Shooting Accuracy: We’re Only Human

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I know it’s just a movie, but if you ever watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, you’ll notice that his shooting abilities are pretty much dead-on. Every time, all the time — even when the odds are stacked against him and the circumstances seem nearly impossible — he hits his target. For instance, in one memorable scene, the iconic character is spin-cocking a lever-action shotgun while riding a Harley. And he still manages to shoot a small chain, breaking it apart and thereby unlocking a fence so he can race through it and pursue the bad guy! (Do NOT try that at home!)

The Artificial Weapons Advantage

Of course, Arnold is playing a futuristic Cyberdyne Systems Series T-800 Model 101 cyborg assassin that incorporates living tissue over a robotic metal endoskeleton. And because he is a super-machine merely designed to look human, the Terminator doesn’t actually have to fight against all the humanness that seems to get in the way of good shooting. It’s no wonder the military has been researching and developing artificial intelligence technology and even lethal autonomous weapons systems. Whether a brilliant idea or a disaster waiting to happen, these sophisticated, computerized devices, as defined by the U.S. Department of Defense, can “select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.”

The Human Hindrance on Shooting Accuracy

Maybe that should read “without further intervention or interference by a human operator.” Think of it this way: If just about any firearm were set up facing a target with the sights aligned perfectly, and the trigger was mechanically operated so it was pressed rearward without adding any additional movement to the gun, the shots would be precise and exact every time. Of course, it would have to incorporate some form of recoil management, since the weapon will still go through its normal firing process. Even if locked down pretty well, it will move when the bullets leave the barrel. But if you were able to take out all of the human factors, you would probably take out a lot of the reasons why misses happen as well.

Like it or not, there are myriad physical and mental factors — things like breathing, blinking, flinching, anticipating the shot and even second-guessing or doubting our abilities — that interfere with gun-handling. So, in many ways, to be able to shoot accurately with consistency, we’re fighting the body’s natural reactions and responses. And sometimes (often) because of these things, we miss.

The Reasonable Resolution for Better Shooting

Of course, while we hope that we never have to worry about killer robots, perhaps we can at least learn a little something from AI. For example, we can focus on employing good fundamentals, such as proper sight alignment and breath control. We can do our best to manage and work through the natural reactions that may interfere with shooting. We can realize that the gun doesn’t have to be completely still to get accurate shots. And we can build more confidence in ourselves so we don’t have to fight the “internal noise” that may distract us from putting our training and skills to work.