View Full Version : Problems flinching

September 12, 2011, 10:40 AM
Running into a chronic issue and hoping people have some tips or tricks to help me overcome this. I flinch anywhere from .45 auto to a .22lr handgun. And yeah, I know flinching with a .22 is pretty sad, but take it easy on me.
Have been shooting rifle and carbine for roughly 20 years and just got into handguns about a year ago. I do not flinch at all with rifles. I have always had a bit of an issue at the range with other shooters and the report of their firearms. Not my own for some reason, unless with a handgun.

I am not certain what I can do to overcome this. I practice dry firing a couple times a week and go to the range at least once a week. When I go to the range I can be there for hours on end and still flinch when the trigger breaks. I have tried to align the sights on follow through with the trigger depressed and only release the trigger when ready for the next shot, to help with the surprise break, as well as few other things others at the range have told me to try.

Any tips or tricks?

September 12, 2011, 11:19 AM
Grow a pair...

No I am just kidding :). I find I flinch sometimes during my first magazine at the range but it always clears up. I find it kind of interesting that you don't flinch with rifles, whereas you do with handguns. The firing mechanism is closer to you with a rifle after all. Maybe it's just being able to see it in front of you? Do you flinch with an indoor and outdoor setting? Sometimes outdoor can be easier as the sound isn't contained.

As far as getting over it is concerned, I can't think of much other than more practice. Seems like it's a mental block in your case. Just gotta psyche yourself into realizing that it isn't a big deal.

September 12, 2011, 11:25 AM
Without knowing your stance or mechanics, I would suggest your grip is too tight. Relax your grip and finish your trigger squeeze at the end of an exhale. Also, try to shoot from a rest.

September 12, 2011, 11:26 AM
If your pistol can accept a laser, try it with one. It can be a great training tool for flinching. By dry-firing the gun with the laser, you'll see the flinching happening quite clearly as the laser dot jiggles on target at the moment of firing, and you can train yourself to completely stop doing it.

Here's a good alternative, if you don't have a rail or don't want to buy a Crimson Trace:


One of the optional replacement "action caps" that you can order for it keeps the laser activated longer than the standard momentary cap does, and that's helpful for seeing any flinching that happens around the moment of fire. It's fun too--I use it when I am watching TV, as it gives me moving bad guys to shoot. :cool:

September 12, 2011, 11:27 AM
I would search the forums - there is a lot of good advice.

I think you start eliminating flinching with dry-firing drills.

I double-up on hearing protection, ear plugs and mufflers.

Learn to relax both physically and psycologically.

Sometimes rational self-talk helps, like telling yourself "This is just like dry firing - I am going to do the same thing - it's no different.."

"This is completely safe, it cannot hurt me"

"This is fun..."

September 12, 2011, 11:30 AM
A few weeks ago I was at the range and someone was firing a .44 magnum in the booth next to me... and when he shot I would flinch... :eek:

September 12, 2011, 11:36 AM
I also got my hand stung... the target stops about 4" in front of the line, when the .44 mag shooter was shooting, the muzzle of his pistol was about 4" in front of the line. I was reaching for my target when he pulled the tigger and the blast stung my hand - that's muzzle blast at a 90ยบ angle from his line of fire, from about 3 feet away.

I looked at my hand and I didn't have any cuts or marks, but it sure stung...

September 12, 2011, 12:09 PM
Only thing I can think of with rifle is my level of comfort and the sense of stability is very good just due to experience. Maybe it will just take some time with handgun. I can rationalize it all I want yet still flinch at trigger break. Not necessarily at discharge since I have had a few duds and still flinched.
I shoot mostly in a modified isosceles but mix it up with weaver, left handed and one handed some times to see if there is a difference. I have a moderate grip and have tried both relaxing it and using a death grip to see if it helps. All low and left (except left handed, then low right). A very tight grip, oddly enough, seems to help a little but is not what I want to use over the long run since it tires me out very fast. I think it is also just a bandaid.
I do like the laser, the breathing suggestions, and doubling up on hearing protection. Also going to leave the rifles at home and concentrate on handgun for a while.
I am really enjoying handgun. Maybe because it is so different than rifle or because it is very challenging for me.

