Star Wars’ Stormtroopers are a reminder of why marksmanship is so important

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Stormtroopers (Photo by Waffen5/Wikimedia Commons)

In honor of Star Wars Day, we at Task & Purpose decided to focus on one of the most important tactical lessons from the Star Wars saga: Accurate shooting matters.

We’re looking at you, Stormtroopers.

When the world was first introduced to these Imperial 11 Bang Bangs, they appeared well-trained in close-quarters combat. In the opening battle of A New Hope, the Stormtroopers stack up and crush resistance aboard the ship carrying Princess Leia. They even clear a path through the corpses for Darth Vader, showing that at least one of them is a first sergeant.

From that point on, though, Stormtroopers repeatedly show that they need to spend a lot more time on the rifle range. Indeed, their technique for trying to hit the target can best be described as a “death blossom” of indiscriminate fire.

Even though Obi-Wan Kenobi describes the Stormtroopers’ marksmanship as “precise,” subsequent events aboard the Death Star prove otherwise, especially when Han Solo does an Animal Mother charge straight into a company formation of troopers and not one of them manages to hit him.

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An attendee dressed up as a Stormtrooper at London Comic Con, 2015. (Photo by big-ashb/Wikimedia Commons)
An attendee dressed up as a Stormtrooper at London Comic Con, 2015. (Photo by big-ashb/Wikimedia Commons)

While the Stormtroopers show some prowess in the rest of the original Star Wars trilogy – such as winging Leia in Return of the Jedi – they consistently manage to avoid hitting their targets no matter how close they are.

In fact, Stormtroopers are now the most famous poor shots in the galaxy, inspiring memes showing them in completely clean uniforms after a day playing paintball, and this video from the Fort Worth Police Department in Texas showing an officer patiently advising a hapless Stormtrooper on the pistol range.

With the Pentagon practically running a countdown clock until a war with China, marksmanship is more important for U.S. troops than ever. Even the commanding general of Air Mobility Command ordered his airmen earlier this year to prepare for the coming war against China by “fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters the most.”

“Aim for the head,” he added.

One major reason why the Stormtroopers rarely hit their targets is simple: They don’t aim at all, said former Army captain Nick Palmisciano, CEO of Diesel Jack Media.

“Stormtroopers would significantly improve their shooting if they…you know…ever used their sights,”  Palmisciano told Task & Purpose. “They look to shoot from the waist and hope for the best. And unless you’re force sensitive and can ‘feel’ your way to the target, hope makes for a terrible plan.”

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A Stormtrooper’s blaster rifle. (Photo by JMC/Wikimedia Commons)

Another major problem for Stormtroopers is that most of their weapons don’t have a buttstock, said retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, who served as the gunner for the 2nd Marine Division.

“Your readers who fought in Iraq might owe their very lives to the fact that many of the fighters we fought in close combat had removed the buttstock of their rifle and could not hit us under most circumstances,” Wade told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Wade said he cannot recall any Stormtroopers using a shoulder-fired carbine or another weapon that had an actual buttstock attached to it in any of the Star Wars movies.

Instead, most Stormtroopers appear to have been issued a weapon that somewhat resembles an AKS-74U “Krinkov” without a buttstock, he said. Yet those weapons also have a mounted optic.

“How the hell is someone going to hit something at distance with a weapon like that?” Wade said. “The Empire sure could have used Marine gunners to sort out that problem. Chewbacca, for example, had a proper shoulder-fired weapon and both he and Han Solo, when he borrowed it, were able to consistently hit targets with it, even quickly moving threats in excess of 100 meters.”

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The Battle of Hoth from “The Empire Strike Back” shows the rebels using rifles with buttstocks. (Lucasfilms Ltd.)

In short, three lessons on marksmanship to take away from the Star Wars saga is that riflemen should be issued rifles or carbines with buttstocks; riflemen should not remove those buttstocks; and riflemen should employ those buttstocks in battle, as the Rebel fighters did during the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.

“Notice they have shoulder-fired rifles with the buttstocks still attached and they are firing on semi-automatic, what appear to be well-aimed shots at distant targets,” Wade said. “The laser machine gunners are engaging threats on automatic, firing bursts, in accordance with the engineering capabilities and limitations of their particular weapons.”

The Empire should have invested in training and educating leaders – such as Marine gunners – who can uncover warfighting capability gaps and find solutions for them, Wade said. He added that Star Wars creator George Lucas could have also benefited from hiring a Marine gunner to serve as a technical advisor for the weapons prop department.

“But I think that lousy marksmanship on the part of the Stormtroopers became a thing, like a meme, and he ran with it for all the following movies,” Wade said.

Until the Stormtroopers learn how to properly engage targets, they will continue to be ridiculed for their piss-poor marksmanship. They desperately need to practice firing at a target from seven meters away – and aiming for the head.

This article by Jeff Schogol was originally published by Task & Purpose.

Feature Image: Stormtroopers (Photo by Waffen5/Wikimedia Commons)

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