Training with Ex-Delta Force Legend Pat McNamara

As this article is being written, the nation is both in celebration and mourning in honor of Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to those who served and paid the ultimate price.
American Shooting Journal proudly supports the military and the men and women who serve this great country, as well as those who have served in the past and are now passing on their knowledge, training and experience.
In the shooting world, there are many professionals to train with and learn from, but one cadre of folks is at the very highest pinnacle of the training world. These warriors come from the greatest combat university in the world, better known as the Combat Applications Group, formerly known as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, or Delta Force!

Delta Force operators are considered the best combat marksmen in the world. In head-to-head shooting competitions, Delta has out-shot every counter-terrorism force worldwide. Surgical shooting is their stock in trade, and Delta Force Operators train long, hard hours, shooting in every conceivable position.

Here is a brief overview of what a Delta Force Operator goes through. After a stringent physical fitness test and grueling land navigation course that weeds out a large percentage of the class (and the selection is all people at the top of their professions), the Operator candidate then goes to Operator Training Course (OTC). There, the Operator is retrained in a variety of weapons for weeks, eight to 10 hours a day, systematically teaching the Operator target identification techniques for target acquisition cycle.

Operators shoot thousands of rounds a day in a variety of drills, from transition drills to malfunction drills to reload drills ad nauseum. They are then introduced to a “shooting house,” where range work and teamwork comes together. Operators spend eight hours a day here, sitting as hostages while their fellow mates blow doors and make entries, shooting precision groups on targets that are mere inches from their teammates. This is the raison d’être of why Delta Force members are so great at what they do.

WHAT MAKES A Delta Force Operator larger than life? They are predominately conservative, religious men that put God, country and family first. This is the same measure of a man that describes Pat McNamara, a leader in every aspect of life. A 22-year veteran of the Army, McNamara spent each one of those years in Special Operations, the last 13 years of which were with Delta Force. He retired as a Troop Squadron Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank a non-commissioned officer can attain.

Recently I had the honor and privilege of attending one of McNamara’s intense two-day T.A.P.S. classes held at Nail Ranch in Palm Beach, Florida.
As expected from a professional of McNamara’s caliber, his class included the following:

  • Lecture on proper weapons handling and safety;
  • Refresher on marksmanship fundamentals and shot placement grouping exercises;
  • Conduct a diagnostic course of fire;
  • Grouping exercises with both pistol and rifle;
  • Target discrimination;
  • Proper use of barricades;
  • Close-quarters battle techniques and Movement;
  • Immediate action drills

McNamara started out by making some pretty sound impressions to the class, one of which was, “There are a lot of gun owners out there, but just because you have a gun does not mean you’re not armed.” He further pointed out to the largely civilian class that “civilians have an equal duty (as law enforcement) to protect and serve as well… to protect ourselves and our loved ones and serve our communities as responsible, trained gun handlers.”

“We have to be our own first responders. We cannot rely on law enforcement, fire, EMS, to be there at a moment’s notice,” McNamara said. “We need to be trained, and we need to be able to take care of our families, our loved ones and ourselves… in first aid, in basic survival and in protecting ourselves. Now, that can be via conflict resolution, going fisticuffs or by being lethal!”

McNamara believes in performance-based training versus outcome-based training. The difference, he said, is that outcome-based training is “how many, how much and how fast.” It can be simply defined as execution with consideration of the consequence of “will I succeed, or will I fail?”
“But performance-based training asks, ‘how well?’” explained McNamara. “Where is my home and how can I make incremental improvements to the structure of my home?”

SINCE A LARGE focus of the class was on the rifle, I paid particular attention to what McNamara recommended as far as a good rifle system. While he hesitated to recommend one rifle manufacturer over another, it is very clear he likes Bravo Company Manufacturing (as do other former Delta Operators Larry Vickers and Tom Spooner, which says volumes about that rifle company). McNamara recommended the AR platform barrel to be in either 14.5 or 16 inches, because he likes distance in shooting.

As far as triggers, McNamara likes a good two-stage trigger (Geissele SSA trigger is what he runs). For optics, the hands-down favorite amongst the Ex-Delta alumni is Aimpoint in the T-2 series, but the Aimpoint Comp M5 is also getting great reviews from all the ex-Delta alums. On a tactical light system, McNamara prefers his at the 3 o’clock position using a sure-fire scout light, once again very popular with the graduates of Delta University.

Other items that are absolutely necessary according to McNamara are a good set of back-up iron sights like Scalarworks Peak sights. Another essential piece of equipment is a good two-point sling because it stabilizes the shooting platform and keeps the rifle close to the body or back. McNamara has his own version of a two-point sling for sale, but another option is the Blue Force gear sling adopted by the United States Marine Corps and designed by fellow Delta Operator Larry Vickers.

As far as pistols go, McNamara said that “a pistol should be ergonomically correct for your size and weight and should feel like an extension of your body. It should also be comfortable to conceal.” The class he was teaching had a variety of different handguns made up mostly of Glocks, Sigs and 1911s.

ANOTHER MAJOR EMPHASIS of the class was on marksmanship fundamentals. McNamara stated that the two most important fundamentals are sight alignment and trigger control.

He covered in thorough detail the proper stance, grip, presentation, trigger control and follow-through. McNamara stated that there can never be enough of the basics, and to this day, he continues to learn new things each time he practices.

“Everything starts with a single shot,” he said. “Marksmanship should be practiced one round at a time. BRM forces us to concentrate on the fundamentals. These fundamentals should be engraved into our hard drives and we must be able to perform these specific skills intuitively. There are facets that must be felt and performed at a subconscious level – loading, pre-combat check, safety manipulation, building a position, achieving a natural point of aim, sight alignment, trigger control, feeling the metal-on-metal imperfections in the trigger group, calling your shot, seeing how far the sights rises, seeing where the sight settles, follow-through, realigning the sights, and resetting the trigger. Marksmanship should be practiced in near slow motion.”

One cannot move on to tactical shooting until marksmanship fundamentals are sound, because tactical shooting is about target discrimination and proper bullet placement.

McNamara put his class through a variety of demanding shooting drills with a tempo hard to describe, other than that is his norm and his bailiwick in which he does his business.

AS ONE WOULD imagine, the class was filled with well-trained men coming from a variety of skilled shooting backgrounds, including an officer from the Army’s Special Forces, law enforcement officers and competitive shooters. There was one exception, however.

A seasoned shooter, the owner of her own ranch and a mother to three grown women, Deb Sullivan was holding her own in that class and was at the very top of the shooting against her male classmate peers.

I asked her why she decided to come to the Pat McNamara class and her thoughts about it.

Sullivan stated that she lives alone on her ranch and she alone takes care of all her animals. She knows she must protect and defend not only herself, but her property as well and everything on it. She admitted it was difficult to keep up with the men in the class, but it did not impede her in any way, as she made up her mind that she was going to get through the task that was demanded of her.

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When asked her impressions of McNamara’s class, she had this to say: “My father always said buy the best and learn from the very best. There are no people on earth better with guns than Delta Force Members. I appreciated Pat explaining things I did not understand and he took the time and had the patience with me to make the things right that I needed to get right. The fact that Pat treated me no different than the men, I respected that immensely.”

Pat McNamara is truly exceptional in all he does and teaches; he is the living embodiment of pushing yourself to being the very best that one can be. His thoughts on self-preservation are truly top-notch, which he has turned into an outstanding book titled Sentinel: Become the Agent in Charge of Your Own Protection Detail. It is a must-read.

Pat McNamara’s training cannot be recommended enough! For more information, go to

Story and photos by Paul Pawela