knickknacks, family photos and mementos of his Marine service, whatever trepidation I might have felt was soon put to rest. Outside, the autumn wind rustled a few leaves in the yard as I settled on the couch and we got acquainted.

Carlos' cat, Buddy, a huge and affectionate feline, purred contentedly on the arm of the sofa as I scratched his ears, while Lady, their dog, lay by the door anticipating Mrs. Hathcock's return from the grocery store. Before long, it was lunch time and Carlos and I repaired to the Open House diner near his home, where he is one of the regulars. Over an old-fashioned meal of waffles, eggs and (of course) grits, he put me at ease as we swapped stories about hunting and shooting. One of my favorite accounts involved Carlos and other members of the Marine Corps Rifle Team's having been tasked with eliminating the groundhogs which, at that time, threatened to take over a range at Quantico. They cheerfully obliged, using their issue 7.62mm sniper rifles. (A dirty, thankless job, but somebody had to do it!) That surely has to count as one of the most unlucky colonies of groundhogs in the history of the species!!

Later, upon our return, we began the interview for Precision Shooting in earnest. One of my first questions had to do with, who had taught Carlos how to shoot? As he put it, "I did." There was nobody to teach me, so I had to learn myself." Carlos used a .22 rifle with open sights to hunt rabbits and squirrels for the table, and by the time he joined the Marines at age 17, he was already a good shot. In boot camp, his skills were refined with formal instruction, and he qualified as Expert - "which was few and far between, at that time." From there, he went to Hawaii, where he won an intramural shootoff and was picked by the Hawaii Marines rifle team. Honing his skills still further in NRA Highpower Rifle competition, Hathcock specialized in Service Rifle competition with the National Match M-1 Garand.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:42 AM
In 1962, upon completing his tour in Hawaii, Carlos transferred to Cherry Point, NC, where he coached on the rifle range and competed on the Wing team. Funds were limited, and Carlos began traveling to matches at his own expense, to augment the experience he could obtain through the team. What equipment were they using then? "National Match M-ls and issue Match ammo. It was a real good combination." Did the service rifle shooters ever use handloads? "Absolutely not." Eventually, Carlos began shooting 1000 yard competition, using a Winchester Model 70 Target rifle fitted with an Unertl target scope. This rifle, in cal. .300 Winchester Magnum, was accurized by the Marine Corps rifle team armorers at Quantico, Va. and his ammunition was handloaded by loading shop personnel.

Did Carlos ever do any handloading while at Cherry Point? "No, heavens no, they had people in the loading room that did that mess. I was the one that shot'em. I remember when I won the Wimbledon, and people gathered all around me," he recalled. "They had a lot of reporters up there, and they were sayin' this and askin' that. The Gunner came over and said, 'He don't know nothin', he just shoots 'em! We give 'em to him, and he shoots 'em!' And, that was the truth. I never worked on sticks [rifles] or built bullets, or nothing like that. My job was to launch 'em downrange."

Carlos Hathcock on Sniper Training

Carlos Hathcock's early education in sniping occurred in Hawaii, under the tutelage of Lt. (later Major) E.J. Land. This school was intended, in part, to help justify the continued existence of the Hawaii Marines rifle team. As Carlos described it, "It was a one-week school, with no field tactics or anything. We learned mostly shooting, to try to hang on to the Hawaii Marines team there." Where did Hathcock learn to stalk? "I learned it from being a hunter as a kid, and the rest I taught myself." Did the snipers use ghillie suits in the early days? "No, heavens no, we hadn't even thought about 'em, to tell you the truth. We used natural camouflage, not artificial. I had little holes in all my uniforms for that."

From that humble beginning, Hathcock added much to his skills of fieldcraft and tactics during his tours of duty in Viet Nam. His exploits are well chronicled in the book, Marine Sniper, and won't be recounted here. Several sniper schools were operated in Viet Nam by the Marine Corps and U.S. Army, with varied training and success; Hathcock served as an instructor while overseas, helping train a sniping component that later proved extremely effective in action. However, after the war, these schools were discontinued. Prior to the Viet Nam War, sniper training had traditionally been virtually non-existent in the U.S. Armed forces during peacetime, with isolated exceptions. Now, the military appeared bent upon returning to the old status quo amidst the postwar drawdown.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:42 AM
However, Carlos Hathcock, Major Land and others involved in sniping in Viet Nam had demonstrated clearly the worth of snipers as a cost-efficient and highly effective tool in combat. An organized effort was made to push the establishment of snipers and sniper training as a permanent part of U.S.M.C. organization, and Carlos went on to become the N.C.O. in Charge of the newly-founded Marine Corps Scout/Sniper School at Quantico, He was instrumental in contributing to the training syllabus for this three-week course, but his impact took other form, as well. His story was told time and again as an example of what a motivated, trained sniper could accomplish, and his achievements helped turn the theoretical into the tangible. The new sniper course went far beyond the training in marksmanship which Carlos had received so long ago in Hawaii. Instead, soldiers were taught a variety of skills including observation, map reading, stalking, tactics, camouflage, procedures for calling in artillery and air support, etc. During our interview, Carlos expressed the opinion that the school remains comprehensive in its instruction, and that graduates are well-prepared for their role in combat.

