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Improbable Aiming Skills / Real Life

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Improbable Aiming Skills in real life.


  • A number of competitive and professional shooters, over a number of decades, have performed incredible feats of gunplay. These include:
    • going from a standing rest position to drawing and firing a killing headshot in 0.26 timed seconds — and being even faster than that, being able to throw a handful of eight clay pigeons behind them and promptly shoot all of them in the air with a shotgun,
    • setting up two targets and using a sword in between and in front of them to cut the bullet and strike both targets accurately,
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    • being able to fire sixty rounds from ten revolvers and put every shot into a four-inch circle in 17 seconds, picking up and putting down each revolver in succession,
    • firing eight rounds from a revolver in 1.00 timed seconds (480rpm, matching a machinegun's rate of fire!) with all rounds hitting the target,
    • and many, many more.
  • It should also be pointed out that these shooters practice daily, going through tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition per year, and are the absolute top masters of their respective field at an Olympic level of skill. Look up folks like Bob Munden (who was probably the best in this category), Ed Cantrell, Elmer Keith, Jerry Miculek, or Rob Leatham for starts... or, for that matter, Annie Oakley.
    • The Discovery Channel series Time Warp aired an episode titled "Sharpshooter", which featured (among others) super-slow motion photography of a professional rifle shot shooting at and hitting an ordinary playing card edge on!
  • The true “fastest gun in the west” may have been U.S. Marshal Frank Eaton, aka “Pistol Pete”. He was believed to have a faster draw than Buffalo Bill and could toss a coin in the air, draw his .45 Colt, and shoot it before it hit the ground. The phrase “hotter than Pete’s pistol” was a common saying in the mid-western United States around the turn of the century, and by the time he retired, he had eleven notches on his gun.
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  • Ed McGivern was the living embodiment of this trope. In addition to five shots at five yards into a silver dollar in 45/100ths of a second (with a stock DA revolver), he could shoot six hand-thrown clays, centerpunch washers, fire revolvers akimbo at separate targets with equal effectiveness, and score hits at 600 yards (again, with a stock revolver). In one chapter of his book, he says (paraphrased), "anyone can do this. I pulled it off by standing in a field in Montana and burning up 30,000 rounds to master this one trick (shooting aerial targets)."
  • Getting away from handguns and shotguns, the most notable sniper shots: the current record is 3,450 metres by an unnamed Joint Task Force 2 (Canadian special forces) sniper in Syria.
    • Simo Häyhä. He is a special example because he did all of his work without a scope. Yeah. The greatest sniper in history killed 546 Soviet soldiers using only iron sights. He may not have matched other snipers in sheer range, but you have got to respect a sniper so skilled he hunted with only a pair of very fine-tuned bits of metal telling him where his shots were going to go. The Russians were flat fucking terrified of him by the end of the Winter War; they called him the White Death for a reason.
      • He was eventually presented with a higher-quality rifle but removed the scope because 1. the shine off the lens could give away his position to enemy snipers and 2. he didn't need it, as noted above.
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    • Rifleman Thomas Plunket. In 1809, using a black powder rifle over an open sight, he shot a French general dead at a range of 500 meters. Then he shot the first man to come to the general's aid, just to prove it wasn't a lucky shot.
    • Billy Dixon. He and a group of Bison hunters were defending the settlement of Adobe Walls from Comanches. Dixon, armed with a Sharps rifle, knocked a Comanche off his horse at a surveyed range of 1,538 yards without a scope.
      • Even as Billy Dixon was (most possibly) one of the best long-range riflemen in the entire world, he did not give much credit to his shot and did not attempt to duplicate it.
    • Military snipers in general. US Army snipers average one confirmed kill for every 1.78 bullets fired. Add in the probable kills, and the accuracy goes up to one kill for every 1.32 bullets fired.
    • Craig Harrison not only hit a target over 8,000 feet away with a rifle designed to have an effective distance of 5,000 feet but decided that wasn't badass enough and did it twice.
      • Not reported in that link is that with his third shot, Corporal Harrison disabled the machine gun his targets were using. As they say in America, three up, three down.
    • An unknown Australian commando (there were two people shooting simultaneously at a single target and it isn't very clear who out of the two made the shot) hit an enemy commander from a GPS-confirmed distance of 2815 meters/3079 yards, which is more than 9000 feet away.
