I’m With Insty

Glenn Reynolds points to an article which proclaims the virtues of the double-tap, and makes this comment:

Lately, I’ve gone to Mozambique drills

…and I agree.  (For the record, I’ve always referred to the “controlled pairs” type of shooting as “double tap”, simply because an uncontrolled second shot is a wasted shot 99% of the time, and every shot should be a controlled shot.  I just prefer the cadence of the double-tap phrase over the vague-sounding controlled pair.  Here endeth the exposition.)

While the double-tap is good — provided that one has mastered the timing thereof —  three will always be better than two, especially if you’re using a smaller cartridge like the 9mm or .380 ACP.  (The good part of a smaller cartridge is that the recoil is less than, say, that of the .45 ACP or .357 Mag, so target re-acquisition is far quicker, making the third (head-)shot easier.)

The tricky part of any “repeat” shots, whether the double or triple, is the timing thereof.  Here’s my training drill for each.

My goal for any double-tap is to get both shots inside a palm-sized area in the center mass of the target.  As I get them consistently inside that 4″ diameter circle, I try to cut the time between shots.  I don’t specify a time for this drill (e.g. both shots out the barrel in less than a second).  The quickest speed that I can land both shots inside the circle over forty shots (two boxes of ammo) I call my “optimal” speed; that is, the time in which I can reliably get almost 100% accuracy.  (Obviously, that speed increases with, say, a drill with a .22 LR pistol compared to that with a .45 ACP 1911 or with a .357 Mag revolver, which is why I don’t use an actual time-frame to judge the effectiveness of the drill.  And if I don’t get both bullets consistently into the circle, I slow down until I do.

I refer to this as “Bang | Bang”, where “|” is the optimal interval between shots.  (Sometimes expressed as “Bang” {beat} “Bang”.)

I do the same for a Mozambique drill, except of course that I now have to get the double-tap into the 4″ center-mass target, and the third shot into the head area of the target (if using a silhouette target, or if not, a 3″ circle about twelve inches right above the 4″ circle).

There’s a significant difference in the timing interval between the three shots, though, because I think a shooter needs a fraction more time not only to re-acquire the target, but to shift the point of aim upwards.  For the Mozambique drill, therefore, I try for the following timing:

Bang | Bang | | Bang — in other words, whatever is the pause between shots 1 & 2 in a double-tap, that pause is doubled before I drop the hammer on the Mozambique’s shot 3, the head shot.

In my opinion, if you’re an ordinary shooter like I am (as opposed to a competition shooter like Rob Leatham or Dave Dawson or even compared to deadly shots like The Layabout Sailor or Doc Russia), it’s too difficult to get the same interval between shots 2 & 3 as you’ve managed to achieve between 1 & 2 — and let’s be honest, the third (head-)shot is the most difficult of the three, so give yourself just that extra beat to acquire the new target and get your shot off with absolute confidence.

After going through hundreds upon hundreds of these drills, I’ve found this timing and these target sizes to work for me.  It really helps with IDPA scores, by the way, if that is your favorite competition type:  the time penalty is much less than the miss penalty.

Others may differ.  Your mileage may vary.  Void where prohibited (e.g. at your local range).

All comments welcome.



  1. Because you train at all, that makes you far more than an “ordinary” shooter. Your training on the double tap, as defined by you, mirrors mine excepting things like multiple opponents. I have been trained to take a moment to assess before going for the headshot. This make it more like bang. bang…bang.

  2. I agree with Richard especially when you consider the difference between a stationary target at the range and an actual human target.

    For example; when you hit a human target with a “double tap” to the chest cavity, what is that human target likely to do – probably fall, right? That might make the acquisition of the third target shot – a head shot – difficult or unnecessary. The third shot might have to be placed somewhere else or, hopefully, not at all.

    1. Roy,
      The point of the Failure To Stop/Mozambique drill is that after placing 2 rounds into the agressor’s chest, they do NOT fall or otherwise cease their attack.

      It could be because they are wearing body armor, or are hyped up on drugs or whatever, doesn’t matter. What does is that the first 2 shots didn’t stop the attack, so the head shot is to avoid the armor/disconnect the brain from the muscles, etc. with the intent to stop the attack.

      If the aggressor drops with the first 2 rounds to the chest, then there is no need for the third shot to the head. By definition, the first 2 were not a “failure to stop”, and therefore no need for a “failure to stop drill”.

      Could additional shots to the chest work where the first 2 didn’t? Maybe.

