Flinching, and how shooting positions affect it

Flinching, and how shooting positions affect it:

I am developing an awfull flinch or anticipation when shooting the .308 after about twenty or thirty rounds to the point where I am almost shutting my eyes before the shot. I guess I am becomming more recoil sensitive the older I get but can anyone help me?
bill in ny
Central, Ny USA – Saturday, December 05, 1998 at 09:09:47 (EST)

Bill: flinching
Flinching is natures way of telling you that you need to take a break. If you start to flinch only after 20 or 30 rounds and are fine up till then, then its time to clean the rifle or do something else. Everyone flinches sooner or later. The only thing that helps is to reteach your mind & trigger finger not to anticipate the shot. You should never really know exactly when the shot will go off when you apply pressure to the trigger. When you are on target squeeze the trigger gently, when you drift off the target stop squeezing but do not release the tension. Eventually the gun will go bang and your shot should be on target. It should be a suprise break. Another method that I use, is to let my heartbeat pull the trigger instead of my finger. There are guys that will tell you that it is best to squeeze between beats but I prefer to use the upbeat for the final push, but I am not sure which beat will get the job done, so it works the same way.
S.C.D.H., USA – Saturday, December 05, 1998 at 10:37:35 (EST)

First – Check out your application of the fundamentals. If your position is weak you will get more recoil. Make sure you are placing the stock firmly in the pocket of your shouilder and pulling slightly to the rear with your gripping hand which is also gripping firmly. Your weapon and upper body should recoil together. You can install a thin layer of sorbathane padding in your shooting jacket too. Some guys might scoff at it but if you look at all shooting jackets there is a pad thier for recoil. It can’t be too thick or it will screw you up. Mak sure it has a non-skid cover on it if you do this. But your postion must still be firm!

Second – Flinching, bucking, jerking…. whatever, are all physical actions caused by the mind. They are mental “problems” not physical. So you need to work on the mental process of firing a shot. You should set aside a few moments each day to sit down an visualize yourself firing good shots. See yourself doing everything right which wil result in a perfect shot. Come up with a set procedure or routine that you go through before a shot. There is a book out there called “With winning in mind” by Lanny Basham. Mr Basham was a member of the USA MTU and an olympic shooter. It taught me a lot.

Third – Dry fire, dry fire, dry fire. But dry fire correctly. Apply the two steps above and dry fire. This will help you to turn the trigger pressing action into a subconcious rather than concious act. WHich is what you are after.

Fourth – Find a coach to help you out. THe bigger NRA clubs usually have a couple of trained coaches around.
USA – Saturday, December 05, 1998 at 12:18:30 (EST)

Bill – Ditto what Gooch said and include the following since I just can’t resist yacking. On the grip with the shooting hand. Make sure the grip is directly to the rear with the middle two fingers. Do not grip with the little finger as this will torque the stock, cant the weapon and cause it to shift in your shoulder at moment of firing. This will increase felt recoil. Maintain a good positive stock weld with your cheek. Keep presure on the stock all the way through recoil. If you are starting to lift your head during recoil, then the weapon is building up speed before it whacks you and you ahve a flinch that will get worse with each shot. The reson is that with each shot you will try to get farther from the weapon thus the weapon builds up more speed thus a harder hit thus….. You get the picture. Insure that your position is solid, stable and durable. That way you are not having to fight your position while you are firing the round. As Gooch stated, each shot picture the complete shot in your mind step by step. Include the pressure points of stock to shoulder, hand, cheek, trigger finger. Maintain the same pressure throughout the shot with the exception of the slight addition of trigger pressure. Then do exactly what you pictured in your mind. Have fun with it!
Fayetteville, NC USA – Saturday, December 05, 1998 at 19:46:55 (EST)

Recoil \ Flinching:
My most comfortable a accurate shooting position puts the stock damn near on top of my collarbone, which can hurt after a while. My solution is to glue a piece of closed cell foam onto my M-24 and M-14, then adjust the stock to fit again. Looks like hell but works a charm. Found it alot more convenient than padding clothing.
E Engler
CP Grevious, ROK – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 04:50:45 (EST)

bill in ny

I have to agree with most of what has been said about controlling flinch, BUT, I guess I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have at least one different opinion.

