Why you should almost NEVER use the “double tap”

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For whatever reason, I grew up hearing the term “double tap” used when talking about shooting …

Maybe it was a bunch of bad 80’s action movies, but it was a popular thing back in the day.

My range trip yesterday … and later a conversation with a good friend afterwards … got me thinking about the “double tap” technique and how to shoot faster and more accurately.

What Is a “Double Tap”?

The “double tap” is a shooting technique of mythic proportions that can be defined as such:

“You get ONE sight picture (align the sights on target) and fire TWO shots as quickly as possible.”

For most untrained or low-er skilled people, this is usually done without much control.

In other words, they may take a LOT of time aiming the first shot, then as soon as they fire it — they slam their finger through the trigger for the second shot as quickly as they can without knowing where on the target their sights are after the first shot.

Hence the term “double tap”.

Over at Gun Nuts they further defined the typical double tap of the typical gun shooter as the “Amateur Hour Double-Tap”:

It’s extremely important to differentiate the “Amateur Hour Double-Tap (AHDT)” from controlled pairs and hammers. A controlled pair is two precise shots with two flash sight pictures, and a hammer is a pair of controlled shots with one sight picture. The difference is that you’re never out of control of the gun; unlike the AHDT where the shooter really isn’t controlling the gun after the first round leaves the muzzle.”

I was doing some failure to stop drill practice at the range yesterday at 7 yards (2 to the body, 1 to the head) on a standard IDPA target trying to keep all shots in the “A zone” of the torso and head.

I started REALLY pushing the first two shots to make them as quick as possible and I thought I was getting into “double tap” territory which is typically a no go for training for me.

Why the “Double Tap” is no longer taught by most competent trainers

Firing two shots quickly off one sight picture is not really taught by most competent trainers anymore.

Why? Because …

1. Most untrained or low-er skilled shootes are quite literally out-of-control with the second shot …

2. You don’t want to train to ALWAYS shoot ONLY 2 shots. In an actual defensive shooting it may take just 1 … or it may take 10 aimed shots to stop a threat.

3. If you have to shoot more than 2 rounds it turns into spray and pray because you have no concept of how to control recoil, track your sights through recoil, and control the cadence and speed of your shooting. On drills like the 10-10-10 (10 rounds from 10 yards in under 10 seconds) you will find out how much you suck.

4. It’s not truly necessary because a normal human can process their senses and sight picture — and shoot with aiming every .25 seconds with proper training — giving you 4 shots in one second if needed.

Thus, it’s better to practice aimed shooting and be able to shoot faster or slower as needed — as fast as .25-.30 splits — and then you can make the choice of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or even 10 rounds if needed.

It’s also worth mentioning, that if you’re getting good training for a civilian — in other words, you’re only drawing your gun in self defense — then you need to be accountable for every single round that leaves your gun, so it’s arguable aimed shooting is all that should be taught/practiced.

Instead, Shoot “Controlled Aimed Pairs” …

The term used for two shots as quickly as possible is “controlled pairs”.

What is a controlled, aimed, pair?

Exactly as it sounds it’s two controlled shots. What makes them controlled? It’s one sight picture, one shot, acquire another sight picture, shot number two, acquire third sight picture, no more shots.

So that’s proper aimed shooting, one more sight picture than the number of shots you’re shooting. You’re seeing your sights through the whole two shots and if necessary you’re adjusting your aim.

Again, with practice a person can get their splits way down into the .25-.35 range with controlled pairs.

(I assume that really skilled, high level guys can shoot even faster aimed shots)

Is The Double Tap Ever a Good Idea?

In competition action shooting sports like IDPA or USPSA you almost always have to shoot 2 rounds into a target to “neutralize” it.

For that limited sub-set of shooters, perhaps, the traditional “double tap” is a useful skill to practice for VERY close targets.

I suspect though that most of the champion competition shooters are still shooting AIMED controlled pairs … but … they are just able to see, process, and shoot so much faster than us normal folks that it appears they are shooting double taps without aiming.

It might be a good drill to just work on raw speed …

Compare this speed drill from Champion Shooter Bob Vogel — the Mozambique (aka failure to stop) at 6 feet (2 yards) which he does in an incredible 0.93 seconds which — I would assume — is mostly point shooting at this range with little to almost no visual sight pictures …

To this clearly aimed F.A.S.T. drill at 7 yards (21 feet) run in 4.39 (1.73, .41 / 1.60 / .23, .20, .22) clean. The last three shots are all in the .20 – .25 split range we’ve been talking about for fast, accurate, aimed fire.

