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How to stop flinching, see the sights, and quit missing low-and-left

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by ATLDave, Jul 29, 2019.

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  1. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I have had the same experience!

    I recently listened to a podcast from Steve Anderson, a well-known practical pistol shooting coach (and a pretty good unofficial sports psychologist, too) where he talks about a phenomenon that can occur with a really hard front sight focus. He was discussing the idea of seeing the entire recoil arc of the sights (seeing the front sight lift from the notch, track up, return downward, settle) and its benefits in terms of being able to shoot fast without sacrificing a given level of accuracy. He said that some people can actually struggle because they get so intently focused on the front sight that, as soon as it moves, it is just gone from their vision... which, in turn, makes it a little slower to pick it back up on return.

    What Anderson was describing wasn't a flinching issue, per se, but I do think it's related. Sometimes a slight softening/loosening of focus can help open up our awareness of visual data that is available. This is part of why I bolded the phrase "see how much you can see" in my OP. Not "look how hard you can look."
     
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  2. ontarget

    ontarget Member

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    I have a dozen various Smiths, a couple Charters, a couple Rugers, and several Taurus. All .22 or on up through 44 spec.
     
  3. JoeHenry

    JoeHenry Member

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    John Skaggs an instructor at Chapman academy (around the year 2000) got rid of my tendency to shoot low and left. I don’t know if this will work for everyone but it sure made a dramatic improvement in my shooting.
    Start with the grip, no cup and saucer. Grip the gun as tight as you can while holding on target. The sights are going to move on you but this is normal since you are griping this tight. Just try to keep on target. Start applying pressure on the trigger as though you were trying to count the number of pounds it takes you to touch off a round....... 1,2,3,4........and so on until the trigger breaks. You can dry fire at home and do this but you won’t see the results on the target. The class, defensive pistol, was a week long and we shot over 1,800 rounds. That round count might of had something to do with eliminating low and left groups but after the first day, using that technique, shooting low and left was no longer a problem for me.
     
  4. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Yes, getting an effective grip reduces the amount of will-of-its-own movement the gun has, which, along with the noise/blast/flash, is the data that your brain interprets as something that needs to be protected against with closed eyes and pushing the gun away/down. Improving the grip won't necessarily fix a true flinch in and of itself, but it reduces one of the inputs that drives a flinch, and can help someone get over the hump.

    This works for some people, and is the sure-est way to get the biggest flinch for others. I can "restore" my flinch if I shoot very, very, very slowly for an extended period. For me, and some others, the anticipation builds.

    Happens even when I am RO'ing other shooters. If I am running the timer in a USPSA match on an open gun shooter (extremely loud and blast-y due to the compensator), and they are shooting at a normal match pace (pretty fast), I have no issues watching their gun go off, seeing their muzzle flash, etc. If they start aiming super hard or lose their dot and the shot is "building" for a while, I start having to fight a squint/blink impulse. I can do it, but it takes effort.

    For some folks, the anticipation is a real killer. For them, telling them to go slower or focus on building pressure on the pad of the finger against trigger is the opposite of what will break them out of a serious flinch. I wasted a lot of time and ammo trying to cure my flinch by applying this "fundamental" harder and harder.

    People have to figure out what works for them.

    There is no doubt that volume helps, as long as even some of the reps are "productive" - i.e., instances of seeing the gun go off. If even 10-15% of the shots are non-blink shots, then the "evidence" starts to pile up in one's brain that seeing the gun go off is not harmful. Different people have a different amount of "evidence" that their brain needs. Mine needed a lot.
     
  5. ontarget

    ontarget Member

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    Forcing myself to see the muzzle blast through the scope on my rifles has improved my shooting with them a lot. I'm sure the same would hold true with handguns. I always get my best groups when I see the blast consistently. It also makes for more consistent follow through during recoil.
     
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  6. Cump

    Cump Member

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    When I started handgun shooting, I had an occasional flinch, maybe once or twice per box of ammo. Oddly, it often occurred well-enough before the shot, that I might not even complete the trigger pull, and would awkwardly flinch with no shot to cover it. I don't know whether it resolved itself by repetition (desensitization) or if I was doing something else right. I noticed the blink, so I focused on keeping eyes wide open yet relaxed. I also tended to notice slide movement, brass ejection, etc in the periphery. Maybe that helped.

    I also noticed, when it occurred, muscular tension before the twitch, and so I tried to relax a bit and not fight the recoil. This at first produced additional grip issues I had to iron out, but my body learned a lot about controlling and experiencing recoil, which is a tactile draw of shooting.

    I still might suffer a flinch when shooting excessively tired or sore. I wonder if in those states you're less able to resist the instinct. Anyone have ideas on how to guard against that rare re-occurrence?
     
