Wrist Aiming vs. Arm Aiming in FPS Games
At the most basic level, aiming involves moving your crosshair from its starting point to its destination as quickly and precisely as possible. This necessarily requires the physical movement of the mouse and there are two primary ways to make this movement. You can move your wrist or you can move your arm.
Wrist aiming is a fine motor skill, using the delicate muscles in your wrist to make fast, precise cursor movements. The main benefits of wrist aiming are fast reaction times and increased accuracy over small distances.
Arm aiming is a gross motor skill using your entire arm to make the primary movement. Arm aiming, in contrast, allows you to cover far more ground and is much more resistant to fatigue. If you are settling in for a marathon gaming session, you will find you can last much longer by recruiting the larger muscles in your arm.
Please note that whilst both these types of aiming are applicable to all aim-based games including MOBAs, we are specifically looking at first-person shooters such as Counter Strike, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG etc.
So Which Should you use, Wrist Aiming or Arm Aiming?
There are definitely scenarios in which wrist aiming is superior - for example, delicate aiming scenarios requiring subtle movements within a small area - but in general top players will tend to use arm aiming. Here are the reasons why:
- Wrist aiming has some dead spots. Whilst it can offer a lot of precision, there are some movements it struggles with. In particular, aiming down. Try it now - grab your mouse and imagine you need to aim directly down by a few inches. It’s a slightly awkward movement involving the use of the fingers.
- Arm aiming is better for making full use of your mouse mat. For most games (e.g. Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG) it is recommended to set your sensitivity as low as you can manage without hindering your ability to react and turn quickly. The lower it is, the more precise a movement you are able to make. For many games, this results in a 360 turn requiring around a 12-inch movement. This just isn’t practical for wrist aiming. More precise First Person Shooters such as CS:GO will have an even lower sensitivity making this even more applicable
- Fatigue - the arm is a much larger muscle and fatigues much slower than the wrist. After several hours of gaming, wrist aimers will likely experience a steeper drop-off in aiming accuracy and speed.
- Injury prevention. Repetitive strain injury is much more common in wrists than in arms.
What about using a mixture of Arm Aiming and Wrist Aiming?
In practice there will always be some combination of the two - you don’t want to be keeping your wrists completely locked. But adding in too much wrist movement can create an error bias. The compound movement creates two opportunities for error and makes it more likely you will miss wide AND long for example. Most top players will try to complete most of the aiming movement using just their arm.
There is a, however, an advanced technique of arm then wrist. It goes like this:
- Use your arm to make the primary movement.
- If this doesn’t land you directly on your target, make a second, smaller movement with your wrist to land the shot.
This all happens in an instant and it can be hard to notice that they’re separate movement. But the distinction is important - its arm THEN wrist, not arm AND wrist.
See it In Action
You can check out a video of the differences here.