I don’t care who you are, how many rounds you have fired downrange or the number of titles you hold, nobody is immune to flinching. Flinching is as natural as sneezing, you don’t just sneeze for the sake of sneezing; there is a reason.
What is it???
Understanding the “why” you flinch is as important as understanding how it affects your shooting. When you flinch it is your body instinctively reacting to pain, fear or surprise. For a new shooter, the discharge of a firearm can not only be intimidating, but solicit many of these responses. When your body responds it will sympathetically react; typically it does so in the form of contracting the major muscle groups in the upper body. In this process you can expect the tightening of the body to “pull” the gun downward. This is why I associate flinching with an emotional response and not a physical response we see typical of anticipation.
What’s the problem
Many in the shooting world think flinching can be overcome by firing more rounds, increased exposure to the stimuli in order to inoculate you. I do not agree, in fact, some students could be doing themselves more harm than good. You cannot expect the problem to be solved when it is not being addressed. Continuing to fire rounds without creating a coping mechanism is only burying the flinch deeper into your subconscious. What you end up doing is creating an almost resistant flinch that can only be accommodated for and not corrected. A typical accommodation is to adjust your point of aim to achieve the desired point of impact, a sub-optimal response.
More dry fire lies…
Some will suggest the flinch can be corrected with dry fire, or the integration of dry fire and live fire together. I have made my comments on dry fire in the past and nothing has changed since. However, the combination of dry & live fire give hope to some. To me it reaffirms the problem of not addressing the issue. Typically the combination is set as a ratio, in our classes we use a 5:1 or sometimes a 10:1 or for every 5 dry fire repetitions your fire a single round. I truly love these drills and find them the most advantageous, but they are still flawed. They are flawed because no matter how clever we package the drill, it is still dry fire.
No getting around it
What I mean is the student knows even during the dry fire there is no round to be fired and therefore move without concern for their final product. However, the moment the load a round into the chamber, they shift away from the dry fire methods they were practicing only moments ago. You can see it clearly, the time it takes to process through the dry fire versus the time it takes to fire the one live round. The only way you will see progress is if you ensure the practice sessions are identical. If one is different from the other the value will be diminished.
They must be the same
In other words, you must use the exact same technique regardless of whether you are firing a live round or not. This is the best technique, yet one rarely employed. Shooting is a complex set of micro tasks and the best suggestion I can offer is when you can precisely execute each micro task then you will generate a hit. If a micro task is not performed to standard it will either affect other micro tasks affecting the hit or it alone will affect the hit. How you go through each of these micro tasks will depend on your skill level and experience. Some can process quickly while others will need to take more time, the standard of performance should be the reduction of flinching and even anticipation by making the two identical.
While you can never eradicate a flinch, you can reduce it’s potential of occurrence. It’s negative effects on your performance or your ability to get the hit.