Teaching someone not to "flinch"


February 29, 2012, 12:37 AM
Hello THR,

I've taken up a new hobby of teaching my friends who are willing the basics of shooting, basically just introducing them to it, and all the do's and don'ts.

My last range outing with a friend went very well, she started off shooting consistent groupings center of mass with my CZ PCR. But by the time we made it to the second target, she actually developed a flinching habit. When this started coming up, I picked up on it right away as I could notice her pushing the muzzle downward before pulling the trigger.

This is where I became sort of stumped, I didn't really know how to help her overcome this problem besides saying "don't flinch."

Things I tried:
1. I told her to very slowly pull the trigger and that the gun should almost go off as a surprise, in single action on my CZ this is not a difficult thing at all.

2. I tried tricks like loading the gun for her, but not actually loading any ammo at all, so it was an empty chamber, so when she pulled the trigger all she would get is a *click* and would notice herself flinching.

Besides these sorts of things, I felt somewhat helpless, all I could tell her was "don't flinch." Despite the two methods I mentioned above, and maybe some other ideas that I gave her, her flinch persisted almost all the way to the end, with it becoming somewhat lesser by the time we had gone through about 100 rounds.

My question is, what else is there that I could do while at the range to help eliminate a flinching habit? Dry firing can't really be done since the people I'm teaching don't own their own firearms to practice with. Is there an "on the spot" technique to show someone to help them get rid of a flinch early on?

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February 29, 2012, 12:49 AM
Double up on ear protection. Flinching can come from being naturally shocked by the loud noise of the report.

In lieu of a second set of ear protection (presumably plugs), try placing some ear buds in her ears with some relatively loud music, then put her muffs (if applicable) on top. The noise of the music will help drown out the report, making it less "surprising" when the firearm actually fires. It's like watching TV with the volume muted, or, in the case of the music, drowning out the outside world with something only you can hear.

February 29, 2012, 12:50 AM
Have you tried the old "sneak up behind her and pop a paper bag" trick? :D (just kidding)

Get a reasonably heavy .22 pistol and do most of the shooting with that and "Standard velocity" or subsonic ammo. (mix it up a little and sometimes load a magazine of CCI Mini-Mags, or other high velocity .22's)

The next step is a .38 Special revolver loaded with target wadcutters.

THEN the 9mm.

February 29, 2012, 12:53 AM
She is flinching because she is anticipating the shot and recoil. Possibly she is afriad of the recoil and not telling you.

IMO the best way to teach not flinching is with a revolver. Start with dry firing in SA and when the revolver remains motionless after the trigger is pulled. I would move them to loading select chambers in the cylinder so she won't know when the gun would fire. This way she can't anticipate the shot and she could concentrate on the trigger only. I hope this made sense!

February 29, 2012, 12:56 AM
^ I wish I had a .22 to loan her, Or a revolver. if I did I certainly would have started her on that, as well as everyone else.

Unfortunately I don't own one. As for the empty chambers, or using snap caps, I didn't have any at the time, so I improvised. I would either not load the magazine and tell her it was loaded, or one time I just didn't push the magazine all the way in so it didn't chamber the round.

She had no problem with the recoil of the pistol at first, but somehow became much more conscious of it after about 20 rounds or so. When I asked her about why she thought she was flinching, and if she was worried about the recoil, she said she didn't have a problem with the pistol, didn't feel like it was out of her grasp on a power scale. Instead, she felt she was "overthinking" the shot, in the most basic sense, anticipating the gun to go off.

I like the idea of either doubling up on ear-pro, or using music to sort of distract her from the noise and the gun itself. What I'm interested in are tips that can be done on the spot to help steer someone away from a flinch.

February 29, 2012, 12:57 AM
A lot of people don't realize they are flinching. Get some snap caps and stagger a couple in the magazine. She'll see herself flinch when there's no bang. Have her fire a few shots with just the snap caps, consciously, slowly following everystep (front sight, front sight, squeeze, pop, repeat).

February 29, 2012, 01:01 AM
I should have mentioned in my first post, she was not a complete stranger to firearms in general, she had used shotguns several times in the past. She had never fired a handgun, but understood the concept of using the front sight to aim.

