Would you say you are accurate or precise when it comes to shooting? Regardless of your answer, like most shooters, you’re sure to be on the quest to hit the bullseye with every shot. And to do so, one must be both accurate AND precise.

So what is the difference, and how do they impact you becoming a better shooter? Let’s dive in.

Accuracy vs. Precision

To understand the relationship between the two, it’s essential to know what they both mean. Failing to do so can harm your shooting. Why? Because one may not be able to analyze their shot patterns and learn what adjustments to make.

What does it mean to be accurate?

The definition of accuracy is:



the quality or state of being correct or precise.


the degree to which the result of a measurement, calculation, or specification conforms to the correct value or a standard.

In simpler terms, it means accuracy is the closeness of the measurements to a specific value. In the case of shooting, that particular value is the bullseye.

What does it mean to be precise?

The definition of precision is:



the quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate.


refinement in a measurement, calculation, or specification, especially as represented by the number of digits given.

In simpler terms, precision is the closeness of the measurements to each other. In the case of shooting, this means repeatability or hitting the same spot every shot. (Hopefully the bullseye)

After reading both definitions, it’s easy to see how some people confuse the two. 

What does it all mean?

Now that we know what each means, we can understand their relationship. Understanding this relationship will help you improve your shooting. Let’s take a look at some shot grouping examples to better understand these concepts.

Not accurate or precise

When someone is starting out, it will be hard to spot a noticeable trend in their shot groupings (see image below). That’s because they are neither accurate nor precise. A lack of accuracy makes it hard to know precisely what is causing you to miss.

Not accurate or precise

If your patterns are similar, you may be wondering, “How do I get better?” Keep practicing your accuracy, and don’t worry about precision.

Accurate, but not precise

Remember, being accurate means the closeness of the bullet to the bullseye. You will know your accuracy has improved when you start to see a trend in your patterns. Instead of being random, the grouping will surround the bullseye (see image below).

Accurate but not precise

If you notice shot groupings that appear accurate but do not surround the bullseye, that’s ok. Those groupings may show you need to adjust your scope or account for other factors like wind.

Precise, but not accurate

Once you have achieved accurate groupings, it’s time to turn your focus to consistency. Or, in other words, precision. A precise but inaccurate group would like tight but not be on the bullseye (see image below).

Precise but not accurate

If this is what your groupings look like, a simple adjustment of the scope is all you may need to do to hit the bullseye.

Precise and accurate

Ah, perfection. Tight grouping, right on the bullseye (see image below). What more could one want?

Precise and accurate

Key takeaways

  • Accuracy and precision are two different sets of measurement
  • Accuracy is how close you are to the bullseye
  • Precision is how often you can hit the bullseye

It takes a lot of practice to be both accurate and precise. Understanding their difference and their meaning is one sure-fire way to get you there faster.

What are your shot groupings? Accurate, precise or both?

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