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Stormtrooper Accuracy - My Theory - As a Prelude to the Mythbusters Episode

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During the last two years (and for time and all eternity) I've been part of many discussions centered on the apparent lack of accuracy that was displayed by Imperial Stormtroopers during the Original Star Wars Trilogy.  Naturally, many of those began as someone making the oft-lamented joke about not being able to hit a planet or sandcrawler, etc. but ended with the protagonist admitting that I make some very good points that they'd never considered before.

Further, during those same two years, I've often said that "I'll have to write out my own theory on the accuracy thing" for sharing here at FISD.  I've never done so, but tonight, that changes.  Why now?  Well, simply put - Mythbusters is apparently about to air an episode in which they take on the accuracy of the Imperial Stormtrooper.  There's no motivation like that for me.  I've often discussed my theory, but now it is imperative that I share it before they air their own, for the sake of critical analysis.

Be warned, this might get a little bit long - not that you'd expect anything less from me at this stage in the game.   :D

 

So, where do we begin?
 

We begin in the chambers of the Galactic Senate, during the timeframe of Star Wars, Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
 

"As my first act with this new authority, I will create a Grand Army of the Republic to counter the increasing threats of the separatists."

        - Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine

 

There is the origin of what would become the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps when the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) transitioned to the Imperial Army, following the execution of Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge (19 BBY).

Prior to Order 66, the GAR was comprised of Clones led by Generals (Jedi Knights) such as Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.  These Jedi Generals were fighting leaders, not rear-echelon commanders.  They were on the battlefronts with their Soldiers, commanding, leading the charge, and reacting to enemy contact.  They had first-hand accounts as to the lethal nature of the GAR in action.  To be sure, many of them owed the remainder of their lives to the accuracy and overwhelming ability of the GAR to suppress and eliminate the enemy under duress, and ultimately the overwhelming majority of the traitors met their demise by those same means.  

Yes, the GAR was clones, but the ability to shoot is not a trait that could be cloned.  The physical traits that allowed them to attain that level of accuracy were present as a result of the cloning process, but it was the training that they received that led to their actual skill level and efficiency on the fields of combat.  It stands to reason that the training developed for the GAR was the precursor to the training used at the Imperial Stormtrooper Academies in places like Carida where that training was refined and improved upon over the nearly 20 years between Order 66 and ANH.

Fast Forward those almost 20 years and you find a Galactic Empire that is embroiled in a galaxy-wide civil war.  Many systems are threatening revolt, withholding legal tax payments to the Government and the Rebel Alliance (formed shortly after the rise of the First Galactic Empiree) is forming new pockets of resistance in places like Lothal and Alderaan and gaining momentum.  The Imperial Army had the task of ensuring the tenuous peace was maintained.  This was an effort that, despite the high level of training received by the Stormtroopers of the Imperial Army, taxed the forces to their limits.  In order to maintain the necessary show of force, units had to be spread out over the entire galaxy and with their numbers reduced by the area they were covering, rules of engagement had to be loosened up in order to provide for the security of the Stormtroopers.  This means that the highly trained Troopers on the ground were encouraged to engage potential threats before the situation became less than ideal.  It also served to keep the populations from getting any ideas about supporting the work being done by the Rebel Alliance.  

By the time A New Hope begins, this is a galaxy-wide situation.  Stormtroopers are in every system - especially those on the edge of collapse - ensuring that the populace and government facilities are safe from terrorist attacks like the one that ultimately destroyed the Death Star approaching the Rebel Fleet's hidden base on Yavin 4.  These Stormtroopers are in shoot-first mode, in order to stay alive.  It is literally life or death for them every time they embark on a patrol, and they are staying alive and keeping the peace.  The costs associated with running a war across a galaxy is staggering.  Troopers must be equipped, fed, paid, and supported medically.  Entire fleets of ships must be moved from system to system by means of hyperspace travel.  Facilities must be built, staffed, and equipped in systems that are in danger of falling to the Rebel Alliance's guerrilla styled attacks.  The Death Star, an unbelievably expensive Government Facility (the first of many planned for construction) that will ensure that many of those systems resist the Rebel's terrorist leverage on them has just been completed, outfitted, and staffed by millions of Imperial personnel.  Everyone talks about how dangerous it was to be an Imperial Command Officer under the watch of Darth Vader, but imagine being the Imperial accountant who has to report to the Emperor (remember - he is not as forgiving as Darth Vader!) that more money is needed to ensure that all of the Stormtroopers remain current in their training and proficient in their skills.  Soldiering skills are perishable.  If you don't do them, you'll lose your level of proficiency, and that can get you and your fellow Stormtroopers killed quickly.  So then, what's an Imperial budget officer to do?  Well, all of those Stormtroopers assigned to the Death Star certainly don't need to go to the range every month.  They're on the Death Star, they won't be seeing combat any time soon, and when they rotate off of it, they'll get caught up to speed by their new units of assignment - that will reduce the training budget even further, and allow those credits to go to the much needed supplies for Stormtroopers on the ground, in theater.

