TTPs: On the Flinch

A few weeks ago I had a good friend come by for a visit. She had never fired a gun before, and was keen to learn to do so. I grabbed a couple guns from my safe, some ammo, and headed to a nice indoor range. She quickly took a liking to my Glock 17 with RMR. As we were shooting, she noticed her shots were moving down the target. From where I was standing in the lane, it was clear she was flinching. Let’s talk about how to fight the flinch.

First, what I did not do:

  1. I did not simply tell her to “Stop Flinching”. It’s not a conscious thing.

  2. I did not break out the snap caps for a bunch of ball and dummy work. Ball and dummy drills are useful if you are trying to diagnose a flinch. Once the flinch is diagnosed (which I had already done), they are worse than useless, because the ball and dummy drill makes you very aware of an unconscious reaction, and your efforts to fight it usually make it worse. Maybe this works for you. It has never worked for me.

Now, on to what I did. First, I talked through what was going on. It’s natural to be a little flinchy. There’s an explosion going off in your hands. It’s ok. We just have to learn to get past that.

I also noticed that she had a backwards lean to her stance, and she had a tendency to pause her trigger press partway through to fix sight alignment. From personal experience, I know this leads to a suboptimal trigger press. Often, we end up jerking the shot when we do this. And this gave me an idea.

I directed her to lean forward a little to help absorb recoil. Then, the gun (even a 9 mm) wouldn’t feel like it was pushing her off balance. I find thinking of a fighting stance helpful for those with martial arts experience. Or, “nose over toes” if that resonates better with the student. This is often counterintuitive for students who don’t think of themselves as “big”. They think they’ll want to lean back to keep balance while lifting the weapon. But the weapon isn’t all that heavy, and they’re not going to be holding it up for hours. Leaning back maximizes the ability of the weapon to push them off balance, which will reinforce the flinch. We don’t want that.

Next, I talked trigger pull. I spent some time on this, and directed her to really focus on not stopping. If you find yourself stopping, take your finger off the trigger, take a couple deep breaths, and try again. Continuous press. Do not stop. I wanted to give her something else to focus on that wasn’t the flinch. I’ve found trying to tell myself over and over to not do something usually makes me do the thing. So it’s easier to work with “Do something else”.

In this case, it worked great. Got a lot of that flinch out, and her shooting improved. So the next time you’re struggling with the flinch, try focusing on something else.

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