February 29, 2012, 01:06 AM
best way to cure bucking and flinching is ball and dummy as well as small bore practice

February 29, 2012, 01:12 AM
you need a .22 and you need snap-caps
Both will foster good habits

and if you're doing this "teaching" on a crowded indoor rental range, that isn't helping either ... a laid-back outdoor setting is better, particularly if you're the only ones there.
The time pressure and inability to "pause" and take off the ear protection for a moment to talk about something, and the forced narrow lane structure of most indoor ranges are serious detriments to the teaching/learning process

February 29, 2012, 01:26 AM
A double action 22 revolver shot double action is the best deflincher I have ever seen. I will go so far as to say you will teach a lot of bad habits until you get one. They make better carry pieces than they get credit for.

February 29, 2012, 01:28 AM
olafhardtB that's not a bad idea, and an older H&R 999 wouldn't be too expensive.
Mine I got as a toy, currently it has a tendency to light strike once in a while in DA ... it would be an even BETTER de-flincher! (I seriously need to get that fixed, I'm mostly joking)

February 29, 2012, 02:59 AM
You might try pulling the trigger for her, to get her used to the gun firing almost on it's own.

February 29, 2012, 03:37 AM
I think most folks here are missing the point/hint when the OP posted:
When I asked her about why she thought she was flinching, and if she was worried about the recoil, she said she didn't have a problem with the pistol, didn't feel like it was out of her grasp on a power scale. Instead, she felt she was "overthinking" the shot, in the most basic sense, anticipating the gun to go off.
Loading an empty or a snap cap doesn't help cure the problem, it only confirms it to the shooter. Telling them "Don't flinch" is really counterproductive when addressing the issue. Flinching isn't an accurate description of what is happening, it describes the action, but not the cause. Not all shot anticipation (jerk/snatch/dip) is caused by recoil.

The problem you are having, trying to correct her snatching at the trigger is that you do not understand what is causing it...and so can't explain it.

More than likely what is happening, since she says it isn't the recoil, or the blast, is that she is trying to hit the target. She is trying to make the shot go off when her sights are perfectly aligned...before they drift off again.

Explain to her about the inherent wobble zone when shooting handguns and that focus on placing shots on the target are secondary to correctly running the platform

February 29, 2012, 06:58 AM
i have 2 daughters and started them both on 22's (pistol) and moved up from there to rifles in 223, 243, 270 and now they shoot my 300 rum on occassion, they did double ear cover and plug for a bit but now they do not.

Sav .250
February 29, 2012, 07:40 AM
For every action .....there is a re-action.

To some "flinching" is just a way of life.

February 29, 2012, 08:01 AM
ask her to read this:


It's free, it requires no ammo or range time, and it works.

charlie echo
February 29, 2012, 08:01 AM
I used a double action steel revolver, and load 2 or 3 of the chambers with spent brass, spin the wheel, like a roulette, then shoot. You can see the anticipary flinch. Be sure their torso is leaning a bit forward while still balanced in a comfotably wide and deep stance: I have then picture a kickboxing stance.

Master Blaster
February 29, 2012, 08:05 AM
Have her concentrate on the front sight slowly squeeze the trigger as slow as she can.
Do this with no ammo in the firearm, dry fire practice is the best way to extinguish a flinch.
Then she needs to practice with live ammo and a .22lr.

February 29, 2012, 08:16 AM
I would suggest you use a 22 with new shooters. Move her back from the 9mm to a 22 and start over and slowly go back to the 9mm when she has more confidence.

I'd also say that in general, don't use compact or pocket sized guns to teach with at first.

February 29, 2012, 08:24 AM
I would suggest you use a 22 with new shooters. Move her back from the 9mm to a 22 and start over and slowly go back to the 9mm when she has more confidence.

I'd also say that in general, don't use compact or pocket sized guns to teach with at first.

BINGO! We have a winner - just like you don't start new shotgunners with 3.5" 12 gauge load, you don't start new pistoleros with high velocity stuff from small packages - that's the perfect reason for a flinch to develop

Besides, shooting a.22 is a LOT cheaper, and in the beginning, more trigger time breeds more familiarity, which means more success, less fear to overcome, and a greater willingness to keep shooting as a hobby

February 29, 2012, 08:37 AM
I find that concentrating, and I mean making it the over-riding concern, on sight/target alignment is key. With a good slow steady trigger pull, it's more apparent to the shooter (if he/she is really paying attention) when sights fall off target, and to get back on. It also teaches fine trigger control, as the goal is to stop the pull, but hold the pressure until realignment, and continue the pull. Yeah, sometimes it's not possible to maintain pressure without the gun firing, but believe me it will help with what I call 'squeeze discipline, and will tie it to sight alignment.

