An experiment examined visual performance in a simulated luggage-screening task. Observers participated in five sessions of a task requiring them to search for knives hidden in x-ray images of cluttered bags. Sensitivity and response times improved reliably as a result of practice. Eye movement data revealed that sensitivity increases were produced entirely by changes in observers' ability to recognize target objects, and not by changes in the effectiveness of visual scanning. Moreover, recognition skills were in part stimulus-specific, such that performance was degraded by the introduction of unfamiliar target objects. Implications for screener training are discussed.