I have never understood the notion that the gun should surprise you when it goes off. How can you possible shoot accurately if you don’t know when the gun will go off? In addition, if you have a quality trigger and have shot a thousand rounds with that rifle, how can you not know, EXACTLy, when that gun will fire? I am a firearms instructor and teach the “Unexpected Explosion” method to new shooters because they have no notion of how much the gun will recoil, but I can not imagine myself watching an osculating horizontal figure-eight sight picture and not know the precise moment to light the fire.

As stated, pull the rifle into your shoulder with the two fingers of your trigger hand and get a good repeatable cheek weld. One thing I do differently is to rest the thumb of my shooting hand on top of my trigger hand and not rap it around the stock, this way I can’t torque the rifle as I firm up my grip.

Now this should start some S#%T !

Stay Safe

Depity Dave
Just getting going in , Magnificent, West Virginia USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 10:58:10 (EST)

I know exactly what you are talking about when you refer to the “horizontal figure 8 pattern. When I am in a good prone position with a scoped rifle, the crosshairs look like they are dancing the tango on the target. After a while, if I pay attention to the movement I notice a predictable pattern keeping in rythm of the beat. (heartbeat). I think the trick is to adjust the natural point of aim to put the center of the target where the the pause is the longest. There is more than one school of thought on how to get the shot to break, and yours is one of them. The suprise break is another. Both work for some people. Personally I think that there is more to this flinching business than poor position. I think fatigue plays a part also, even with a solid position. The sound of gunfire and recoil are not normal occurances in the evolution of man. We humanoids were born with certain instincts for our protection. One of them is to fear loud noises, another is the fear of falling. Have you ever cringed when someone ran their fingernails along a blackboard? It is the same sound that monkeys make when there is danger approaching.
I think the suprise break is the best answer to deal with these subconscious reflexes when fatigue is a factor.

S.C.D.H., Ohio USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 11:46:37 (EST)

On the trigger control issue. You’ll notice I didn’t say that the weapon going off should surprize the shooter. To the contrary the shooter (sniper) must know when the round is going of. You can’t shoot a moving target if you don’t.

What I said was that the sniper must develop the act of pressing the trigger into a subconcious act. This subconcious act is similiar to you tying a shoe. You conciously decide to tie the shoe but you don’t think “Okay, left over right, pull, form a bow, right over left, etc.” your mind has developed a form of a conditioned reflex that allows you to tie the show without really thinking about it.

How does this relate to shooting? You train your subconcious mind to press the trigger when the concious mind see’s the sight picture that it wants or recieves any other action key you want to train it to react to such as the countdown of a hostage rescue op.

Many of you have already experienced this without knowing it. How many times have you fired a shot when you thought you weren’t ready and it ended up a dead center bull? The chance is that you’re subconcious saw what it wanted and pressed the trigger.

To truely train your mind to do this requires thoudands of repetitions. That is why I told ya’ll to dry fire a lot and visualize this stuff. Your mind is like a computer, program it to do what you want and it will, even under stress.

Okay, now I’ll be gentle here. Guys if you are getting movment in your sights when firing from supported prone, enough that you are having to time your shot, something aint right. When firing from the prone with a 10x scope that sight picture shouldn’t be moving, period! Higher powered scopes might be a problem.

A very common problem in the prone is picking up the heart beat. If you are using the classic, both feet flat on the deck prone, you might want to try the cocked leg position to get your sternum/diaphram off the ground a bit. This is really important when shooting under stress. For a right handed shooter simply draw the strongside leg up and point the weakside foot in and shift your weight to the left hip a bit. If you are training to be a tactical shooter (as that is what this site is supposed to be about) don’t raise your butt up too high or bring that leg up too far. You will increase your own target signature and take up too much room in a hide. Don’t confuse this with the “roll-over prone” used by tactical pistol shooters. It is similiar, but not the same.

Another problem is being too low to the ground. Same thing with the heart beat. Try raising your support an inch at a time, which will require bringing your elbows in thusly raising your chest. I find 8-10 inches is about right for me and my build (6′, 210). It is possible to get too low. Not only will you get heart beat but you will strain your neck trying to see through the scope. If the buttstock is on or near the ground you may be too low.

