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Posted by on in Guns

Flinching with a gunWhy is it we can't always shoot as evenly as this picture?  Sooner or later, someone will watch you shooting and say those  fatal words, "You're flinching!"  Or you feel yourself tense up when shooting and see the shots go low.  "I'm flinching" you think.  "Don't flinch," you tell yourslf, as you see your shots going lower and lower on the target.  "Dont' flinch!" echoes in your mind with each shot, and you curse afterward, "I flinched!"

 What is a flinch, anyway?  It is your body's reaction to an anticipated shock.  The shock can be the loud noise of a gun firing.  The shock can be the gun's recoil.  The shock can be pain you experience when you shoot.  Whatever has caused the shock in the past (that past can be in your current shooting ssession, or long, long ago) your body knows it is coming again, and tries to protect you by clenching many muscles involuntarily.  This usually results in your hands moving the barrel of your gun downwards and the shots go low.  It happens to handgun shooters and long gun shooters.

 As a teacher, I've seen it happen to many students.  The number one cause, in my experience, is sound, so the first thing I will suggest is maximizing hearing protection with both foam in-the-ear plugs and high quality, well-fitted muffs. 

 There are two ways recoil can be the cause of flinching.  One is what you might expect, the upward motion of the fired gun.  The other is any backward motion; if recoil has ever made anyone feel they might be pushed over backward, that's very unpleasant; the cure might be careful attention to a shooting stance that never threatenes one's balance.  Mindfulness of trigger control will slow the trigger pull and help to avoid a slapped trigger that pulls shots low.

 If a flinch is caused by the pain of shooting, the pain must be cured, by a different grip or stance, a modification to the gun, a different kind of ammunition, or even a different gun.  Shooting should not hurt. 

 There are many other things you can do to help cure a flinch.  Ten of them, including the Ayoob Wedge technique, are here in the article It's a Cinch Not to Flinch.  Take a look and see what might help you, or a shooter you know who has this problem.


Picture: Shutterstock/Ficus777

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When I saw a few weeks ago that Tom Knapp had died, I thought, “Do I know him? That name sounds awfully familiar.  He was a shooter...”  Upon checking his obituary, I instantly recognized his picture, and the past came into focus.  “Yes, he’s the famous shotgunner who was showing off for Nancy Bittle.”

KNAPP-obit-articleLargeIn the 90’s, there was an IPSC match called the AWARE Invitational that several groups in turn ran as a fund raiser for AWARE.  Early on, one of those matches was held in New Jersey at a range in a place called the Pine Barrens.  The match had tents for companies and sellers of stuff to set up their services and wares for all the kinds of things an IPSC shooter might want to buy.  

 Benelli, the shotgun company, was one of those vendors, and Tom Knapp was their rep there.  Nancy Bittle (the founder of AWARE) and I were there.  I didn’t know know of Tom Knapp was, but she did.  Knapp was an exhibition shooter whose name could easily be put together with the likes of Annie Oakley. Nancy was almost as excited at meeting Knapp as she would have been if she had had a chance to meet Oakley.   Knapp was a consummate performer who shot professionally for most of his life.  He held a number of world records, and liked nothing more than shooting incredibly difficult targets, such as tiny aspirin.

 I tagged along while Nancy chatted him up.  Then, Tom looked exactly like Benelli’s photo of him - grey hair, big grey mustache, Benelli 12 ga shotgun, friendly, talkative.  As I recall, Tom wasn’t scheduled to put on a performance at the Invitational.  Nancy was disappointed.  Tom offered to do a little shooting anyway.  Nancy was delighted, and with me tagging along, we watched him shoot.  

 He must have gone through part of his usual show, because I remember clay targets, heads of cabbage, smaller vegetables, jokes about making chopped salad.  Perhaps he ended with his trademark aspirin.  I’m not sure.  What I remember is him missing the first time, setting up again, glancing at Nancy with an expression that could only have said  “I really want to get this right for this woman.” and saying softly to me, “This is really hard.”  Maybe he added his trademark “No guarantees.”  The aspirin went up, up and away.  So did Knapp’s gun.  That shot was perfect.  Knapp satisfied, Nancy and I incredibly impressed.  

 You can see Tom Knapp’s amazing skill on YouTube - he breaks the old world record of 9 hand thrown clay pigeons by hitting 10 of them with 10 separate shots (2 clays broken by the same shot do not count) in 2004.  

 Some of his show is also on YouTubeAbout midway through, he has an empty shotgun, puts a shell between his teeth, picks up a clay in one hand and his shotgun in both hands, throws them both high into the air, loads the shotgun as he catches it, and makes the shot.  Wow! 

 Tom, the shooting world will miss you, and so will Nancy, and so will I.




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