Flinching 101....


Dave McCracken
December 16, 2003, 06:10 PM
The classic Flinch is supposed to be something like this. We call for the target, track it, go to shoot and our finger doesn't press the trigger. After a brief moment, we try again, maybe successfully. In any case, timing's off and the shot gets wasted while the call "Lost" is heard.

I differ from many more educated than I am on this. IMO, other symptoms pop up to show a flinch problem is active.

Watch some folks on the line when a dud shell happens. The barrel might lurch down, the face jump off the stock, the firing hand give a convulsive squeeze....

All these qualify as a flinch in my humble opinion. All indicate the body's anticipating being hurt.

Causes include bad mindset,bad fit,light shotguns,heavy loads,heavy triggers, too much noise, too much blast, too much shooting, ad infinitum. And of course, any or all combined.

One reason I keep on preaching about light loads until I'm blue in the monitor is this. Far easier to deal with a flinch that never gets started. Oz of prevention/lb of cure.

Here's some cure, though nothing makes a flinch go away forever.

Gene Hill, in his delightful Shotgunner's Notebook, addresses the problem and mentions that using top ear protection helps. Try using a long barrel to move the blast further away, too.

Lighter agendas. Instead of running a case or so every range trip, cut it down to 100 shells, and take breaks between rounds.For the Practical folks, the R/R buck and slugs are a boon indeed.

Anything that'll reduce kick. This can be a better pad, better fit, using a gas gun, lighter loads, subguages etc.

Dry mounting and firing practice.

And most crucially, mindset. Be ready to shoot and do so. Focus, focus,focus...

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Black Majik
December 16, 2003, 06:26 PM
Interesting read! http://socalsportbikes.com/xmb/images/smilies/thumb.gif

December 16, 2003, 06:28 PM
Agreement with everything said above, and especially on the good ear protection.

This isn't about shotguns, but rather pistols, though I'm sure that similar principals apply. I've noticed that sometimes when I'm teaching folks the muzzle blast will often cause a flinch worse than the recoil. I have especially seen this in people shooting ported guns, or things like .357s or hot .40 S&W. I think that some people have a very strong instinct to close their eyes and avert their faces away from a sharp bark.

I had a point in my earlier life where I was not able to shoot for a long period of time. When I got back into it I immediatly had a problem with a flinch. Mostly because I was rusty I forgot to keep a proper cheek weld and ended up bashing myself in the cheek with my shotgun the first time out. :) This made me shy of the gun and only made it worse. (long since got over that thank goodness!)

One thing that I have learned and I always try to teach. If you are calling your shot then you are pretty much guarenteed that you won't flinch. By calling the shot I mean that you KNOW exactly where your sights were at when the gun went off. You don't need to walk up to the target and look for the holes because you know of a surety where that bullet struck.

This works with shotguns just as well. If after the missed shot you know exactly where your pattern was then you probably didn't flinch. You just missed for some other reason. :D Now if you shoot at the target, miss, and have absolutely no idea where your shot went then you most likely flinched.

The best way to test for this is to shoot with friends, and load each others guns. Slip in the occasional dummy. (shell not friend :p ) Watch your buddy shoot. If there is a click and the muzzle is steady, or swinging in the same arc then there was no flinch. If you see the muzzle suddenly jerking around or doing figure 8s in the air when you hear the click then you have a problem.

Dave offers some great advice about how to prevent flinch, and the same advice will help cure it.

I'm excited to shoot in the MGM Ironman match. (hopefully in 2004, fingers crossed). It is considered the toughest 3 gun match there is, over 1,000 rounds in one day, usually over gruelling field courses with so many target arrays that you melt perfectly good barrels. :D My understanding is that by the end of the day lots of the competitors have developed a flinch. Yee Haw!

December 16, 2003, 07:36 PM
Every time I start to develop a flinch I stop shooting anything bigger than a 28 ga and really concentrate on the .410. A .410 going off in a 9lb target gun is almost no feel to it, barrels don't jump and no felt recoil, after a couple hundred skeet targets its time to move on. Concentation is a big key, once you feel comfortable again it could be thousands of shots before a flinch rears it's ugly head again, usually after a trip to a sporting clays course with lots of heavier 12ga loads.

December 16, 2003, 08:21 PM
Dave, Another Great Topic, Great Advice.

Correia, Excellent post! More great advice!

kudu, I'm with ya, somtimes you have to get basic, either no/less recoil and noise. Done the same with handguns and rifles. 22lr in a revolver/semi auto hadgun, or any platform of rifle, does the same thing.

Dang basics, always boils down to basics and getting it/learningit/practicing it...Simple don't always means it's easy, just basic and crucial.

Dave McCracken
December 17, 2003, 05:19 AM
Thanks for the contributions, folks.

Corriea, good luck with the Ironman. Hope that 1K rounds is with all the guns, not just a shotgun.

Kudu, good idea. Subgauges are having a mild boom(pun intended) and a lot of that, IMO, is due to folks with flinching probs doing as you do.

"Simple don't always mean it's easy...". SO true...

December 17, 2003, 07:31 AM
Two practices that I have found to work for me when I get the yips:

1. Focus on calling the shot, and
2. Focus on the follow through.

If I can get focused on these two practices I (1) usually am surprised by the shot (a good thing) and (2) the flinch is gone.

IMHO, nothing beats good ear protection.

Dave McCracken
December 17, 2003, 06:50 PM
Focus, focus, focus....

December 19, 2003, 05:05 AM
Another similar test is to have someone manipulate your safety and hand you the gun. Without looking, you don't know if the gun will fire or not, but the idea is to see what your body does when it doesn't fire. Do you lurch in anticipation? Do you move the barrel?

Dave McCracken
December 19, 2003, 05:30 AM
Thanks, Guyon. Back when I taught, it was a common practice with revolvers to load up 3 shells in random order and hand it to a rookie to illustrate what faults the rookie had. Some of the gyrations observed were complicated.

Same here. I mentioned the dud because some folks pull the barrel down, take a half step forward, etc.

Black Majik
December 19, 2003, 05:43 AM
I swear Dave never sleeps. Its 2:45 in the morning California time, so 5:45 Maryland time. I get home and he's still posting! :p

Dave McCracken
December 19, 2003, 05:55 AM
Not still, Black Majik. I check in to the board in the evening, but most of my writing is done early in the AM. Less distractions.

Weekdays, I usually get up around 4:30 AM and work out. Then it's coffee, E mail and a couple other boards before I'm ready for this one.

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