    • It should be noted that modern military snipers use computers to calculate bullet drop and wind effects and secondary spotters to feed them distance and wind information before taking their shots; making the shooter mostly a steady hand on the trigger. Vietnam era and earlier snipers often forewent spotters—as noted, 1 man, 1 gun, and real skill, though one must also remember that in modern settings both the sniper and the spotters are often trained to do it the old-fashioned way with physical or memorized bullet drop tables, just in case the electronic gear gets disabled.
  • In 2005 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, a patrol was on a rooftop in the eastern part of the city scouting out sniper positions. A member of the patrol was killed by a terrorist sniper from the city hospital, over half a mile away. An impressive enough shot, but the Army sniper, SSG James Gilliland, with the patrol was better. Within seconds of the shot, he turned, acquired the terrorist's position, and returned fire, killing him with one shot. A within-seconds snapshot kill at over 1,000 meters. Not to mention he somehow found the spot the bad guy was firing from amongst the many windows of the hospital.
    • He even made The Other Wiki as the 7th longest sniper kill in history and, more interestingly, the longest sniper kill made with 7.62mm ammunition, a fairly "typical" round rather than the .50 caliber anti-materiel round or one specially designed for extreme range sniping like the .338 Lapua Magnum.
  • SWAT officer Mike Plumb shoots a gun out of a suicidal man's hand—without hurting the man (please ignore the voiceover; the narrator has no idea what's going on). Not that shooting guns out of a person's hand can't be done, but it's just too Awesome, but Impractical to use. This particular shot occurred at about 60 yards, which is an extremely close range for a sniper rifle, though the size of the revolver being shot at means it wasn't exactly easy at that range either.
  • During an eight hour battle between US Marines and Taliban fighters, a Marine marksman single-handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. What makes his actions even more impressive is that he didn't miss a shot, despite the enemies' rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.
  • The memoir Sniper One tells of the exploits of a UK sniper platoon in Al-Amarah, one of the most dangerous and least-known battlefield cities in the Iraq War. They have a number of feats such as these.
  • The Beanshooter Man, who performs this trope with a slingshot of all things.
  • In the 17th century the kickass soldier/scientist/artist/bucaneer Prince Rupert of the Rhine shot a hole through a weathervane from 200 yards using a flintlock pistol. When his uncle King Charles I, who was watching, claimed it was a fluke, Prince Rupert did it again. The weathervane was still in place, with its two musket holes, 200 years later.
  • In the vein of Simo Häyhä above, in WWI a brigade American Marines engaged a German division at Belleau Wood, sniping targets at up to 800 yards (which is far enough you don't hear the rifle's report before the bullet) with iron sights. The fire was so devastating the German commanders thought the Americans had machine guns.
    • A similar feat has been attributed to a British rifle platoon at a bridge in 1914. The British trained specifically for this pre-war with the "Mad Minute" training exercise in which riflemen had to put at least 15 aimed shots into a 12" target 300 yards away within 60 seconds — with a bolt-action rifle. And many riflemen could average over 30. To illustrate how impressive this is, the United States Marine Corps trains for between ten and twelve aimed shots per minute with semi-automatic fire and thirty-round magazines. British soldiers would have to fire ten shots, manually cycling the action after each shot, reload, and do the same thing, reload after the next five shots, and so on to get thirty rounds within a minute.
  • Otto Carius, one of the best tank commanders of WW2, had this to say: "My gunner, Unteroffizier Kramer, can take credit for a deed that was probably unparalleled on the Eastern Front. That is, he succeeded in shooting down a Russian fighter with a tank cannon ... Kramer, upset by the unrelenting nuisance of these guys, elevated his cannon along the approach route. I talked him in. He took a chance and pulled the trigger. On the second attempt, he hit one of the ‘bees’ in its wing. The Russian crashed behind us."
    • An un-named American anti-tank gun crew (90mm) repeated the feat during the Battle of the Bulge, knocking down a German fighter that made the error of flying in a straight line across the gunner's line of sight.
  • The first M26 Pershing tank to be knocked out was done in by a shot through the hole for the coaxial machine gun.
  • Hans-Joachim Marseille, the most accurate fighter pilot in history; until his death from hitting the aircraft he was bailing out of, he expended an average of 15 rounds of ammunition per plane he shot down. On 1 September 1942, he took off in his Bf 109, shooting down three Kittyhawk fighters out of ten attacking a Ju-87 formation, and on his way back to base he was attacked by a group of Spitfires, shooting down six. When reloading the plane, his armorer discovered that Marseille had expended only 20 cannon rounds and 60 machine-gun rounds to shoot down all nine aircraft.
