Terrible Stormtrooper Aim Explained

By Saralyn Smith | 9 years ago

There are a lot of fantastic things about the Star Wars films.  The action sequences, the epic mythology, hilarious behind-the-scenes stuff.  But there are also a lot of logical leaps and flat-out ridiculous things that fans have to either ignore or mercilessly mock in order to still enjoy the films.

One of the biggest of these absurdities is the ridiculous failure of Stormtroopers to come anywhere close to hitting the protagonists in close-quarters battles, despite the fact that all the characters talk about them as being deadly precise and that we do see Stormtroopers lay waste during other battle sequences.  For years, Star Wars fans had to just dismiss this “Stormtrooper aim” as lazy or expedient filmmaking, but now Cracked says that there are psychological concepts and wartime statistics that can help explain it.

Studies of the behaviors of soldiers in war have revealed that, not only do most shots fired in battle go amiss, 80% of soldiers wouldn’t use their weapons at all.  They simply refuse to take part in that aspect of battle.  You would think that this aspect would be weeded out of cloned killing machines but, for all we know, Stormtroopers could have feelings, too.  And shooting at small groups of scrappy Rebel kids just trying to survive?  Might not be the most frightening or threatening of targets.

Cracked points out that Han, Luke, and Leia don’t seem to have a problem mowing down Stormtroopers, though.  For this, they cite the psychological concept of dehumanization, where people are more inclined to do harm to people they see as actually less than human.  This can be done in a variety ways – the Nazis did it through propaganda, all kinds of racial slurs do it, and, most pertinent to the Star Wars situation, uniforms.  The head to toe armor and face masks erased any hint of humanity the Stormtroopers might have had, making it far easier for the Rebels to mow them down.  Cracked also points out that this could account for why the Stormtroopers hit their targets more often in larger battle scenes with proper Rebel soldiers – the Rebels are wearing uniforms.

It’s doubtful that Lucas and Co. intended the poor aim of the Stormtroopers and high kill ratio of the Rebels to reflect these psychological facts.  In all likelihood, they just needed to inject action without disabling the main characters or slowing up the plot too much with convalescing heroes.  But this is useful information if a non-fan ever tries to diss Star Wars because of the poor aim of the Stormtroopers.  It’s not bad filmmaking – it’s Science!

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