I recently read a post on shoot deviation posted by Personal Defense Network. It got me thinking. Just what are the effects of accuracy and speed on shot placement. We all know that the faster we shoot the harder it is to hit what you are aiming at, but is there a balance. This is where shoot deviation comes in. 

An overivew

Shoot deviation is the difference between where we want the bullet to go and where it can go. 

Let’s look a little deeper. Assume that the movement of the gun is limited to within the confines of your intended target. Let’s eliminate poor trigger press, then you will get the hit. However, if the movement of the gun is bouncing outside the confines of your intended target, you have the potential for a miss.

A few misses on the range is frustrating and a bruise to your ego, but is no big deal.

A miss in a dynamic critical has much bigger consequences.  This miss could mean one less round in your gun to handle the situation, one more stab wound from the attacker, or an errant round skipping down the road and potentially hitting a bystander. For our safety and others, we must allocate the resources necessary to get our hits.


OK, let’s admit nobody can hold a gun perfectly still. Even the best marksmen cannot gain this level of control in a controlled marksmanship shooting event on a safe square range. Perfectly still is certainly impossible during a violent attack.

Although “perfectly still” is unattainable, “still enough” can be obtained. There is an old saying that indicates “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough.” I believe this rings true in defensive shooting situations. We cannot let perfect stillness get in the way of reaching that last shot. The last shot is the one that ends the violent attack.

All shooting is a balance of speed and precision. Fast is indeed a thing, but not at the cost of our hits. We need to have the ability to place multiple rounds onto an attacker as quickly as we can while still getting our hits.

The ability to apply the skill in context will determine if we get the hits. Your confidence, or lack thereof, will determine how fast you shoot.

A shooter can also be overconfident. This can result in someone shooting outside of their own competency.

On the other hand, some shooters invest quite a bit of time to achieve the “perfect-er” shots.  A good goal but they could have gotten away with “much less perfect-er” shots even faster.


Accuracy is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either you hit your intended target or you did not.  Precision is the allocation of resources needed to get your hits.

The words precision and accuracy are often used interchangeably in the gun world, and this causes confusion. They are not the same.

Assume your intended target is the broad side of a barn. Then any hit on the broad side of that barn is a good accurate hit. However, if your intended target is a one-inch bullseye at 25 yards, then anywhere on the bullseye is a good accurate hit. 

It requires a great deal more precision to get the hit on the bullseye. however, we are not training to defend ourselves against attacking barns or bullseyes.

Our attacker will likely be a human being. The default target area on a human attacker should be the high center chest. This is the space on a chest below the collarbone and above the diaphragm in line with the head. All the good guts that keep a bad guy ticking are centrally located in this general spot, approximately a 10-inch x 10-inch area. This area is not a huge target, but not a small one either.

Even though the head is a big ball on top of the shoulders, there are limited target areas on the head because the skull is very hard, and most pistol rounds are unlikely to penetrate skull bone. The “T Zone” of the nose and eyes is approximately three inches x three inches. This is indeed a much smaller target.

Consider the concept of deviation. A larger target or a closer target, such as a bad guy’s high center chest at nine to 15 feet, will typically require less limitation of movement, or deviation control. A headshot or a bad guy who is farther away will require more limitation of movement, or deviation control.

We should be able to get a hit on the high center chest in less time at nine to 15 feet than we might get a headshot at nine to 15 feet. The smaller the target, the less room for error. We will likely need to invest more resources.


Time is our first resource. We will probably not have much of it if we are defending ourselves or our loved ones.

A good grip is our next resource. Maintaining a good grip and getting more bone support behind the gun can affect deviation immensely. A bonus is that a good grip also works well with what the body does naturally under stress.

Combine that with a 360-degree grip that clamps the gun into the meat of the hands with the thumbs pointed generally forward.

Our next resource is our stance. We need both arms at full extension. The gun should be in and parallel with the line of sight The arms should be in front of shoulders and shoulders engaged is like attaching two rifle stocks to your pistol.

Our resources can really limit a gun’s physical movement in space, even when shooting multiple rounds quickly. The more body, arm, and hand support we put on the gun, the less deviation we will have.


Let’s imagine a slice of pizza. It is small at the center of the pie and gets wide at the crust.  The cone of deviation is the same.

Visualize “the cone” while you are shooting. It starts between your shoulder blades. It gets bigger at the target. It then continues to broaden into infinity. The longer the distance, the more the deviation is magnified.

The cone represents the gun’s actual movement in space and the potential impact area at the target. As the cone originates at the shooter, the gun is actually approximately three feet into the cone.

What we need to do is minimize the cone at the target, just enough, and make sure the gun is in the center of the cone.

The gun’s sights are another resource we have available to achieve a higher degree of precision is our sights. We use these sights to help us align the angle of the barrel in relation to our eye and the target.

The sights help us to recognize our deviation in relation to a fixed known reference point. Sights are like a measuring device. When we use our sights, we are much more aware of the deviation going on at the moment.

Our support hand is yet another resource. We can measure how much gun movement is acceptable to us and then dedicate more “support” to hold the gun “stiller” so we can achieve a higher degree of precision.

This inherently takes a little more time, as we first need to decide to use our sights, then reduce the movement to the desired level. Don’t discount the time for decision-making! The more you train, the more likely you will be able to recognize under what circumstances you need to use your sights, close an eye, and focus on the front sight. With lots of correct repetitions, defensive body mechanics will become more intuitive and faster. However, using the sights will still likely be somewhat slower than not using them.


If your goal is to stop an attacker as quickly as you can, then filling the entire high center chest with holes will be more efficient and probably faster.

If you are doing compensation shooting, a nice tight group should be your goal.

Let’s assume you consistently shoot four-inch groups on the high center chest. Ask yourself, “Am I cycling the trigger as fast as I can, or am I maybe investing a little too much time in trying to get the gun stiller than I need to?”

Once you determine the answer, try to shoot faster by controlling the deviation appropriately for your target and cycling the trigger as quickly as you can while maintaining those consistent hits.

Learn and practice as frequently and realistically as you can. Control deviation as much as needed for your target, and be the fastest you can be, while still getting your hits.


I wish I could claim to be the ultimate source on this topic. 

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DEVIATION by Personal Defense Network served as my reference when writing this post. 

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