Its hard to diagnose problems here but these are some of the more common problems I’ve run into over the years.
USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 12:47:45 (EST)

Everyone has a little different nerve system and training experience. But I’ll offer this. When your shooting prone of offhand there is some excellent advise already offered. But there are two problems that can be separated. One is flinch and the other is “jerk” you can and do need to separate the two in your training. The Jerk is a desire to fire during a particular sight picture and really doesn’t have anything to do with flinching due to noise and recoil. In shooting double action revolvers extensively I developed a trigger pull that is straight and even no matter what the system (colt,smith) I use the same pull no matter what trigger is being fired. A ak-47 is a good as a 700 remington if your trigger finger is trained to control the jerk. The battle to pull that trigger that was so easy on the bench and on the shooting range has turned out to be 50lbs can be won. If you notice this effect you do have a problem! THis is not something you can train overnight for and it probably is not as usefull if you don’t ever shoot moving targets or quick shots but you can train your brain and finger to fire reliably and still jerk like heck if you work on it.
And the flinch. I’ve heard of trainers who start shooters on .22lr thinking it will help to control the flinch. In some people (myself included) It is better to fire something ungodly large until you get your body and brain used to the shock. I once cured a very bad flinch on .44 magnums by shooting a Thompson Contender in .444 Marlin for a couple of months on a Silouette range. A 458 magnum will sometimes condition you for the shock of a .308 if you know that is what your doing. Your brain will be so glad to get away from the .458 that you will find shooting the .308 is a breeze. If it comes back just fire a few more .458’s. Now don’t expect the first shot with the .308 to be controlled when you come back you must give yourself time to get off the big shock. Don’t quit the .458 until your groups get decent and it becomes a hated but tollerable exercise. Eventually you will become brain dead like me and everyone will be saying. “Hey Bubba can you set my .300 win mag on target for me!”
USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 14:11:24 (EST)

Depity – Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! When ever I talk about knowing when the weapon is going to go off, everyone about craps and thinks it is herasy! Same with the thumb. I rest it to the right side of the safety on the Remington to prevent just the torque that you described.

Gooch – Excellent description of the prone position. That army, lay both feet flat, toes out, chest on the ground, all weight on the diaphram crap has ruined more shooters’ positions than I know of. I concur about the movement of the scope reticle with the 10x. It should not be more than a perceived .5 moa at most. If you have movement than your position is bad. On of the most common reasons for that movement is resting the non-firing hand on the firing shoulder while in the prone supported. It does not go there! It goes on the ground supporting the butt of the stock. The reason is why we banned sand socks at SOTIC. The shooter finds the weapon so stable with the bipod and the sock that he doesn’t properly control the weapon with his firing hand/shoulder and cheek weld. This transmits pulse, muscle quiver and everything else through the weapon. The next rpoblem is personal body make up, and that is weapon height. You must stay low but not too low. Find the height that best fits your body. I have found that most shooters shoot from too high of a position, because of the bipods that they have bought. I use the low Harris and they work great for my body size (5’9″ and 165 lb). The higher power scopes you see more wobble becuase the perceived size of .5 moa at 10x is smaller than .5 moa at 24x.

Bill – I was assuming he was talking about a flinch and not a jerk. One is a mind set to make the weapon go off while the other is a mind set to get away from the weapon once it has gone off. This is usually caused due to the discomfort of firing a shot and gets worse if the discomfort continues. Can’t say I fully agree with your technique of going real big and then coming down. I have found that the army today, with the M16/M4 system, is producing more flinchers with the students when they come through our course. They just are not used to that big bang and then they try, foolhardily, to get away from it. As stated previously, this causes the weapon to build speed before it whacks you and the discomfort continues.

Come on guys, lets hear some more on the subject. This is how I learn new techniques for teaching and learn period.
Fayetteville, NC USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 15:35:51 (EST)

Rick; I don’t blame you being a bit skeptical and I don’t know if it will work for a majority of shooters. For one thing you can’t find anyone who has a flinching problem that wants to subject himself to that kind of torture. I wish someone would do a large scale test but who has a bunch of shooters they want to ruin if I am wrong. It did work for me and maybe it should be a last resort method and I only mention in a scientific atmosphere to study every possibility. I suspect it would not be good for an introduction course and should be used only on special situations. I just brought up the Jerk thing in the same context as I consider your’s and other’s previous advise right on target. I must make it clear that I am not trying to reinvent the wheel just make an alternative for hard cases and hoping it will help.
I was involved in Hunter’s pistol sillouete competetion a few years ago where every shot is off hand and flinch or jerk is magnified many times and a lot of approaches were tried by me and others.

