Accidental Aiming Skills

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Robin: (After Ahchoo shoots the rope that would hang him) Nice shooting, Ahchoo.
Ahchoo: To tell you the truth, I was aiming for the Hangman.

We've all seen people hit impossible targets at great lengths under unbelievable circumstances. But occasionally, a hero will make a seemingly impossible shot, be congratulated on his awesomeness, and admit that he was aiming for something else entirely.

Often used to subvert an awesome moment into a funny one. May be the result of the Pinball Projectile. Contrast Exactly What I Aimed At.

Common when something needs to be hit by a character with legendarily lousy aim.

Examples of Accidental Aiming Skills include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mihoshi of Tenchi Muyo! does this a lot, or at least enough fans associate her with this.
  • Bleach
    • Tousen and Shinji have a brief battle, and Tousen congratulates him for dodging an attack. Shinji turns his head to show a small cut above his eye and notes that Tousen had actually hit him. Tousen replies that he'd been trying to cut Shinji's head off from the eyes up, so that little scratch counts as a miss.
    • Used in a fight between Ishida and Mayuri Kurotsuchi. In the end, Ishida is able to shoot an arrow that ends up taking out the majority of the captain's body and causing him to leave the fight, though is himself poisoned. Nemu, Kurotsuchi's lieutenant, ends up giving him the antidote for the poison in return for the fact that he spared the captain's life. Ishida then replies that he'd actually been trying to kill Kurotsuchi, and that not completely hitting him was accidental, not intended as Nemu believed.
  • Sousuke Sagara uses this trope during Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. After firing a grenade at his opponent, which is subsequently dodged, the grenade lodges itself into a pillar and explodes. Debris from said explosion lands on and disables the opponent, who then praises Sousuke for analysing both his position after the dodge and calculating the trajectory of the debris. Sousuke then denies the action and states that he accidentally fired a live round instead of a practice one.
  • In Pandora Hearts, we get a variant of this: When Oz is kidnapped by the Baskervilles, Elliot and Leo come to rescue him. Toward the end of the ensuing battle, Leo fires his gun at Lottie and manages to skim her arm and cause enough of a distraction for them to escape. Directly afterwards, he reveals that he is genuinely surprised that he actually managed to hit her, as, according to Elliot, he's "hopeless with guns and swords."
  • The titular heroine of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind finds herself in a besieged city, halfway through the manga. As enemy soldiers approach, she intends to fire a shot across the field to startle their mounts and force them back to their encampment—she does have Improbable Aiming Skills, after all. But, as luck would have it, she misses, and instead kills one of the soldiers with a flawless shot. This traumatizes her so severely she goes into Heroic BSOD for quite a while afterwards.

Comic Books

  • Y: The Last Man
    • Hero shattering Toyota's sword with a bullet, and admits she was aiming for the head when complemented on it. (She was heavily tranqued up on painkillers at the time).
    • In an earlier issue, she was riding with the Daughters of the Amazon who were chasing a woman riding on a bike. Hero fires an arrow that hits the woman's leg and causes her to spill. Victoria compliments her on this, but Hero sadly mutters she was aiming for the tyre. This doesn't help with her depression over killing another woman.
  • In one Spirou comic, one of the characters (a circus-trained knife-throwing bear with permanent hiccups - long story) throws a knife so it cuts off a rope holding several empty oil drums in place, and they roll downhill to knock out a guard. Spirou tells his trainer it was an amazing throw, but the trainer replies that he told the bear to aim for the guard directly.
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, Bob's dad displays accidental aiming skills during his first (and only) game of Cattlepunk.

Brian: Whooooah, dude. Yer dad shot 'im in the face.
Bob's Dad: I wasn't going for the face. He walked into it. That's all. the damn fool. Those were warning shots I was firing.

  • A Lucky Luke story had the titular character encountering a guy trying to become a gunfighter to impress his girlfriend. Problem is, he's an atrociously bad shot. He convinces Luke to participate in a mock gunbattle in front of his girlfriend only to want to fight for real once said girlfriend shows interest in Luke. The guy fires...and manages to kill legendary outlaw "Texas Killer" who happened to robbing a bank a block away. Luke rolls with it and lets everyone believe it was all part of a plan, and the guy gets the girl and becomes Sheriff of the town (his aim doesn't become a problem seeing as apparently everyone is scared of "the guy who killed Texas Killer"