      I’ve also seen arguments that instead of aiming for the head on the follow up, aim for the pelvis: larger target, doesn’t move as much relative to the head, is often below body armor, and sufficient damage to the pelvis will “disconnect” the legs, stopping the attacker “mechanically” even if he’s hyped up on PCP and doesn’t feel the hits.

      It’s a decision to be made in the moment based on existing circumstances. A good reason to think out and practice what you might do to minimize your reaction time if it happens, and have the ability to accomplish what you wargame. Or to remove options from your menu if you can’t accomplish the task or decide it’s not an option you want to pursue.

      And as Murphy said, anything you do, including nothing can get you killed. You do the best you can in the situation you find yourself in.

  3. I thought I was a fairly decent shot with a pistol until I started shooting ‘Steel Challenge’ a few years ago. I am an old guy in my 70’s so I will never shoot as fast as younger men and women who have better eyes and reflexes but I am improving.

    It was an eye opener when I discovered that shooting with accuracy taking my time with each target is not hard however speeding up and not missing really is difficult and requires lots of practice when there is a timer beeping for the start. We end up with a Mozambique drill and I am astounded at the times some shooters can achieve. We have a horizontal set up the we use half the time, two on a larger steel and one to the side on a smaller which might be more realistic if an adversary is falling down or ducking down.

    I have gone back to a .22 pistol and shoot a couple hundred rounds twice a month to improve my shooting, both hitting the damn things and speed and that helps me when I move back up to 9mm or .45 and with my little Colt Defender in .45 with a 3″ barrel I still suck. Nothing like spending time on a range in competition to humble and old man.

    1. OT,
      Don’t sell your .22 pistol short. I once saw a lady dump all ten rounds from a .22 magazine into a silhouette’s head inside three seconds (the gun was a Beretta 71, FYI) at five yards.
      Then she reloaded, and did it again a little quicker, with only a single miss.
      In all honesty, I find it difficult to imagine how one’s plans for the afternoon could not be changed by nine or ten .22 bullets rattling around in one’s skull.

  4. My concern with that third shot, Kim, is that it screams “intent to kill.” My goal – my only job in a self-defense encounter – is to stop the threat. It is NOT to kill (that may well be the result, and it may even be laudable, but it’s not the legal or actual intent).

    For a prosecutor who’s looking for a reason to charge, that third shot screams “intent to kill.” And intent to kill equals murder.

    Don’t get me wrong – if the facts and circumstances clearly indicate a self-defense use of force, the head shot won’t change that. But if the facts aren’t that obvious, on the closer call, particularly if there are personal circumstances involved, that head shot may draw unwelcome attention to the intent of the shooter.

    Just a thought for your consideration.

    My own training is to put the rounds in the place that is easiest to target and most likely to stop the attack in what is almost certainly going to be a VERY stressful, SHTF moment: center body mass. If it stops his heart, oh well. I might note that a shot to the hip will likely stop the attacker as well, particularly if it hits bone; a shattered pelvis will put a man down. A wound to a femoral artery in that area will likely lead to bleed-out quite quickly.

    And it doesn’t scream intent to kill.

    1. GMC,
      As always, you speaketh da troof. Here’s where I would use the Mozambique: if after two shots, the target is still standing. THEN a head shot is called for. This would be especially true if I’m using the .38 backup instead of the 1911. (The unspoken rationale is that if two to the body did not end the threat, then a head shot is necessary — the intent is not to kill, but to end the threat.)
      Ditto using any of the lesser (than .357, .45 or 10mm) cartridges: you could use Mr. Lion’s excellent remedy below and dump bullets into the target until it dies from lead poisoning (how’s that for “intent to kill”?), or try to end the situation with a single, well-placed shot.
      As I don’t carry guns with 15-round magazines, I’ve always trained in the “make every shot count” discipline. As I said, your situation will always determine the remedy best suited for the circumstances.

    2. In the last few years I’ve heard the Mozambique drill called a “failure to stop” among law enforcement trainers. According to the late Col Jeff Cooper the technique was originated by a Rhodesian mercenary during the Mozambican War of Independence and then popularized by Cooper. Any shooting method that was used on an innocent person of color (who was turning his life around and had just enrolled in community college and was kind to his grandmother,etc) by a white fascist mercenary from an oppressive government has got to be cruel and unusual and just downright mean. So we now call it a “failure to stop”.

