Study: Moderate Stress Significantly Impacts Marksmanship




Link to Full Study: MTI Stress and Marksmanship Study



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of stress on marksmanship performance, as applied through four variables: (1) Physical Activity, (2) Time, (3) Resources Constraints (Ammunition) and (4) Competition.



Fifteen full-time members of a state law enforcement (LE) tactical unit participated in the study (age 29-43 years).  Participants were all experienced marksman with at least 7 years of LE experience and a minimum of 1 year of full-time tactical experience.  All subjects completing a series of 24 marksmanship trials.  Trials were divided into two categories: (1) Non-stressed (Video Link) and (2) Stressed (Video Link).  Each trial consisted of one magazine of 5 rounds (5.56mm). Subjects fired a total of 60 rounds during the non-stressed trials and 60 rounds during the stressed trials (120 total rounds).  HR data was collected using the iOS Polar Team Training App® and Polar H7® bluetooth heart rate monitors.  Marksmanship accuracy was tracked by tactical team members not participating in the study.  Accuracy was measured in hits per 5 round magazine.



  • Heart rates as low as 148.5 BPM (approximately 80% of estimated heart rate max) represent sufficient stress to significantly decrease marksmanship performance (-24.1%).
  • Individual variations in heart rate (+/- 7.7 BPM) during non-stressed drills did not lead to changes in marksmanship performance.
  • Individual variations in heart rate (+/- 11.4 BPM) during stressed drills did not lead to changes in marksmanship performance.



Since most real-world tactical situations occur during times of stress, the researchers recommend that all tactical professionals train stressed marksmanship.  Based on the results presented in this study, drills, similar to the one used by the researchers, represent a simple and safe means of applying stress to marksmanship exercises.


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