Fan Works


  • Older Than Television: During one drawn-out scene in Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush, two people grapple over a shotgun. The entire time, the gun happens to be aimed squarely at the Little Tramp, no matter how he squirrels about the shack.
  • True Lies; automatic weapon fired once, dropped down a staircase, firing randomly with every bounce. And it wipes out the bad guys.
    • Truth in television as the gun in question is a Mac-10 which features an open bolt design. Submachine guns like this are prone to discharge entire clips if dropped (this is actually taught to German special police units to make an impromptu grenade since they still occasionally use Uzis)
      • Firing the entire clip might be Truth in Television, but hitting all the bad guys in the room and never the protagonist was very improbably indeed.
        • Not really Truth in Television . They had to tie a wire around the trigger to make it work, as almost all guns now have a "drop safety" specifically to keep this from happening. Also, the german uzis include this safety since the early 2000s, and they never actually used them as impromptu grenades, since "friendly fire isn't".
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights. "Actually, I was aiming for the hangman"
  • Also seen in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad where-in the mostly useless comic relief stuns everybody by felling a threatening Bad Guy with a cross bow. Afterward admitting he did it by aiming 'at everything else'!
    • Probably picked up from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s Sinbad the Sailor, in which Melik claims to have arrow'd the steersman of a following warship, "By aiming at everyone else but the steersman."
  • In the film Geronimo, the title character manages to shatter a jar of whiskey just as an opponent is taking a drink from several hundred yards away. When he's commended for a good shot, Geronimo unabashedly admits, "Not so good. I was aiming for his head."
  • Five Card Stud has Dean Martin try to impress another guy with his aiming skills, shoots at a windmill. 5 shots, we hear 4 "pings" as they hit the blades. Robert Mitchum is impressed that he got 4 out of 5; Guy 1 says he was aiming between the blades and only got 1.
  • From The Magnificent Seven movie:

[Britt has just shot a fleeing bandit off his horse]
Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I've ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.

    • Most of the time this trope is invoked, they are directly referencing this scene. Especially if it is a Western movie.
  • In The Mummy Returns, the heroes' son was kidnapped by the bad guys and was annoying them by talking incessantly. To shut him up, one of the bad guys pulled out a knife and quickly stabbed it into the table between the kid's fingers. This didn't have quite the intended effect as the kid started gushing about how good his aim was--"What are you talking about? I missed."
  • In Harlem Nights, Quick (Eddie Murphy) is pinned down in an alley by a trio of gangsters (led by Arsenio Hall). Out of desperation, he fires off three quick shots to try and back the gangsters off. When he doesn't hear any return fire, he looks up from behind his cover and discovers he'd nailed all three men.
  • In the final shootout scene of Beverly Hills Cop II, Cloudcuckoolander cop Rosewood manages to take out a truck that is fleeing the scene with the badguy's load of illicit armaments by shooting it with a LAW anti-tank rocket that he is holding in his lap and reading the instructions to out loud.

Rosewood: "...Aim through here, push this."
[whooosh... KABOOOM!]
Taggart: "Fuck Rambo."

  • It helps Rango convince the people of Dirt that he killed seven people with one bullet when he accidentally kills a giant hawk with one.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills in completely the wrong direction. In the Abbott and Costello film Here Come the Co-Eds, Oliver Quackenbush (Lou Costello) loses a tied basketball game when his shot at goal misses, bounces of the backboard and flies the entire length of the court to land in the opposition's basket.
  • In I Robot, the doctor managed to kill two robots next to the hero with her eyes closed.
  • Played with in a famous scene in the mostly bad sequel, Alien 4: Resurrection where the director wanted Sigourney Weaver's character to throw a basketball through a hoop while facing the opposite direction to display her new powers. Weaver trained for many days and managed to average one out of six shots, but the distance required for filming was farther than she had practiced. Determined to make the shot rather than insert it with CGI, Weaver made the basket on the very first take prompting a stunned and impressed "Oh my god!" from Ron Perlman breaking out of character (which was edited out during post-production)


