Drill of the Week: Ball & Dummy

6-Apr-08 – 16:37 by ToddG

This week, we get back to basics with one of the oldest, most proven pistol drills in existence: the Ball & Dummy drill.  As most people begin to speed up their shooting, they tend to get a little cavalier about trigger manipulation and the ability to shoot for maximum accuracy.  In anticipation of next week’s drill, which is all about accuracy, we thought we’d give you a week to get ready and hopefully diagnose any little imperfections which have crept their way into your technique.

For this drill, you’ll need half a dozen snap caps or dummy rounds.  The target will be small, like a 3×5 card or 3″ dot.  Range is just three yards, though you can go out farther if you want more of a challenge.

Have a range partner load your magazine for you.  About half the rounds should be normal live ammo, and half should be the dummy rounds.  They should be loaded at random, so there is no pattern and no way to predict whether a particular round will be live or not.

Take one slow shot at a time and hit the target.  Keep firing one slow, accurate shot at a time until the gun is empty.

Each time you press the trigger, you won’t know whether there is a live round or a dummy cartridge in the chamber.  When you get to a dummy, the pistol should stay absolutely still as you press the trigger.  If you see your front sight move, this will tell you that you’re either anticipating recoil or jerking the trigger.  If you have a bad trigger pull on a dummy round, follow it up with ten perfect dry-fire shots being especially careful to keep your front sight still as you press the trigger.  

After pulling the trigger on a dummy round (and doing your dry-fire remediation, if necessary), rack the slide and move on to the next shot.  

One or two magazines worth of this drill on a regular basis will quickly help you overcome bad habits in your trigger manipulation.  And trust us, you’re going to need all the good marksmanship habits you can get for next week’s drill …

Training with firearms is an inherently dangerous activity. Be sure to follow all safety protocols when using firearms or practicing these drills. These drills are provided for information purposes only. Use at your own risk. 


  1. 5 Responses to “Drill of the Week: Ball & Dummy”

  2. any chance that we could get the drills available in PDF format, or word, for downloading and printing?
    that question asked, I love this drill and do it with students all the time.

    By rob on Apr 7, 2008

  3. rob — probably not; because the formats are so different, most of what is published here is written online and not easily converted. We are considering putting together a CD with various drills in pdf format and videos for interested folks.

    By ToddG on Apr 7, 2008

  4. rob-
    just drag your mouse over the text while depressing the left button to highlight it/select it. On a windows machine, hit cntrl c to copy and then open up a new word doc; hit cntrl v and the highlighted text will paste.

    The ball and dummy drill is one of the best- I seem to remember participating in a thread or two not long ago on the very topic.

    One of the first days I was on the range with my new pistol, a fellow in the next lane asked to look at my M&P. I obliged him and he fiddled around with it a moment or two, and handed it back. He noticed I was shooting low and left (I’m right handed) and suggested I use the bench and support my hands with sand bags.

    I aimed, squeezed the trigger, got a resounding CLICK. My front site dived low and left like a breaking pitch in the world series.

    He had removed the chambered round and replaced the magazine without re-chambering. I never got that guys’ name and haven’t seen him since, but I owe him a cold one…

    By JoeB on Apr 7, 2008

  5. A CD would be great. I know about copy and paste, just lazy is all.

    By rob on Apr 11, 2008

  6. This would allow that functionality without any further work:


    By Pfm on Apr 17, 2008

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