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Need Help With Flinching

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Post by RCJG228 2/18/2021, 10:09 am

First topic message reminder :

I am 68, and relatively new to Bullseye competition, I have been participating for about 3 years. My problem is with centerfire. I anticipate the recoil, and always flinch before I get the shot off, causing me to miss the target more often than not.

I can and do practice dry firing, and when I do, my dot doesn’t move from my point of aim and there is no flinching. As soon as I insert a loaded magazine, my brain knows the gun is going to go boom, causing me to flinch.

I have tried inserting snap caps when I am practicing with live rounds, but that only confirms what I already know…that I am flinching. It is very frustrating, and some nights I will only shoot my .22. I don’t have the flinching problem when shooting my .22, only centerfire.

I am shooting a Colt .45 that was worked on by John Giles, I got it from an old Bullseye shooter. My friend who is an accomplished shooter, loves shooting it and says the break is nice & clean.

I am currently shooting a 185 gr bullet, with 3.5 grains of Bullseye powder, so I know I am not shooting a “hot” load, adding to the anticipation of a strong recoil.

Has anyone experienced the same problem I do, and how did you overcome it?


Last edited by RCJG228 on 2/18/2021, 1:55 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by RCJG228 2/22/2021, 4:20 pm

Thanks to everyone that replied, there's a whole lot of good information here, some I have already started to use, some I will get to.

I also got The New Pistol Shooters Treasury, which I didn't have.

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Post by bobbethune 2/22/2021, 8:05 pm

For whatever it's worth, I came to the conclusion long ago that all shooters flinch on every shot. It's just that some shooters flinch very, very small, while other shooters flinch big enough that it's a problem. The flinch can be so small that the shooter isn't aware of it, but the brain just doesn't like explosions going off a few inches from your face and it's going to react to some degree, however small.

For me, there are a few things that have helped over the years.

-) Focus even harder on the front sight, sight picture, watching the sight as the gun goes off, perfect grip, perfect trigger pull, perfect stance, calling your shots, etc. Make sure all that work fills up your brain; concentrate like hell. If your brain is busy enough, it will be too busy to flinch until the shot is over and the flinch won't matter, if indeed you feel it at all.

-) Work with a revolver so you can load five dummy rounds and one live round randomly and be sure to spin the cylinder before each shot. That way, your brain won't know whether the gun will go off or not, and that may help you bear down and concentrate as above. Even when it's gone click five times, you still won't know.

-) Practice with the lightest loads you can; practice as above with a .22, then a .38, then on to the .45. Your practice guns can be any safe firearm; maybe you can even borrow somebody's old revolvers.

-) Do your anti-flinch work with a really giant target so that every shot is a hit. That takes the pressure off so you can focus on one problem at a time.

And there are lots of good suggestions above too. I hope all this helps!

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Post by jwax 2/22/2021, 9:18 pm

One more thought-
Years ago, an Olympic Gold Medal winner gave a presentation on how to shoot better. I asked her (!) why I would get flyers- those crazy shots that resulted from flinching. She said, "Don't think about them, and that's all I'll say about them!"
I was shocked! Kinda rude, wasn't she?
She later explained that the more you "work" on them, the more they stay part of your routine. Forget them! Look at your x's and 10's!
Don't let them be a part of your process, instead ignore them.

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Post by Bob Fleming 2/23/2021, 8:09 pm

She was not being rude at all. That is really how it works. Programing the subconscious reactions you have in anticipation of the shot. That part of the brain allows you to move quick as a cat, it is so fast that the thinking decision making part of the mind often does not realize what just happened. It does not take the time to make decisions, only reacts. Because it makes no decisions it can not distinguish between right and wrong. It gets only positive feedback from your emotional reactions to what it just did no matter if the emotion is hate and disgust or success and love. Therefore quit encouraging the unhelpful action (flinch) by reacting to the bad shot, don't even think about them, ignore those shots. When the Gold Medal winner said "Don't think about them, and that's all I'll say about them!" she was revealing THE great secret to world championship shooting.
  Allow a reaction only to the good shots and ignore the bad. It is OK to self coach and think about adjusting your position or grip and so on but absolutely do not have an emotional reaction to bad shots. The quick reaction part of the brain will give you more of the same of whatever you react to. The other side of that coin is to enjoy the good shots. Smile and say to yourself "another ten, all good" or perhaps "that is how I shoot" even stomping your feet and cussing will work because that part of the mind can't tell the difference between different emotions. That was not a recommendation, just making a point about the illogical react without thinking thinking nature of the problem.
  This is also the key to developing a High Master trigger control. What may seem like a long string of those lucky shots is the non-decision making part of your brain taking over trigger control. It is like going on auto-pilot. Enjoy the good shots, ignore the bad.
Bob

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Post by musky 2/23/2021, 8:16 pm

