Why is accuracy so important?

Not 5 minutes after I posted the Down Zero Challenge, I got an email from someone telling me that I had it all backwards and that speed > accuracy.  Every now and this will crop up, and I don’t want anyone to think for even a second that I don’t think speed is very important; in fact I think that a balance of speed and accuracy is what’s needed to be successful in action pistol shooting.

But you cannot have speed without accuracy.  There is no point in being able to rip your gun out of the holster and fire a shot in 0.8 seconds if you can’t get that shot to hit an 8 inch plate.  If you take two shooters of equal speed and put them head to head, the most accurate shooter is going to win.  And yes, the inverse is also true – if you take two shooters of equal accuracy the faster shooter will generally win, but then both those shooters have already reached the same standard of accuracy.

That’s why I wanted to try the Down Zero Challenge.  I’m personally curious to see how fast I can shoot a match and still get all my hits in the -0 of every single target.  I think it’s a worthwhile goal to push my accuracy, and at the same time continue to develop the critical speed needed to win matches.


  1. How does the old saying go… “You can’t miss fast enough to win.”

    1. Joe Allen: “You can’t miss fast enough to win.”

      Correct. But you can hit slow enough to lose…

  2. Caleb,

    I understand what you are saying.
    I agree with what you are saying. Within limits.
    I couldn’t help but think about one of those “half” hard cover targets that are so popular in IDPA.
    If you hesitate just a second to ensure the -0 hit you would have been better off (scoring wise) taking the -1.
    At least that’s my perspective, but then I’m far from being a Master.


    1. You’re actually correct – if you can shoot a -1 in .25 seconds but it would take .75 to shoot -0, then you would be better off to shoot that -1. The point here isn’t to “win” the match outright, but rather to be the most accurate shooter there. I’ll have plenty of chances to win matches later!

  3. Accuracy is more important than speed, except when it’s not. Both are always important. Trying to describe one as universally superior is overly simplistic.

    1. Hence the balance of speed and accuracy – if someone tries the down zero challenge and shoots really, really accurately but finishes dead last in their class and division, they’ve failed the challenge. The point isn’t to just shoot down zero; but rather to see how fast you can shoot clean, and then to push your speed from there while still maintaining your accuracy.

      1. As a fairly new USPSA shooter, I can see the underlying concepts here. Almost any new shooter will look at a stage as an opportunity to go fast because it’s a timed event, when in reality, going a tad slower but making your shot is the way to go.

        Going fast is something we do innately. We have to train ourselves to shoot accurately.

  4. If we are talking about real combat and not games then I give the edge to the one that is fastest and accurate enough to hit the other person. Really I think in either there is a balance. Accuracy is the easiest of the two to learn. Some won’t be fast enough no matter what they do it seems.

  5. I was once told by a USPSA shooter that you can miss fast enough to win on certain stages. I don’t shoot comp to win, I shoot to keep my skills sharp. So I guess I can’t personally miss fast enough to win.

  6. Austin PD SWAT team leader Paul Ford, survivor of 3 gunfights, once told me “In a fight, expect that you will have 75% of the skill you have on your worst day of training”. His approach was to train his team using a “zero down” approach, with par times they had to meet.

    I have seen Steel Challenge World Championships lost by 0.09 seconds – by a shooter who fired 4 extra shots during the match. Eliminate any one of those make up shots and that shooter would have won.

    If you look at data from real fights or watch videos of police shootings, you don’t see people shooting too slowly. You see them missing.

    Many shooters lack the skills to shoot any course of fire clean, regardless of time, and don’t even know this because their training focus is always on speed. At the highest levels of competition the shooters are often very closely matched in their speed, and it’s points that makes the difference.

  7. “In a fight, expect that you will have 75% of the skill you have on your worst day of training”

    I suspect even that is generous for the average shooter. (not cop, not competitor) More like < 50% if that. Col. Dave Grossman goes into a lot of details about heart rate and the decline of gross motor skills under stress. Once the heart rate goes above a point, people simple stop fighting and freeze so it's important to practice under stress. Sort of inoculates you to the stress, so heart rate doesn't get out of control. It's why he argues for some sort of airsoft or paintball training to be added in. Obviously we can't train totally realistically but the possibility of pain and time constraints adds an element that no amount of target shooting can provide.

    "On Combat" is a pretty good read, and if you get a chance, attending one of his talks is very worthwhile.

