What is ball and dummy?
Sometimes, we instructors take our subject matter knowledge for granted. A friend posted that she was pulling a few of her shots low and left. She’s right handed. My reply was ‘ball and dummy.’ She then asked me what that meant.
Ball and dummy means interspersing dummy (inert) ammunition among your live ammunition during a practice session. It’s a key training tool at the elite Rogers Shooting School. The dummies can be random, e.g., three or four dummies in a 15-17 round magazine. They can also be alternating; i.e., live, dummy, live, dummy, live, dummy, etc. for the entire magazine.
The purpose of ball and dummy is to watch the sights when the dummy round is clicked on to learn how smoothly, or not, you are pressing the trigger. Ball and dummy for marksmanship training is NOT the same as an Immediate Action Drill. For an IAD, you want to clear the malfunction as quickly as possible. With ball and dummy, you want to observe the sights for at least 300 milliseconds (about 1/3 of a second) after the hammer or striker falls to see what your trigger press was like and THEN clear the malfunction. A useful benchmark is to count ‘One thousand’ after the hammer/striker fall and then clear the malfunction. That’s called ‘followthrough.’
Alternating ball and dummy is both the most soul crushing and, at the same time, the most productive marksmanship drill you can do. You’ll see just exactly how smoothly you’re pressing the trigger when you do this drill. For most people, the answer is about as smoothly as Stephen Hawking, the genius theoretical physicist who has had ALS for decades.
With a revolver, for instance the iconic J frame, this exercise is extremely easy. Load a cylinder of ammo. After each shot, followthrough for one second. After you have completed your followthrough, open the cylinder, spin it, and then close it. Press the trigger smoothly until another round fires. Then open, spin, close, and repeat. Do this until you have fired all the rounds in the cylinder. Continue doing this for about four cylinders.
Whether using a revolver or autoloader, you gain useful visual feedback about what a good trigger press feels like. There’s a reason we refer to ‘hand-eye coordination.’ The visual process teaches the tactile process as to what works and what doesn’t. After a while, you will become annoyed with seeing the sights nosedive and begin to press the trigger smoothly. That’s the point where you start to become a marksman.