Training Tip: Double Taps

By Bob Campbell published on in How To, Safety and Training

Among the most misunderstood tactics in personal defense is the double tap. More than half of those practicing defense shooting execute the double tap incorrectly. Worse yet, it is most often taught incorrectly.

Springfield Armory 1911 with a Shoot-n-See target

As you practice, you will notice a wider dispersal with the greater speed you attempt—keep the shots centered.

Those without training will be hapless in many defensive situations. It is best to receive instructions from an instructor with extensive police or military experience. Simply attending a lot of schools doesn’t prepare someone to teach life and death matters. Only those that have walked the walk may teach tactics and strategy well.

Experience must be alloyed with training. That being said, most of your practice will be solo no matter how well trained you are. A three-day training course is a great start—providing the instructor is capable. Remember, personal defense skills are perishable and you must keep the practice up.

The double tap drill is considered by most to be two shots delivered to the target as quickly as possible. The double tap is an excellent tactic for maximizing wound potential. But the advantage of the double tap is evident only if the double tap is properly delivered. First, realize that the double tap isn’t a flurry of shots. Two shots are delivered as quickly as you are able to acquire the sights after recoil and fire again. This means that each shot is a deliberate shot that is controlled. A controlled pair, as an example, is a bit slower than the double tap and delivered at longer range—7 to 10 yards—and with greater care in precision.

Young man shooting a 1911 pistol with a spent case in the air

At longer range a controlled pair is executed with less speed but greater accuracy.

The double tap is sometimes confused with the hammer. The hammer is delivered at absolute short, even contact, range. The handgun is drawn and thrust at the opponent, who may have a knife in your chest, and two shots are fired as quickly as possible. If attempted past intimate range, the second shot of the hammer might well miss the entire body.

By the same token, the controlled pair may be too slow for use at very close range. The carefully measured double tap is used at the most common personal defense ranges (three to seven yards). The shooter determines the speed of the double. How fast are you able to fire two shots, the second striking within four inches of the first? That is your limiting speed. A miss is inexcusable.

The double tap is versatile and should be practiced first—before the controlled pair or the hammer. The hammer can be dangerous to the shooter if they have not mastered recoil control. It should be considered a short-range tactic. I have seen shooters deliver a double tap on target with one bullet hole in the belt and another in the neck and deem it good. This isn’t good.

Bob Campbell shooting a 1911 pistol from a retention position

The only time the author doesn’t aim with the sights is when he is firing from a retention position, but body aiming is involved.

Neither was a controlled shot where each hit the target by chance. This isn’t acceptable morally or legally. The shooter began on the line with the hand on the pistol, shifted the pistol in the holster a few times, and then drew and fired the double tap on command of the whistle. I see this comedic pantomime often. They telegraph their intention to all concerned and then draw and render an 18-inch group on the target three to five yards away. Practice avoids such foolishness.

A fine drill to hone skills and build control is the Bill Drill, developed by famed shooter Bill Wilson. In this drill, the student draws and fires his handgun as quickly as possible at a man-sized target at seven yards. Six shots are fired as quickly as the student can control the handgun. Speed and accuracy will build with the proper application of fundamentals and this drill.

A few words on speed, calling the shot is the mark of a trained shooter. Anyone can shoot, but aiming each shot no matter how fast your fire is the development of a marksman. Of course, you can shoot faster than you can aim, but never shoot so fast you cannot aim each shot. If you fire so quickly during range work that you are not in control of each shot, you may fire too quickly for real during a defensive situation—in fact, I guarantee you will.

You will fire too fast, and you will panic when the fight is real. Getting the sight picture for every shot doesn’t mean the sight picture will be perfect as if you were addressing a 25-yard bullseye, but it means the sight picture is adequate for the range and the target. This may mean aiming using meat and paper, in which the slide of the pistol is superimposed over the target as an aiming point. It may mean that you are using the front sight placed on the opponent’s belt buckle as an aiming point. The pistol’s sights are used to afford a rough but adequate sight picture on the target at 3-5 yards. A sharper sight picture is demanded at longer range. When you have mastered these sighting styles, you will be prepared to shoot accurately and to use the double tap.

Action shot of a pistol being fired showing the shell casing as it is ejected

The double tap is executed at short range and should be practiced often.

When firing the double tap, fire once and control the handgun as it recoils. Allow the trigger to reset. As the handgun comes back on target, the trigger resets and you are ready to fire again. Fire the second shot as soon as you have the sight picture.

