View Full Version : Random Snap Caps?

March 13, 2012, 10:55 PM
I was telling a friend of mine that I anticipate shots and sometimes flinch when shooting. He told me it is normal for new shooters though he said there's a solution to overcome it. He told me to buy snap caps or dummy rounds. Randomly place them in the mags. with live rounds weather a friend or myself does it. Fire, reload and repeat. He said it will also drill me to quickly tap, rack and fire.

Will this help me overcome these problems?
Any other suggestions to overcome this problem?
What snap caps do you recommend?
Any other advice?

Thanks, Gulley

March 13, 2012, 10:58 PM
Well, if you *are* flinching or anticipating, it'll certainly be obvious when you drop the hammer on a snap cap and the gun muzzle still jumps or dips. Snap caps are also good for practice dry-firing.

March 13, 2012, 11:02 PM
I'd go with Azoom snap caps rather then the Tipton or Paychmar, the all aluminum Azooms tend to last longer. Cant remember how many Tiptons I've gone through, but I still have all my Azooms.


March 13, 2012, 11:23 PM
I use that technique most often to prove to a shooter who doesn't think he's flinching that he really is. Once a shooter knows he's flinching, then he can start working to correct it. There's no longer any need to prove that it's happening.

It's normal to jump a little when a loud noise occurs and something moves abruptly right in front of your face. But over time, if you don't learn to control the reflex, it develops an aspect of learned behavior as well.

The bottom line is that you'll have to minimize the reflexive aspect and untrain yourself of the learned aspect. It can take some dedication and time.

First, train yourself to not flinch. You do that by practicing in such a way as to disassociate muzzle blast and recoil from the act of pulling the trigger. Basically, practice your trigger pull using some method that doesn't result in significant recoil or muzzle blast. Some double up on hearing protection and shoot .22LR firearms. Some dryfire. Some use airguns. It doesn't really matter how you do it as long as you get your brain used to the idea that pulling the trigger isn't automatically associated with a loud noise and abrupt movement.

Dryfiring is actually quite effective for this although it's not terribly interesting. It's also essentially free which is nice.

The problem is you can't dryfire a couple of times until you stop flinching and call it good. It takes a good bit of work to ingrain the good habit of not flinching and to get rid of the bad habit of flinching.

Once you feel like your trigger control is working well for you based on your non-shooting practice, you can begin to re-introduce live fire to your practice, but not with long shooting sessions. When your groups start to open up and you can feel yourself begin to start flinching again, take a break, do a little dryfire practice or even quit for the day.

When you do dryfire, concentrate on watching the front sight instead of focusing on the target. Besides the fact that a front sight focus will help your accuracy, it also helps with flinching, in my experience.

When you focus on the target, recoil is an intrusion into that focus. The gun is moving up in front of your face to block the target. It's an unwelcome thing--like someone waving their hand in front of a book that you're trying to read. When you focus on the front sight, recoil is now something interesting. You WANT to see what is happening to the front sight, because when it moves back onto the target again, you're going to break the next shot.

Suddenly recoil isn't something that's unexpectedly blocking your view of what you want to see, it's simply part of the shooting experience. It's not the hand waving in front of the book anymore, it's now the focus of what you're doing. Like keeping your eye on the ball if you're playing sports.

However, remember that flinching is, to some extent, natural--automatic. Which means that this is something you'll likely have to work on throughout your shooting "career". I still jerk the trigger once in awhile and I still dryfire on a pretty regular basis, partially to help keep my brain trained that trigger pulling is a routine thing that doesn't automatically require reflexive action.

March 13, 2012, 11:39 PM
egor, Thanks for the recommendation!

John, what a great post! Very helpful, so much to respond about. Let me first start by saying that I have only used my sights a few times. I can say I know how to use them, line them up. But I feel it's not just that simple. I've only put a 100 rds. through my Glock 26. I will be going to a one on one basic pistol class in a week and the instructor should teach me how to properly use sights. I hope to go to the range on my day off tomorrow. I'll try focusing on the front sights. I don't pay any attn. to the gun's recoil and/or muzzle flip. I've just been trying to get more comfortable shooting. I just point and shoot at the target 7 yds. away. I still feel out of place when going to the range...