Gooch; I am compelled to mention your right dead on with hand supporting the stock. The front of the rifle is no more important than the rear or the body holding it. I see folk all time come out to the range with a arm load of sand bags and never put one under the rear of the stock only to complain the gun is erratic in it’s groups.
It’s a very simple thing but most important!
USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 21:15:36 (EST)

Hey thanks for all the replies to my flinching problem. First let me say that this gun is new to me, haven’t yet put 150 rounds thru it. Bought it in October and the weather isn’t in complience for me all the time. Among other things I have arthritis that acts up at this time of year so I take medicine for it, this all adds up to some fatigue. While I don’t condone people shooting while taking medicine and shooting I must say I am extremely consious at all times that I have a weapon with me. Also I am retired and have the range to myself during the weekdays. There that said…

I will pay attention to my grip from now on. I didn’t realize about the two middle finger grip before, thanks Rick.

I suppose in retrospect I think it may also be the position. Since this gun is practically new I am still firing for groups off the bench with earphones and glasses. Everyone complains the benches are low there and I must agree, so shooting the clubs max range of 200 the bags are adjusted to level or slightly downhill. The tables while heavy and constructed well just are off somehow and don’t feel right.This all puts me in a slightly uncomfortable position. I have gotten the corner of the comb slammed into my arm more than once.

I am never sure if the thumb plays an important part or not. Perhaps in ultra long range shooting. I was told years ago to put the thumb on top of the shooting hand so if nothing else to not bang your nose. Well after reading some posts about it I decided to start right off and shoot it with my thumb over the top of the stock. Sure enough, I got sloppy and banged my nose when I didn’t put my thumb in the pocket on top of the grip. That tought me to watch that but because it still has to be a conscious effort it is another thing on my mind.

I am sure I am going to be shooting prone this comming year and this might eliminate some of my problem. This raises another question of position. Is the accepted method still call for the body to be inline with the rifle?

Gooch: I may take you up on seeing you at SM this summer. The wife and I both love PA and vacation there each year, so who knows. I’ll have to time the question just right to her with a promise of a vaca. 🙂
I am interested in sniper tactics but physically cannot become an LE sniper. Heart Surgery. But I am interested in long range shooting and need a little coaching. Does SM offer just long range shooting classes sans sniper training?

Bill in Ny
central , ny USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 22:14:38 (EST)



I’m not quite sure what the fuss is over this flinching business, but here goes:

1. Make sure the shooter is wearing EFFECTIVE hearing protection. In my experience, most novice shooters equate the bang with pain, hence a flinch. I have found a good set of plugs works better for me than ear muffs. I get a much better seal and I can get down on the stock properly with the ear plugs. Eliminate the noise, eliminate the flinch. This would apply to a shooter with at least a little experience.

2. Lots of dry fire. Does anyone know where one can acquire a snap cap in .300 WinMag? I’m not interested in homemade stuff. Been down that road!

3. Don’t punish a new shooter. Do NOT put a major caliber firearm in the hands of someone who has never shot before! Do lots of .22 rimfire shooting, then try a .222 or something in that caliber range.
A .308 is too much gun for most new shooters, even in a 12-14 pound gun. Work up to it.

4. There are some psychological aspects that can be brought into play, but that gets a little too hocus-pocus for most people. Suffice it to say, I shot my 1,000 yard matches this past summer with my .300 Winny in a t shirt, shooting anywhere from 15-25 rounds at a sitting, with no discomfort and no bruises, except for my right elbow where it got scraped across the bench. I’m no monster man, I just don’t really give recoil much consideration when I shoot. It’s kind of hard to explain, but thats the way it is. No brain, no pain, I guess!

