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Why Imperial Stormtroopers in "Star Wars" Actually Have Good Aim

Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.

Do Stormtroopers Have Terrible Accuracy?

Throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, the protagonists often combat the Empire's stormtroopers, clad in their iconic white armor. But revered as this saga is, many fans condemn stormtrooper accuracy—for elite soldiers, they sure seem to miss a lot, seemingly outgunned even when they have superior numbers.

But on closer examination, there's some interesting reasons why the stormtroopers seem to conveniently miss; do the cadets deserve more credit? Here's why stormtroopers actually have solid marksmanship in Star Wars! Spoilers ahead.

A stormtrooper on the Death Star

A stormtrooper on the Death Star

Stormtroopers in Episode 4: A New Hope

In the very beginning of the original movie, we see the stormtroopers engage the rebel soldiers on Leia's fleeing ship in a gunfight, and they more than hold their own, winning the encounter without any assistance from Darth Vader. Later on Tatooine, Obi-Wan rells Luke about the impressive precision of stormtrooper shots. So far, so good.

But in the latter half of the film, Luke, Han, Chewie, and Leia have to fight their way through the Death Star, conveniently escaping their encounters without taking wounds. For instance, the troopers fails to hit Luke and Leia even when they're stuck in front of a jammed door, and Han successfully escapes an entire room full of stormtroopers. Empire's elite, huh?

But here's the thing: they're not supposed to land their shots here. Remember, as the rebels flee on the Millennium Falcon, Vader and Tarkin discuss the tracking beacon they hid on the ship, successfully using the fleeing fugitives to find the rebel base.

It's never stated on-screen, but we can infer that the troopers were told not to kill the rebels so that they could be followed. However, the stormtroopers still put on a show of genuinely trying to hit in order to fool our heroes (with mixed results; Han thinks they got away clean but Leia deduces they're being tracked).

Stormtroopers in Cloud City

Stormtroopers in Cloud City

Stormtroopers in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Three years later, we see snowtroopers in Empire's opening Hoth battle, but since it's mostly vehicular combat, there's not much evidence for or against infantry aim. Fast forward to the film's climax on Bespin, and we get some gunplay with Luke, Leia, and Lando, who yet again manage to cheat death (well, Luke loses a hand thanks to dear old dad, but he does fine against the grunts).

But again, it's likely the Empire's minions aren't trying to land their shots. We know Vader wants Luke guided to the freezing chamber alive, explaining why the stormtroopers and even Boba Fett never hit him (Luke's also got his newly-honed Jedi reflexes courtesy of Yoda).

The same could very well apply to Leia and Lando. After all, Vader knows Leia makes great bait for Luke, and even without that, she's a valuable rebel hostage (not to mention his daughter, though Vader doesn't know). Lando was recently working with Vader, so the troopers might not know whether he should be killed, and they can't contact Vader for orders at the moment, as he's engaged in a duel with Luke.

Additionally, Vader had secretly disabled the Falcon's hyperdrive, which should have allowed the rebels to be easily recaptured once they fled into space. The only reason they escape is thanks to R2-D2's repairs, and the Empire probably didn't predict they'd have an astromech droid on hand since R2 arrived with Luke.

A scout trooper captures Leia

A scout trooper captures Leia

Stormtroopers in Episode 6: Return of the Jedi

In this film, we see new scout troopers on Endor, and they're pretty impressive; one manages to get the drop on Leia (who is only saved by the Ewok Wicket), and another forces Leia off her speeder bike, albeit at the cost of getting distracted and crashing.

But in the film's climax, we finally witness a fight between stormtroopers and rebels/Ewoks where the soldiers aren't pulling their punches. They hold their own, killing several Ewoks and even landing a glancing shot on Leia. Sure, they ultimately lose, but they honestly did well considering they were outnumbered and their foes had much better camouflage in Endor's forest environment.

Riot control stormtrooper vs Finn

Riot control stormtrooper vs Finn

First Order Stormtroopers

By reading between the lines, we can see that half the time, the stormtroopers in the original films aren't even trying to connect their shots, but when they seriously engage rebel forces, they'll usually come out on top unless outnumbered.

Stormtroopers themselves are a versatile bunch; some are clones of Jango Fett just like the former clone troopers, others are human recruits, but no matter their origin, they're more competent than they sometimes seem. Many legends stories also depict their exploits, especially with Vader's hand-picked 501st Legion.

The sequel trilogy goes on to show how the First Order's stormtroopers are also impressive warriors (one outduels Finn in The Force Awakens, and Captain Phasma does the same in The Last Jedi), further highlighting their prowess. But for now, share your thoughts on stormtrooper abilities and I'll see you at our next Star Wars countdown!

© 2020 Jeremy Gill