Why We MISS IN FIGHTS but Not on the Range

A Theory on Why We Miss in Fights

We were about to do some force-on-target runs in the shoot house, when I called my Room Clearing Class students around me and said, “Okay listen up! All of you are about to shoot your targets in the belly. I know you are good shooters, but it won’t matter. Everyone is about to shoot low. Prove me wrong.”

It still did not matter.

After watching the first 2 students go through the house, all the targets spread out throughout the shoot house revealed belly shots. The third shooter finally proved me wrong. I have had other classes where 10 out of 10 students proved me right.

training vs real life fights

I have been observing this phenomenon for years. Great shooters performing well on the range, but missing in force-on-force or force-on-target scenarios. We also see this in real life gun fights.

Why is that? 

Some folks would rush to blame shot anticipation and poor trigger control. In reviewing slow motion footage though, I have seen misses occuring while these things were not to blame. The shooters were quite literally AIMING LOW.


I have a theory on why we miss in fights but not on the range.

When we are afraid and are presented with a threat, we REFUSE TO ALLOW anything to block our view of that threat. This means, your fear response refuses to allow your sights and gun to block any part of your view.

I see students do this whether they are shooting iron sights, red dot sights, or even point shooting. The result is the same. Oftentimes, people are simply not using their sights because they do not want sights blocking any part of their field of view.

real life fights vs range training

I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense because you can see THROUGH your red dot sight, so your field of view should be unencumbered. But, I would remind you that we are dealing with illogical fear response.

Now, I think it would be a big mistake to say “well screw sights and aiming!”

The better response is to find out this nasty trick that fear plays on us and begin trying to combat this. Engage frequently in force-on-force and force-on-target training. Be accountable for your accuracy. Train with reputable instructors who know what to look for. Video everything and review your response.

Seasoned fighters on the other hand may see their sights. They have fought through their bodies freak-out tendency to hold low while threat focusing. The key is the development of good fighter mindset and NOT simply more reps on the range or the decision to ‘point shoot’. 

It takes a lot of courage to gain a full presentation, take that last millisecond, see your sights, and take that good shot.

So as always warrior poets — train hard and train smart.