February 29, 2012, 09:00 AM
Consider finding an NRA instructor class in your area and enrolling yourself. Your intentions are good but you should learn how to teach a skill before appointing yourself as teacher. While not the worst, a 9mm autoloader is not the best to teach a beginning shooter. At least you didn't opt for a .40S&W or .50AE. For many non-shooters, learning to shoot a handgun without first learning how to shoot a rifle is like learning to ride a bicycle by starting with a unicycle.

New shooters should begin with a low recoil, easy to shoot gun. .22 rf caliber (revolver or even single shot) is ideal. New shooters should shoot from the seated benchrest position (with sandbags or pistol rest) until they master the fundamentals of shooting: grip, sight allingment/picture, breath control, trigger control, and follow through.

Flinching is easy to cure with the old "ball & dummy" exercise where one of the shells is a dummy but the shooter doesn't know until it goes "click" instead of "bang." All of this you would learn in an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course.

Lex Luthier
February 29, 2012, 09:09 AM
Recoil is reality. The first thing my little lady ever shot was a 9mm. Then a .45. Consideration of expected recoil is a simple matter of fact now.

It is a greater challenge to get a new shooter to think past the stance, the muffled ears, the trigger pull, past the bang and the recoil, to the hole you're going to make downrange. All that stuff is essential to get right, but hopefully you learn to set it and forget it.

February 29, 2012, 09:15 AM
I've been dry firing my new Glock 19 a lot to get used to a smooth trigger pull and not let myself jerk it. It has definitely helped my aim. Maybe she could try that, when you've dry fired 15 minutes a day for 2 weeks with a smooth steady trigger pull, your muscles tend to remember that and help you to be consistent. Working for me anyways :)

And as someone pointed out, double up on ear protection seems like a good idea.

February 29, 2012, 09:20 AM
I wish I had a .22 to loan herUntil you get a .22, nothing else matters. A .22 will allow you to separate out recoil (and blast) issues from other issues (like those suggested by 9mmepiphany), and then manage them accordingly.


February 29, 2012, 10:44 AM
I'm working on trigger pull myself. It helps to imagine that the trigger is directly attached to the front sight (or the red dot) and I want to pull that sight straight back towards my eye. That keeps my eye on the sight but my concentration on squeezing the trigger straight back and not jerking.

You need to get a .22 -- something like a Ruger Mk2 or Buckmark or Sig Trailside. A S&W k-frame .22 revolver is likely way out of your price range.

February 29, 2012, 11:07 AM
There is good advice here. Another thing to consider, many folks experience increased stress when someone else is observing them. Trying not to flinch because you know someone is watching you and going to criticize you if they catch you flinching can just add to the problem.

If she is a safe enough shooter to be left on her own, give her the gun of her choice, a bunch of ammo, and let her practice on her own. Allow her to focus on improving her technique without constantly worrying about someone watching over her shoulder who is going to criticize her for doing something wrong.

February 29, 2012, 11:08 AM
No offense is intended to the OP, but honestly if ANYONE is setting out trying to teach someone else to shoot, they NEED a .22, there just is no better, simpler, cheaper way to get into it, and i've never heard anyone say a .22 kicked too hard.

Also, OP, how is she gripping the gun? Does she do the "teacup hold" that most novice shooters, especially those using a gun that is either too small or too heavy for them, tend to lapse into? This grip tends to allow excessive muzzle flip, and I have seen MANY novices develop a tendancy to overcorrect because of it. Make sure she exercises a good isometric "push-pull" grip, with her hands overlapped. THEN tell her to concentrate on the front sight and trigger.

Just my $0.02

Old Dog Man
February 29, 2012, 11:10 AM
I had that same problem with a shooter that flinched. Got my 22 rifle and taught them to shoot with both eye's open, letting the dominate eye do the sighting. They were closing the sighting eye everytime before pulling the trigger. Took a while but after they learned to shoot with both eye's open the problem went away. Just a thought, might be the case. Al

February 29, 2012, 11:40 AM
No one has mentioned breathing, and that may help. Take a breath, let out about half, hold, aim, squeeeeeze . . .

February 29, 2012, 12:20 PM
When I have a student with a issue I start them using a seated benchrest position. It eliminates a lot of other potential errors and increases confidence.


Claude Clay
February 29, 2012, 12:30 PM
lots of good advice here and as to the wooble--

have her think of the target as a clock face and whe should trace the front site from 10 Oclock through the center to 2 oclock.
coordinate breathing such that the muzzle passed through the 'x' at the very top ( or bottom) of her breathe and the hammer falls at the same time.
grip must start strong, stay strong and end strong.
show her how to 'low ready' where the muzzle touches the table top and the muscles relax but the grip positioning is maintained.
--holding a gun at arms length can be fatiguing

and for her finger to maintain the face on the trigger during reset;
this minimizes scatter left and right.