Control the handgun and use deliberate, but very fast, shots when executing the double tap. Moving fast means mastering the trigger action. If you jerk the trigger, you will invite tension into the muscles. A smooth press is a relaxed press. The trigger jerk incites tremors. A smooth trigger press must always be achieved, or accuracy will suffer.

The prep, as we take up slack on the trigger for longer-range fire, cannot be used at short range or when executing the double tap. We must quickly press the trigger. The trigger press is quick but smooth. Allow reset and roll on with speed. The double tap must be practiced often to master. To master the double tap, draw and get the sights on target quickly. As soon as you have the proper sight picture and sight alignment, fire, recover, and fire again. Practice hard, use the correct technique, and the double tap will be a viable tactic.

Do you practice double taps? What other drill would you recommend for defensive shooting? Share your answers in the comment section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (37)

  • Larry Morse


    “Only government approved people should teach tactics? Really?” I agree with Mr. Washington above.

    I respect Mr. Campbell, I’m sure he’s a good trainer and he has a right to differing opinions on training from mine, but as a long time firearms trainer, a vet but NOT a Police Officer, his “Police or Military Only” advice spoiled the rest of the article for me. Here’s why.

    (1) It’s common knowledge that Police Officers have an average “Hit Rate” of 20% in combat. Why would I want to seek out individual trainers with a police background? So I could achieve a 20% “Hit Rate”?

    Police training often centers around the double tap. In my humble opinion, this is an obsolete technique. Good trainers these days teach “Shoot until the threat is stopped”. That may be 1 round, 2, 3 or 12. There is no time to stop after 2 rounds and evaluate the effect of your rounds on your assailant. The FBI says the average gunfight is over in 3 seconds.

    My entire military career was focused on rifles. Never shot a pistol one time. Military service didn’t make me an expert pistol shot.

    OK. Let the flames begin.


  • Dwight Wasihington


    Only government approved people should teach tactics? Really?


    • Trevor Teague


      I’d that what you took from this article? Really? Maybe you should go back and reread it.


    • Mark



      That was my problem with the article as well. I have no problem with the other content, but the premise that double taps can only be taught correctly by law enforcement or military trainers is ridiculous and self-serving. I would not have had a problem if the author had claimed that many civilian trainers, in his experience, did not teach some methods correctly. Instead he attempted to look more authoritative by saying the group he belongs to (military and law enforcement) are the only ones capable of providing correct training. The author already has great credentials and would have had my respect – until making a comment that ONLY his group can provide valuable training. ALL training and ALL trainers should always be evaluated independently based on their merits. After all, if ALL military training was perfect, there would never be a need for change. The military has many times engaged civilians to train soldiers in methods developed by civilians.


    • Bob Campbell


      It is best to receive instructions from an instructor with extensive police or military experience. Simply attending a lot of schools doesn’t prepare someone to teach life and death matters. Only those that have walked the walk may teach tactics and strategy well.

      That is what I said, not an absolute, but my recommendation.

      That is my comment and I stand by it. Some may teach basic marksmanship well. A person that has won contests would be a good choice. But when you are learning at a higher level and realize the enormity of what may take place—- you need someone that has walked the walk.

      This isn’t prejudice or radical but the same criteria that is set forth in emergency responder school or other professional classes.

      While basics are basics and we need many trained instructors to teach the fundamentals when it comes to higher level personal defense training choose one of those that have walked the walk. Gabriel Suarez, Massad Ayoob and Chuck Taylor come to mind.

      Bob Campbell


  • Kevin Donohue


    I enjoyed the article and many of the comments, or at least the constructive ones. As asked in the article I start my practice with the LE qual set, then practice my CQC drills which includes double and triple taps. I move on out to controlled fire at 10-15 yds. I finish with another LE qual set. I practice 3X per month indoors in winter outdoors so I can move spring through fall (in Indiana). I carry an S&W M&P Perf Ctr Shield 9mm. Thanks for the interesting read.


  • Robert S


    Thank you for the article. After learning basics our some of SOP were to master a 25 yd shot first. Slow technique shooting until we were shooting very very small groups. Static shooting that group size was checked with a baseball shooting 45acp and from the beginning we trained with what we would carry. We then picked up pace from double and triple tap, increased heart rate training, barrier and moving on foot, seated and in vehicles. Not matter what advances training we did we would end the day with distance. In order to hit your target at longer distance your technique becomes muscle memory and when it hits the fan training takes over. Thank you again for helping to make the citizens of this great country better marksmen


    • Bob Campbell


      Thanks for reading. Keep shooting.


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