Why Do Stormtroopers “Always” Miss Their Targets?

It's become a bit of a joke meme on the internet that Star Wars Stormtroopers always miss their targets. The armored grunts are so bad at firing their weaponry that the heroes always get away from encounters with them without even a scratch.

There's even a popular joke that if a Stormtrooper shoots a Star Trekred shirt” the red shirt will still die, which may say more about Star Trek, but we digress…

But do Stormtroopers really miss? The evidence suggests otherwise and that it's a myth they always miss.

Let's start with A New Hope

The opening scene of A New Hope involves Stormtroopers boarding Princess Leia's ship, the Tantive IV. The entry hatch is blasted and out swarm the troopers into their own kill box they just created. They then proceed to – you guessed it – kill most of the men aboard the vessel using their blasters. They basically shot their way out of a hole in the wall.

They were deadly accurate and, later on, one of them was even able to quickly switch to stun and take down Princess Leia herself. Mission accomplished boys.

Whilst on Tattoine, Luke and Obiwan come across the Jawa barge which has been shot to hell by Stormtroopers. Luke surmises it was the Tusken Raiders but Obi-Wan is moved to note that “these blast points, too accurate for sand people. Only imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”

Now let's bear in mind that Obi-Wan Kenobi is not merely a crazy old hermit, he was a General who fought in the Clone Wars. He knows what he's talking about – and, as we later found out from The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith, we know he survived Order 66. We'll talk about that some more later.

Also, remember that Aunt Beru and Uncle Own were turned into crispy critters.

A few scenes later and we are on board the Death Star. This is where all the talk of Stormtroopers missing appears to stem from. Cue the prison cell block breaking out. Our heroes are pinned down in a corridor with cloned marksmen shooting at them with some serious firepower and they all miss. Yep – you got us there.

Our heroes are later attempting to sneak on board the Millennium Falcon as Obi-Wan becomes one with the Force at the hands of Vader, at which point Luke cries out “Noooooooooo” (like father, like son, eh?).

The distracted troopers note the escape and commence firing at our heroes. All shots miss. Yep, you got us again. These Stormtroopers can't hit the side of a barn.

But hold the phone, don't we find out after our heroes escape that Governor Tarkin had ordered a homing beacon placed on the Falcon in an attempt to learn the location of the Rebel forces? He was pretty serious about finding them, you'll recall he blew up Alderaan to try and get the location from Princess Leia.

So, if it was that important for Tarkin to learn the location of the Rebels' secret base, do you think he would allow the Stormtroopers to actually harm our heroes? The reality is Tarkin actually let them escape so our heroes would inadvertently lead him to the Rebel fleet.

This means the Stormtroopers were deliberately missing their supposed targets.

You might be thinking to yourself, but because of their inability to shoot to kill, the Clone soldiers were dying at the hands of our heroes.

Yes, yes they were, and the sequels revealed the Clones were under the direct control of the Republic and, by the time A New Hope rolled around, taking orders from Lord Sidious. They were at his beck and call to do his bidding and, by delegated authority, they were Tarkin's minions. So when he orders them to not kill, that's all they do.

empire storm trooper shooting
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Empire Strikes Back has more examples

Not enough for you? Let's consider The Empire Strikes Back and, in particular, the time spent at Cloud City.

The whole damn exercise is a trap set by Vader to capture Luke Skywalker and turn him to the dark side (sidenote, Leia says the original “it's a trap” line to Luke in this scene).

So when Leia and Han are running around avoiding being shot – well, it's all moot as Vader has ordered the Falcon's hyperdrive to be disabled. It's a deliberate “no escape” ploy by Vader. That's because, if they escape, Luke will not turn up. If they are dead, Luke will sense this and still not turn up.

Plan B is to freeze Han Solo in carbonite, so why kill him? Either way, the idea is to lure Luke. Heck, Han's torture was only intended to make sure Luke felt his friend's pain and make sure he turned up to play his part.

The a priori deduction behind all this is, again, that the Stormtroopers have been ordered not to shoot and kill our heroes. So they are deliberately missing. 

Is this not enough? Are you not entertained by this notion?

Okay, it's a lot looser than the argument found in A New Hope. Let's get to Return of the Jedi – but we are going to have to talk about Ewoks. Some people love the little fuzzballs, but a lot of you hate the critters, so bear with us.

Return of the Jedi

Let's offer this premise: Luke Skywalker is about to become a truly great Jedi. Han Solo is one of the best smugglers in the galaxy and perhaps one of the bravest men around. Leia knows a thing or two about warfare. Chewbacca survived the battle on Kashyyyk and is actually one of the most badass creatures in the Galaxy. R2-D2 is one of the most awesome astro-mechs in the history of robots. C-3PO is merely along for the ride…

And yet, these great players managed to get themselves caught by the Ewoks in a very simple trap thanks to Chewie thinking with his stomach.

Bear that in mind when we talk about the Battle of Endor. Yes, the Stormtroopers ultimately lose to the furballs but they certainly managed to kill a lot of them. They were not missing their shots that day!

Leia was also shot by a trooper blast. I'll let it slide that it was perhaps a stray shot but nonetheless one of our heroes was shot by a laser blast from a Stormtrooper.

What about those sharp shooters that killed everyone and everything in the prequel movies?

You could argue that the Stormtroopers in the original trilogy were starting to show their age – perhaps they were in need of some eyeglasses.

So that covers the original trilogy. It's arguable that the joke about Stormtroopers being unable to hit the side of a barn is just that, a joke. Attack of the Clones revealed that the troopers were clones of Jango Fett – a character who was no slouch with weaponry (well, until he took a blaster to a sword fight with Mace Windu).

These Clones were the business and who saved the day at the end of the film? Yoda and his Clone Army that was all Stormtrooper baby!

The Clone troopers' effectiveness in executing Order 66

When it was time for Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, the true value and skill of the Stormtroopers were realized. Order 66 was an imprinted command on the troops to kill the Jedi they were with when the order was received and Revenge of the Sith showed the soldiers shooting down many a Jedi warrior. Granted, they weren't fair fights, nonetheless, the troopers' blasts were very precise.

You might say, “hold on a minute, Obi-Wan and Yoda survived Order 66 so the troopers still suck!”

Yes, it's very true they did survive, but how many Jedi died at the hands of Stormtroopers who were fighting battles in the midst of the Clone Wars? 10,000, but who's counting? Heck, this is a discourse on how good a shot a Stormtrooper actually is, not about their abilities to kill Jedi or two of the greatest Jedi ever.

But let's be honest here, by the time A New Hope, rolled around there weren't any original Jango Fett clones in action.

At the end of the day, Star Wars is a set of movies, and filmmaking is not a perfect art. Some things just are the way they are because the writer wrote things a certain way. Who expected Star Wars to come under so much scrutiny?

Anyways, none of this explains why Chewbacca didn't get a medal at the end of A New Hope.

The Force Awakens

At the beginning of the movie, Kylo's troopers sure do kill a lot of those folk hanging out with Lor San Tekka.

Update

Clone Wars vet Dave Filoni offered his own thoughts when doing some promo for Star Wars: Rebels.

“When Obi Wan says, ‘Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise’, I think he’s making that up on the fact that he used to fight with clones, so he assumes that a Stormtrooper is really good.

Much to his shock those guys can’t hit an R2 unit in a naked hallway, let alone be precise. So I like Stormtroopers, I find them very interesting.

The Stormtroopers have better gear, better weapons in a lot of ways but it’s just a different war they are fighting than the Clone Troopers’ was.”

A most interesting take!

So why do Stormtroopers “always” miss their targets? Answer: They don't.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.