Many lesser skilled folks would assume the last four shots are not aimed, but they ARE aimed because they’re all in the 8″ circle A zone of the body of the target … they’re just really fast because Vogel is so skilled.

My advice? Push the envelope, but try to get better at aimed fire and you will start to see your aimed pairs get faster and faster … closer targets will be shot faster because you need a less precise sight picture … and the further targets will take a little longer, but your speed will improve at both.

What about you? Do you still practice “double taps”? If so, why?

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Caleb
Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe it’s just terminology. I’ve always called it ‘double tap’, but for me it was controlled, aimed fire. I acquire my sight picture, fire the first shot, trigger reset, sight picture and take the next shot. I’ve never had a timer and don’t know my times, but the shots at 10 yards are almost always decent. I also don’t believe in the 21 foot rule so I always try and shoot at 10 yards.

    • Sounds like aimed pairs to me … and … yeah we are getting into a bit of an area where terminology might “Gray it up” for a lot of people. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I may be old school, and most likely have a couple decades on the writer, but I have an issue with his article. I was trained back in the 90’s by a retired NYPD SWAT Commander who opened a gun shop in the town in Florida where I resided at the time. The Double Tap was the the preferred and taught method for engaging an armed threat. The man that taught me was a weapons instructor for NYPD including SWAT, a Lt. and also Field Commander for a NYPD SWAT unit, I am quite proficient with the double tap and will use it any time the situation, God forbid, calls for such force!!! I can draw, put two on the ring in double tap with my 1911 with +P loads without any trouble, unless you have had expert training I request you stop misleading People with bad advice!

    • I’ve had quite a bit of expert training, hence the recommendations in the article and the emphasis that I’ve not had any of today’s trainers recommend an unsighted double tap — the emphasis has always been on aimed, controlled pairs.

      It sounds like — if you “put two on the ring” with a double tap then you know what you’re doing. Carry on.

    • Well said Glenn when you are on patrol and are small in number every time you shoot it has to work. In the jungle where 25m is long range and 4m is short range stick with the double tap best used on a heavy weapon not good on M16 to light.

  3. Jason, if you are referring to first time and low volume shooters, then I would agree. That said, the double tap has been a standard for hard core shooters, especially special warfare operators for years as the second shot accuracy comes from practice and muscle memory. With a pistol, that will usually be two shots inside of 7 yards as one’s primary weapon is either down, or, is in too tight quarters to be used, such as a ship space. If you go to Bob Vogel’s youtube “Grip Basics”, you will have a better understanding. BTW…my sister-in-law just opened a Firearms Academy for Women, armedandfeminine.com Cheers, mate.

    • It’s Caleb but thanks for the comment … and yes the article is aimed mostly at low volume/less practiced shooters who use/abuse the technique without realizing that experienced shooters are “double tapping with aimed, practiced control”

  4. Perhaps a caveat should preface any instruction as to whether or not to use this “proverbial” “double tap”, that preface being “if you can control it, and put both shots in very close proximity to each other.” Which is the purpose of practicing it. Especially in the situations it is intended for, ie. taking out a dangerous target, I believe it IS a good idea, again IF you can control it. Otherwise, you are just wasting ammo AND putting a round out there that you really don’t know where it’s going. ALWAYS a BAD idea.
    Especially with a handgun, statistically speaking, one round is not as likely to be lethal. Some say a less than 50% chance of any handgun shot being lethal. The more highly trqined the shooter, the higher the likleyhood, but in MOST shootings, the shooter is NOT all that well trained, so accuracy suffers, and the target is less likely to be killed. One shot-one kill with a handgun happens a lot in the movies, but real life is a bit different. In this case, as in any case where Mr. Murphy and his Law come into play, the double tap< PROPERLY EXECUTED, is probably twice as lethal. The key word there is PROPERLY EXECUTED.

    • Agreed. Big caveat …

      … Hence why I hedged my wording with the title being “ALMOST never” 🙂

      my thinking is that the lesser trained “double tap” to put two shots out there as fast as possible — but aren’t that accurate …

      And the more trained/practiced are actually firing a controlled, aimed pair (even though that “aiming” may be VERY much a flash sight picture), and the beginners think it’s always about going fast.

