Accuracy and precision are terms often used interchangeably when discussed in shooting sports. However, they have very different meanings and are constantly used incorrectly or misunderstood to mean the same thing.

We’re going to clear up the confusion so you’ve got the lingo locked down next time you’re at the range.

When shooting competitively, you need to be both accurate and precise to win. But understanding the meaning behind each could help you learn which problem you should work on.


Accuracy refers to how close a shot is to the desired point of impact. For instance, how close shot groups are centred on the target.


Precision describes the closeness of two or more shots to each other. It considers the spread of individual shots about the centre point of a shot group and how close individual shots are to one another, regardless of the point of impact.

A precise shooter will produce tight shot groups with smaller distances between individual shots. Precise shots are predictable and allow you to compensate one way or another to improve your accuracy. For example, if your zero is off, you may find yourself in a situation with high precision but low accuracy.

If you shoot ten bullets in a tight group, you would be considered precise. Accuracy would depend on the location of the ten shots compared to the bull. If the group was outside of the centre, you would be precise but not accurate. If the tight grouping was in the bull, you would be both accurate and precise.