March 14, 2012, 12:20 AM

It really is as simple as properly lining up the sights and keeping them on target while you pull the trigger.

The hard part of shooting is convincing your brain that everything is cool in spite of the noise and movement and distractions.

One of the best groups I ever shot was years ago at the end of a shooting session. I was tired and I only had a few rounds left. Not enough for a full magazine and not enough to carry home. And I had one target left. So I ran the target out to 25 yards and shot it one-handed. Not just spraying the shots, but not really trying for accuracy either. I lined up the sights, pulled the trigger, the gun would recoil and when the sights settled back on target, I would pull the trigger again until the gun was empty.

When I reeled the target back in, the group was under 2"

That's when it hit me. It's not hard to shoot, it's EASY to shoot. What's hard is keeping your brain from screwing things up while you do the simple stuff. Aligning the sights is simple. Pulling the trigger is simple.

I was able to shoot very accurately without bearing down and TRYING to shoot accurately, I just took care of the basics, without thinking much about it, and everything else took care of itself.

The problem is that your brain doesn't like the recoil, it doesn't like the noise, and it doesn't like the idea that things aren't PERFECT. The gun is wobbling a little bit, that's not perfect. You moved the gun a little bit when you pulled the trigger--that's not perfect either. So it uses the excuse that things aren't perfect to put off the noise and abrupt movement. In really serious cases a shooter can develop target panic--he literally can't bring himself to pull the trigger because his brain won't allow him to fire since everything isn't quite right for the perfect shot. But that's pretty extreme--mostly it's just bad enough to convince a shooter that it's hard to align the sights and to keep them lined up properly.

Similarly, when the brain is finally forced to accept the fact that the noise and movement are inevitable, it tries to avoid them once again by flinching. And then the shooter starts to believe that pulling the trigger without moving the gun is hard too.

NONE of it is hard.

So you convince your brain to cooperate. You tell your brain that what's important is a nice smooth trigger pull, not keeping the gun perfectly motionless. This is true, by the way. You tell it that you WANT to see the front sight move when the gun recoils. Also true. You train it that pulling the trigger isn't something scary--true again--that it's just something you do at the appropriate time. You don't let it get wrapped up in what's happening on the target--scoring comes AFTER shooting--you keep it focused on what's happening with the gun.

Of course you'll have to get used to holding the gun properly and you'll have to develop a technique that will allow you to pull the trigger without moving the gun around too much, but that stuff isn't hard. Just takes a little practice and maybe a little instruction.

March 15, 2012, 11:33 AM
That's what I did to break my older Son of his flinchitus. Now that he's got a subcompact 9mm, I may have to do it again.
Even experienced shooters may catch themselves in a flinch using this process now and then.

March 18, 2012, 01:09 PM
Thanks everyone for your help. I'll try and use these tips when going to the range.


March 20, 2012, 09:25 AM
Practice with 22 hand guns! I practice extensivley with my 22s to ingrain muscle memory and trigger control. I've also automated into my thought process the thought "wait for it..." as I'm squeezing the trigger. The results with my 45s has been outstanding!!


And Gulley, that's a 10 shot group!

March 20, 2012, 11:16 AM
Certainly the snap cap idea can work, even if a person might need more than one application.

Years ago I developed a pretty pronounced flinch reaction when shooting .357 magnum through a S&W 66.

I had my son stand behind me and load the cylinder, leaving random chambers empty. After a few trials with concentration on trigger control, the flinch disappeared.

Luckily for me, it hasn't arisen again: I was target-shooting with my 10mm the other day and had a "click" when it should have been a bang. I was gratified to see that the sights remained dead on.

It can be conquered.


Crow Hunter
March 20, 2012, 11:49 AM
Another thing to try is to balance a dime or nickel flat on the front sight while you are dryfiring. (Should make a "T") Focus on keeping that dime from falling off the front sight while you are pulling the trigger.

March 20, 2012, 12:12 PM
Snap caps are more for diagnosis than treatment.

