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Tips to Break Bad Shooting Habits

Lapses in proper shooting form usually lead to missed shots
  • photo by Chris Jennings
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The flinch is one of the most distressing shooting problems around. It usually develops slowly and is suddenly just there—a full-blown miss machine. Nobody wants it, and once acquired, it is devilishly difficult to get over. The prevailing theory is that a flinch is the body's subconscious reaction to painful stimuli, be it stiff recoil, fierce muzzle blast—or both. The body wants to shrink away from pain.
Americans have an unholy fascination with powerful ammo. Whether for rifles, shotguns, or pistols, "biggest is best" is the American way. And sadly, we seldom ask ourselves if we can handle that kicking, bellowing round. Even sadder, many shooters refuse to admit they can't, and shoot their way into a perhaps incurable flinch.

I once saw a fellow show up for an expensive plantation turkey hunt with a brand-new magnum shotgun and the biggest, baddest turkey loads on the market. To check the guns, the target was set at 30 yards. 

That shooter flinched so badly that his shot load plowed (literally) into the ground 30 feet in front of his firing position—five consecutive times! He went back to the lodge loudly protesting that he had been sold a bum gun. After he was gone, one of the guides banged the target dead on with it.

To cure a flinch, back off the big stuff. Frequent but brief practice sessions with the lightest loads in heavy guns are the ticket. Remove the pain from the shooting equation. You have to convince your subconscious that you won't hurt yourself anymore. When you resume hunting, use the lightest loads that will get the job done.

Fowl Fact
HEAVY HITTERS Many modern magnum shotgun loads produce recoil comparable to that of the ammo used in African big game rifles.

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