Book Review: On Combat

A review of  the book “On Combat” On by Lt Col Dave Grossman.

I have been looking for new Podcasts to follow and a few weeks ago stumbled across the “Modern Combat & Survival” podcast. I listened to their episode #112: Sheepdog Tactics with Dave Grossman, and realized that now would be a good time to do a review of his book that is famous in the tactical community “On Combat”.

On of the phrases I heard in the podcast lit a fire in my memory banks and I remembered hearing him speak, personally, for a lecture I attended while I was in Close Quarters Combat school in Camp Lejeune. The quote was something like

“We spend billions of dollars on fire preparedness in schools, with fire safety equipment around every turn, but how much money and training time is spent on violent encounter protection in schools? …violence being statistically far more likely to affect you.” [a combination of what I heard in the podcast, and what I remember him saying in the lecture I attended, not a direct quote]

I was preparing to enlist in the military in the 2000’s and was reading everything I could get my hands on when I stumbled across his first book “On Killing”, from my experience one of his lesser known books, at least less talked about. I soon after picked up “On Combat”. The first was kind of wordy but On Combat was like an easy to read reference book on a few different topics but not dry-content. I LOVED his use of several real world stories to help explain all the subjects he talks about. That made the science part of the study have some very strong sticking ability, the real world reinforcers.

From my very first overseas deployment through today, which is literally the last day of my last military deployment ever (fuck yeah!), I have never gone on a deployment without a copy of “On Combat” with me. I have used it several times teaching directly from the text for other operators to be exposed to some of the things that Grossman talks about in his book.

My Favorites:

Most people that have heard of him almost instantly go to his “White, Yellow, Red, Gray, Black” color code for physiological responses to stress in the body (famous chart listed above). I actually prefer some of the following, the ones that stick out in my head:

  • SLEEP: On combat references a few sleep studies but in classic Grossman form he makes a comparison that is difficult to get out of your head once you hear it, like the fire code quote above. “Today, the medical community must adhere to strict regulations that require them to get enough sleep so that they can perform their life-and-death duties. Police officers, peacekeepers and combat soldiers, however, have no such requirements. Today’s under-staffed and overworked warriors carry guns, drive vehicles and make life and death decisions, all the while suffering from sleep deprivation.” -On Combat. (Excerpt below)
  • PERCEPTUAL DISTORTIONS: in high stress situations the mind plays all sorts of tricks, including adding memories that didn’t actually happen, removing memories that did happen, seeing very acute details, getting tunnel vision, and time speeding up and slowing down. It is a BLESSING to know of these things beforehand so that after a traumatic and stressful event you can remind yourself that “This is normal”. (Excerpt Below)
  • MASTURBATION: “It is easy to design a force-on-force paint bullet scenario that makes every trainee look like an idiot, but all that proves is that the trainers are jerks.” On Combat. Continues to say that it is called that because its only purpose is to act as a form of self-gratification for the trainer. Something I have experienced more than once as a student, and fucking hated. I probably have done it as an instructor before too in my early days, but after having seen the light so to speak and after learning to act like an adult I can say that the temptation is completely gone, although for some trainers the temptation is very real, every day. I also like the training mantra that Grossman speaks of where you do not send someone off the training site as a loser. You teach, you train, and if someone fails you set them up to try again and to understand a new concept even if you have to set up a perfect pitch for them to hit out of the park. There is no good in sending a gunfighter out on the streets thinking that he is incapable. (Excerpt Below) 


Here at Uncensored if you scan back through a few of our book reviews you will see that we do NOT provide puff pieces for the authors we review. I purchase every book myself and I give HONEST fucking reviews and honest recommendations. There are a few books that I have completely trashed (rightfully so) and a few that I’m s0-s0 on. This book, 100% hands down, has been a very large part of my life and my influence and has so much rich information that I think it can offer the same value to anybody interested in combat or real shootings or violent encounters.

Lectures: If you are interested in seeing Lt Col Grossman speak at one of his lectures you can to his website here at Killology Research Group. There is a list of the types of events he hosts and his calendar of events as well as other resources.

His book, (his books) and his lecture circuit is absolutely 100% recommended.

Keep learning, keep training, keep thinking.