Clifford L. Hughes
September 12, 2011, 12:57 PM

It takes concentration of the basics to overcome flinching. The trick is to have the trigger release without you knowing when it is going to happen. Notice I didn't use the word trigger pull. You don't pull a trigger you release it. Pulling the trigger when the sights are aligned will cause a flinch. You know when the pistol is going to fire and you push against the recoil. To overcome flinching, when I was shooting for a Marine Corps pistol team, I snapped in against a blank white wall, at least an hour a day. I didn't use a target because I wanted to concentrate on trigger release, sight alignment, an grip. When snapping in take a deep breath, let out half of it and align the sights and release the trigger. If you are yanking the trigger it will be apparent. One more tip tht goes along with curing flinching. When shooting the target will not move, it will be there before the shot, during the shot and after the shot. Nor will the bullet holes move so looking at the bullseye is out:it's mandatory to watch your sight alignment and let the target blurr. If the sights are aligned, your pistol can wobble the size of the target and you will still hit it.

Semper Fi.

Gunnery sergeant
Clifford L. Hughes
USMC retired

September 12, 2011, 01:09 PM
My hunch is ....the grip in your trigger finger hand ..is too tight / or maybe the gun doesn't fit your hands very well.

Get some dummy rounds / let a buddy mix them into the mag or cyclinder ...and try some firing exercizes ...and see if they can see you doing something ( milking the grip, ovegripping the gun, position of your trigger finger on the trigger...)...

maybe its a vision issue ..where you're not looking at the front sight the whole time...

maybe try some gun with different triggers ( like a 1911 ) where it moves straight back and forward vs a hinged trigger like a Sig 226 or whatever ..

lots of things to try / and sure, we can all flinch with a .22 ...it isn't just a recoil thing !!

September 12, 2011, 01:29 PM
it's kind of like being bat shy, some ppl never get over it.

September 12, 2011, 01:30 PM
Dryfire times 10!

Buy some snap caps. Have a friend load one or more snap caps into your guns magazine. Have them insert the magazine and rack the slide for you. You cannot see any of the above being done. Now you try to make the gun fire without flinching as best you can. Concentrate on slowly increasing the pressure on the trigger and try not to worry about the recoil. When you get to one of the snap caps you will see the flinch and your friend and all shooters around you will make fun of you in their heads so try hard not to.

Its best to understand that all guns recoil. Think of the worst case scenario with said recoil. So the gun is going to jump SO WHAT, BIG DEAL. Your job is to line up your sights properly and press the trigger. You gotta not worry about recoil because it aint that bad.

Try to drop the hammer without expecting it to drop. In other words make the shot a surprise to you.

Amin Parker
September 12, 2011, 02:10 PM
Operate the trigger very very slowly. Let the break of the shot suprise you. Someone also mentioned getting someone to fill your mags with random dummy rounds, that is great advice.

Speed will come the more you do this but it will definately help.

September 12, 2011, 02:23 PM
Kyce- +1 what Gunny Hughes said. One other thing I've found to help (and I have no clue as to why it helps) is to compose your grip, stance, sight picture (center of target or safe zone) and then shift your focus to the hammer or back of the slide as you release the trigger.

I don't know if it's getting over a mental hurdle by actually seeing what goes on when the shot is executed or what, but I do see improvement after 10-15 rounds. Safety is the true key- make sure the bullet will strike a safe backdrop. But give it a try.

September 12, 2011, 07:17 PM
I got a bunch of junk to spew here, but in the end, if your flinching your not enjoying shooting.

For pistols try not to fear the "shortness" of it.
Some people feel far more comfortable with that .306 or a .50BMG because the nasty end is so far away it would be impossible to hurt themselves.
Handguns are the opposite - many experienced rifle shooters fear them because in a instant it can be pointed 180 degrees.

I'd suggest you grab your favorite pistol and shoot the crap out of it.. no concern for aim, no concern for cost of ammo eaten, no concern for anything other than making it burn up rounds until your so used to it that its just plain boring.
Also, shoot from the hip (literally, and keep your everything behind the muzzle).
That brings the concussion, or muzzle-blast back to where you can feel it in your chest and skull.

Hang near a guy shooting a .223 or larger at a outdoor range and just watch, dont anticipate, dont fear, just relax and enjoy.

