Accuracy vs Precision: How Do They Differ?

Police Special Operations Practicing Fire Pistol | Accuracy Vs Precision: How Do They Differ?

April 27, 2020 / Comments (0)

Shooting Skill Level

Most people talk about accuracy and precision as if they’re the same thing. But, this can be a bad mental habit to get into if you are trying to become a better sharpshooter and get a handle on your firearm’s performance.

Let’s break down this syntactic myth and explain what exactly accuracy vs precision are and how they’re different.

Accuracy vs Precision: Know the Difference

What Is Accuracy?

Accuracy is best understood as to how close you can get your shot or results for whatever task to a standard or known value.

For instance, throwing a dart close to the center of the dartboard is an exercise in accuracy. You want the dart to hit the red spot for maximum points and bragging rights.

Thus, you need to be accurate because you know where you want your projectile to hit, and so does everyone else.


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You can use this definition of accuracy in other scenarios as well. For instance, a weight measurement may or may not be accurate depending on if the scale is in order.

A scale that says someone is 100 pounds when they are actually 80 pounds is not accurate at all because its results are not close to the truth.

What Is Precision?

Precision is an independent variable from accuracy entirely even though the two terms are often used relatively interchangeably.

Precision describes how close to or more measurements or impact points are from one another.

In shooting scenarios, precision would refer to how close various bullet holes were to one another, as they can determine how close your shots are after taking multiple in a row.

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But as you can imagine, this has nothing to do with whether you are actually close to your target.

Let’s say that you shot three times and all three bullets hit in the upper right shoulder of your dummy. All these shots were precise, but they were not accurate if you were aiming for the head or for the center of mass.

A basketball player can also attain precision but not accuracy by shooting repeatedly for the but hitting the back of the board in the same spot every time.

How Do They Affect Shooting?

Both precision and accuracy are important, and they can both affect your shooting performance.

Accuracy is improved as you get better at calibrating and aiming your firearm to hit the target that you intend in the first place. If you aren’t accurate, you won’t hit where you need to.

Precision is more of an exercise in consistency. If you aren’t very precise, your bullets are probably going to hit everywhere around your target or dummy and be generally ineffective.

Is One Better Than the Other?

different shots explained | Accuracy Vs Precision: How Do They Differ

This is a tough one, but accuracy is likely a little more important for self-defense situations than precision.

This is because it’s easier to train general accuracy for the center of mass in case you need to stop an attacker than it is to master precision for killing shots.

But in others, you’ll need to train both attributes to be an effective shooter.

Take hunting, for example. You need to be both accurate and precise because you need to shoot the animal in question in the right spot, which takes consistent practice and accuracy in conjunction with one another.

Thus, it’s not a good thing to compare both values or say one is better than the other.

Yet, it’s important to understand the difference so you can work on whichever needs work. You might be naturally more precise and accurate or vice versa.

In the end, accuracy and precision both have a place on the shooting range and in any endeavor where skill matters. Master both, and you’ll become a far better shooter than if you focused on one aspect alone.

When it comes to accuracy vs precision, which one do you think you need to work on more? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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