Spray and pray

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Spray and pray is a derisive term for firing an automatic firearm towards an enemy in long bursts, without making an effort to line up each shot or burst of shots. This is especially prevalent amongst those without benefit of proper training. It differs from suppressive fire as the shooting is poorly directed, while suppressive fire is well-aimed to keep the enemy busy for an attack to be carried out. This term does not apply to appropriately focused fully automatic fire or true suppressive fire, which is standard practice for a properly trained combatant.

In the Rhodesian Bush War and elsewhere, spray and pray was used to describe the firing of a relatively inaccurate weapon.

Jack Lewis a former U.S. Marine veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War and editor of Gun World magazine met the then Commandant of the Marine Corps Paul X. Kelley. Lewis told the Commandant that the effect of the introduction of the M16 rifle was that "The United States used to be known as a Nation of Riflemen; now we've become a Nation of Sprayers".[1]

Drawbacks of uncontrolled automatic gunfire are the low likelihood of actually hitting an enemy target, the large amounts of ammunition needed, and the increased risk of it becoming friendly fire. It was due to the tendency of soldiers to spray and pray during the Vietnam War that the US replaced the automatic-fire setting that was on the original M16 with three-round burst fire for the M16A2 and M16A4/M4 carbine.


An alternative method for achieving effective fire is to use either single shots or controlled, aimed bursts after locating the opposing force. Many armed forces employ selective fire assault rifles and battle rifles and other small arms with a burst mode instead of, or in addition to, a fully automatic mode, to encourage soldiers to use effective fire techniques.

Usage variants[edit]

  • 'Spraying and praying' may also refer to someone who is behind cover and shoots their firearm around the cover without looking at their target, usually out of fear of being exposed. They are 'spraying' ammunition, and 'praying' that it will hit their target. This technique is also known as "blind firing".
  • The term is used to describe the typical use of automatic weapons in movies and TV shows, in which actors expend copious amounts of ammunition shooting in the general direction of their targets, without ever actually hitting anyone.
  • The term has been applied in video games featuring automatic weapons, usually first-person shooters, in which players fire blindly hoping to hit a target. The term is synonymous with spamming. It is a well-known phenomenon within the games Counter-Strike, F.E.A.R. and Call of Duty. As is the case in real life, players who employ a spray and pray technique are largely ineffective, often being picked off by more skilled players placing well aimed shots.
  • This term has also been used by U.S. Defense Department strategist Thomas Nichols to describe the launching of early-model submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as it was impossible to target them properly due to difficulties in precisely determining the position of the launching submarine.[citation needed]
  • The term was also used in aviation, where the enemy aircraft was too far to engage specific points accurately, such as the engines or cockpit, and was meant more to distract or lure the enemy from friendly aircraft than to damage the enemy aircraft.
  • The term was also used in Venture Capital investing, when referring to distribution of funds to many startups and 'praying' for some to become major players in the future.
  • This term is related to the "Principle of Evil Marksmanship" (also known as the Stormtrooper Effect), which states enemy marksmen in action films are often very bad shots and almost never harm the main characters. Unlike spray and pray, this has highly trained troops aiming, but nonetheless consistently missing, their intended target.
  • The term is also used by detractors of conspiracy theories, especially regarding chemtrails.

Non-military use[edit]

  • This term may also be used to describe an approach to communication, where mass emails, broadcasts or leaflets are dispersed in hopes that everyone in the intended audience has received the message.[2]
  • The Disney Corporation speaks of some organisations using a "Spray and Pray" approach towards training, spraying the training on and praying it sticks[3]
  • The term is also sometimes used in the photography community to describe a scenario where one shoots many photos of subject, and prays that one of them is a keeper.
  • It has been used as a term to describe the reproductive methods of some forms of Mollusks, Cnidarians, Sponges and Ctenophores. Said animals simply release sperm and eggs into the surrounding water of their habitats and leave fertilization to chance.
  • It is used in Information Security to illustrate the use of multiple automated attack payloads.
  • The term is used to describe a practice by a Venture Capitalist (VC) firm who will make too many investments for his capacity to get involved properly in supporting these investments. This is specially true for VCs who do seed rounds in startup companies.

See also[edit]

  • Shoot-and-scoot
  • Area bombing


  1. p.15 The Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons
  2. p.Booher, Dianna The Voice of Authority: 10 Communications Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know 2007 McGraw Hill
  3. p.259 Capodagli, Bill & Jackson, Lynn The Disney Way Fieldbook 2001 McGraw Hill

External links[edit]

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