What does all of this have to do with the accuracy of Stormtroopers?  Here's what it has to do with it, ANH - Tattooine, scene of a trashed Jawa sandcrawler, Ben (former GAR Jedi General Obi-Wan) Kenobi remarks to young Luke Skywalker that it wasn't Sandpeople who did it, but they were made to think so.  Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise - he would know better than almost anyone.  These are line Troopers, they are living life and death every day in places like Mos Eisley - the wretched hive of scum and villainy - they understand the importance of their mission - finding those droids and the plans stolen by the Rebel spies.  They know that should the rebellion receive those plans, that not only are the lives of millions of their Imperial brothers and sisters jeopardized, but the ability of the Empire to maintain the peace in multiple systems at once is jeopardized as well, and the war is likely to continue for years.  Nobody hates war like a Soldier does.  Proceed along the timeline now to the Lars homestead.  Again, the Stormtroopers on the ground, living in the war day to day, demonstrate the efficiency of their training and their experience - both manifested in their battle-hardened nature.  

The next timeline point is Docking Bay 94.  Yes, the Millenium Falcon escapes, but the only person outside the ship when the Stormtroopers begin firing is Han Solo, a smuggler with a reputation for quick getaways, and plenty of experience feeding that reputation.  The ship is under small arms fire while they close up the hatches, but underway quicker than the battle-hardened Stormtroopers on Tattooine can get their E-web Canon mounted and operational, testament to the efficiency of Solo and Chewbacca, who are also living life-or-death every day as notorious smugglers with prices on their heads.  

From here on out in ANH, we are on the Death Star, where the Stormtroopers are not maintaining their battle proficiency as a result of their assignment, and the needs of the Empire to sustain the Troopers on the fronts.  This is where the "Stormtroopers can't shoot" fallacy begins (and ends, really).  Who are the Stormtroopers on the Death Star?  Primarily, they're serving as administrative specialists.  They're charged with the day to day operations and maintenance of the facility.  Of course there are security forces and prisoner guard details.  Certainly, there are small groups of elite Stormtroopers there, such as members of Darth Vader's personal Legion of Stormtroopers - the 501st - who were no doubt maintaining their training, and likely had been dispatched to investigate and destroy the Rebel base purported to be on Dantooine.  But the station's complement of Stormtroopers are not only in a degraded training status, they are under orders to funnel the rebels back to their ship so that they can escape by means of the homing beacon placed on it, and lead the Death Star to the true location of the Rebel Alliance's hidden base - Yavin 4.

The remainder of the Trilogy - ESB and ROTJ are fairly simple to cover, as every time the Rebels are set upon by Imperial Stormtroopers, they are routed quite handily.  

ESB - Echo Base - Stormtroopers invade a prepared, dug-in and defended installation, and route the Rebels, scattering their fleet across the galaxy.
Cloud City - C-3PO is destroyed, Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia Organa - Captured without a fight by Imperial Stormtroopers.  Only Luke Skywalker (who a: has Jedi reflexes and training and b: was being funneled to the Carbon-Freezing chamber) manages to escape them.

ROTJ - Forest Moon of Endor - the Rebel scout team is routed by the Imperials.  Hands-down.  R2-D2, and Leia Organa are both shot by Imperial Stormtroopers.  Had the Ewoks not interfered while the Imperial forces were focused on guarding their prisoners, the battle ends in completely different fashion, as the Rebel Fleet arrives, and the shield generator never stops operating.

TLDR Version:  The cost of waging war across the expanse of a galaxy is astronomical, and in order to save a few dollars, the Stormtroopers on the Death Star don't go to the range to maintain their proficiency.  This, and the order to herd the "escaping" rebels back to their ship so that it can be followed with a homing beacon, further caused them to shoot but not hit the rebels while ensuring that they escaped.  Every other instance in which the Stormtroopers go toe-to-toe with the Rebels ends in a very one-sided victory for the Imperial Forces:  Tattooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor.

 

So, without knowing what the team at Mythbusters will have to say, this is my theory as to the apparently lacking accuracy of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps.  Clearly, all of us know good and well what the truth is, but the public at large manages to be swayed by rebel propaganda to this day.  It is our duty to educate them as to the truth and the might of their Imperial Stormtroopers.  I'm sure that the Mythbusters team will come to a very similar conclusion, should the rumors of their upcoming episode's content turn out to be true, and remember, you read it here - at the FISD - first!

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I'm looking forwar dto the mythbusters film and their results.

In ROTJ the emperor said tow of my best legions are on endor.

Hmm when the best legions are knocked out by ewoks then i do not wonder that the empire is destoyed :smiley-sw013:

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The main plot point to consider on the death star when the rebels were being lead to their ship. thus the TK's were ordered to allow them to escape.

 

The homing beacon was an important gamble.

 

http://www.starwars.com/video/an-awful-risk

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Brilliantly said! Even Obi Wan Kenobi said "And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise."  Wonderful piece, Sir!