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  7. fastbolt

    fastbolt Member

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    Nice write up.

    Want to know why a large range of people exhibit a flinch (when you're working with them on a range)?

    Ask them what they're thinking as the gun is about to fire, and also goes tthrough their mind when it fires. Hope for honest answers, of course.

    On a very visceral level, a flinch (and closing of the eyes) is a fear response. Asking enough people starts to rack up the number of folks who will sheepishly admit they feel some trepidation and fear both as the gun is about to fire, and especially when the gun fires. Well, admittedly gunfire can be scary. You can work on controlling fear, though. Understanding the source and cause of the fear, and then evaluating whether the fear has merit, can be a good place to start.

    However, once you're past the fear response, you can still be in the "startle response" zone. That zone seems as though it takes longer for some folks to find the exit door. Even though they're expecting the noise and recoil, and they aren't particularly afraid of the impending nose and associated recoil effect, they're still subconsciously startled when it happens.

    The "blink"? Well, when you become involved in the martial arts it's not a rare thing to come across people who actually blink when they're punching/striking at someone. Not just when they think they're about to be hit/struck, but when they're doing the hitting/striking. Why? Well, asking enough of them starts to paint a similar picture. For many folks, it seems we're back to the fear thing.

    FWIW, the "blink" effect is something that's always been a giveaway, to me, when watching actors in TV shows and movies who are firing blanks. This tells me that they likely aren't even hobby or recreational shooters, as they can't stop themselves from blinking when the low nose/recoil blank is being fired in their prop guns. Sure, they can be taught to look cool and to simulate the appearance of someone who has been trained to hold a gun, but once that blank is ignited they're in the blink/fear/startle response zone and they can't help themselves.

    Interestingly enough, the actors who want, or are required, to go off and attend some sort of a fighting/shooting "boot camp" in preparation for a big budget film often seem to have had any blink/startle response trained out of them. Funny how good training, under the watchful eyes of experienced trainers, can help with things like that, huh? ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
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  8. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Good stuff, fast'. I think it is helpful to acknowledge that the fear and/or startle components are normal human behavior. Many, many people spend their whole shooting lives with a flinch, because curing a flinch generally requires acknowledging that you have a flinch. If you don't accept that you are flinching, you can waste a long time working on "trigger control" or trying to figure out what sight picture to use or how you keep getting defective guns that shoot left, etc.

    So why don't people who are flinching accept that they are flinching and start working on their cure? Ego protection. Admitting you have a flinch feels too close to admitting cowardice to some, a failure of character or willpower. No. It's just a normal human reflex. Different people have different levels of reflex. Being at one point on that spectrum versus another doesn't make you tougher or brave-er or more determined. It's just an innate characteristic. It's normal to have a flinch. It's abnormal to not have one.

    But this is a case where developing an abnormal (non-)reaction is beneficial. So it's worth spending the time and effort to create the new, abnormal pattern.
     
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  9. entropy

    entropy Member

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    I just recall my Dad's advice on recoil-"Don't worry about what the gun is going to do to you-worry about what it is going to do to the target!"
     
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  10. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Another little aphorism like that: "You have to learn to love making the gun go off."
     
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  11. Mike J

    Mike J Member

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    Thanks for your write up. I have been struggling with this lately. I honestly don't get to shoot as much as I would like to. I'm married with 3 kids & work 6 days a week, then church on Sunday, etc. Sometimes it is difficult to get away for a little bit. My last outing I was hitting pretty much centered on target but low hitting directly under it. I did get things more on target by the end of the range session. I was focusing on following through-keeping the gun pushed out all the way through the shot but y'all are giving me some different things to try to work on.
     
  12. Bill Raby

    Bill Raby Member

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    Get used to shooting a flintlock. You won't flinch with anything after that.
     
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  13. DustyGmt

    DustyGmt Member

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    Awesome thread and awesome opinions.

    Some time ago when I was teaching my daughter to shoot I actually went over a few key points here from my own observation and experience. Like OP said in his opening remarks, correctly identifying the problem makes it much easier to overcome.

    I would guess that 90% of the time people are trying to correct grip and trigger control they are really just flinching and that's why they cant get repeatable accuracy.

    You are detonating an explosive charge and are in direct physical control and in close proximity to our face and eyes, our lizard brain until taught and disciplined, will always have a physiological response (flinch) the extent of which being determined by our level of training and discipline over our bodies.

    I explained this stuff to my daughter when teaching her to shoot and I believe putting it across in those terms helped her relax a lil bit. I also told her she was the lightning bearer so to speak, lol. Guns are very loud, concussive and deadly instruments but can be easily controlled and precise with a lil bit of skill and patience......lots of ammo too.
     