      As for handgun lethality, yes, A) much less than 50% of handgun wounds are lethal and B) all the more reason to practice long, long strings of fire — not just train yourself to always double tap and call it good. It my take deca-taps — 10 shots lol — to stop the threat!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  5. I am afraid that no one has even mentioned why TacTac or double tap was brought into use and the importance of it. First of all the idea of putting two close proximity rounds in a body has never been taught that I am aware of. It was always taught you should create a second entrance to do the most body damage and cause more shock to the body. Secondly the use was introduced because of the wide use of drugs. A person high on drugs may not even pay attention to one body shot but he will with a second rapid round entering his body. The reason for this is because the first round causes a shock wave. (Envision a parallel chart with a line going up 3 inches) and then coming down because of one shot or two slow shots. Now envision the same chart but a second rapid fire shot is placed in the body, before the first round starts down the second moves the chart line up three more inches and causes a higher shock wave by nearly double. This will take any man down high on drugs or not.
    Point shooting talent using double tap at a relatively close range is must have knowledge for all that carries a conceal firearm, since I believe most shooting happen within 7 yards. You don’t have time for a slow point shooting first round when you are in a battle for your life. Sorry just my humble opinion and 33 years of law enforcement and NRA civilian fire arms instruction and multiple schools.

    • Thanks Dave. You are absolutely correct. For a while as I was reading this I was feeling a bit guilty not doing aimed or even front sight flash anymore in life and certainly not teaching anything the way all the ‘highly trained experts’ ae teaching students these days. I was almost starting to think I must have learned the wrong way to shoot even though I thought-because of my profession- that I was always state of the art super advanced tactically skilled?

      Oh well, guess that shows how susceptible we all are to marketing hype and trends. So it seems like this newest OCD with firearms street self defense training as severely opposed to combat CQB is implanting potentially deleterious mind programming suggestions that you can’t shoot accurately -as defined as shot placement good enough for terminating the threat–without at least flash sighting?

      The other thing I noticed that almost no general commercial gun training schools do is teach for actual street conditions/scenarios the average CCP holder will most likely confront if they are ever in need to use their weapon. Hint, it ain’t the 7 freaking meter ‘Mozambique’ drill, LMAO!

      The only bad part of shooting without aiming, ie.,instinctive point shooting, is that it gets boring once you reach the tipping in your muscle-mind synchronism to a point of ‘don’t miss at all anymore’ (enough practice to where you always are vectored in, just like you never miss picking up a can of beer on the first try).

      A lot of people can do this already with bows, darts, knives, pool shooting, etc. but what they don’t realize is that it’s actually easier with a pistol, especially one handed.

      So when you get bored you just have to drink your beer faster so you can have more cans to knock down without missing any as fast as you can pull the trigger…from the hip shot.

      But before you knee jerk comfort zone intransigents get all out of whack and say your double tap training is designed for average entry level utility shooters not pros with lifetimes of experience, I once made a lot of money and became part owner of a franchise betting some years ago that I could take a random average five people who never shot a pistol or any weapon much or at all, and he take five and teach his ‘two to cm and one to the head’ training, LOL! And we would do something a little different, and we see how fast we can get them proficient enough in far less time to outperform this guy’steam to a point where he would be too humiliated to speak. In fact it took him a long time to recover from the embarrassment.

      ‘Point’ being, As in Martial Arts, natural instinctive muscle coordination movement is often easier to learn for a specific movement function and works just as well as precision finer motor functions for most pragmatic applications. Self Defense shooting is a good example where this type of training works well and often better than most of what’s out there today.

      The dirty reality is that shooting a person with intent to end his life is something that really doesn’t offer a ‘best’ methodology approach. You must consider and know a variety of situational and tactical applications. One size never fits all in these scenarios. Unless you consider the main first lesson all concerned should burn into their brain until they ‘never miss’ with it. And that’s to first master AVOIDING all such encounters in the first place with practiced situational awareness at all costs if possible.

  6. Are you describing a true double-tap or a hammer? My understanding is that the hammer is the one-sight-picture two rounds shot, whereas the double-tap is nearer to two very fast sight pictures.

    As for myself, what I work on is aimed bursts of 3-5 rounds. I teach students how to run those with control because I show them how to structure grip and, if they can get it, stance for recoil MANAGEMENT. (You can’t really control recoil, but you can manage it.)

    If someone cannot manage recoil to the point of running a (true) double-tap, they need to get somebody to show them how. There are a number of trainers and schools that do this.

