Doubletaps, Controlled Pairs and Hammers

Doubletaps, Controlled Pairs and Hammers

How to get off two quick and accurate shots with a defensive handgun

The doubletap, as it relates to handgun shooting, describes two fast shots fired at a threat target. The standard response to a threat with a handgun is almost universally taught as two shots quickly fired center mass. A “doubletap” is the word commonly used to describe this action. The logic behind the doubletap comes from the fact that defensive handguns are rather poor at wounding, but they can be used to deliver multiple shots on target quickly. With the doubletap, you’re shooting twice so that you don’t shoot once and have to reevaluate and shoot again. If your two shots fail to neutralize the threat, firing the third shot to the head—known as the failure drill—is the answer. However, other terms also describe this two-shot action and mean almost exactly the same thing.

Doubletap as a Controlled Pair

Most instructors will describe the conduct of the doubletap as obtaining one sight picture and firing two shots. In other words, you verify the sights are on the target and then hammer the trigger, twice. Most novice and even more seasoned shooters will find this difficult to do and still obtain two kill zone hits. So, instructors came up with a new description of the doubletap and called it a “controlled pair.” A controlled pair is still two very fast shots but instead of only obtaining a sight picture before the first shot, you obtain a sight picture before both shots. This slows down the shooting but helps you get better hits.

Hammer Time

But apparently this was not enough confusion, so instructors created yet another term called the “hammer.” The hammer still describes two quick shots to the threat. Some will teach that instead of seeing the sights, when you fire a hammer, you only index the gun on the target. Others describe the hammer the same way they describe a doubletap, but then insist that you do it faster. None of this has to be that damn complicated.

Get in the Rhythm

Regardless of the situation, if you’re going to fire two shots at a threat as your standard response, you always need to fire those two shots as fast as you can get good hits. The only thing these different descriptions of the same are effective at is confusing you as to exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Essentially, they’re three descriptions of the same action, and just a more complicated way of saying that you need to adjust your aiming and shot cadence based on your distance to the target. They’re all Doubletaps, they’re just conducted in different gears.

Make Adjustments

For example, at extremely close range you just point your handgun center mass and hammer the target twice. For some, the maximum distance this will work might be at two yards, for others it might be three. This is a doubletap you run in fourth/high gear. As the distance increases, at some point everyone will need to at least obtain a sight picture for their first shot. This is nothing but a doubletap in a lower gear. Again, the range will vary. Continuing, as the range to the target/threat extends even further, you’ll have to get a sight picture – aim – for both shots. Here you’re running in second gear. And finally, at extreme range, like say 20 to 25 yards, the time you will take to aim and the time between each shot is drastically magnified. You’ll still want to obtain the two hits; you’ll just have to shift to first/low gear to get them. The distance dictates your response and the cadence or split time between each shot.

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t worry about what it’s called, just respond accordingly. With practice you’ll learn the distance at which you don’t need a sight picture, need at least an initial sight picture, and at what range you’ll need a sight picture for every shot you fire. Obviously, that distance will be determined by your skill now and as you progress. Those distances today will likely be different as you become more proficient. A doubletap is a doubletap, sometimes you’re just doing it faster, or slower.

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David Boots
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This explanation of time for sight picture and distance helps a lot. Thanks Dave B.
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