Somewhat less well-known is the part Hathcock played in the training of police counter-snipers after his retirement from the service. As I broached this topic, he was careful to draw a distinction between the military and police sniper: "The military sniper is an area shooter - that's what I was. There's 36" between a man's chin and his belt buckle, and a hit anywhere in there will work. However, a police counter-sniper is a precision, surgical shooter. There's just one spot he's got to hit, to neutralize the bad guy right then. Say a bad guy has got a cocked pistol to a hostage's head. The police sniper has to hit the bad guy so exactly that he doesn't shoot, he doesn't fall sideways or backwards, he just falls straight down. That's a good shot, and I have had a few policemen who have made good shots after they left this school." Carols scrupulously avoided describing his police counter-sniper training in detail, lest he compromise techniques which might be of benefit to criminals, As he said, "I really idolize those guys - the police snipers - and that's why I spent so much time working with policemen."

In sharp contrast to military sniping, in which shots ranging out to 800 yards or more may be taken, Hathcock noted that the average police sniping incident occurs at only 83 yards as per recent FBI statistics. Instant incapacitation of dangerous offenders is THE rationale behind the employment of police snipers. As such, his training has focused on shooting at 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. Hathcock, himself, is no longer is no longer physically able to train students, but he takes pride that several police marksman whom he personally trained teach at the police sniping at school Virginia Beach.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:43 AM
This course, of 10 days duration, is physically demanding; each day starts before daylight and continues until well after dark. There is no slack time during the course. Physical conditioning is stressed, with an obstacle course scheduled for Day One to insure that all candidates are physically fit. Carlos noted that, in the beginning, about 30% of applicants failed the course, mostly due to poor physical conditioning. However, this has improved significantly as the course requirements became more widely known.

Applicants MUST be badge-carrying members of a police SWAT team to be accepted, and must come as part of a sniper/spotter team. All training is tactically oriented - i.e., students will run and shoot wearing all the gear they intend to use on operations, so excess equipment is discouraged. The course teaches techniques of movement without being detected, stalking, and shooting techniques. Observation/intelligence reporting are also highly emphasized. For example, Hathcock conducted a daily exercise to teach careful observation and attention to detail.

"I'd tell 'em from the get-go, on the first day of the school, that I'd be wearing something different every day, and it was up to them to know what I'd worn on any given day," he recalled. "I'd wear all kinds of little doodads, and everything - I'd were different covers [caps] and they'd be tested on it later." Another exercise Hathcock ran hinged upon student's tendency to look only for the things they expected to see, such as targets. He recounted the test: "We had a Hogan's Alley down there at the Virginia Beach school.

One thing they didn't get, except for one student, was, I was on the back side of one of the windows of Hogan's Alley, and I had a piece of string that I just kind of flipped out the window. One of my instructors saw it. Mike was the only one - now, that impressed me."

The backbone of the course is its emphasis on basic marksmanship techniques. Sniper candidates bring 500 rounds of match ammunition with them to school. Every care is taken to insure that graduates can instantly incapacitate a suspect if the need should arise. As Carlos put it, "We shoot a bunch downrange. We've got to teach 'em everything about shooting. A lot of 'em think they know about shooting, but they don't. We re-teach it. We help them get away from their bad habits - and then, they start working actual problems."

Has Hathcock used dry-fire much as a training tool? "No, we don't. Sometimes, we get a few problem students, and then we'll have someone designated to go out and teach 'em snapping in." How about shooting positions? The final qualification involves firing only 14 rounds. Sound simple? Well, perhaps... but a perfect score is required to graduate!! [Note: police officers who qualify and who would like further information should not contact Mr. Hathcock. Rather, inquiries should be directed to MPO (Master Police Officer) Mike Mack or MPO Dan Lackey, in care of the SPOT Dept., Virginia Beach, VA. The maximum course capacity is 24 students - i.e., twelve, two-man teams.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:43 AM
Carlos Hathcock on Sniping Equipment