    • Yeah we’re getting into semantics here but I’m talking about untrained people firing two shots as fast as possible basically with no control over the second shot 🙂

      • Caleb. I see that you have not responded to my comment or that of the other gentleman Darrell that agreed with me. . That’s OK I just wanted to make a point. I have taught my conceal carry students the basics of point shooting and how it works for years. I start my class off by telling of one of my schools where we had what they called fun day, (the last day of the class). They had three turn bobber targets up with two bobber targets in front of each one of them with a 4″ gap between them. The back turn targets were the bad guys and the front were hostages. Our goal was to take out the back bad guys without hitting the hostages. We had two seconds to do so. This was shot at about 21 feet or more. In two seconds. I was able to take out the back targets by putting 1 in the head of the first target, one in the second targets head and four in the third targets head, again in 2 seconds from the draw for a total of six head shots.
        I will tell you that I was much younger then but probably could still come close to it today. I tell my students that this story is not to brag about my abilities but to explain to them that you can’t do that with aim shooting. I then have the line up and tell them to pick a spot on their target, at low ready I tell them to concentrate on the spot and raise their firearms up until the sights instantly break their line of sight to the target and pull the trigger. My students are amazed at how much better they shoot this way verses aim shooting. I advise them that this take practice and to start off slow and build their speed as they go. I don’t disagree with you I just have a slightly difference of opinion on double tap usage than you. I enjoy your writings or I wouldn’t be responding to them.

        • Dave

          Didn’t mean to ignore your comment …

          I guess you’re talking about what I would call “index shooting” — you’ve practiced your draw/presentation so much — and you know to lead with your eyes, that intensely focusing on a spot on a target, you can “draw to it” and fire the first shot — often hitting the target — before you really visually confirm that the sights are indeed aligned …

          That comes with practice as you know and is definitely an important skill to develop. However, I think you’ll agree that the practice of 1.) consistent presentation/draw along with 2.) aimed fire as fast as possible develops this “index” or “point shooting” ability …

          Whereas the converse is not true. I.e. just practicing point shooting will not improve your aimed fire and once you move past the 7 yards or so that index/point shooting can be primarily utilized — you’ll find accuracy lacking.

          That’s my take. Sounds like we’re mostly on the same page. “Aimed shooting” looks a lot like index/point shooting with a VERY quick “Flash sight picture” to confirm the sight aim/alignment at the last second?

  7. I’ve never taught double tap as a matter of course. I teach it as a possibility depending on circumstances. But Dave is correct in that multiple hits to the body cause much more damage, shock to the system, etc. than just a single shot. This is why 9 mm submachine guns are so effective…it’s not the size of the round, it’s the multiple hits in a few seconds,

    Now, as an off-topic aside, as you don’t have a comment section for products you push via your sponsors, I do have some comments regarding the Girandoni air rifles.
    I bought one of those Girandoni air rifles you’re pushing., much to my regret. I had bought it a couple of months ago through a different site that was touting this air rifle.
    It’s not that good. Accuracy is so-so. My Ruger 10-22 is much more accurate.
    Velocity is mediocre. I checked it through my chronograph. Not real consistent. Averaging around 374 fps.
    All in all – a total bust. And their customer service sucks!
    For an air rifle, I’ll stick with my Beeman and my Gamo. Much better rifles, more accurate and not that much pricier.

    Darrell
    Life Member NRA
    Life Member CRPA
    Life Member USPSA
    Life member Front Sight
    NRA Certified Instructor
    USPSA Certified Range Officer

    • Sorry to hear about your experience Darrel. I have a Ruger 10/22 and love it for accuracy as well … I’m not that experienced with air guns and the one you didn’t have a good experience with seemed like a good deal to me.

  8. For me double tap always meant putting two individually aimed shots on the target to assure effectiveness even in the high stress environment that exists when you are too defend yourself with lethal force.

  9. Caleb, I’ve been reading your stuff for a few years now, and I have to ask you: have you had a stroke or something? Your writing is a LOT less elitist, and your comments are a LOT less scornful (they’re actually kind and helpful) — in fact, you’re actually nice to people now. What in the hell happened?? Are you OK?

  10. I was drilled in the double tap by a Vietnam Marine Recon veteran, and the technique as he taught it has nothing to do with taking two shots off of one sight picture. I guess terminology changes, so now we call it “double strikes” or whatever. Call it what you will, accurately getting two rounds into the center of mass of a perp asap is at least twice as good as one.

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