Scott (T.O.O.)
PA USA – Sunday, December 06, 1998 at 23:13:18 (EST)

Re: Recoil and training.
I dry fire alot from all positions that I use in matches. In addition, I will sit around an just work on trigger control. No position or sight picture, only trying to take up part of the trigger pull, hold it then take up more until it breaks. The theory is to be able to apply pressure when the sight picture is “on” and hold the pressure where it is when you are not right on. Although it is most benificial for “awful” hand, any practice of trigger control should be benificial.
Also, I would suggest shooting slowfire pistol (BULLSEYE). The basics are the same (position, natural point of aim, breath and trigger control), but there is a short barrel and sight radius which will magnify any grip or trigger control errors. Ever notice that a good pistol shot can become a good rifle shot easier than a rifleman to succeed with a pistol?
steve uhall
SOUTH WEST, Pa USA – Monday, December 07, 1998 at 01:33:06 (EST)

I think the key to recoil control may also have to take into consideration cumulative blunt trauma to the shoulder and head. Any thoughts? You know the better shape you’re in the better you can take a punch. Stock dimensions, length of pull, recoil pad suppression capabilities, might play a little into the game a little, Add in body indexing and bipod height too. I’m re-learning what Rick and Gooch are feeding us here. Thanks for the valuable real world input.
punch happy, by-gawd USA – Monday, December 07, 1998 at 09:34:44 (EST)

Subject: Flinching

B. Rogers mentioned curing flinching while shooting a .44 by going to a .444 Marlin. I got to thinking about that, and thought I’d mention what worked for me. A day,years ago, just learning to shoot, I had a terrible problem with flinch. Didn’t matter the caliber, flinched with everything. Anyway, a buddy of mine owned a 6mm PPC, and taught me to shoot it almost freestyle. Basically, only the trigger finger, middle finger, and barely grazing the stock with my cheek were the only holds on that rifle. Oddly enough, no flinch. I realized that the firm hold was causing the problem before that. I had too much tension, and flinched everytime. With a freehold style, there was no tension. Granted, I got wacked pretty good, but it was a small price to pay for .2 MOA. Gotta love those benchrest rifles with 2 oz. triggers 🙂 That’s my .02 cents anyway.
Dan A.
Erie, PA USA – Monday, December 07, 1998 at 18:44:17 (EST)

On triggers, flinching, and things recoil related:
Depity Dave and I agree in most respects; one should know when the trigger will break. I believe this is a function of firing experience with a particular rifle. Change the rifle, and of course one must relearn the characteristics of the new weapon. Even triggers with small amounts of creep can be predictable once one has become accustomed to its “feel”. I think the key point here is to teach the new shooter to concentrate on proper procedure, sight picture, and a sense that when all is correct, that is the time discharge should occur. This should always be expected by the shooter. Not good for “the rifle” to determine when to fire.

It is my opinion that flinching is more a function of pain than noise, although noise IS certainly a factor. Having a bit of experience with hard hitters, I can say that after some number of cartridges (regardless of caliber), your body will let you know when it has had enough. Once this threshold has been reached and passed, a flinch results. Continued firing only worsens the condition. A major problem here is that a significant flinch can be difficult to cure. Again, in my opinion, the best way to avoid problems is to attempt to minimize effects by quality hearing protection, a recoil buffer of some sort, and proper shooting technique instruction. It always helps (especially when shooting from a bench) to use a recoil buffer. A bag of birdshot between shoulder and buttstock works very well on the bench. The difficulty of adjusting to the much longer resultant length of pull is exceeded by the reduction in felt recoil. This is especially true when one is testing ammo. Remember that your shoulder and body’s “memory” of recoil events is regardless of practice or actual duty. It is always in your interest to minimize the effects of recoil.

For field use in practice or duty conditions, a polymer recoil pad is desirable. The pads available today are firm enough to allow repeatable rifle positioning yet still spread out recoil pulses to tolerable levels. Not only are they reasonable in price, they work. As one who bruises quite easily, I can assure you they are worth their cost. Having used them with various heavy recoil cartridges, I can say that they will not make it fun, but can help relieve some of the trauma. By sewing a pouch in the shoulder area of your coat and/or shirts, the pad is easily transferable.

Only idiots claim they are not affected by recoil; it can and does effect how well we can make a rifle do its job. By learning the characteristics of the rifle/cartridge combination we can adjust to and minimize the effects of recoil by proper equipment preparation and sound technique. Anyone who aspires to regular use of magnum cartridges must understand this.

“Iron” Fred Fischer
People’s Republic of, MD USA – Tuesday, December 08, 1998 at 18:01:29 (EST)

Flinching and such: When I pick up a flinch on the range after shooting for a while, I find that some dry-firing will set me right again. Doesn’t work for everyone though.

San Jose, CA USA – Tuesday, December 08, 1998 at 21:15:26 (EST)

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