He was the most hunted man on the planet, yet he lived in relative comfort and security for almost a decade. Born into a life of privilege and opulence, his dark teachings and diatribe of hate led thousands to their deaths. His followers served at his whim and willingly perished in his name. His home was spacious; but his lifestyle of necessity, confining. Surrounded by his wives and children, he thrived in anonymity less than a mile from the Pakistani Military Academy. On the evening of May 1, 2011, he shared a bed with two of his favorites and slept well.

The power was intermittent already, so when the CIA cut it, it raised no alarms. The sounds of rotor blades were also not an altogether unfamiliar occurrence so near a military training facility. It was the crash of the helicopter nearby, soon followed by the thump of breaching charges that proved this was real. Despite all the time to scheme and despite all of the elaborate preparations and contingencies, he still had no effective plan for this moment.

He heard gunfire a floor below him and groped in the darkness, navigating his bedroom by rote memory. His AKSU carbine, a fixture in his propaganda videos, was in the room but forgotten, as was his Makarov pistol. In his final moments, his thoughts were not of glorious martyrdom but of escape. In response to an unfamiliar voice calling his name, he peeked out of his bedroom. In the dark hallway, the last thing Osama bin Laden saw in this life was the receiving end of an EOTech holographic sight mounted atop a German HK416 carbine. Osama bin Laden spoke often of paradise—the U.S. Navy SEALs Six Team had finally arranged to send him there.

I am a connoisseur of cheap glass. For years I mounted widgets on my rifles that were snazzy-looking but insufficient for the rigors of the real world. Some died of natural causes, others broke when I rolled over on them in the dirt, and one conventional scope even had the crosshairs rotate freely in the tube—I never did quite get my mind around the physics of that failure. As some wise Roman merchant of antiquity once opined, caveat emptor. The temptation to get something for nothing, or at least for very little — is timeless and pervasive…

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He was the most hunted man on the planet, yet he lived in relative…