Deja vu
September 12, 2011, 09:25 PM
I'd suggest you grab your favorite pistol and shoot the crap out of it.. no concern for aim, no concern for cost of ammo eaten, no concern for anything other than making it burn up rounds until your so used to it that its just plain boring.
Also, shoot from the hip (literally, and keep your everything behind the muzzle).
That brings the concussion, or muzzle-blast back to where you can feel it in your chest and skull.

that is what my father did with my younger brother who flinched a lot. After time it worked.

Missouri Boy
September 12, 2011, 09:53 PM
I had trouble with flinching and thought I might never get over it. But then I signed up for a 6 hour into to defensive shooting class at my local range. I shot over 300 rounds that day and was too focused on the drills I was learning to think about anticipating my shots. That one day increased my confidence in shooting so much that I can keep from flinching just by thinking about it and relaxing.

September 12, 2011, 09:56 PM
get a blow back airsoft pistol.... I don't have a flinching problem but I do love breaking the airsoft out in the backyard.

September 12, 2011, 10:03 PM
Just breathe and squeeze the trigger!!
Practice with a revolver if you can with a staggered cylinder.
It will teach you alot. Remember it's just a tool!

Don Glock
September 12, 2011, 10:06 PM
Any tips or tricks?

no trick, it's simply psychological, and happens to a lot of folks. just keep your eyes open and watch the muzzle flash and the slide cycle. it's not going to hurt you, and you'll get used to it :)

September 12, 2011, 10:22 PM
I'd recommend having a buddy load up a bunch of mags and throw snap caps in every once in a while and that will just make you consciously aware of the flinch. if you are consciously trying not to limp wrist you may actually be flexing your thumb in the process and causing unnecessary rigidity. you should try to grip the gun as far up the handle as possible, doing this allows the recoil to operate into a less pivoted motion(slide will blow straight back and straight forward instead of a backwards and downwards arch caused by your wrist acting like a hinge). if you do that you will not need to grip with the middle,ring and pinky fingers nearly as tightly. a relaxed hand is the key to not flinching. I actually had an M9 instructor say that you can effectively fire the M9 if you hold as far to the top as possible using only your thumb and trigger finger so I tried firing with all fingers fully extended(minus trigger finger of course) and it was surprisingly stable, so once I got a nice relaxed grip I have never flinched since with a handgun, you can give it a whirl.

also dry fire, dry fire, dry fire. that should be the first place you work on a relaxed grip.

September 12, 2011, 10:28 PM
I wasn't having a flinching problem but I would put a spent casing on top of front site and pull trigger, not only did this teach me to concentrate on trigger pull/release but just keeping the pistol steady throughout the full travel of trigger.

September 12, 2011, 10:41 PM
I wasn't having a flinching problem but I would put a spent casing on top of front site and pull trigger, not only did this teach me to concentrate on trigger pull/release but just keeping the pistol steady throughout the full travel of trigger.

the navy does this with coins if they have people with recurring problems, for handguns put a dime on top of the front sight(if you have an angled sight then put it as far forward on the slide as you can) and if you have a flinch with a rifle balance a quarter about 2/3-3/4 of the way down the barrel. these are both dry fire exorcises

September 12, 2011, 11:02 PM
I read this in a magazine on trigger control, not sure if politically correct to name the magazine but it was great article

September 12, 2011, 11:10 PM
I read this in a magazine on trigger control, not sure if politically correct to name the magazine but it was great article
references are always useful for instructional purposes :cool:

September 12, 2011, 11:16 PM
Combat Handguns but my neighbor has the magazine so I am unable to provide the volume:cool: Just remembered that fact... oops

September 12, 2011, 11:20 PM
When I started shooting a handgun, that was in Feb 2011, I flinched a lot. Through in some snap caps in the mags and you will catch your self flinching and you will start to be conscious of your flinching when you squeeeezzzzz the trigger and no flinch:D But I have shot over 10k rounds as of now, so its a bit easyer for me now with out flinching :)

September 12, 2011, 11:21 PM

The first thing I would do is double up on the ear protection. Wear high dB rated ear plugs in combination with high dB rated ear muffs.

