Drop Cannon

General Points for all Drop Cannons

The first step to playing a successful Drop Cannon is to set the cue ball accurately for the natural angle. The secret to playing the shot successfully is to hit a thick half-ball in order to bring the object ball with you to the top of the table. If you hit the object ball thinner than the thick half-ball you will normally still get the shot but you will leave the object ball behind and probably hit the red too hard, spreading the three balls.

Pace, contact and side

A medium pace is used to bring the three balls together. Aim to just drop onto the red at full ball (hence the name drop cannon), dropping the white behind the spot. On familiar tables you can adjust the contact onto the red, but on a new match table you should aim for full ball to ensure that you get the shot. There are many variations to the shot, depending on the exact position and you can vary pace, contact and side to try to gather the balls. However, on a standard drop cannon beware of playing with running side until you are quite accomplished at the basics, as this can often end in a cover.

Two main objectives of the shot

Drop Cannons are never totally predictable and even the professionals get a huge variety of 'leaves' due to the many variations in the shot. The red is often not on the spot and drop cannons from red to white are almost as common as those from white to red. However, there are usually only two main objectives of the shot:

  • Gather the balls
  • Push the red to the pocket

At the moment only Drop Cannons that gather the balls will be discussed, as these are the most common Drop Cannons. Drop Cannons to push the red to the pocket are used when the red is already towards the pocket (not on the spot) and also for red to white Drop Cannons with the red much higher or lower than the standard position.

Standard Drop Cannons

For the standard Drop Cannon It is normally best to strike the cue ball at or above centre because on some responsive tables you can get a wider throw by striking below centre. A hint of check side acts as an 'insurance policy' and prevents you from putting any running side on, which would cause a wider throw and a turn with the nap to possibly miss the shot.

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Narrow Drop Cannons

As the object ball gets nearer to the middle of the table you will need to use more check side to make the shot (right side for this photograph and video). For this shot, below centre striking is best as you will get more side on the cue ball. The check side narrows the throw off the object ball and as the cue ball travels up the table it will further narrow as the nap takes effect. However, there comes a point when you need maximum check side to just make the shot and in this case it is usually safer to play the long loser instead. Play the loser to leave a drop cannon as trying to bring it around to the middle pocket is dangerous because the object ball may well tangle with the jaws of the pocket.

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Wide Direct Drop Cannons

As the object ball gets nearer the side cushion you will need to use running side to make the shot (left side for this photograph and video). For this shot, below centre striking is best as you will get more side on the cue ball. The running side widens the throw off the object ball and as the cue ball travels up the table it will further widen as the nap takes effect.
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Wide Indirect Drop Cannons

There comes a point when you have doubt that you can make the shot direct and then THERE IS NO DOUBT! Do not attempt to get the shot direct as this is very risky. You must set the cue ball much wider than for the natural angle direct shot and play off the top cushion to make the cannon. Make sure that you use a hint of check side as any running side can cause the cue ball to slip behind the red and miss the cannon. Try to set the cue ball to hit an exact point on the top cushion that will make the cannon; do not be distracted by the red ball. Play at a pace to just reach the red with the white coming off two cushions to end in the vicinity of the red, leaving a cannon on.

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Standard shot

Place the balls as shown. The position does not need to be exact but if you have a measure the white is 9 inches (229 mm) from a line between the middle pockets and 18½ inches (470 mm) from the side cushion. The position may need some adjustment depending on the conditions but is a good starting point. Address above centre and use hint of check side. Contact on the white must be a thick half-ball. Use a pace to just reach the red and aim to gather the balls. You should quickly be able to make this shot 5/10, but remember that the key to a successful drop cannon is to hit the object ball thick and to drop onto the red, bringing the three balls together near the top cushion. Initially, you may find that you hit the red too hard.


Variations

When you can play the first shot 5/10 move the white to a new position, mark the position with a small chalk mark and now try to set the cue ball yourself; you will find this more difficult. Repeat this shot from both sides of the table until you find the correct cue ball position. Repeat the whole procedure enough times until you are confident that you can make the shot and gather the balls 5/10 from any new position. You will get different results from each shot; with drop cannons no two shots are the same! Aim to gather the balls and remember to hit a thick half-ball and to just drop on the red.


Practice Targets

Beginner 5/10

Success rate for a drop cannon will be reasonable at first but you should critique yourself about the final result and whether you achieved good position.

Club Player 9/10

An average player will get about 9/10 of their attempts and will leave a good scoring position about 6/10.

Professional 10/10

Top players would never expect to miss the shot but surprisingly they will get a poor leave at least 1/10 times. The final position is never certain and there is always a chance of getting a cover, where a score is not on.


Narrow Drop Cannon

Now try the narrow drop cannon. Set the cue ball on the left spot in the D, the red on it's spot and the white 9 inches (229 mm) from the line bisecting the two middle pockets and 26½ inches (673 mm) from the side cushion. Remember to hit a thick half-ball and to practise the shot from both sides of the table. Now vary the position slightly and repeat the shot.


Wide Drop Cannon

Now try the wide drop cannon. Set the cue ball on the right spot in the D, the red on it's spot and the white 9 inches (229 mm) from the line bisecting the two middle pockets and 11 inches (279 mm) from the side cushion. It is essential to to hit a thick half-ball in order to get the wide natural angle throw. Practice the shot from both sides of the table. Vary the position of the balls and repeat the shot.


Wide Indirect Drop Cannon

Finally set the drop cannon so that you can not make it direct and try the cannon off the top cushion. Hit a thick half-ball and practice the shot from both sides of the table. It is very easy to slip around the back of the red so concentrate on hitting a point on the top cushion. Remember to use a hint of check side to avoid slipping around the back of the red.


Remember

  • Set the cue ball accurately
  • Hit a thick half-ball
  • Address at or above centre for standard drop cannons
  • Address below centre for wide or narrow direct drop cannons
  • Using a hint of check side for wide indirect drop cannons
  • Pace to just reach the red and aim to gather the balls

Common Mistakes

  • Playing the shot with too much pace
  • Hitting the object ball too thin
  • Trying to make a wide direct drop cannon when the shot is not on
  • Going around the back of the red on a wide indirect drop cannon