Understanding Recoil Anticipation—or Flinch

Learn about this phenomenon common to new shooters in the latest GUNSMARTS video presented by Smith & Wesson.

posted on February 7, 2022

Anticipation can be a great thing and sometimes yield a wonderful reward: a child awaiting Santa; a championship sporting event; or even ketchup as it slowly makes its way down a bottle.

But on the pistol range, anticipation means something else entirely, and can often result in a target that leaves you scratching your head in bewilderment as to what might have gone wrong. After all, your grip was good, your sight alignment and sight picture were perfect. So what went wrong? You may have heard it called "flinching," which is what happens when you are anticipating the recoil that is about to occur when you press the trigger. Although it’s practically imperceptible to the shooter, here’s what’s happening: You are actually dipping the position of the barrel downward in the final milliseconds before the bullet exits the chamber. As a result, the bullseye is missed, even narrowly, by this flinch. Groups might be satisfactory or even great, just low. 

This phenomenon is especially common among new shooters, as they await the powerful sensation from the blast that is about to occur when they press the trigger on a handgun. Mentally, this can be intimidating and overtake logic. Don’t worry, the good news is that with regular practice of the fundamentals of marksmanship, and as you become more familiar and comfortable with your pistol’s recoil, this will eventually go away. If the problem persists, there are specific drills designed to correct this problem. For now, if you are a new shooter, do not let this common problem keep you from the range. The best remedy is regular practice.

Learn more about “anticipation” in this latest Smith & Wesson GUNSMARTS video hosted by Ken from Provectus Group.

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