I suspect recoil may be going into the thumb knuckle of your strong (shooting) hand (should be going into the palm of your strong hand) due to the handgun not being aligned properly in your strong hand. This is not pleasant and you flinch because your body knows the recoil is coming. The palm of the strong hand should cover the entire backstrap from top to bottom. Most people have a grip where the palm of the shooting hand does not cover the entire backstrap from top to bottom.

Watch this clip through its entirety. Then replay and pause when Todd Jarrett starts to activate the reactive steel targets.


Notice how the entire backstrap is covered by the palm area of the strong (shooting) hand. When you have your grip, the strong hand thumb and trigger finger should be parallel to each other when the trigger finger is resting on the frame (away from the trigger guard and not on the trigger). If the strong hand thumb and trigger finger are not parallel to each other when the trigger finger is on the frame (just below the slide), it is likely some recoil is going into the knuckle of the strong hand thumb. No knuckle should ever come in direct contact with the grip panel, backstrap or beaver-tail area. Notice how Todd Jarrett moves the firearm in his hand to get the proper alignment when he is talking about alignment to the camera.

When using a high grip, make sure the slide is going to clear your strong hand when the slide is racked or cycled.

Also notice how the palm of the support hand fills in the void on the grip panel. The palm of the support hand is on the grip, it is not on the hand (thumb area) of the strong hand. This provides a very stable grip. The tip of the support hand thumb and the tip of the trigger finger should be close to being straight across when the trigger finger is resting on the frame. Keep your thumbs off the slide.

Use more pressure on the support hand than the shooting hand. Use a firm grip but not a death grip. Make sure you only move you trigger finger and nothing else. Notice how Todd Jarrett does not move his hands or body (his student does) between shots. Also avoid the cowboy arc the student does. Notice how Todd Jarrett has the muzzle pointed at the backstop and extends his arms. Keep your trigger finger on the frame until you are on target.

Do not lock the arms. Have a slight bend so the arms can act as shock absorbers. Do not lock the knees. Have good balance and lean into the shot a little so you do not rock back and forth. Notice how the student rocks back as he is not leaning into the shot like Todd Jarrett.

I would suggest trying this grip from a seated position with a rest (sandbags or pistol rest). When you are comfortable with the grip, try shooting from a standing position.

September 13, 2011, 10:30 AM
Lots of good things to try out here.
I watched the video and then swapped out my grip on my PX4 for a medium. Had the large one. I have very long fingers more web than normal. The medium looks much better with palm placement even though the large gives me more comfortable trigger placement. I have noticed my thumb gets very sore after I get home.
Heading to the range today and I'm excited. Will have my snap caps mixed in, double hearing protection and modify my stance a bit and trying out the different grip. Also taking about 500 rounds with. Would like to get a laser and a handgun rest but my wife will kill me if I spend any more money while I am between assignments. I will plan on those and maybe use sandbags. Will also print this out if my initial plan has no effect to try other ideas.

Thanks much to everyone who has replied. Good stuff.

warrior poet
September 13, 2011, 10:46 AM
Snap caps are a good training tool. They help diagnose and 'fix' a variety of shooting problems. That said, nothing works as well as dry fire. Watch the front sight post and dry fire. Don't worry about the target, just watch the front sight and work on a slow, steady, squeeze. That will help you more than anything else.

September 13, 2011, 03:30 PM
Fire first few 45 cal rounds and switch to 22LR or even 9mm. It's like nothing after the stronger round

September 13, 2011, 03:54 PM
gun range,take come classes..its just practice and technique

September 13, 2011, 04:28 PM
I agree on doubling up on the ear protection because a good percentage of the fear response is just plain old sudden noise. Humans and animals are innately programmed to "jump" with loud sudden noises for survival. Of course we're also instinctively programmed to respond to sudden movement in the same way. Combine both with an explosion at arm's length in front of your face, and your body & unconscious mind are telling you to run for the hills without looking back! It's so natural and necessary, I'd worry if someone didn't respond to stimuli like that. The only way to "fight" instinct is to habituate yourself to the situation so that your body learns not to be afraid, even if your conscious mind isn't. It's like the "Boy Who Cried Wolf". Once you get used to no negative outcome happening, your body gives up reacting to it for nothing.