    • This is a slightly unfair way to measure aiming skill, however, as the Bf 109 armament included a pair of 20 mm cannons, while the early war Spitfires it was facing of with were equipped with 8 .30 caliber machine guns (which are practically pea shooters in air-to-air terms). One 20 mm shell did a lot more damage than ten .30 caliber bullets.
      • It is not unfair when you compare it to the ammunition used by other pilots flying the same type of aircraft. Also, the Bf 109-F and Bf 109- G airplanes which Marseille flew in North Africa only had one cannon, which fired through the hollow axis of the propeller. As the two machine guns were mounted on top of the engine, the projectiles from the three guns hit very close to each other. The guns of a Spitfire were mounted in the wings, which made more for a kind of scatter-gun effect.
      • But while talking about Spitfires, Canadian pilot George Beurling became legendary flying out of Malta for his obscene skills in deflection and long-range shooting. Initially considered a braggart when he was flying out of England because his gun camera didn't record the hits he claimed he was making, it was later realized that he was so good at calculating trajectories of bullets and enemy planes that he'd fire before the aircraft came in view of the camera. Once he reached Malta, he had his mechanics remove tracer rounds from his ammunition because he didn't need them to know where his rounds were going (and so the enemy didn't know they were being shot at), and made the longest recorded kill with a Spitfire, taking down another plane at 800 yards.
  • René Fonck, the most successful Allied air ace of World War I, had a confirmed count of 75 victories. An engineer by profession, Fonck applied the mathematical skills of his former vocation to make extremely accurate deflection shots; he rarely required more than a single burst of machine gun fire to down his targets. While flying the SPAD XII, a single-seat aircraft armed with a 37mm cannon that had to be manually reloaded after each shot, he managed to claim 11 aircraft destroyed. His skills were only matched by his boasting, a quality which even his (few) close friends commented on.
  • 20-year old SS-Sturmmann Fritz Christen, 3rd Waffen-SS Division Totenkopf, had been left the lone survivor of his 50mm AT gun battery by a Soviet counter-attack with tanks and infantry during the battle for Luzhno on September 24, 1941. He manned his gun for 3 days, fighting with his submachinegun when attacked by infantry, crawling among leftover guns to drag ammo boxes for his weapons, and firing at Soviet tanks when they approached. When his comrades found him on September 27, they counted 13 destroyed tanksnote  and about 100 dead Soviet troopers. It brought him the Knight's Cross from the hand of the Führer himself, promotion to Oberscharführer, and ten years in a Soviet gulag after the war. He survived to die from natural causes aged 74.
    • The best part of it? His gun's optical equipment had been destroyed in the initial attack. He aimed through the barrel before pushing the shell inside and closing the breech.
      • Pvt Vilho Rättö, Finnish Army, earned his Mannerheim Cross (highest Finnish military decoration) by destroying six Soviet tanks single-handedly with a captured anti-tank gun in the same manner.
  • Dersu Uzala Arseniev is about one native friend whom he met while exploring the Far East. The protagonist shoots so ridiculously well, done in fiction, this would make eyebrows rise, but it's a memoir. A typical example: two of his men on rest tried to shoot a duck, missed, it flew a bit away and this somehow turned into sport, until it was at least 300 steps away by the author's estimation. Enters giggling drunk Dersu. "Your shot well. Now my want chase duck." He raises the gun and fires almost without aiming. The bullet hits the water, its splash showers the bird. It squeaks in panic and flies farther. Next shot — another close hit. Now most of them have to use binoculars. One tried to compete and shot. The ricochet made the bird dive for a moment, but that's all. Dersu aims carefully — yet another very close hit. The duck flies away for good.
  • The Soldier Corporal Alvin York. When his unit was spotted by a German machine gun company and his entire squad either had been cut down or had fled to cover except him, he stood and took the concentrated fire of thirty-two German machine guns and over 100 German riflemen without receiving so much as a scratch on him. But this trope comes into play for his offensive capability: With only his Enfield bolt-action rifle and Colt .45 pistol, he shot 28 Germans and forced them to surrender to him alone - and according to all accounts, he didn't miss one single shot.
    York: I jes couldn't miss a German's head or body at that distance. And I didn't. Besides, it weren't no time to miss nohow.
    Official report of the battle: The American [York] fired all of the rifle ammunition clips on the front of his belt and then three complete clips from his automatic pistol. In days past he won many a turkey shoot in the Tennessee mountains, and it is believed that he wasted no ammunition on this day.
    • York's aim was so spectacular when a group of six German soldiers fixed bayonets and charged him, York took out his pistol and shot them all back to front, so the ones in front would not know their fellows were dying until too late. Again, without missing a shot. York believed that God protected and guided him; given what he accomplished, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.
