Flinching of the Subliminal Mind
Flinching is a subconscious behavior that can sneak up on an experienced wingshooter or plague a timid beginner. The traditional flinch is a mind-body connection that anticipates the punishing recoil of shoulder-bruising loads, but flinching may also result from purely mental causes such as performance anxiety or a fear of missing. Its manifestation can take the form of a twitch, blink, tremble, or a seizing of the nerves.
The problem with flinching is that it can be difficult to diagnose alone. "Being overstrained, mind and nerves go on a strike, quit temporarily, making no further records until after the discharge takes place," wrote the legendary Charles Askins in his 1921 book The American Shotgun. "Of whatever happens during this interim the shooter has no knowledge, though another man standing near can observe perfectly and tell him, generally much to the gunner's surprise and often little to his conviction." One solution is to have a friend videotape a shooting session and later play it back as a slow motion reality check to determine if you are flinching.
"Flinching can cause stopping or slowing of the swing, closing of eyes, and at its worst, failure to pull the trigger," says Ben Berka, shooting coach of Double A Shooting Instruction (aashooting.com). "Flinches are almost always associated with high-recoil guns and ammo. The solution is to shoot the lightest load possible that still gives you effective patterns. Use recoil-reduction devices or gas-operated semiautomatics, and then practice dry-firing the gun."