For some people, it can take many (even tens of) thousands of rounds to overcome a flinch. Heck, I now shoot about 5 or 6 hundred rounds a week, and I still sometimes involuntarily blink on my first DA draw shot in IPSC Production. I had a really stubborn flinch when I first started the sport, and no amount of dry fire would help. My body KNEW the gun wasn't going to make noise and recoil during dry fire. No way could I fool myself.

One thing that helped me was filling a bunch of mags to capacity (like 5 of them) and emptying them as fast as I could fire at no particular spot towards the berm. It's a bit expensive if you don't reload, but it was like magic to me for overcoming my flinch. Our instructor would make us all shoot 50 or more rounds like this at the start of our first handful of sessions before getting into other stuff. We did it with our eyes focused on the front sight, watching how it moved up out of the notch and down again without blinking during the exercise. He also made us do it with our eyes closed so that we could concentrate on the feel of the gun and trigger only. Then we graduated to Bill Drills. Our flinch magically went away fand our accuracy improved more in a few months for us than we had achieved in several years of undirected range shooting.

I'd recommend an instructor if you can find a good one in your area.

September 13, 2011, 06:17 PM

I'll throw out another thought, that I wrestle with to this day..
The harder I concentrate on aim, the more likely I am to flinch, but at this stage in my shooting life I'd call it "anticipation" and the flinch is the result of an unexpected release.

When I give serious concentration to aim, breathing, trigger feel, the more likely I am to be "ahead" of the gun and actually end up surprised when it doesn't do what I expect. It might let go early, it might let go later than I think it will, both cause a flinch of sorts.
It doest work.

Again, burn rounds like they're free and don't try too hard.

September 13, 2011, 06:26 PM
I agree with countzero...when my son shoots his Tokarev 7.62 x 25 next to me I jump out of my skin...damn that thing is loud!

Stick a few dummies in your mag and you'll help fix your flinching...and lots of dry firing.


September 14, 2011, 12:14 AM
Practice, practice, then practice some more. Do lots of dry fire exercises with snap-caps or spent cartridges.

September 14, 2011, 01:12 AM
I'm with Dashunde and Gerry

Buy a bunch of ammo, then double that amount, take it to the range and (safely) shoot at the backstop with no concern for hitting a target or bullseye. Get comfortable with your grip, stance, sights, and trigger feel. Fire that gun, be patient with yourself, and get comfortable with the fact that the recoil isn't going to amount to much more than a wonderful feeling in your hands. I bet it is only a matter of time & a few boxes of ammo before the flinch starts to subside.

Think outside the bullseye, so to speak.

September 14, 2011, 04:43 AM
Nothing like shooting lots of rounds to cure the flinch... practice until it goes away ;)

September 14, 2011, 07:23 AM
Practice dry firing while keeping a good sight picture on something at home like a light switch from 10 feet. Learn exactly where your trigger breaks. I disagree with the "shot should surprise you" theory because if something is a surprise to you then you will probably flinch because you didn't expect it to happen. When you know something is coming it isn't a surprise and you don't flinch. When you can stay on target during dry fire go to a range with a friend and a couple boxes of ammo. Have him load for you so you don't know if it is a snap cap or a live round. You will know exactly what is going on the first time you pull the trigger when it goes click and you are anticipating recoil and the muzzle dips hard. I had a lot of years of bad habits but got over them doing this because it really makes you think about what you are doing and you can see the results, not just going to the range and slinging lead continuing to build on bad habits and muscle memory. It is going to take some time but you will get over it.

The fundamentals and mechanics of shooting do not change, you still need proper sight alignment/sight picture and trigger squeeze.

September 14, 2011, 08:18 AM
I'd suggest you grab your favorite pistol and shoot the crap out of it.. no concern for aim, no concern for cost of ammo eaten, no concern for anything other than making it burn up rounds until your so used to it that its just plain boring.

dashunde is correct , I was going to say the same :D just fire them off as fast as you can , I still love taking three mags at the end of my day at the range and try and make my pistol sound like a submachine gun :D

September 14, 2011, 10:22 AM
Lots of commentary here, suggesting lots of folks have contended with the same problem. Count me in. I had a horrible flinch that caused me to drop the barrel about 2" in anticipation of every round I fired. That persisted for a full year. Here's how I cured mine:

1. I spent a lot of time shooting exclusively .22lr. .22s produce virtually no recoil so anticipation of recoil became a non-issue. Shooting .22s I could concentrate totally on my shooting form without subconsciously anticipating something that wasn't going to happen.