  • Finnish Army Corporal Olaf Lagus, son of General Ruben Lagus, was a Sturmgeschutz III gunner in the Continuation War just assigned to combat duty. He shot a total of four rounds in the war (before he was wounded in action and hospitalized), and each round destroyed a Soviet T-34. His efficiency was full 100%.
  • Finnish Air Force Lieutenant Antti Tani destroyed a Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik - a heavily armoured ground attack plane dubbed as "flying tank" in 1944 with just one round before the guns on his Messerschmitt Bf 190G jammed.
  • A famous example on the reverse side of this: Union General John Sedgwick, at the start of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in July 1864, complained as his staff and artillery ducked for cover from snipers about 1000 yards away, "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Seconds later, he was killed by a bullet just below his left eye. And thus, the Sedgwick Speech was born.
    • In his defense, the shooter was closer than "they" were.
  • Lieutenant James Launders DSO* DSC* commanding His Majesty's Submarine Venturer sank the U-864 while both submarines were submerged. Launders decided to do this after tracking U-864 for several hours, using only hydrophones, with the target zig-zagging the entire time, and got tired of waiting for it to surface. Launders had to work out a three-dimensional firing solution on paper (because the analog targeting computers of the time only calculated in two dimensions) that had to predict exactly where the German would be when the torpedoes got there, while his own sub was also moving (to aim a torpedo, you have to maneuver to point the entire submarine at the target). This was literally considered Beyond the Impossible and there had never been any training or procedures worked out beforehand, much less any actual attempt to pull it off. In a manner of speaking, Launders has everybody else on this list beat, because at least they could see what they were shooting at!
    • Despite what you'd think seeing it in movies and TV, this remains the only time one submerged submarine has ever torpedoed another in combat.
  • The world record for benchrest shooting (custom guns firing custom bullets) is a 1.2cm group of five shots at 300 yards, an area a fraction the size of a AA battery.
  • Cracked.com has a list of the five most impossible sniper shots ever made, and several of the above-mentioned persons are on it. One commenter remarked that "They killed them with math."
  • Trick shooters make it a point of devising the most ridiculously impossible shots they can think of and mastering them for their public performances.
    • Lars Andersen, a Danish archer (Amongst other things), released a video of him performing such feats as: Shoot The Arrow; hitting a less-than-coin-sized target in freefall after throwing it into the air himself, jumping, grabbing an arrow from the environment, loading his bow, and firing while in midair and moving to successfully hit a target before landing; and performing a jumping Catch and Return. Though do remember that all of these trick shots were done in controlled environments.note 
  • Finnish conscripts are trained to get 10 rounds out of 10 to hit on target diameter 10 cm at 150 m with an assault rifle on iron sights. The bullseye corresponds to a life-size human face, and it is printed on the target as well. Successfully scoring the three shooting qualification tests will grant a three days' leave. Those conscripts who are trained to become snipers or sharpshooters must be able to do the same at 300 m on assault rifle with iron sights.
    • 10 cm at 150 m equals 2.29 arc minutes or 0.667 milliradians. At 300 m it is 1.24 arc minutes or 0.333 milliradians. The weapon used is the standard Finnish Army assault rifle, RK-62, which itself is an AK-47 clone. The bullets used are the standard 7.62x39 mm stock ammunition.
  • The All Blacks have improbable aiming, and especially catching skills as shown here.
  • In a more general sense, humans are this compared to many other animals. Our ability to throw accurately, and with a modest bit of practice, hit moving targets, is something we take for granted but few creatures can do anything like it. And, now that there are few things left that will try to eat us, we use it most often to play games.
    • This isn't just a coincidence. The Human body, especially at the waist and shoulder, is designed like a living catapult. Superior flexibility at the shoulder allows for a greater range of motion, and special tendons and ligaments are pulled taut like rubber bands, storing elastic energy. During a throw, the shoulder rotates at a speed of 9000 degrees per second. And it's not the shoulder alone. Other similar adaptations in the waist allow it to add to the explosive burst of motion involved in throwing an object.
  • On the other hand, the human eye is in fact very poor at judging distances compared to many in the animal kingdom, making certain animals this compared to humans. Many species use projectiles with frightening accuracy, and they do it quickly and instinctively, unlike humans who must learn and train to be accurate. Examples include: frogs, salamanders and others, which fire their tongues at lightning speeds to catch prey; archer fish, which use jets of water to knock insects off plants and out of the air; certain blind termites which fire sticky fluid accurately over many centimeters; pistol shrimp, which fire bubbles to stun larger fish using enough force to break glass. Humans are more the relatively Powerful, but Inaccurate (and long-ranged) artillery piece of the animal kingdom, suited to taking down larger prey with a barrage of heavy, long-range projectiles, not the precise capture of smaller prey like the aforementioned animals can do.