Mikhail Weiss
February 29, 2012, 12:49 PM
Having run into almost the exact same situation with a young lady who'd been taking careful, measured shots that started out okay, then went to crap, here's what I did.

Suggested returning to the .22 revolver. She didn't like that idea because it had no recoil, and recoil was what she wanted to deal with.

So then I suggested ball and dummy drills. She nixed that plan, too, saying that she didn't like the idea of being tricked and surprised.

The last word caught my ear. Surprised. I asked her about it. She said that at first she'd been concentrating on making the shots and paid no attention to recoil. At some point, however, she started paying more attention to recoil than shooting. That's when accuracy went to crap.

So here's what I did. Loaded two magazines. Told her to point the gun downrange and to fire into the backstop at a quick pace. Not an uncontrolled pace, just a quick one so that she would get used to the gun simply doing its very normal thing. Namely, recoiling. Tossing out brass. Reloading. I wanted her to get used to what recoil felt like. I wanted her to get used to the idea that recoil was normal, unremarkable, and that it wouldn't hurt her.

This was my version of Jeff Cooper's admonition regarding recoil, “Get used to it.”

After a putting a magazine through her pistol, she did, apparently, get used to it. And she found it fun. And she discovered that when she returned to shooting her target, shooting too slowly was almost as unproductive as shooting too quickly: the extra time afforded the shot did not appreciably increase accuracy (already okay), while shooting too quickly often degraded it. In short, she learned to take as much time as she needed to make a shot. Not more. Not less. Just enough. (She was shooting a Ruger P89, by the way.)

Will this work for everyone? Beats me. But it will certainly work for some.

P5 Guy
March 1, 2012, 03:46 PM
My ex did not like shooting pistols because the slide moving toward her face.
Revolvers were fine semi-autos flinching all over the target.

March 1, 2012, 06:13 PM
Didn't read the thread, but my best advise is "teach fundamentals".

Teach a good trigger squeeze and sight picture in dry fire training, and that will carry over to the range. You have to get it through their head that there WILL be a blast, there WILL be recoil, and there WILL be a lot of noise. But as long as they block that out and focus on a clean break every shot, they'll do well.

March 1, 2012, 06:56 PM
Hasn't anyone come up with LB's guideline of "DON'T SAY DON'T"? In essence, by saying, "Don't flinch," the last thing your trainee hears is "flinch." Putting the emphasis on what to DO rather than what NOT to do will be a lot more reinforcing and supportive to a new shooter.

Another approach I've taken (on myself and on others) is using a revolver, 22 is good, and loading only 1 or 2 live rounds with the other chambers holding fired cases. Load so the shooter can't see which is where, give the cylinder a spin, stop it and close it, hand to the shooter and watch what happens. You shouldn't know when the live rounds come up either. This helped me immensely when I started shooting the 44 mag, and it's really instructive for a beginning shooter. Heck, you might do this with NO live rounds just to see if the building anticipation causes a flinch to show itself when that last (if they're counting) chamber comes up. By putting empties in the chambers, they can't tell if it is going to fire or not, they will always see a cartridge rim comng up.

Just my $.02 worth, works for me....

March 1, 2012, 07:02 PM
I'll repeat what I posted in post #13.

She isn't flinching due to the recoil

March 1, 2012, 07:21 PM
MrIvhevsk, I think you should get yourself a 22 or three. No better teaching tool and you might just find that you become a better shooter too.

March 1, 2012, 07:26 PM
use a blank, white piece of 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper as your target. tell her to just shoot at the middle of the paper. may stop her from thinking too much.


March 1, 2012, 07:32 PM
Don't forget that hair, earrings, glasses, etc will break the seal on women's earmuffs. Goofed on that myself once 'cause I forgot to tell my tutee to put in earplugs as well as using the muffs. On an indoor range. Where blast noises are horrendous.


Me, not the tutee.

Terry, 230RN

March 1, 2012, 08:40 PM
Take a look at what 9mmepiphany's post. I suspect he's on to a problem, be sure she is not focusing so hard on a little bullseye that's too far away for a new pistol shooter that's taking her attention away from controlling the trigger. With some folk's it may mean starting out with a big ol 4" orange dot 3 yards away. start close and as they demonstrate trigger control and gain confidence move the target back a little at a time.

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