Competitive Shooting

Shooting Drills: Double Tap

Controlled pair of bullet holes in a paper target at the bottom of the X ring

I am amazed by the complications some shooters put into a standard response drill. By the same token, nothing good comes of less effort than is called for to properly execute a drill. Working hard at the basics is the only means of achieving proficiency.

Some of us have practiced the standard response drill for many years. There are other important drills, but this is a base line drill that must be mastered. The drill includes presenting the firearm from concealed carry and getting two hits on target.

Assailant target showing bullet holes around the gun
Many shooters will fire at the assailant’s weapon.

The drill is executed at 3–7 yards. This drill is sometimes called the Double Tap. The double tap is the act of firing the pistol twice and getting the hit. The standard response drill has more elements. This is a draw and shoot drill. I sometimes task students to execute a double tap, a hammer, or a controlled pair during the firing phase.

Double Tap

For speed and accuracy, the drill must be executed with a properly strong grip, smooth presentation from the holster, good sight picture, alignment, and follow-through. There is a natural pause between shots. Don’t forget to release the trigger, or you may not reset.

For the first shot, you aim carefully but quickly. A firm grip and body positioning allow you to use a flash sight picture for the second of the double tap’s shots. The sight picture is good, but not perfect. The sight must be brought down after recoil to fire the second shot accurately.

Controlled Pair

A controlled pair is fired with more deliberation. The range is longer, perhaps 7–10 yards. The first shot is fired with as much accuracy as possible, but with speed. The second shot is fired after you recover the sights from recoil. The sight picture is equally precise with each shot.

The controlled pair is two highly controlled shots. Speed and hitting the target hard is what counts. Never lose sight of the goal to stop the threat. Your training must be watertight, bulletproof, sunk-hinged angle iron, and steel-faced complete!

The Hammer

The hammer is a last ditch, short range, double that is fired at very short range — one yard to contact range. The pistol is drawn and shoved at the target using meat and paper. If the range is short enough, use simple body positioning.

Firing the Hammer drill at a target 1 yard away
The hammer is usually fired at very close range.

Two shots are fired as quickly as you are able. The hammer hits hard. It is purely for short range. Don’t confuse yourself and use the hammer at longer range than you are able to fire accurately. A shot in the air or into an innocent person must be avoided.

Failure to Stop Drill

When I practice or instruct, I drill into myself and others that training isn’t about the odds. The odds are in our favor that the assailant will not be well trained. Odds are, deadly force will not be needed.

But training isn’t about the odds. It is about the stakes. The stakes are high. The assailant, if apprehended, is at risk of losing his liberty and will take your life to maintain his liberty. Your life is at risk. The actions of a sociopath are beyond reason, but predictable, so you may reasonably train for an attack.

head shots on a silhouette target
A quick run at the failure to stop drill. That hit in the ear would not have been effective.

The failure to stop drill should be practiced. This is a variation on the double tap in most ways. The failure to stop drill is firing two shots quickly, whether they are a double tap or controlled pair. With the revolver, I refer to the firing of two shots as a double-action pair. The shots are fired into the center of mass. If you don’t not have a clear shot at the arterial region, the center of mass is the center of the target you have.

These shots are fired, and they may have no effect. After the two punches do not take immediate effect, the third shot is delivered to a more vulnerable area. The cranio ocular area is a tough target.

If two shots to the chest do not have affect, a third shot is quickly fired either to the head (if possible) or the pelvic girdle. The heavy bones of the pelvis are a good target. If broken, they will result in collapse. There are vulnerable arteries in the pelvic region that produce blood flow and loss of blood pressure and collapse. The pelvic shot is preferable to the cranio ocular shot in terms of being easier to hit quickly.

When faced with a threat, the problem is the same whichever handgun you deploy. If you are skilled in the basics of marksmanship, these drills will be mastered quickly with practice.


A Glock or similar striker-fired pistol gives good results. A steel-frame 1911 .45 is controllable and offers good hit potential. A 10mm isn’t as fast, but it hits hard. A .357 revolver with a medium frame and good trigger action is manageable.

Some types of handguns give poor results. A snub .38 is very difficult to use well. A compact .40 or 10mm is difficult to control. It is laughable to the point of absurdity to attempt a speed drill with a derringer single-action revolver or air weight frame magnum. Many who deploy these handguns are in the unenviable position of being armed with a deadly weapon they are unable to use well.

Final Tip

As with all speed shooting, keep a firm grip. Fire, then allow the trigger to reset as you bring the sights back on target after recoil. Align the sights and fire again.

Do you practice firing double taps? What are your favorite shooting drills for self-defense and why? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Speed shooting a semi-automatic pistol showing four pieces of brass in the air
  • Series of Double Tap drill hits in a paper target
  • spot paper target with 10 bullet holes that were fired in pairs
  • Firing the Hammer drill at a target 1 yard away
  • Bob Campbell shooting a double tap drill at an outdoor shooting range
  • head shots on a silhouette target
  • Controlled pair of bullet holes in a paper target at the bottom of the X ring
  • Bob Campbell shooting a handgun with pieces of spent brass in the air
  • Pistol atop a paper splatter target with multiple bullet holes
  • Paper target showing the spinal column riddled with bullet holes
  • two upset pistol caliber bullets
  • Assailant target showing bullet holes around the gun
  • demonstrating a firm pistol grip
  • Bob Campbell wearing red hearing protection firing a pistol in a two-handed grip

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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Comments (8)

  1. Steve S

    Excellent idea!

    Movement, getting off the X is very important.

    Mr Rehsume Thanks for reading and thanks for your service.

    Bob Campbell

  2. Larry
    I believe you have it backwards.

    If first shot is to the head, no need for a chest shot is there?

    Center mass, center of visible target, is the first shot.

    Head shot is a failure to stop drill.

  3. Once a comfortable level is reached doing the basic drills, it’s a good idea to add some shooter movement into the drill, if possible.

  4. Always a good idea to mix up your drills so as to build dynamic ability.
    I warm up with Controlled Pairs and pick up the speed to Double Taps, then move to what I’ll call the “Zipper.” The Zipper being a “triple-tap” that starts at center-mass or high-thoracic and moves upward with the third round a cranial hit at the speed/cadence of the double-tap. Distance to target: 3 to 5 yards.

  5. Modern defensive training, including law enforcement training, focuses on shooting till the threat goes down. More often than not this seems to involve dumping half the magazine at the target. I was taught the old double-tap technique and still prefer it, especially with the price of ammo being what it is today. 🙂

  6. Great article. Retired LEO of 35.5 years. I still practice these drills. I am not a firearms instructor but I am helping friends to shoot. We practice these drills. Thank you for the article.

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