March 21, 2012, 04:38 PM
I have to disagree brickeyee. I think anything that gives you time with your gun and use of the trigger is a step in the right direction. To me this is like saying a quarterback throwing passes to an empty field will not help him improve.

I really think snap caps can be a great practice tool to help you feel when you gun is going to fire, which helps take away that surprise a bit. If you know where along the trigger you get the break then it will become second nature.

If every time you walked in your front door a family member yelled and scared you, after a while you would come to expect it and that jump would go away.

Frank Ettin
March 21, 2012, 07:03 PM
...I think anything that gives you time with your gun and use of the trigger is a step in the right direction...[1] Not exactly. Just using the trigger isn't enough. It matters how much attention you pay to what you are doing. Just pressing the trigger, if you're not doing it properly every time, can do more harm than good.

[2] Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice make perfect. And practice makes permanent. So if you keep doing something badly over and over, you will not get better at it. You will only become expert at doing it badly.

[3] Shorter but more frequent practice is better than longer, less frequent practice. If you keep practicing after you've started to get fatigued or your interest and concentration has started to flag, your practice can start to get sloppy and undo the good you did earlier in the day. Frequent breaks during practice can also help.

[4] It can also be helpful to understand the way humans learn a physical skill. In learning a physical skill, we all go through a four step process:

unconscious incompetence, we can't do something and we don't even know how to do it;

conscious incompetence, we can't physically do something, at least consistently, even though we know in our mind how to do it;

conscious competence, we know how to do something and can do it properly consistently, but only if we think about what we're doing and concentrate on doing it properly; and

unconscious competence, at this final stage we know how to do something and can do it reflexively, on demand and without having to think about it.
To get to the third stage, you need to think through the physical task consciously in order to do it perfectly. Then going from conscious competence to unconscious competence is usually thought to take around 5,000 good repetitions. The good news is that, in the case of shooting, dry practice will count. The bad news is that poor repetitions don't count and can set you back.

If one has reached the stage of unconscious competence he will still need to practice regularly and properly to maintain proficiency, but it's easier to maintain it once achieved than it was to first achieve it.

...I really think snap caps can be a great practice tool to help you feel when you gun is going to fire, which helps take away that surprise a bit....While dry firing can be a great practice tool, that's not really the reason. In fact, one wants a "surprise break."

The first principle of accurate shooting is trigger control: a smooth, press straight back on the trigger with only the trigger finger moving. Maintain your focus on the front sight as you press the trigger, increasing pressure on the trigger until the shot breaks. Don't try to predict exactly when the gun will go off nor try to cause the shot to break at a particular moment. This is what Jeff Cooper called the "surprise break."

By keeping focus on the front sight and increasing pressure on the trigger until the gun essentially shoots itself, you don’t anticipate the shot breaking. But if you try to make the shot break at that one instant in time when everything seem steady and aligned, you usually wind up jerking the trigger. Of course the gun will wobble some on the target. Try not to worry about the wobble and don’t worry about trying to keep the sight aligned on a single point. Just let the front sight be somewhere in a small, imaginary box in the center of the target.

Also, work on follow through. Be aware of where on the target the front sight is as the shot breaks and watch the front sight lift off that point as the gun recoils – all the time maintaining focus on the front sight.

Think: front sight, press, surprise.

BTW, JohnKSa offered excellent advice in posts 4 and 6.

March 22, 2012, 10:43 AM
To me this is like saying a quarterback throwing passes to an empty field will not help him improve.

It probably will not unless someone is trying to figure out what is wrong with his throw.

Snap caps make it very apparent if you are jerking.

They will not do anything to fix the jerking, just make it apparent.

Diagnosis, not treatment.

March 22, 2012, 10:55 AM
"Diagnosis, not treatment"

With the caveat that I am talking about a single-subject case study (myself), I have to disagree.

As stated earlier, I had a pronounced flinch problem when shooting full-house .357s in my model 66.

After 30 minutes or so of my 9 y/o son loading with random empties (I was not aware that there was any such thing as snap caps back then), the flinch disappeared.

My son will be 39 years old his next birthday and the flinch is still gone.

YMMV, of course.



Frank Ettin
March 22, 2012, 10:57 AM
...Snap caps make it very apparent if you are jerking.