While I am not a competition pistol shooter, I am a very good shot, just don't practice enough, and due to other interests don't have the desire to devote the time needed to be competitive. I was a top level competitor in archery, and did a stint on the Army rifle team when younger, till they said they had too much invested in my Air Traffic control training for me to waste my time on the rifle team. If it isn't the recoil that is bothering you, it most likely is the fear of missing, with a bit of lack of concertation and follow through. Flinching can be a real issue in target archery that isn't easily cured at times. They will label it as target panic, but basically it is the same thing, Next time you are at an indoor or outdoor range for practice, do not put a target up, but just put a blank paper or cardboard up 10 to 15 yd's away. You must not have anything that you can focus on so that when you shoot the only thing that you care about is your sight picture, and your shot follow through. Shoot 5 or 10 shots this way, and make sure you are moving your sight picture to where there are no bullet holes in the vicinity for every shot. If need be put a new piece of paper up if it's getting hard not to be distracted by your shot holes. After doing this for a short bit, it should be much easier to concentrate totally on your sight picture and shot follow through, and if you are magically not flinching, what you really have is target panic, it can be cured. If this didn't help, you have gotten a lot of other great suggestions to try.
One other thing, in archery one of the causes of target panic, was seeing your sight move around , in and out of the X, and trying to time or control the shot so that it would go into the X. In reality when you were shooting good, you didn't try and time or force the shot as it passed through the X, but just new that it would be there if you just worried about your shot process. Funny how it would most always be there if you did everything right, even though you knew your sight was moving. Control your shot, don't force it.

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Post by jwax 2/23/2021, 9:11 pm

Thanks for that explanation, Bob!

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Post by Jack H 2/23/2021, 9:25 pm

musky wrote:While I am not a competition pistol shooter, I am a very good shot, just don't practice enough, and due to other interests don't have the desire to devote the time needed to be competitive. I was a top level competitor in archery, and did a stint on the Army rifle team when younger, till they said they had too much invested in my Air Traffic control training for me to waste my time on the rifle team. If it isn't the recoil that is bothering you, it most likely is the fear of missing, with a bit of lack of concertation and follow through. Flinching can be a real issue in target archery that isn't easily cured at times. They will label it as target panic, but basically it is the same thing, Next time you are at an indoor or outdoor range for practice, do not put a target up, but just put a blank paper or cardboard up 10 to 15 yd's away. You must not have anything that you can focus on so that when you shoot the only thing that you care about is your sight picture, and your shot follow through. Shoot 5 or 10 shots this way, and make sure you are moving your sight picture to where there are no bullet holes in the vicinity for every shot. If need be put a new piece of paper up if it's getting hard not to be distracted by your shot holes. After doing this for a short bit, it should be much easier to concentrate totally on your sight picture and shot follow through, and if you are magically not flinching, what you really have is target panic, it can be cured. If this didn't help, you have gotten a lot of other great suggestions to try.
One other thing, in archery one of the causes of target panic, was seeing your sight move around , in and out of the X, and trying to time or control the shot so that it would go into the X. In reality when you were shooting good, you didn't try and time or force the shot as it passed through the X, but just new that it would be there if you just worried about your shot process. Funny how it would most always be there if you did everything right, even though you knew your sight was moving. Control your shot, don't force it.

To take the above blank target drill further.

Have your regular T&R target posted.  Address the target ready to shoot.  Then without breaking position have someone stick a full target back about 2 feet in front of your muzzle.  Hang the target safely with a way to lower it when ready.  Don't break position, and fire your string.   Your hidden 25y target should be rather good.  But remember the drill is about you and your sights AT the gun.  LtC Miller had me do this and it was quite effective.  Tens will come if you do your sight alignment and trigger AT the gun.
Jack H
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Post by Jack H 2/23/2021, 9:37 pm

jwax wrote:One more thought-
Years ago, an Olympic Gold Medal winner gave a presentation on how to shoot better. I asked her (!) why I would get flyers- those crazy shots that resulted from flinching. She said, "Don't think about them, and that's all I'll say about them!"
I was shocked! Kinda rude, wasn't she?
She later explained that the more you "work" on them, the more they stay part of your routine. Forget them! Look at your x's and 10's!
Don't let them be a part of your process, instead ignore them.

You don't want thoughts in your head that don't help you.

Years ago at an EIC I had my head in a pretty good place and had a real decent SF and TF.  Right after hanging a centre for RF, I had the TF centre in my hand.  Returning to the line, someone said of the TF target "nice target".  Well it was nice.  But that remark made my mind shift gears into having to do a decent RF.  I did not do a decent RF.  

