In basketball, you’re supposed to stare at the hoop all the way through the shot. This is something my dad hammered in me over and over during basketball practice, and it made a difference. Watching the hoop keeps you focused to sink that three from deep – shooting is no different. To maintain accuracy, we need to stare at that front sight through the entire shot, through the recoil, and into the next shot. That is how we maintain accuracy for the first shot and speed and accuracy for the follow up shot. In long range shooting, it’s how we spot our hits and misses so we can adjust our point of aim accordingly.
But since we’re setting off a small explosion a foot or two from our face, the concussion and noise creates an instinctive flinch and blink. This flinching must be trained out of us in order to have optimal performance while shooting.
Here are some tips to stop flinching and blinking while shooting.
Focus on the sights through recoil
To keep your eyes open, shooters must, well… force themselves to keep their eyes open. Makes sense, right? We can do that by focusing intently on the sights while shooting, particularly the front sight if you’re using iron sights. Watch that sight rise and fall through the shot’s recoil. Not only does this help us keep from blinking while shooting, this is something we need to be doing anyways to shoot accurately and quickly with our follow up shots.
Send thousands of rounds down range
Getting acclimated to the sound and concussion of gunfire is no different than getting acclimated to anything else. If you spend a lot of time at the range, while you and those around you are sending thousands and thousands of rounds down range, the concussion of the gunshot will be less startling. You will become acclimated to the gunfire, which won’t activate that flinching or blinking response.
It might not be possible to jump straight to a large caliber with a brake to avoid blinking and flinching, so try starting with smaller rounds. Spend some time shooting .22lr and focus on avoiding flinching and blinking. That is an easy and obtainable goal. After hitting that goal, step up to 9mm or .223 and focus on avoiding blinking and flinching while shooting.
Shoot with other people
Being around other people who are shooting firearms achieves pretty much the same results as sending thousands of rounds down range yourself. However, now you do not know when the shots will be fired, bringing in an element of surprise into the concussion of a gunshot. By hanging around other people who are shooting, your body will slowly care less and less about the concussion of a gunshot, reducing or eliminating the blinking and flinching response.
Precision rifle long distance shooting
In long distance precision shooting, it is very possible to spot your own shots. This is a valuable and even critical skill to be able to send an accurate second shot down range. With proper form, a precision rifle shooter can keep looking through the scope and identify the point of impact. In order to do that, you must keep your eyes open, looking through the scope, from shot to impact. After a few hundred rounds of long distance precision rifle shooting, you’ll be much better at staring at the target through the shot.
Almost every single post I write about shooting technique mentions dry fire, and avoiding flinch is no different. Staring at the front sight during dry fire helps build the habit of keeping your eyes open through the shot. While dry fire alone won’t stop you from blinking while shooting, it will still help and is quite a bit cheaper than live fire at the range.
Stopping the flinch requires dedicated practice
Don’t expect that casual range trips will automagically fix the issue of blinking and flinching while shooting. Going to the range and not thinking about blinking will simply reinforce the habit of blinking while shooting. Like everything in shooting sports, dedicated practice of a specific bit of technique is the only way to correct the issue. Even a seasoned shooter can pick up the bad habit of blinking while shooting if he/she isn’t careful.
Next time you’re at the range, film yourself shooting and see if you blink. If you are blinking while shooting, take some time to correct that issue.