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Ball and Dummy Drill

Range: 3yd

Target: Small (3×5 card, 3″ dot)

Start position: Any

Rounds fired: Varies


This drill has been used for decades to help shooters overcome problems anticipating recoil and jerking the trigger. It’s a staple of every instructor’s diagnostic toolbox.

You will need some snap caps or dummy rounds to do this drill. Have a shooting partner load your pistol magazine or revolver cylinder with about two-thirds live ammunition and one-third dummies, randomly mixed. (alternatively, revolver shooters can just leave 1-3 chambers empty)


Using a small but close target as outlined above, aim and shoot. You should have no idea whether you’re pulling the trigger on a live round or a dummy, so treat every trigger press as if it were going to fire. When you get to a dummy round, the pistol should stay perfectly still as you press the trigger. If you jerk the trigger or anticipate recoil, you’ll immediately see it because the gun will move off target.


If you do jerk the gun on a dummy, stop and fire ten perfect, deliberate dry-fire shots without jerking the trigger or anticipating any recoil. Then do the Ball & Dummy Drill again.

This drill is only valid when you are shooting slowly and deliberately, working 100% on accuracy and zero on speed. As you start to shoot faster, it’s easy to mistake proper recoil management for “anticipation” and make you believe you are doing something wrong when you’re not.

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