  • Discworld:
    • In Pyramids the main character tries to fail his assassins guild test by firing away from the victim. The arrow bounces off a nail (and a few other things) before embedding itself in the victim (which was a dummy anyway, but that's beside the point). The exam proctor marks down that Teppic was showing off.
    • In Reaper Man, the protagonist (who is supernatural) can hit anything he aims at first try, but uses this ability to pretend he has Accidental Aiming Skills after he realizes that people resent people who are too good at something. He even ponders the implications of this, he manages some utterly improbably bad shots "by mistake" that would require far more skill than "good" shots, but no one notices.
    • Sam Vimes's own brief experience with this trope in The Fifth Elephant when he shoots a bandit holding his wife hostage in the head with a small, concealable crossbow. He later reveals that he was aiming for the man's shoulder. Another character mentions that that particular type of crossbow "tends to pull a little to the left." Not that that would have helped.
      • Vimes and others within the series also have a tendency to make cracks about this trope, often warning the current antagonist about rookies; "You never know where it might hit..."
  • The main character of Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse threatens a cannibalistic farmer by shooting his ear off. He aimed for the man's knee, but the ear's better motivation.
  • Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE - ah, what's the use) managed a headshot while aiming for the chest. Well, if you're going to duck when being shot at...
  • Kip in The Black Prism fires a flintlock at a musketeer at the bow of a ship, only to snipe the captain off the wheel at the stern. Bonus points as his reply when asked is "Aiming?"
  • In the Harry Potter series, Ron is praised for beautifully stopping a Quaffle from hitting a Quidditch goal with some kind of airborn barrel roll... except he later reveals that was a complete accident, and Ron himself believes that he's a horrible Keeper. He kicks the Quaffle (not that Quaffles really matter, but whatever) while dangling from his broom. In truth, he'd fallen off and was climbing back onto his broom - the ball happened to fly into his foot.
  • In his autobiography About Face, Colonel Hackworth mentions how he accidentally added to his Badass reputation by shooting the head off an axe on the downswing. In truth he didn't even know the pistol had a round in the chamber.
  • The fantasy novel Knights Of Dark Renown features a swordsman- formerly the King's Champion, and one of the greatest warriors around- who's lost his right hand, and is having serious trouble training himself to be left-handed. At one point he's facing some charging cavalry, throws an axe and kills a soldier. "I was aiming for the horse."
  • Jake Spoon of Lonesome Dove gets a reputation as a deadly marksman after shooting a bandit in the throat at an extremely long range, but the shot was really just a lucky fluke. This trope also bites him, as he is introduced while on the run from the law after firing a buffalo rifle during a bar fight, which completely failed to hit Spoon's antagonist and instead went through the wall and killed the mayor of the town, who was walking down the opposite side of the street.
  • The long and illustrious, and undeserved, reputation of Flashman in the series of novels started when he was trapped into a duel. He arranged for the pistol of his opponent to be loaded without a ball (bullet), while his was. Then he aimed away from his opponent and hit the top off a whiskey bottle. He had only intended to miss his opponent. However, this incident was interpreted as Flashman intending to show that he was a expert marksman by intentionally shooting the whiskey bottle, and missing his opponent.
  • Kurik in David Eddings' Elenium series does this when he hits an enemy officer right between the eyes with his crossbow, only to admit that he was aiming for the chest.
  • Done a couple times in Wyrm; the other characters compliment Ragnar on his good aim only for him to admit each time that he was aiming at something else entirely.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss threw a knife at a wall and it landed in the seam between two panels making her, in her words, "seem a lot better than she was" at knife throwing.

Live-Action TV

  • In Jonathan Creek, Jonathan flicks a playing card into the face of a man holding a gun to Madeline, stunning him.

Madeline: If you'd missed, he would have killed me!
Jonathan: I did miss. I was aiming for his balls.

  • When Johnny Carson's version of The Tonight Show still featured some of the more circus-style variety acts. An old black-and-white clip that was featured in many a "best of Johnny Carson" collection features Ed Ames throwing tomahawks at a wooden plank with a drawn-on outline of a man. One of those axes nails the target right in the crotch, with the handle pointing up. Made even funnier because the intent stated at the beginning of the bit was that Ames was just warming up, and that after he did so Carson would be standing in front of the target.
  • In the pilot episode of Sons Of Thunder, it's made clear that the main character is ridiculously skilled in the martial arts... except he can't aim a throwing star worth a damn. So when he's facing off against the Villain of the Week and nails him in the gun hand with a throwing star, both the audience and his partner are suitably impressed (and surprised). However, when he's congratulated on his improved accuracy he states, "I was aiming for his throat".
  • In an episode of Leverage, Hardison steals an unconscious Mook's gun and fires a shot into the hood of the bad guys' car, causing smoke to start rolling out. The following exchange occurs:

Eliot: Good thinking, shooting out the engine block.
Hardison: I was aiming for his leg.

Eliot: Give me the gun, Hardison!

