Seth’s Blog: Marksmanship

Seth asks an interesting question here: “How does a cop have the guts to even pull a weapon knowing that most of the time, it’s not going to have its desired effect ” but the logic of his question is flawed because missing the target on 34% of your shots is NOT the same as missing your target 34% of the time you draw your weapon.

There is more than one bullet in the weapon, and as more rounds are fired the odds of hitting the target improve dramatically. That is exactly why I have a 15 round clip in my S&W. I know my first round will probably miss the intended target – but with 15 rounds that I can fire in less then ten seconds my likelihood of hitting the target approaches 100% (actually, on a range without anyone shooting back I have never missed 15 times out of 15 shots – so basically I have a 100% success rate in hitting the target every time I draw my weapon).

180px-Barney-Fife Sure, if you give me only one bullet (like Fife from the old TV show, then my results probably won’t be very impressive.

Moral of the story – don’t take one shot and quit. If you want to succeed you need to keep on firing. And if the target is moving, you must adjust to it.

That’s true in gunfights, and in business.

In a new study released in today’s Times, it turns out that the typical NY police officer only hits 34% of the time she fires a gun. Even from a distance of six feet or less, it’s 43%. Obviously, Bruce Willis is the exception. I wonder how it changes your decision making when you discover that you’re only going to be successful one out of three times. Never mind blasting a weapon out of an assailant’s hand, we’re talking about hitting the target at all… How does a cop have the guts to even pull a weapon knowing that most of the time, it’s not going to have its desired effect (my guess is that the threat and the noise and chaos is as positive an outcome as an actual hit…). I know I would never have the guts to do that job.

Seth’s Blog: Marksmanship


  1. Chris is about 4 blocks from me – just on the other side of NW Military.

  2. Chris lives next to you? How close?

  3. @Paul – I was taught to fire three round bursts.  In any case, the new law of the land here no longer requires that I can prove I was in fear for my life before I fire.  You are in my house, you shouldn’t be, I can kill you.  See this post.

    And no – I would never consider popping off 15 rounds… but I wouldn’t consider popping off less than three rounds either.

    My friend and neighbor, Chris Bird, is about to release a new edition of his book – The Concealed Handgun Manual: How to Choose, Carry, and Shoot a Gun in Self Defense.  I’ll get the new edition as soon as I can – I know Chris will explain the new laws in a way I can understand.

  4. My brother-in-law (a police officer then) once told me that they were taught and trained to NEVER EVER fire just one round, but always in bursts of two shots.

    As for emptying your 15 rounds clip on, say, an intruder in your house: that may turn out problematic!
    You live in a state where not that many questions are asked when you shoot and kill a burglar.
    But there are exceptions! If he has a single shot right between the eyes and gunpowder residu indicates you had the barrel against his head, or he has a bullet wound in the back of his head, with his hands tied together … you’re in trouble. Likewise, if they find the burglar with 15 rounds in his chest, that could easily be interpreted as an ‘execution’, which will NOT be tolerated.
    In practice, unless you’re a trained marksman, the odds that ANY round after the 2nd or 3rd one is getting even CLOSE to your original aim, are negligible. You’re much more likely to kill your TV and piano (or dog) with it then take down the perpetrator.