Carlos served in Viet Nam in 1966-1967, and again in 1969. On his first tour, he used primarily the Winchester Model 70 Target rifle in .30-06, with an 8X Unertl target scope having outside adjustments. Speaking of this combination, he noted, "I loved it. I thought it was great, at the time." Was the scope reliable in its adjustments and return to zero? "Yes, it worked well. I did take off the recoil springs, however. I preferred returning the scope to battery myself each time I shot, because then I knew it went back to the same place each time." [Readers may recall that Hathcock had extensive competitive experience with this rifle/scope combination prior to his arrival in Viet Nam.] Despite his prior exposure to handloaded target ammunition in .300 Win. Mag. for competition, Carlos commented that the accuracy of the rifle was good with issued Lake City Match ammo. and that he never used handloads to enhance accuracy. However, the Unertl target scopes did have a tendency to fog in wet weather, which hampered his effectiveness.

The later Remington M-700's in 7.62 NATO also worked well, but Carlos wasn't a fan of the issue Redfield 3-9X scopes, noting, "Heck, we had more scopes in the shop than in the field, at times. Guys were ranging back and forth with 'em, and the power adjustment would go out. I wound up telling my guys to just leave 'em on 9X.

They had a rangefinder, but it would only go up to 500 yards. I kept my scopes zeroed at 700 yards!" Would a more modern rifle have made much difference in Hathcock's effectiveness? "Yes! Definitely! We had wood stocks, which didn't do very well over there - the zero kept changing. A fiberglass stock would have kept our zeros the same."

Carlos mentioned that he had not used the M-21 (accurized M-14 sniper system) while overseas. How about suppressors? "No, our noise suppressor was distance. We just shot from so far away, they couldn't tell where we were." Did Hathcock ever use night vision? "No, I never did. Now, I did use an infra-red scope one night, and I was scanning with this scope, and there was an infra-red looking back at me! Click! I turned that sucker off quick! It was an attention-getter! We never really had much night vision capability with our rifles, any how.

Starlight wasn't too much good. You could kill the heck out of a tombstone, and all you gotta do is pay for it." He laughed as he explained, "McAbee did that - he saw this tombstone that looked just like one of the bad guys... he kept banging at it, but it never fell, and he had to pay for it. I didn't like them Starlights, anyway. Things were green in there, and I never could make anything out with 'em, to tell you the truth."

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:44 AM
What was Carlos' opinion of the standard M-14 rifle in combat? "It was very reliable... very, VERY reliable. When them M-16's first came in country, man, they were killin' a lot of people - the people shootin' 'em! When I went back the second time, I would NOT let my people carry the M-16 'cause I wanted all my people to come back. And, I never lost a person over there." He laughed goodnaturedly as he went on, "Never lost nobody but me, and that wasn't my fault!" What does Carlos think of the M-16 now, with all the improvements that have been made to it since Viet Nam? "Well, I've never had much experience with M-16's.

My son [SSG Carlos N. Hathcock III, USMC] seems to like it, 'cause that's what he's armed with. He shoots it in matches, and he seems to like it."

Carlos mentioned that he had kept his rifle zeroed at 700 yards while in Viet Nam. I was especially curious as to whether he might have worked out a trajectory table for his scope in clicks per 1 00 yards, in order to change his elevation zero as needed. "No, I mainly held off, and I taught my people in my platoon to hold off, too." How much wind did he encounter in Viet Nam? "it was considerable. I was shooting across a river, one time, and the wind just whistled down the river. I missed two bad guys in one day... I didn't hold enough, and hit in front of both of 'em. Then, other times, I held just right..."

How about in the early mornings and late evenings? "Oh, yeah, it was calmer then, except in the monsoon season, when it was windy all the time. It was rainy... Jeez, what a time that was." Could he operate effectively during the monsoon season? "No, that's when you turned into an observer, actually."

Moving to more modern equipment, Carlos mentioned that he had helped test several scopes as part of the development of the M-4OAl USMC sniper rifle following the VietNam War. The winner was a new design by Unerfl. This fixed 1 OX was so tough that the final test involved using the scope to pound a tent stake into frozen ground!! Carlos' eyes lit up as he recalled the testing... not only did the scope continue to function, it wasn't even dented!! And what of sniper rifles for the police counter-sniper? "In all the schools I've given across this country, I've seen a lot of hodgepodge mess, from people who didn't know what to use, so they used all kinds of stuff," he snorted.