2. I dry fired about a million rounds. As a couple of other people have suggested, I stood about 10 feet in front of a blank wall. I watched the front sight as I squeezed the trigger, with the idea of trying to eliminate all movement before I fired. I did that endlessly for months until I could do it without thinking about it at all.

3. I also dry fired many rounds standing in front of a mirror. Again, I watched the front sight and also the muzzle, with the idea that I wanted to be able to squeeze the trigger without any perceived motion.

4. I dry fired a lot of double action. I discovered that, for some reason, pulling the trigger through the double action cycle was less likely to induce a flinch than single action firing. When I got to the point that I had more or less perfected the ability to fire double action without moving the gun I went back to single action and discovered that I no longer flinched.

5. I used the coin on the top of the barrel/slide trick, dry firing many rounds with a dime balanced on the gun.

6. At the range, I'd put only 5 rounds in a six-round revolver, then spin the cylinder before shooting. I'd focus again on keeping the front sight steady. Any flinch at all would be instantly detectable on the empty chamber.

With all of that, it took me several months to completely cure my flinch. But cured I am! So, if I can do it -- with my truly horrendous flinch -- I'm confident that anyone can.

warrior poet
September 14, 2011, 10:31 AM
Nicely done, stevieboy! All are great tools.

September 14, 2011, 10:32 AM
Excellent tips! I don't have a bad flinch like the OP, but your tips are good practice for ALL shooters. I do the same thing with dry firing and watching the movement of my front sights. I use it to make sure my trigger control isn't causing me to put the gun out of alignment.

September 14, 2011, 09:29 PM
I would stay away from spinning the cylinder of a revolver. Some also have the tendency to spin the cylinder and slam the cylinder into the frame. Hollywood does many things that are not good for firearms.

warrior poet
September 15, 2011, 09:44 AM
Hollywood does lots of things wrong with guns. My friend, Dan, works in the movie biz, and he told me the main reason why large sunglasses are used in films is because the actors usually flinch when firing blanks- especially the ones designed to produce the HUGE muzzle flash they seem to favor in cinema. I found that amusing, and thought I would share.

September 15, 2011, 09:58 AM
When I am buying a revolver, I always spin the cylinder to make sure it isn't gunked up. That said, I never "slam it home". I had a friend do that once :mad:.

I am curious if the OP is going to post back with a report after his latest range visit. Seems silly to give all this advice and never hear back.

September 15, 2011, 10:55 AM
One thought...is it possible that it's not a 'flinch' and is actually your trying to force the shot to go off NOW!? I've seen a lot where shooters get the sights lined up and jerk or slap the trigger. That might help to explain why even a .22 would have a similar result.

Of course, the solution is pretty much the same: focus on grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and squeeze the trigger to a surprise break.

And yes, I know there are those that gripe about 'surprise breaks' since they 'want to know exactly when the pistol will go off', but I find that the concept really does help with accuracy and practicing fundamentals.

September 15, 2011, 11:07 AM
I flinched when I first fired a handgun and my M44 lol...... I no longer flinch, some times though its a weird feeling I get nervous/excited when I first shoot when I get to the range, just for the first few shots. Dont know why. Now this hasn't happen in a long time. It's like when I havn't been to the range in a really long time. So far I made it almost every month of this year, and sometimes twice a month. Maybe I am used to it now, the loud sounds also.

September 15, 2011, 11:21 AM
I no longer flinch, some times though its a weird feeling I get nervous/excited when I first shoot when I get to the range, just for the first few shots. Dont know why.

I can relate to that. I always close my eyes and take several deep breaths before I start to shoot, to try to calm those nerves. It's probably the same situation as how my blood pressure always reads high when the nurse tests me when I first sit down in the doctor's office for an exam, but is perfectly normal when the doctor double-checks it several minutes later. :rolleyes:

It would be an interesting comparison to plot my blood pressure and/or heart rate against my target scores on a graph.

warrior poet
September 16, 2011, 09:52 AM
Ah... the dread anticipation problem. Again, I say dry fire is the best tool to fix this- it works and it is free. Try the drills proposed by stevieboy. They work for anticipation too.