How fast is Red Dead Redemption’s dead eye? Hey there, partner. You know, this town ain’t big enough for– It’s actually really big, nevermind. The myth of the outlaw gunslinger wasn’t all about robbing train cars and threats based on the population density of towns and tippin’ hats. What really made the gunslinger a myth was ultimate prowess with a pistol. Out here, if you’re not fast, you’re buzzard food. But just how fast is fast? If you had a real dead eye shot, how quick would you be? The gunslinger with the fastest hands in the West has been a trope in westerns for decades, and in Red Dead Redemption, it rides again as the dead eye ability, a way for the player to slow down time and take the perfect shot. It implies incredibly fast, seriously skilled movements. Pop culture won’t give us any hard and fast values though, so what is the real limit to just how soon you could shoot. First, if we wanna know just how quickly you can detect and react to a stimulus, what we’re really asking about is the limit of human reaction time. Scientists have been concerned with human reaction times since before Red Dead Redemption took place. 120 years ago was when scientists first started publishing studies on it. We can be more specific. We want to know how long it will take your brain to perceive the environment, identify an object or stimulus, decide on an action to take, and then issue a motor command to your hands or whatever so you can take that action. Because of this process, the human reaction time is necessarily limited by the processing speed of the brain and the time it takes for electrical signals to travel throughout the body. It’s gettin’ kinda dark out here. Now to measure human reaction time, we have to come up with good experiments. So far, we have three main paradigms. In simple reaction time tests, we asked study participants to react simply to a stimulus, like pressing a button if they see a flash of light. In recognition testing, we asked study participants to react to one stimulus, but not another. Like pressing a button if you see a yellow flash of light, but not a blue flash of light. And in choice, we offer study participants up a choice and they hit a button accordingly. Now, scientists have found that across this testing, the more complicated you get, the longer the human reaction time. As you go from simple to recognition to choice, human reaction times get longer. So the simpler the stimulus and your reaction to it, the faster you’re gonna be. Man, it really is beautiful out here though. (growls) Across 120 years of reaction time testing, scientists have found that not only does the stimulus matter, its physical nature matters. If I were to fire this gun, the light from that event would hit the eye much, much faster than the sound from the event would hit your ear. But because the transduction of a photon into vision, relatively speaking, takes a lot longer, it’s much more complicated than turning pressure waves in your inner ear into sound. You actually react to sound a lot quicker than you do to something you see. The human reaction time to auditory stimuli is, on average, quite a bit faster than it is for visual stimuli, with our response to touch somewhere in between these millisecond values. But these values here are still a bit on the fast side. The most common figure you will see for human reaction time in general, is somewhere around a quarter of a second or 250 milliseconds. The blink of an eye. Now where is that horse? (blows) We don’t want no stinking averages though. We want the limit, gunslinger speed. So let’s put you to the test. Why do they, bleh, why do they do that? The easiest reaction time test that I know of is something you can do at home right now. All you need is a friend and a ruler. My friend’s name is Equestly. Come here, girl, come on. (neighs)
There she is. Beautiful. Now once you have your friend and your ruler, have that friend hold the ruler with the zero point right above your fingertips. Then when you are ready, have your friend randomly drop it and then see how quickly you can catch it. Alright, girl, come on. There, once you’ve caught the ruler, take the distance it took you to catch that ruler and write it down. Do this experiment three to five times and then take the average distance value. Alright, girl, you can go. (neighs) So dramatic. Because our ruler was in free fall under Earth’s gravity during this experiment, you can use the free fall equation to get the time it took before you caught the ruler in its fall, your reaction time. I did this experiment myself beforehand, and I got around 300 milliseconds average. (neighs) It’s fine. (neighs)
(snorts) I think it looks good. If you want to really feel like a gunslinger though, there’s another reaction time test that you can do at home. However, you have to watch this video on YouTube on a desktop or laptop. It’s a hassle, I know, but it’s for science. Otherwise, just follow along. Okay, so when you see me draw my gun, what I want you to do is hit the space bar on your desktop or laptop as quickly as you can. Then on YouTube, you can use the comma key to go back single frames in the video. Do that until you see me put my gun back in its holster, then maybe do it a couple of times, pausing the video, and then take the average number of frames it took you to hit that space bar. Alright, are you ready? Alright, get ready. ‘Cause this town is, in fact, not big enough for the two of us. (eagle scream) How’d you do? My videos run at 24 frames per second. So if you take your average number of frames and divide it by 24, you will get your gunslinger reaction time, reacting to me drawing on you. And I hope that I really stacked up, because this town is just not– It is– It’s– You know, it actually looks pretty nice. I think we