"Light barrels... heck, after three shots, those bullets will go everywhere that you DO NOT want them to go! You will never, ever qualify on MY course with a light-barreled rifle. We recommend only the best equipment for the job. That's a Remington 700 heavy barrel, in caliber .308. We also recommend the Leupold fixed 1OX Ultra scope, and the Harris bipod - the swiveling type. Of course, they're the most expensive, but... they're good ones." Carlos still prefers fixedpower scopes over variables, due to their greater simplicity. I was curious about his preference for scope reticles. He holds that the current 3/4 mil dot reticle is now as advanced as is possible, with little room for improvement as a range-estimating aid.

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:45 AM
When we moved to the subject of ammunition, Hathcock had definite views here, as well. "We recommend Federal Match .308, with the 168 grain hollowpoint Sierra. We've tested all the brands the department can buy, and Federal Match is by FAR the best. It's the most accurate, and the quality control is magnificent. I've been up to the company to see how they make it - there are so many quality control checks on each and every round that goes through there... Whew!!" Carlos' minimum accuracy standard for sniper rifles intrigued me.

What does a master sniper consider the minimum necessary to get the job done? In his view, a military or police sniper rifle must be capable, at a minimum, of keeping 3-shot groups inside one minute of angle at 100 yards. On the subject of stocks, Carlos considers an adjustable cheekpiece and adjustable buttplate to be highly desirable options. Overall, however, his equipment preferences stress simplicity and reliability above all else. And, he should know. His preferences are based on extensive field experience, not theory. As he says, "I believe in the K.I.S.S. program: Keep It Simple, Stupid! I love that. I don't like nothin' complicated. I'm not a very learned man, but I know this job!"

Carlos Hathcock on Mental Discipline

Not surprisingly, Carlos places heavy emphasis on a shooter's being both physically fit and highly disciplined, mentally. His own high degree of mental discipline is evident in the feats described in Marine Sniper, and I talked with at length throughout the interviews to get a better understanding how this trait was cultivated. Carlos entered the service well prepared for a demanding career, as he had assumed responsibility for providing for his family at an early age. Marine Corps boot camp helped as well, and his training as a competitive shooter on the USMC rifle teams contributed greatly to both the technical knowledge and mental discipline needed to be an effective combat sniper. Hathcock's technical skills were well-honed by the time he went overseas;

he reports that he practiced very little on the range once in Viet Nam, as he was almost constantly in the field, and "there were lots of moving targets around" (Viet Cong and NVA).

We moved to the subject of adjusting to combat. Carlos mentioned that, as he engaged more and more enemy soldiers, he found the shooting easier and easier to do. He was highly motivated to push the fledgling sniper program by showing the line units and commanders what a sniper could achieve.

This motivation, together with the desire to carry out his mission of destroying and harassing the enemy, gradually accelerated into a driving passion which drew him irresistibly to the field. He would barely return from one mission before embarking upon another, and finally, his commanding officer had to place him under arrest, confining him to his base due to severe fatigue and increasing deterioration of his health. Carlos considers advanced marksmanship training, such as that practiced in training military shooting teams for competition, an invaluable aid in developing the mental discipline and concentration required of the military or police sniper.

What other qualities does Hathcock look for in a potential sniper candidate? Is there any one particular personality style that he prefers? "Well not really. We do

like country boys, but some people do not go hunting any more. There are fewer places to hunt, these days. A lot of those city folks are good, too - they have to be. To be on a SWAT team, you HAVE to have a proper mentality - and be disciplined, both mentally and physically."

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:45 AM
Willingness to challenge oneself and a positive attitude are also important. Carlos recalled, "My Daddy told me a long time ago, when I was a little feller, he said, 'Son, there is no such word as 'can't'. Some things are a little harder to accomplish than others, but the word 'can't' does not stay in my vocabulary. Don't let it stay in yours.' And, since then, I've used the same thing. There's no such word as 'can't' - and my guys quit using it too. They'd say, 'but, Gunny, I can't do that,' and I'd say 'WHAT?? What was that four-letter word?' If they used it again, they'd be doing push-ups all day. There is NOTHING you cannot do." How about practice? "You've always gotta be training, to keep your skills sharp. We recommend police snipers train once a week. You've got to be sharp to make that one shot. One shot, that's all you're there for. It only takes one shot to eliminate a situation, and you've got to be the best at it."

As our interview drew to a close, I asked Carlos, "If you could you could tell the competitive shooters anything that you think would be of value to them, what would it be?" His answer was succinct: "Stay off drugs and keep training. Practice, practice, practice. If you want to be any good at all, you've got to practice. I never did want to be no 'used-to-was'! You being a shooter yourself, you know that shooting is a deteriorating skill... if you don't stay in practice, you'll lose it!" And, would Carlos like to convey to military and police snipers today? "Maintain your discipline - physical and mental. That will carry you over; you've got to have discipline in everything you do out there. In the police aspect, especially, if you don't have discipline, you're in left field - you'll get sued. That's the big thing today, is to sue somebody. The shot that you make has to be the correct shot. That's where discipline comes in, and careful, extensive observation. You don't want to risk shooting the hostage, thinking he's the bad guy."