When you see a shooter doing good, it is not always good to interrupt their thoughts.  Even with praise. 
A really practiced shooter might handle it.  Maybe not.
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Post by mikemyers 2/24/2021, 7:28 am

For me, the flinching had nothing to do with the target.  In dry-firing, or in practicing at the range when I knew I was shooting a "dummy round", I had no flinching at all.  Gun stayed perfectly still.  Playing music from my electronic head phones at full volume to "drown everything else out" made no difference.  Keeping my mind "empty" made no difference.  Ball and dummy drill made no difference - loaded or dummy, I flinched.  All that drill did was to confirm what was happening.

As soon as I knew the gun was loaded, and was going to fire, I flinched.  It made no difference if I was shooting at a target or the dirt backstop.

Ball and dummy drills proved that regardless of whether it was a live round, or a dummy, if I knew the gun might fire, I flinched.

In my words, not those from The Pistol Shooter's Treasury, I know and understand that the recoil isn't going to harm me.  Knowing wasn't enough.  Following the advice in the book, I went to the range with a full box of "hardball", and just started shooting, one shot after another, with no concern as to where the holes went.  Long before I finished the box of ammo, the flinching was gone.  In my words, I no longer cared.  

I'm not going to say the tips up above aren't going to work.  All I can say is none of that advice helped ME in my fight against flinching.  Maybe others have a very different experience.  As for me, I agree it's all good advice for many reasons.  

I'll look through my copy of the book again, and search for who wrote that line.   ......and I remember thinking it was rather silly advice as I read it.  But it worked.

(One small detail - shooting a box of hardball from a bullseye gun will damage the gun.  I was lucky that I still had a non-modified 45 that was designed for these loads.)


Last edited by mikemyers on 2/24/2021, 8:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by SteveT 2/24/2021, 11:19 am

Remember, Bullseye is mostly mental. Anticipating / flinching is entirely mental. Visualize and Self Talk.

If you can control it, then it is a conscious distraction. Focus on more important things (front sight, dot or target) all the way through the shot. If you have any thoughts about this being a live or dry shot or think about recoil then stop, put the gun down and start over.

If you can't control it, then it is subconscious. So train the subconscious. Search the archives or read Lanny Basham, Bullseye Mind, Sport Psychology and Competition (published by MEC), Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, The Inner Game of Tennis etc for help.

Whether or not you believe in the subconscious, visualization and self talk are a simple method for improvement.


Last edited by SteveT on 2/24/2021, 9:17 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Post by Gino G. 2/24/2021, 4:59 pm

Yes, flinching is a real thing. Everyone flinches to some degree. But what I have noticed is when I get irritated at myself for doing it and increase my focus on my grip and the feeling of the trigger being worked, I am better able to overcome the neural network that tells my body to flinch. I handed my Les Baer to a friend who is a Master in Bullseye for his evaluation on the gun and the experience. He just promptly shot a 90 something target and gushed over the gun. The way he casually beat the gun instead of the gun beating him just irritated the heck out of me. When he handed the gun back to me, I focused on the grip, the target, and the trigger and shot it like my 22 and my shots were all on target with many in the black. Whenever I find myself flinching badly, I remind myself it's not the gun, it's what I'm allowing to happen inside my head. It's not a lot different than a golf swing. I can hit a bucket of balls right down the center of the practice fairway, but when I'm standing on the first tee with a bunch of guys watching my tee shot, all kinds of bad things start to happen inside my head, before I even start my swing. However, I am absolutely sure that those bad things can be brought under control, especially if you're a pretty good shot with a 22. The mechanics are not different. It's just a bigger bang. If your buddy can overcome the flinch, so can you; not that it will be easy, mind you . . .

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Post by Jack H 2/24/2021, 7:12 pm

Gino G. wrote:Yes, flinching is a real thing. Everyone flinches to some degree. But what I have noticed is when I get irritated at myself for doing it and increase my focus on my grip and the feeling of the trigger being worked, I am better able to overcome the neural network that tells my body to flinch. I handed my Les Baer to a friend who is a Master in Bullseye for his evaluation on the gun and the experience. He just promptly shot a 90 something target and gushed over the gun. The way he casually beat the gun instead of the gun beating him just irritated the heck out of me. When he handed the gun back to me, I focused on the grip, the target, and the trigger and shot it like my 22 and my shots were all on target with many in the black. Whenever I find myself flinching badly, I remind myself it's not the gun, it's what I'm allowing to happen inside my head. It's not a lot different than a golf swing. I can hit a bucket of balls right down the center of the practice fairway, but when I'm standing on the first tee with a bunch of guys watching my tee shot, all kinds of bad things start to happen inside my head, before I even start my swing. However, I am absolutely sure that those bad things can be brought under control, especially if you're a pretty good shot with a 22. The mechanics are not different. It's just a bigger bang. If your buddy can overcome the flinch, so can you; not that it will be easy, mind you . . .

Lot to like above.   My simplification approach to the shot is this:
"....keep the sights aligned before, during and after the fall of the hammer"
 (Joe White, http://www.bullseyepistol.com/joewhite.htm )

If that quote describes your goal, tens will be the result.
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