  • Legend has it that some country boys the US conscripted during the Great War, accustomed to hunting game, could knock German hand grenades out of the air with their shotguns. According to the Other Wiki's page on the M97 trench gun, some historical documents seem to show that skilled trap shooters were posted along trenches with these weapons to deflect grenades with shotgun fire. MythBusters has demonstrated that blasting grenades out of the air in this manner is doable with some practice, and is also effective at neutralizing the grenade completely through scattering the grenade's main explosive charge.
  • Although he may not be an example of "real life" to many people, Robin Hood is said in tales to have had improbable aiming skills. For example, having the ability to fire an arrow at a bullseye, then to fire a second arrow at the exact same spot resulting in the second arrow splitting the first arrow into pieces...At over 100 meters away. Anyone who's tried their hand at archery can tell you how difficult it is to even fire an arrow straight.
    • In Real Life, hitting an arrow already stuck on target is called either "robin-hooding" or "telescoping". It does happen, but it is extremely difficult to attain intentionally. It invariably leads to the destruction of the nock of the first arrow. Splitting a wooden arrow, however, is impossible as the wood will split along the grain: splitting a bamboo arrow is perfectly possible.
  • American militiamen during the Seven Years' War, The American Revolution and the War of 1812 were legendary for the accuracy of their Kentucky long rifles, with some feats of marksmanship measured at ranges of over 250 yards. One story of the latter conflict tells of British officers directing an assault on an American fortification from well outside the range of even the American marksmen, only for one lone American shooter standing atop the battlements to headshot one officer after another anyway.
  • Kiesza. No, really.
  • Adil Benrlitom (AKA ScreaM, well, not be confused with the film's name.), a professional CS:GO player. He is so ridiculously accurate to the point of has amazing headshot rate in that game. (He did the highest headshot rate around 75% in 2013.)
    • Still not convinced enough? Just watch this.
  • NBA: "The Splash Brothers" Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors are Basketball examples of this trope.
    • To a lesser extent, the rest of the Golden State Warriors also have their moments, particularly Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and the newly-acquired Kevin Durant.
  • SAS (and presumably other special forces) soldiers train extensively to achieve this. In one former trooper's autobiography, he writes about how his party trick was to teddy bear roll about on the floor, firing handgun rounds through the same hole of a target as he did so.
  • There's always that one in a billion chance that someone will shoot a bullet straight down the barrel of their opponent's handgun.
  • W. D. M. Bell was perhaps the most successful elephant hunter of all time (his fastidious notes documenting 1011 kills which probably did a lot to put African elephants in their current situation) and did so entirely by relying on his extraordinary skill with a rifle. His favorite method of taking down elephants was to fire diagonally from behind the elephant through the ear into the brain with a small caliber rifle.note  During World War I he became a pilot and managed to shoot down a German plane with a single shot on account of the machinegun jamming immediately.
    • He was also known for trick shooting in his spare time. Sniping fish as they jumped out of the water and small birds in the air.
  • In another vehicle example, during the Battle of the Surigao Straight the battleship USS West Virginia achieved hits on her Japanese opponent Yamashiro with her first salvo. This is impressive enough on its own, but the battleship achieved this at night, at a range of 22,600 yards, which is almost thirteen miles away. Needless to say, the aging Japanese battleship didn't last long.
  • Speaking of warships, the infamous Bismarck sank the battlecruiser HMS Hood (basically a battleship with cruiser's speed and armor with a 15-inch shell plunging in from over 7.8 nautical miles away (over 15 kilometres). This all happened in less than ten minutes into the battle.
    • And it was HMS Hood which opened the battle - at 24,200 m. Here is the gunnery plotting diagram of HMS Prince of Wales.
    • In a related vein, three battlecruisers - HMS Indefatigable, HMS Queen Mary, HMS Invincible - were lost at Jutland. The first two were lost in less than half an hour of each other at close range.
    • Flashing back, during the Battle of Tsushima, four Russian battleships were sunk in less than a few minutes of each other.
      • Funnily enough, the Russians actually did manage to get a few hits in during the battle - compare this to the first and only time they had target practice. At that time, the skiff they used as a target didn't end up getting hit at all.


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