Some Thoughts on Carlos Hathcock Today

These days, Carlos Hathcock can no longer hunt or shoot. It is obviously a matter of sincere regret to him that he can no longer instruct police marksmen, due to his advancing illness. His enduring love of teaching is manifest. When talking about marksmanship principles or the need for discipline, the fire and drive that led him to his remarkable achievements appears, and the Hathcock of old emerges. It is typical of the man. Whatever he does, he does one hundred percent. Today, Carlos has few, if any, other interests, and his illness has stolen his chief pleasures in life. Despite his losses - or, perhaps in small part, because of them - the shooting fraternity continues to stand by him, as I saw during my visits.

Carlos and his wife, Jo, receive frequent calls from shooters, soldiers and veterans, wishing them well, and Carlos reports that this helps him. The Hathcocks have made many friends during their travels. Throughout their house, one notices plaques and awards which attest to the respect and appreciation Carlos has earned through his selfless contributions to law enforcement, the military, and the shooting community at large.

It is vital not to overlook the sacrifices Carlos Hathcock made in the service of his country. Of course, he faced danger, physical hardships and separation from his family as a professional soldier. These are the risks that soldiers take, and Carlos accepted them as part of his chosen career. As a shooter, however, he gave all. In 1965, he was nearing the peak of his shooting ability, having won the Wimbledon Cup and having only narrowly missed taking the National Service Rifle Championship. He did this as a relatively new competitor!

american sniper
07-21-2006, 07:46 AM
There can be little doubt that he had the skill, the drive, the determination and the potential to be a national champion many times over. Horribly burned during his second tour of duty in Viet Nam, Carlos' physical limitations would never permit him to achieve his full potential as a competitor, and he misses shooting to this very day.

Now, the camaraderie of the shooting fraternity constitutes one of his few remaining pleasures. Jo Hathcock, too, deserves special recognition for her steadfast nature. Life as the bride of Carlos Hathcock can not have been easy, at times. From her early days as a "shooting widow" when Carlos was competing on the Marine team, to the months of uncertainty about his safety when he served in Viet Nam, to helping him through the lengthy recovery from his burns and his later adjustment to multiple sclerosis, Jo Hathcock has always been there. Now, although experiencing significant health problems of her own, Jo graciously greets her husband's many admirers, and accepts without complaints the frequent interruptions to her otherwise quiet life. Carlos and Jo are a matched pair - they are dependable.

When I traveled to meet Carlos Hathcock, he was frozen in my mind's eye as an almost supernatural figure - a lean, fit young Marine, keen of eye, the epitome of stealth and cunning - as still and patient as Death itself. Like a wraith, he stalked the jungle, melting into it and making it his own, much like its native tiger. Certainly, Carlos has become an icon to many in the shooting world - a symbol of what one may achieve through skill, self-discipline and courage. And, it is safe to say that as long as the old-fashioned virtues of patriotism, self-sacrifice, skill at arms and bravery exist, Carlos Hathcock will be remembered. However, what I observed as I got to know him was courage of a different sort.

This was not so much the gallantry of a soldier on the battlefield, but the quiet resolution of a man fighting to gracefully manage an illness which he can't control, and which he knows must someday, inexorably, overwhelm him, despite his best efforts. This is the calm, steady courage born of strength of character which enables Carlos Hathcock to endure pain 24 hours a day without complaint, and to think of others and their welfare even when living a desperate, daily battle of his own. in the final analysis, both Carlos and Jo Hathcock impressed me as simple, honest, goodhearted folks. Life tries them daily, and they are not found wanting. Carlos is aware of his fame, but routinely dismisses his heroic actions a bit self-consciously, saying, "I was just doing my job." As he said when I left for home, "We're just people."

My time in Virginia Beach was especially meaningful to me. I had the opportunity to express my appreciation to Carlos Hathcock for all that he did for his country, which I has long wanted to do. But, there was an unexpected bonus, as well. When I walked up the driveway to that neat, little house in Virginia, I shook hands with a legend. Through Carlos' pleasant, open nature, when I left, I shook hands with a friend.

Author's note: The contents and accuracy of this article were approved by Carlos Hathcock.

by John Feamster PRECISION SHOOTING - MARCH, 1996