The following is an excerpt of an interview Brandon Webb gave to Men’s Journal.

The tempting question is, of course, the one that can’t easily be asked: How many? On the subject of his time stalking insurgents in Afghanistan, sniper and former member of SEAL Team Three Brandon Webb says, rather succinctly: “We dropped hate on them.” From the mouth of another man, such a declaration might suggest pride, but you can’t hear any in Webb’s voice. Later he’ll say, offhandedly, that he can always tell a man who’s been there by his eyes, and indeed there is something undisclosed in his: a kind of discretionary distance between a personal history likely unfathomable to civilians and his amiable demeanor. These days Webb writes regularly for the vital military news site SOFREP, which he co-founded in 2012, and flies retired Russian warbirds in his free time. He is the author of the memoirs The Red Circle and Among Heroes, forthcoming in May. We recently spoke with Webb about working with Chris Kyle and Marcus Luttrell, and what it takes to become one of the world’s elite snipers.

How Did You Get Into Sniper Training?

I was in my first platoon at Seal Team Three in 1999 with Glen Doherty, who was later killed [in the Benghazi attack] in Libya. The platoon was short two snipers and they called Glen and me into the office one day and said, “Hey, you’re the two best shots in the platoon, and we need two snipers. You, two idiots, are our best shots at getting through the course.” Because back then it was a 30 percent washout rate. Now it’s around three percent. The teaching style was not done very well back then. It was sink or swim. Either you just got it, and you got lucky that you had a good set of weapons and your scopes were working — because back then if you didn’t have good equipment, they didn’t give a shit — or it was like, “Hey, sorry, man. Pack your shit and get out of here.”

Why Were You the Best Shot? What Was Your Experience?

I never shot much when I was a kid, but on the spotting scope, understanding the ballistics and the calculations, I’m a ten. And on the stalk field, I was top in my class. I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I grew up spearfishing in the kelp beds on the coast of California. I didn’t grow up hunting whitetail, but I would stalk tuna and white sea bass and yellowtail. I’d position the sun behind my back. You know the way you approach, you dive down, and you’ve got to be very quiet, approaching the schools with a reef feature between you. Swim-up, slide-out, take a shot. All these Texas guys are saying, “That’s fucked up, this California boy.” They were pissed. But it was because I had all that practice stalking and hunting as a kid.