  • In the second episode of Firefly ("The Train Job"), a half-doped Jayne Cobb gets complimented for shooting a villain in the leg, and says "I was aiming for the head."
  • In a Season 2 episode of Sledge Hammer! a drugged-up Sledge is complimented by his captain for disabling the criminal, and says "I was aiming for his head."
  • On one episode of Criminal Minds, while in a hostage crisis, Spencer Reid shoots the crook and mass murderer dead center of the forehead. Not only was he said to have failed his firearms qualification at the start of the episode, he claimed he'd been aiming for the guy's knee. At a distance of about six feet, that's a spectacularly bad shot. Given that it was established in the same scene that if Reid didn't kill him in one shot, they were probably all going to die (the words "Better be a head shot" were uttered) this was probably a joke on the character's part. It still, however, fulfills the trope.
  • In one episode of Blakes Seven, Avon saves Blake's life by shooting out The Dragon Travis's gun hand from a considerable distance. When Blake compliments him on the shot, Avon bitterly replies that "I was aiming for his head".
  • In F Troop, Captain Wilton Parmenter is notorious for his inability to hit a target. Instead, he wins gunfights by accidentally making ludicrously complicated trick shots, followed by his men pretending they were deliberate. "Scourge of the West" Parmenter's gained quite the reputation as a sharpshooter.
  • In an episode of Castle, Rick Castle shoots a gun out of a serial killer's hand. When Beckett says that it was a "hell of a shot" Castle replies that he was aiming for his head (a reference to Firefly, above).
    • Slightly subverted in that Castle has shown himself to be a better shot on the firing range than even Beckett. Then again, his aim is probably affected by adrenalin, as well as seeing his partner (and love interest) about to be shot.
      • Possibly a kind of Truth in Television: People have been known to accidentally "focus" on the firearm in an aggressor's hand, causing them to fire at IT, instead of the aggressor they're supposed to be aiming at. It's due to the combination of hand-eye coordination, and the brain's natural tendency to look at the source of danger. It's also something that is supposed to be guarded against when in a genuine defensive situation, because shooting a gun out of someone's hand is at least an order of magnitude more difficult than shooting them center of mass to put them on the floor.
  • In V.I.P., Vallery Irons took off her headband and threw it. The instant chakram knocked out four enemies with head blows despite them wearing helmets. Since she'd just a figure head, she was surprised it worked.
  • In Bored to Death: "I wasn't aiming for the boss." "What?" "Never mind."
  • In Get Smart, a villain launches an explosive table tennis ball into a room where the heroes are being kept. Maxwell Smart uses his paddle to hit it into a slot to the next room, whereupon it explodes and presumably kills the villain. Impressed, the chief of Control asks Max how he did it. Max says he was aiming for a window a ways from the slot. Only afterward does he realize how incompetent he now sounds.
  • Happened a few times on Third Watch with different cops.

[Jelly shoots the gunman in the head]
Sully: Nice shot, Jelly.
Jelly: I was aiming for his leg.

  • Done in an episode of The Mentalist, where Jane is partnered with Hightower instead of Lisbon (who is injured). Jane is grabbed by the episode's killer and held as a human shield. Hightower comes out of a rock and starts shooting, unloading most of the clip without hitting anything with the last bullet hitting the bad guy in the leg. She finished him off with several shots to the chest, when he tries to shoot her. When Jane commends her aim, she replies that she was aiming for the head.
  • In Alphas Dr. Rosen shoots an enemy at close range in the head, firing through his cheek. Later Bill tells him that he should have shot at the center mass, especially as an inexperienced shooter, and Rosen admits that he was trying to.
  • Decidedly not played for laughs in an episode of Spartacus: Vengeance. Mira shoots someone right through the throat, in the rain, through a crowd of people. Her archery teacher congratulates her on the brilliant shot, only for Mira to tearfully admit she was trying to non-fatally wound her target.


  • This is the only way that Church from Red vs. Blue can hit a target. At one point, he fired a sniper shot, missed badly, set off a series of ricochets, and only then hit his intended target.


  • In Jaga Jazzist's "Airborne" music video, the protagonist is completely unaware that he's being pursued by a gun-wielding assassin. Just as the gunman is about the fire at him, he opens a champagne bottle. The cork flies off and hits the assassin's head, knocking him out.

Newspaper Comics

  • A FoxTrot strip plays with this. Peter throws a baseball at an apparently far-off tin can sitting on a fence post. In the final panel, we see that he was actually aiming for Roger's much closer glove.
  • There was a Shoe strip where the main character hits a golf ball past a seemingly impossible to get past tree. When asked how he did it, his answer was something along the lines of "I aimed for the tree."

