Skills Check: Double-Action Dot Torture

posted on June 17, 2019

As far as I can tell, double-action revolvers remain popular sellers despite the slowdown in gun sales, and small, short-barreled revolvers suitable for concealed carry are the most popular of all. As you may know, referring to a revolver as double-action (DA) means it can be cocked via the trigger and fired. Certain revolvers only function in double-action—they don’t have an exposed hammer—while others may be fired by first cocking the hammer, then pressing the trigger. The later method is referred to as single-action. Mastering the DA trigger takes a bit of practice.

The idea is to pull the trigger until the gun fires without disturbing the sight picture and throwing the shot off the intended point-of-aim. Revolvers with relatively light DA trigger pulls make this easier, while those with a heavy or rough trigger pull can make shooting well rather difficult. Learning to manage the DA trigger is best done with dry-fire practice. After unloading the revolver, physically and visually verifying it is unloaded and pointing in a safe direction, concentrate on looking at the front sight and carefully stroking the trigger. I use the word stroking because you don’t want to quickly snatch at the trigger, as that’s sure to pull your sights off target.

Back in the day, as they say, we used to practice our DA-trigger stroke by balancing a dime on the front sight as we pulled through the trigger stroke. You might want to include this in your dry practice, as snatching at the trigger will surely cause the dime to fall and stroking smoothly will leave it in place. Why should you bother to perfect your double-action-trigger work? It’s been my experience that folks who can correctly and smoothly manipulate a double-action trigger not only shoot well, but are able to handle just about any kind of trigger.

Recently, I had the opportunity to evaluate Colt’s new King Cobra .357 Mag. revolver and thought I’d give Dot Torture a try, shooting the entire drill double-action. The Colt has a very good double-action trigger, and I figured it would facilitate a clean Dot Torture score. Now Dot Torture isn’t for the faint of heart. Seemingly easy because it’s only fired at 3 yards, it is deceptively difficult. There are no time limits and the distance is short, but you have to fire a perfect shot every single time for 50 rounds. The temptation to rush is enormous and the slightest break in concentration results in a missed shot, hence the name, Dot Torture. The drill starts with single shots, moves on to pairs and shots on two targets, requires drawing from a holster and even includes reloading.

Dot Torture is a really good training drill and I recommend it to you. To “pass” a perfect score—50 points total, no misses—is required. You can download Dot Torture targets at And, yes, I passed the drill with the King Cobra.


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Colonel Rex Applegate

For me, one of the many bonuses of this gunwriter business has been the opportunity to meet and become friends with a number of the firearm enthusiasts of an earlier generation; legendary figures such as Frank Hamer Jr., Bill Jordan, Bill Toney, Col Walter Walsh and the subject of this column: COL Rex Applegate.


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