Ball & Dummy - Simple Shooting Drills [2023]

Ball & Dummy Featured Image

Pre-ignition push, otherwise known as flinching, is a common issue that many new shooters encounter. With this, the shooter anticipates recoil before firing their handgun, and jerks the gun down to counteract the incoming upward force of recoil. However, there is a fix. That fix, is a lot of practice, and the Ball & Dummy drill should be a part of that.

What Is the Ball & Dummy Drill?

Keeping in line with our recent simpler drills, Ball & Dummy (B&D) is very easy to do. While it can be done with any firearm, the most useful place to do B&D is with a handgun.

Ball & Dummy is set up by mixing dummy rounds with live rounds in your handgun magazine, or revolver cylinder. We want to set this up in a manner in which we do not know when we will have a live round or a dummy round chambered. When we begin shooting, we won't know if the gun will go "bang", or go "click". The goal here is to not have a big flinch downward when we pull the trigger.

I generally load my magazines with my eyes closed, or have someone else load them for me. For the revolver method, I toss a mixture of dummy rounds and live rounds in a pocket, and fish them out with my eyes closed while loading them into the revolver. Obviously, you'd want to do this while you are pointing safely downrange.

Once we've gotten the firearm set up for the drill, we begin shooting. There is no specific target, course of fire, or par time. Our focus here is to train that flinch out of the system, so the goal is deliberate fire. We want a solid grip, good trigger pull, and to keep the sights on target. Much like the previous 1R1 drill, this is an "isolation" drill of sorts. We're not trying to shoot fast, or work on a drawstroke, or to get better at reloading. This is all about just the shooting element.

Ball & Dummy is deadnuts simple to set up, but I'd be remiss if I skipped the TL;DR section.

The Quick Rundown

The Ball & Dummy (B&D) Drill 

  • Necessary Gear: Dummy ammunition.
  • Target: Shooter's choice.
  • Setup: Shooter to load their handgun with a mixture of live and dummy cartridges. This should be done in a manner in which the shooter does not know the order of the type of round.
  • Course of Fire: On start, shooter to begin deliberately firing at their target. The goal is to work on minimizing and eliminating pre-ignition push, IE, flinching before the round is fired. Shooter should be focusing on the three fundamentals of handgun shooting here, grip, sight alignment, and trigger press. There is no par time for this drill, and shooter should not be rushing.

What Skills Does the Ball & Dummy Drill Stress?

Ball & Dummy Cylinder
Ball & Dummy set up in the Rossi Model 88.

Ball & Dummy is a drill that primarily focuses on one skill, but it does that through drilling the 3 fundamentals of handgun shooting:

  • Reducing pre-ignition push (flinching), through proper execution of grip, sight alignment, and trigger press.

When you ask any high-level shooter about how to improve, you'll always hear the same thing. It's not about buying really high end gear, it's about drilling the basics to the point that you cannot fail. Ball & Dummy is a part of that, as it is a drill that distills handgun shooting down to the core elements. We're doing deliberate handgun fire, with the caveat that the gun might not fire when we think it will. With that, we'll see if our execution of the fundamentals are good, or are lacking.

If you are shooting B&D, you'll know when you flinch, as you'll (generally) have a fairly noticeable flinch down. As someone who has run a lot of people through B&D, that flinch is something that you can see from pretty far away. However, as the shooter get's more acclimated to working the fundamentals, the flinch will lessen and lessen, with the goal of eliminating it. This is truly an isolation exercise, as we're working on cutting a specific bad habit.

What I Like About the Ball & Dummy Drill

Ball & Dummy is an excellent beginner drill. It can be set up and shot at any shooting facility, as it isn't a speed drill, and doesn't require drawing from a holster. B&D can be performed with any handgun, regardless of being magazine fed, or a revolver. While it is basic, it works the shooting fundamentals, something that needs to be stressed for people to become good shooters.

I've been shooting handguns for a long time. I've owned them since about 2012, but it's only been since 2016 that I've really focused on becoming a really good shooter. For a lot of experienced shooters, drills like Ball & Dummy might not be in their drill repertoire with their current skillset. However, this is a drill that is excellent for bringing new shooters into the fold. Whether they be a new gun owner or someone that hasn't practiced much, B&D is a great way to get shooters to improve. We often forget how intimidating it can be to get into shooting, and B&D is an excellent way to make people feel more comfortable.

Other Shooting Drills & Additional Info

Check out our other shooting drills  >>>HERE<<<.

About Paul Whaley 197 Articles
Paul Whaley is a guy with an interest in practical and defensive pistol shooting techniques with an eye for quality gear. He has received training from Holistic Solutions Group, John Johnston of Citizens Defense Research, Darryl Bolke, Cecil Birch, and Chuck Haggard. When not trying to become a better shooter, he can be found enjoying a Resident Evil game or listening to Warren Zevon.

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