  8. Everybody has their ideas, books, and opinions, whatever. That is all good. It’s all credible. It’s also possible in my opinion that when somebody says you can only be 50% as good as your best training day that they are selling you more training. Some may believe what they are saying is true as well.

    I think is that everybody is different. Some do better under pressure because they don’t feel the deep down need to do that good up until that point. Some may have extraordinarily excellent skills and completely freeze up and it is all worthless. Those are the extremes to a point. I’ve seen it. I know it is true.

    If you are say a very good pool player and are playing somebody that can’t run but a few balls, the best way to encourage more play from people is to make them think they have a chance to win. When it comes down and you have the hardest shot of your life to win the game, you do it. You live for that after all. If you scuff the cue ball and it wasn’t on purpose then you probably are not as good as you think.

    If you are playing for your best golf score ever and you end up in the bushes having to hood an 8 iron so much to fly the ball under the branches 15 feet in front of you but spin enough to stop on the green 100 yards away that would be some shot! If you duff it, not so good. If you drop the putt for a bird, you did what was right. These are pressure shots. Shots you don’t get on the range. Shots you cannot mimic in practice.

    A real gunfight is not really much like IPSC, IDPA, training, or shooting at the range. The pressure in those situations may at most wake you in the manner of say driving your car and maybe somebody honks at you when you cross the line next to them. The gunfight is much more comparable to driving and wrecking the car at 100 mph. Rolling the sucker after fighting it to stay in control kind of wreck! Time will slow down and you will be there in every detail for one. If you freeze up, then that is not good, you should be fighting all the way through it to save your ass.

    Another may be somebody that trains in martial arts and then comparing that to being jumped in an alley by some thugs that say they are going to rape and kill your ass. When life and death are on the table, it’s a whole different atmosphere. In a real gunfight you have nowhere to go. This is why people crap their pants and freeze up. This is why people go into shock. Most people can’t take it.

    Paintball when you are really into it, good at it and against good opponents is closer to a real gunfight than competitive type shooting as well. Being the best shot means nothing anymore. Being the fastest means nothing. What means something is are you in control of the fight, are you owning your opponent, are you better than you can be any other time. Are you in the “moment”. Are you truly better than the other guy? You will have to be to beat somebody good. Somebody good at paintball can walk around on “God Mode” taking out pretty much everybody but the best. Most people panic and panic bad even in paintball. It doesn’t matter their skills off the field. When two of the best (the best are few and far between even at the pro level) go head to head they can’t give each other anything. Nothing. Two individuals say at the World Championship level going against each other could be in a fight that never goes anywhere because if the other gives so much as an ear they are going down. The timing and fights for control are critical. This is where crossfires, flanking and such from others within the team win the match. Those critical use of aggression and timing in those type of fights are somewhat similar to a real gunfight. It still doesn’t mean that they are any better than an old lady that has never fired a gun in her life though. They still might end up in a ball sucking thumb while that granny does what she needs to stay alive.

    Ok lol one more! 😉 How about the guy that runs the fastest in the combine, benches more reps, but gets in the NFL and gets his ass kicked. Then some guy that is not “fast”, has “no skills”, doesn’t get drafted until late or never but ends up a superstar. It does happen.

    This is nothing against training, practicing, games, accuracy, speed, whatever. We should all try to be the best we can and do what we think makes us that. I’m just saying that the mind is probably the most important part of the puzzle. Especially when it comes down to life and death or what we feel is “life and death”.

    1. lol just saw my second paragraph starts out funky. “I think is that everybody is different”. It was supposed to be either “What I think” or drop the “is” works too.

      Hopefully I didn’t do more of that and it’s readable 😉

  9. Good luck with the Challenge.

    I took the opposite tack – couple of years ago, I did the math on my IDPA classifer, and noticed that had I shot 0 down on every stage, I would have only moved up into the next division by a measly 2 seconds.

    Obviously, Accuracy wasn’t my problem (though I had a couple missed headshots), but a combination of the two. So I instead decided to shoot much faster, and see what happened. Over the next year, many many people commented that I should slow down, go for accuracy, despite my explanation of why I was going for speed over all else.

    At the next classifier, I moved up in CDP (which I was just shooting, just cause and actually wasn’t “trying” hard with it), and would have in ESP had a buddy not come up and told me I’d moved up, right before my last stage in ESP and totally blew my mindset – missed by 1.5 seconds.

    It’ll be interesting to see how your challenge goes, since you’re faster than most of us.

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