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Ah, indeed Sergiu, I hadn't even mentioned tha Tantive IV and that bottleneck. The TKs should have been easy pickings for the rebels there, not to mention Leia Organa being shot and captured. More food for thought though! ;)

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The pic above I always keep close. And I always use it when people start bad mouthing our beloved white plastic troopers. :smiley-sw013:  After seeing it everyone realizes it is more to the Stormies than you first thought.

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The pic above I always keep close. And I always use it when people start bad mouthing our beloved white plastic troopers. :smiley-sw013:  After seeing it everyone realizes it is more to the Stormies than you first thought.

That's the same go-to pic I use. It makes perfect sense and honestly I've gotten annoyed how eveyrone thinks stormtroopers are bad shots when really they're just following orders. Ol' Ben said it himself... "Only Imperial Stormtroopers can be so precise.

After all, its petty dam hard to miss ever shot you take knowing you'll et force choked by vader if you accidentally hit his son...

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That's awesome Tim. Perhaps a bit much to put on FB next time someone bad mouths Stormtroopers, but a fun read all the same.

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It all comes down to this. The movie was made like a western in the 70's. Ever bad guy was a great shot until they took on the heroes. Then they missed and died in comically dramatic ways.

 

Or as Peter Griffin put it in Something, Something, Something Dark Side, "Look, we got four or five of the main characters on this ship, I think we'll be fine."

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Stormtroopers are always exactly as accurate as the plot needs them to be.

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Thanks sergiu... I was going to post that photo.. but I am glad you did.

 

personally I don't buy the lack of training stuff you mention.

a very clear point was made in the order not to shoot them.

 

you can see clearly they are shooting the floor, walls and doors, and running away from the rebels.

 

I was the first person to post the photo that sergiu posted on the FISD several years ago.

Edited by TK Bondservnt 2392

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I can buy the lack of training, as a support person now I don't get nearly the same amount of range time I did when I was in the Infantry. I can see quite the difference in my marksmanship level from 3 years ago to now. Couple that theory with the order from higher to let them escape and it's a pretty open and shut case to me. As someone said previously, I would hate to be the poor TK that has to answer to Vader for accidently popping a cap in his son.

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A very well reasoned and comprehensive post and a good ensuing discussion. I also think that Stormtroopers probably didn't get shot at very often by credible opponents. Before the rebellion likely the only opposition they faced would have been criminal gangs or local peacekeeping forces during Imperial pacification duty. In the new novel "Tarkin" there is a noteworthy amount of discussion amongst the flag officers and Imperial leadership about deployments across the galaxy specifically to keep applying pressure on the civilian masses. Also, the accuracy of a soldier changes dramatically from the training range to shooting in a combat situation. That is what I always thought contributed to some of the criticism of general Stormtrooper inaccuracy. Also, adding the perspective of the panned escape from the Death Star would make sense.

 

Jason

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Wel, the lack of training thing is just a reality aspect reflected on the situation. Not implying they were less well trained in the academies, just that their sustainment and proficiency training are not a priority in situations like being assigned to the Death Star.

 

Sent from my SM-G386T using Tapatalk

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"maybe it's another drill"

 

I do not buy into the americanized view of troop training, troops in star wars during EP 4 are not like an american joining the army.

 

Stormtroopers at academy have to fight each other to the death in an arena.  hardly a comparison can be drawn.

more like the roman legion, where death itself is a reward.

 

I will not  subscribe to a lazy, or untrained troop cadre, in a harsh environment like the empire.

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It will be interesting to see if the origin of Stormtrooper training is ever discussed in a canonical source. To my knowledge, nothing which is considered canon speficically addresses how Stormtroopers are trained. My understanding of what is now canon is the list of books found in the recent novel "Sith Lords" which lists "The stories of Star Wars" and includes all of the movies, several novels, the Disney Clone Wars and Rebels TV series. If there is a reference in canon, somebody please post it. My favorite Stormtrooper story is entitled "Trooper" first seen in Star Wars Tales 10 and was collected in Star Wars Tales Volume 3 where I first read it. The story centers on my favorite image from any Star Wars film, the first Stormtrooper to enter Tantive IV in ANH. His backstory encompasses all of the dark concepts of brutality and savagery.

 

As far as comparisons of training in armies to Stormtroopers in the Star Wars universe, I like the comparison to the Roman legions. While their lives were undoubtedly harsh and the training brutal, their success in warfare was based on discipline, tactics and their armaments. In all key areas they were superior to their opponents for a long time. However, you cannot keep an army like that constantly at full lethal combat readiness 100% of the time. Even the Clone Troopers had issues and needed down time.

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Love it.  Just had a conversation with a Trekie about it over the weekend.

Seriously... If the red shirts are the people who actually go on all of the missions, why aren't they better trained?

 

At the end of the day, the training issue isn't about laziness, it comes down to the almighty credit, and the scale of the 20 some year old war.

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Love it.  Just had a conversation with a Trekie about it over the weekend.

 

Did you show him this? :P:D

 

Stormtrooper_vs_red_shirt.jpg

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Not sure as to the exact air date yet. It has been teased as an episode this season though.

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