Flinching While Shooting a Handgun

The following information on flinching comes from Section 5 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

Other men have fired a revolver without collecting broken arms and dislocated shoulders and no one has such a thing to fear. The only thing which rivals flinching as a shooting jinx is carelessness. It is better to stop shooting than to fire one shot carelessly. One will have all the trouble he wishes for in getting good scores without becoming careless.

Many times a new shooter will make excellent scores for a few weeks and then he will have a slump and for a short time he will have trouble in making anything which approaches a decent score. The main reason for this slump is flinching and the best way to correct it is by dry shooting.

I remember a short time ago a gentleman came into the range with his revolver and offered to give it to me if I would accept it. I asked him why and he said it shot low and to the left. I asked him to shoot it and after some persuasion he consented to fire five shots at fifteen yards. He had stated that several of his friends, all good shots, had the same trouble with it that he had. Sure enough, his first shot was six inches to the left and eight inches low, but it told me what I wanted to know. He fired another shot which went within an inch of the first shot, then he said: “Are you satisfied now?” I told him to fire one more shot and we would both be satisfied. He fired the next shot or attempted to, as this time he snapped on an empty shell which I had placed in his revolver, but the fact that it was empty was not responsible for the downward curve of his wrist to the left. He looked at the revolver and then at me. “What kind of cigars do you smoke?” he asked. I told him I was more interested in where those last two bullets would go than I was in cigars just then, and showed him how to hold the arm and squeeze the trigger, and the next two shots went into the black. Before he left the range he would not even sell the revolver.

Flinching is many times indulged in by shooters long out of the beginners’ class. In fact, nearly all shooters are liable to fall into the habit and unless it is overcome no enjoyment is in store for the man who is trying to make a good score. Flinching must be carefully guarded against as every shot is fired. How many scores we see on the fifty-yard range that has fours, fives, or sixes in it, and the man who fired the shots will tell you that he had a perfect hold as the shots were fired. The answer is usually a slight flinch as the hammer falls, and at fifty yards a slight flinch is all that is needed to collect a five or a six.

Many recommend the .22 caliber weapon to cure flinching and this is very good, for with the heavy .22 revolvers now on the market one is using the same arm that he uses in actual shooting. Many times the lone shooter or the one who shoots with one or two friends, who waits until it is his turn to shoot, will develop a bad case of flinching when shooting on the line with other men who do not wait. It is best to practice with others and develop the idea of tending strictly to your own shooting regardless of when or how your neighbors shoot. This can very easily be done and it will be a wonderful help to any shooter who cares to enter the matches held each year in all parts of the country. Sometimes you will hear one shooter tell another that he was all ready to shoot when he was shot off. If he was just ready to shoot, his revolver would have been pointing in the right direction and if he was tending to his own shooting the discharge of his neighbor’s revolver would not have disturbed him.

Practice under the same condition that you expect to shoot under, if possible, such as wind, rain, light, and noise. This practice will enable you to meet all kinds of conditions and will help your scores.

Holding the thumb on top of the frame and in a position to rub against side of hammer as it falls will cause flinching because it will cause the thumb pressure to be released at the instant of explosion.

Flinching is more pronounced in the lighter models of arms shooting a powerful cartridge, but it can be easily overcome by proper grip and thumb pressure.

Another cause of flinching is too much backlash in the trigger, which causes an unnecessary change in position of trigger finger as shot is fired. This has been corrected in the past by placing an adjusting screw through guard behind the trigger, only allowing the movement necessary to lift the end of the trigger out of hammer notch. This is not necessary in the modern arms, as this movement is carefully worked out when the arm is manufactured.

The thumb placed against the latch or end of the cylinder, or, in fact, any part of the hand that receives a sharp blow and has the skin broken by any part of the revolver due to recoil, should be taken care of and the fault corrected at once, for continued firing will cause a very bad case of flinching and a condition that is not easily corrected.

While it has been stressed several times in this book that a perfect quieting control over the nerves and muscles is necessary, it may also be added that each shooter must become accustomed to the noise or blast of the explosion. It is fear or expectancy of this report that many times causes the shooter to flinch.

Delicate ear drums easily affected by vibration will add to the shooter’s troubles in his advance toward good scores, especially if large caliber arms are used. I have tried several kinds of ear stoppers and have discarded the use of everything but cotton. I find that is cleaner to use and answers the purpose. Do not roll it in a small hard ball and press into the ear as far as possible, but roll it lightly about the size of a marble and press it gently into the ear. Use fresh cotton every time the range is visited.

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Flinching While Shooting a Handgun

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