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  14. Doc Samson

    Doc Samson Member

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    It worked!!!

    Went to the range yesterday and really focused on keeping both eyes open. Didn't worry about focusing on the sights but I easily put about half the rounds near the bull. Still had a few "low and right"ers but it was a noticeable improvement. Good stuff!
     
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  15. fastbolt

    fastbolt Member

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    Well, if you're going to engage in training to address a problem, first you've got to acknowledge the problem to be addressed. ;)
     
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  16. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Yep. Hard to prescribe or take the right medicine if you don't diagnose the right malady. Lots of time and energy gets wasted when you're trying to solve the wrong problem!

    The great thing about diagnosing and fixing a flinch is that being able to actually see the sights into and through the shot makes progress on all the other potential problems possible. If you're feeding data to your brain and have awareness of it, then your brain will do a lot of self-correction of many other shooting errors. But if the shooter is "shooting blind," it's really impossible to learn much about trigger control or sight refinement or wobble zones or appropriate grip force or much of anything really.

    Right after solving any basic safety issues, fixing a blink-involved flinch is job #1 in learning to shoot well.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
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  17. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Of course you can. You can see where the sights were aligned when the trigger broke. I'm a firm believer in lots, and lots of dry fire practice. When teaching any skill you break it down into segments and teach one skill at a time. Dry fire eliminates all the other distractions and allows you to concentrate on trigger pull only. You will know if you moved or not. Once that is mastered it is time to move on. But dry fire is still great for "free" practice even for accomplished shooters.

    I also find that noise is the bigger cause of flinching than recoil. Good ear protection will help as well as mastering a 22 before moving up to a centerfire.
     
  18. DustyGmt

    DustyGmt Member

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    I'm reminded of a method I once tried that was suggested. Putting an empty brass shell on the top of your pistol and breaking the trigger without losing your shell on the floor.

    I spent some time with this and I don't think I gained very much from it. I like to dry fire, I usually aim for a point on the wall and come from a draw and try to break the shot without deviating from my spot on the wall. I believe it was helpful
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
  19. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    To reiterate - dry-fire is extremely useful for learning trigger control.

    It does nothing for a true flinch. You know the gun is not going to go off, so there is no impulse to close the eyes or shove the gun around. Trigger control is important, but a true flinch is not a mechanical trigger control issue.
     
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  20. Corpral_Agarn

    Corpral_Agarn Member

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    Great write up.
     
  21. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Different kind of shooting. Actually, the 'dime drill' (As I was taught, we set a dime flat on the barrel at the muzzle.) is to teach trigger, breath and body control while precision shooting. It obviously isn't applicable to drawing. It is very applicable in Bullseye shooting. I dry fired 1000 dime drills for every live round I shot in Bullseye.
     
  22. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    It can be a useful drill, although typically people can see their sights easily enough in dry fire that they don’t really need a case or coin falling off the gun to see the sights move. And unless the coin is balanced on its edge, or the top of the gun has no flat spot, then it’s not sensitive enough to detect anything the sights wouldn’t be screaming at you in dry fire.

    That said, many thousands of dry fire trigger pulls are the best way to learn how to manipulate the trigger without introducing addition inputs to the gun (thus moving it off target). As soon as any blink/flinch is gone, that skill starts to pay off and matter. If a live fire flinch is present, though, it won’t matter. A straight back trigger pull with an eyes-closed 50 MOA pre-ignition push won’t hit much.
     
  23. GE-Mini-Gun

    GE-Mini-Gun Member

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    I shoot skeet with a guy that has the worse flinch I have ever seen, if the gun doesn't go off the barrel dips 12" or more...how he hits targets is beyond me. Some of the other guys that flinch have changed to release triggers, but that's a whole different discussion...
     
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  24. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I feel like the term "flinch" gets used a little differently in skeet (and perhaps other clay sports, though skeet is the only one I've ever fooled with very much or read about). Seems like people use that term to describe what we call "trigger freeze" in USPSA and other speed-shooting sports where your brain is seeing the target/sight alignment you want, but the signal is not getting to the trigger finger... sort of a brief locking-up/disconnect between sight-and-perception versus physical action. Release triggers seem like a way to short-circuit that particular problem by just avoiding neuromuscular circuitry that has gotten screwed up in some way.

    That strikes me as similar to a golfer who struggles with the yips in putting switching to some funky grip. It's not really that the yips are impossible with the new grip, just that whatever psychological/psychoperceptual scar tissue is interfering with the old approach is circumvented because the new technique feels and is physically different.

    I know about all those problems (trigger freeze and putting yips), too, but I don't have a great solution for those yet! I'll write another crazy-long post about it if I do. ;)
     
  25. entropy

    entropy Member

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    From a Trapshooting forum I frequent:


     
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