They will not do anything to fix the jerking, just make it apparent.

Diagnosis, not treatment. Unless one prefers to use snap caps when doing [proper, diligent] dry practice.

Roland Thunder
March 22, 2012, 11:56 AM
I also have a flinching problem. I tend to push the gun downward when I shoot. I'm thinking that part of my problem may be that I may be trying to keep the gun from recoiling when maybe I should accept the fact that it is going to recoil and let it recoil instead of holding the gun tight to keep it from recoiling.

Frank Ettin
March 22, 2012, 02:14 PM
...maybe I should accept the fact that it is going to recoil and let it recoil instead of holding the gun tight to keep it from recoiling. A good plan. See posts 4, 6 and 14.

March 23, 2012, 07:50 AM
Periodically mixing in some snap caps or empty cylinders definitely helps since it is not always obvious to me when some of the flinch / anticipation is creeping back in to my shooting.

March 23, 2012, 08:01 AM
He said it will also drill me to quickly tap, rack and fire.

Negative. Only tap, rack and fire when you KNOW the hammer landed on an empty chamber or snap cap. (Unless of course you have a dud or misfire in a REAL emergency.)

In the situation you describe the "click" may be because of a snap cap or it may have been a dud that just lodged a bullet in your barrel. Quickly loading one behind it and dropping the hammer could ruin a good handgun and may cause personal injury.

If you know it was a snap cap you've defeated the purpose of loading them randomly.

March 24, 2012, 05:30 AM
Excellent point Sport45, slap, tap and rack is an emergency only technique and not a good practice at the range in the case of a hangfire or dud.

While the snap caps do help with diagnosis and not as much with the cure I'll add that using snap caps during a dry fire session provides a good time to also practice slap, tap and rack at the same time to be sure the rack is aggressive enough to fully eject throwing the shell out and not just resetting the trigger. During a dry fire session I would also recommend (if your firearm is equipped with manual safety) switching the safety on and off with each pull of the trigger as if you just pulled the firearm from a holstered position to create the habit of sweeping the safety off to fire.

Stealth01 good advice on the 22's as a flinch still occurs (if it has been developed) even when shooting these smaller rounds. Good cheap practice, I just don't understand how you got 3 flyers all down the left edge to cut such clean holes!

JohnKSa great info and detail.

March 24, 2012, 08:24 AM
I love snap caps, I have one in every caliber I own because I train my wife on how to load and operate the weapons for SD a lot.

I love lasers and snap caps for dry fire off the range because you can just tape a target to the wall and see in real time everything you are doing on that target. If you flinch the laser is all over the place, if you jerk the trigger it tells you, and you can see if your sight alignment is off because you look down your sights center mass and your laser says otherwise (if sighted correctly that is)

You can also see how fast it takes you to bring the weapon back on target while firing, it can tell you your natural point of aim from a draw, and tons of other valuable pieces of information.

You can even set up a camera and video record yourself at an angle to see target and your draw and stance to see what you are doing in dry fire. play it back and see to the .01 of a second how long it took you to align the sights and take a shot.

If nothing else it will make dry fire a bit more fun right? I don't get much time to go to the range so I dry fire a lot.

March 26, 2012, 07:17 PM
Great info guys!! Thanks
I learn something new every time I'm on this forum, but that may be because I still have so much to learn.:confused:

March 27, 2012, 12:46 PM
Put a dime on the end of the barrel with a snap cap loaded... If the dime hits the ground when you pull the trigger you are still jerking....

Going to a 22 and shooting was an excellent suggestion... Less noise and recoil should help you address the problem and then step back up... Lots of shooters shoot smaller guns than there target gun for practice just to keep from flinching when it comes time for a match....

Roland Thunder
March 27, 2012, 01:19 PM
Going to a 22 and shooting was an excellant suggestion... Less noise and recoil should help you address the problem and then step back up

How about a .38 revolver for that. I already have one of those. It's quieter and less recoil than a 9mm

March 27, 2012, 01:34 PM
Its not a bad choice but a 22 or even a pellet gun would be better.. but I understand we all can only afford so much.. believe me if it was up to me Id have a new gun weekly...