could both live here. I’ll stop being so ornery about it. If you try these experiments with me a few times, you probably notice the more you did the test, the better your reaction times got. Experience has a lot to do with it. So it stands to reason that a seasoned gunslinger, who has a lot of experience with duels and such, would have trained their brain to react faster than the average person. And scientists have actually confirmed this effect in modern gunslinging, competitive, first-person shooters. In a study of reaction times across expert video game players and non-video game players, authors of a study in 2009 found that the video game players were, on average, 11% faster in their reaction times across nine different tasks without a loss in accuracy. And if you wanna see just how fast some gamers get, here’s a gamer named Flood, sniping bots while playing Counter Strike. His average reaction time in this video is just 180 milliseconds, equal to some of the best visual reaction times period. Now that’s fast gamin’. Experience and practice can reduce reaction times, so now let’s look at the humans whose job it is to react as quickly as possible. Your perceptual limits should be at least as fast as Dead Eye would be. What just happened? Sorry, I’m just takin’ a second to appreciate the graphics in this open world. And there’s probably no unnecessary effects quest in it. I’m sure of it. In 2000, gunslinger Howard Darby set the world record for the fastest draw and shot with a single-action revolver like you might use in Red Dead Redemption. As you can see, Darby is extremely fast. Darby’s world record shot took just 252 milliseconds, but this was for the full shot. He estimates that his reaction time during the shot was closer to 145 milliseconds. Unbelievably fast. If you could see Red Dead Redemption’s Dead Eye happening in real life, it might look something like Darby. Him reacting to, and taking out, multiple targets in literally the blink of an eye. (neighs) Get back here. Get back here, you dumb majestic beast. It turns out that there’s an interesting little quirk to the reaction times of gunslingers. If you are in a duel, it’s actually faster to draw second. A few studies now have found that if you put participants into a gun duel-like scenario, and tell them to draw on each other randomly, the person who draws second is, on average, 10% faster in their reaction time. Of course, just a few milliseconds probably isn’t going to always save your life in a gun duel, but feasibly, drawing second could be the difference between going home in one piece, and going home in a coffin. (yells)
(gun shots) There it is. There are even faster reactors than gunslingers. Olympic sprinters. Getting off of the line quickly during a race is hugely important, so these athletes train themselves to respond to a stimulus and react almost immediately. During races, the Olympics considers any start off of the line faster than 100 milliseconds to be a false start. They figure that on average, humans can’t react that quickly and so if they do, they are either guessing, making a mistake, or cheating. The Olympics might be wrong though. One recent study wanted to see if the hundred millisecond rule was a good one and so they put Olympic athletes through reaction time testing as accurate as they could make it. And they found that at least one of the athletes that they tested had an average reaction time of 87 milliseconds. One athlete even started moving his arms after 40 milliseconds. Now Olympic sprinters are reacting to auditory cues and not the visual ones that gunslingers use, so they will be faster, but 40 milliseconds. For context, this is what it sounds like when sounds are placed 200 milliseconds apart. (clicks) And this is what it sounds like when those sounds are just 50 milliseconds apart, slower than this dude’s reaction time. (fast clicks) Yeah, imagine reacting between those individual pulses. From all of this, we can infer that you butt up against the limit of human reaction time when you are 50% faster or more than the average person. This is where Dead Eye would be. Whooo, oh. So if Red Dead Redemption Dead Eye system implies that the user can slow down and stretch out time because they are in effect perceiving and reacting to events with unbelievable quickness than the fastest this ability could really be, is just a few times slower than the electrical impulses ridin’ around your body right now. Gunslinging in half the time it takes for the average person to even react to something, that’s what would make you the fastest gun in the West. Because science. (yells) (upbeat music) Even when you get down into the tens of milliseconds, that’s very, very fast for a human. Like if you were able to shoot that quickly, the other person doesn’t have a chance. But in terms of the animal kingdom’s ability to react to stuff, it’s not even close. We found a fly that can react to stimuli in five milliseconds. The electrical signals in our body don’t travel fast enough to even approach what this fly can do. It’s absolutely incredible. Just imagine like reactin’ to somethin’ and just, ho, come on. Just not possible. Too quick. It’s a real knee-slapper of a reaction. Yo, ow. Hey, thank you so much for watchin’. If you did any of the experiments here today, why don’t you post your times in the comments. Let’s see just how fast you are, gunslinger. If you want any more of me, you can head to Alpha, at Project Alpha dot com, where if you sign up now for our free 30-day trial, you can get this show two days earlier than anyone else. How cool is that? And also, if you wanna follow Because Science with me on social media, you can do so right here, man. And you can suggest ideas for future episodes and tell me just how bad all of my accents are. Thank you.