We investigated the effects of imagery on police officers' shooting performance under threat. To this end, 66 officers executed a realistic shooting exercise against an opponent that initially did not shoot back with painful coloured-soap cartridges (low-threat condition) followed by a condition in which he did [high-threat (HT) condition]. In between conditions, participants performed an imagery intervention: one group imagined 'successful shot execution' and one imagined 'successful shot execution under threat, including the accompanying emotions'; a control group received no imagery intervention. Although for the control group shot accuracy was significantly lower in the HT condition than under low-threat conditions, both imagery groups were able to maintain their shot accuracy in the HT condition, despite increased levels of anxiety. It is concluded that focusing on successful shot execution is pivotal, whereas adding emotional statements does not seem to have an additional positive effect. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.