Video Games

  • In Warbears Mission 2, throwing the rock at the target mook will cause Agent Kla to complain "I was trying to hit myself and play dead!"
  • The AI players in the Worms franchise are notorious for making astoundingly stupid shots, failing to take into account things like intervening obstacles, bouncing of weapons, and the presence of their own teammates in the line of fire. Occasionally these will result in some hilariously spectacular shots, wiping out half the worms in the level or killing their entire team. Human players have been known to pull off some of these as well.
    • Unless they decide to use a grenade. Then they can bounce it of more than eight different walls and the fuse burns out just as the 'nade hits the player.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. See this. Welcome to war, soldier. Beware of random flying knives.
  • In the old Text Parser Adventure Game Hugo 2: Whuddonit, one of the items you collect is a handgun. Whatever you try to use it on, you get the message "Sheesh, you missed." However, during a sequence when you mysteriously teleport into an episode of Doctor Who, you're supposed to use it on a Dalek (who are Immune to Bullets). Doing so results in the message "Sheesh, you missed... no wait, the bullet rebounded off a rock and hit the only vulnerable spot on the robot! It explodes!"
  • Gameplay example only. In Halo: Reach, the sniper rifle rounds will deflect off surfaces, even multiple times, if the angle of incidence is large enough. Some videos show that that the angle can even be around 35 degrees and still work.
  • Team Fortress 2 has a Sniper achievement for delivering a One-Hit Kill to a fully invisible Spy, which is almost bound to be complete luck.
  • On the higher difficulties on Sniper Elite, when you don't take the wind into account, it's perfectly possible to aim for the man on the right and shoot the man on the left instead.

Web Comics

  • Invoked in Furmentation when Xodin goes off the beat up the demons. "Yes, but now I'm a coward with unpredictable disastrous magical discharges".
  • In Concerned, at one point Gordon Frohman is pinned down by three Combine soldiers who believe him to be a rebel. Fed up with being victimized, Gordon lashes out and blindfires three rounds out from cover, and kills all three Combine soldiers by accident.
  • If there is a trope that perfectly describes Vallant from Teh Gladiators, it's this one. Entire Arena matches have been won on the strength of his Pinball Projectile. A raid group was defeated because he accidentally hit the tank with Tranquilizing Shot. He is a living example of why you don't hand a gun to a complete idiot.
  • Whenever Eastwood from Exterminatus Now aims to miss a target, the shot generally ends up being fatal, or at least inconvenient.
  • In Bobwhite, young Lewis has a near-supernatural ability to shoot animals without trying.

Western Animation

  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Dale having seen his father hold his wife's hand and remembering the time he kissed her on their wedding day, he throws a knife off screen and emphatically impaling it on a mannequin right next to his dad in what is actually a pretty dramatic and intimidating monent for Dale (Dude, he's throwing knivess, it's Badass). He then yells something along the lines of, "Watch yourself, old man, or next time I'll aim for the mannequin and hit YOU!"
  • A character like this appeared in one episode of Lucky Luke. He ended accidentally defeating a famous villain. By firing in the opposite direction. His aiming skills were so hilariously poor, at one point, he attempted to commit suicide by putting the gun to his head - and missed.
  • Subverted in Treasure Planet:

Captain Amelia: Did you actually aim for that?
Dr. Doppler: You know, actually, I did!

  • Stroker and Hoop: "That was just a warning shot! The next one will be in your chest!" "You idiot, the warning shot was in his chest!
  • A Pink Panther cartoon from the '90s (where the panther spoke) had the eponymous panther playing a cowboy for an episode. All throughout the episode, he'd catch something useful with his lasso that allowed him to pull cool tricks that helped him out... only every single time, he'd comment that he was actually aiming for something more conventional, such as the villains.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons when given a gun to shoot at a robin, Bart tries to intentionally miss.. only to be congratulated on compensating for the crooked sight and making a perfect kill.
  • In Dan Vs. "Technology", Dan throws a hatchet at a brainwashed Elise trying to kill him, and he breaks the Mind Control headband without hurting her. His comment afterwards makes it clear to the audience that he was aiming to kill.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: In "Hit 'Em Where They Live", Ben (in the form of Rath) takes down Rojo by destroying her flying bike with a well-aimed piece of debris, leading this exchange:

Gwen: Nice shot.
Rath: I was kinda aimin' for her head!

Real Life

  • This trope is the reason you have to call your shot when hitting the 8 ball in pool.
  • This man shoots his earmuffs off with a .50 BMG rifle.
  • Another one is from Kansas where the basketball coach is set up for a prank where he is blindfolded and asked to shoot. The crowd would then cheer no matter how badly he missed so that they can screw with him when he starts to believe that he actually made the shot. He actually does make the shot. Funny thing is, a reporter making a report on it, for emphasis, tosses the ball behind him without looking and it goes in the basket.