      “Your honor, the bad guy was doing a bad thing by pointing that AK-47 at me. No sir, I did not believe that he was just trying to show me his shiny new rifle. I asked him to point the weapon in a different direction and he did not do so. I expressed my displeasure with his action by firing two rounds into his center of mass, as I was trained to do. He still did not drop the rifle or point it in a different direction and I suspected that he might be wearing body armor. Therefore since my rounds failed to stop the bad guy from his actions I fired one more round with the hope that I would finally get him to stop his threatening actions.”

      Hopefully you can say that with a straight face. The “intent” may not to be to kill – it is to stop

  5. If one is drilling for a certain number of shots, it would be well to consider the type and capacity of whatever firearm you’re likely to be in a position to use in anger. If I were carrying a tiny 5-round revolver, damned if I want to waste a third round on a single bad guy. Whereas with Mr. Glock, said bad guy(s) is getting ventilated until he’s on the ground and no longer a threat.

    Also, ditto on what others have said regarding shot placement. Center mass until no more threat. Going for head shots, even if you are good enough to get one in a high stress situation, can end in all sorts of bad ways. The best defense against “intent” arguments is always “I did exactly what the cops are trained to do in that situation”.

      1. Taking the “I did what the cops are trained to do” thought a step further, find out what kind of ammo the local police carry in their duty weapons, and use that very same brand/type of ammo in your carry piece. That simple act makes it terribly difficult for a firebrand DA to label a citizen as a vigilante.

  6. Correct, make the first shot count and the response to law enforcement is I was in mortal danger and I shot to stop the threat on my, or our lives, life. Of course common sense says try not to be there when you that kind of shot is required and if there is any kind of argument or confrontation that you can leave then get the hell out of there, don’t argue with crazy or mad. If in a car and you can drive, drive and if you are in a place where you can leave or close the door, close the door. If they are pulling the wheels off your neighbors SUV call the cops, that’s what I did and they left before the cops got there when the neighbor turned on his house lights. If you do have to shoot, try to use your sights and make the shot count and I hope none of us is ever in that situation.

    Even in Texas things can go wonky and I was on a Dove Hunt one year with the friend of one our group who came along and told us about shooting and killing a man one night who came on his property threatening to kill his grown son who was being chased by the thug who had a criminal record. The property owner called the cops, they went to the went to the wrong farm meanwhile the thug decided he was going to come on in and kill the property owners son and thug was shot and killed.

    An assistant DA was a 2nd cousin to the thug and he did not like property owner so an arrest was made and $30K later there was a no bill, no charge agains property owner and the rest of the county officials apologized about the behavior of the assistant DA who no longer had the job. When you open a can of worms you never, ever no what is going to crawl out. This was a totally good uses of self defense in Texas from every angle but it took $30 grand in lawyers fees for property owner to walk away. Yep, even in Texas you had best do things by the book.

    My take away from that is before you shoot in self defense make sure it is a last defense measure and then make every shot count. A final thing is some folks say they don’t want to carry their best guns because they might get taken away in a self defense shooting and I am thinking that is the last thing to worry about, carry the gun you can shoot the best that will do the job to stop the threat on your life because, if you have to shoot you want to stop the threat, you do not want to say “Time Out, my magazine did not feed properly, ” since I don’t think there are do overs in critical self defense.

    1. John provides an excellent service by (re)posting all sorts of violent crimes caught on video around the world. Very educational! My mild complaint is that he seems to view them a little too quickly, and misses details that sometimes are important to the story. Always read the comments, as eventually people will spot these, and detail it.
      Overall, these videos are real life schooling on how violence happens. Humans are tool users, and tend to use them in similar manners, and any variations in use are there for examples to learn from. Too much of self-defense training is based on range or dojo class limitations, and seldom overlaps with reality. Figuring out what training is useful, and what should be ignored, will be easier with some time spent perusing John’s library of assaults.
      Lots of lessons on what to do, and what not to do.
      Be a people watcher. Those who enjoy watching people living life around them have an advantage, in that they see things that are wrong much sooner than those who are too focused on their own world. As John often mentions: seeing trouble early buys you time, and time buys you options in how you respond.
      He provides other services that I have not pursued yet. The videos are what I’m focusing on at this time.

  7. The problem around here is finding a range that will let you do that kind of training. “No Rapid Fire!”. You can certainly practice the slowest initial trials, but if you try to pick up the pace you _will_ get tapped on the shoulder at every indoor range within many miles. Unless you’re in a class. Or you have an LE friend and access to their range (and many departments around here use the same commercial ranges we do).

    I still try to do the slow practice whenever I’m shooting handguns.

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