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How to Stop Flinching When Shooting with a Pistol

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Gun in focus

To those that say flinching is a sign a weakness, they are in the wrong. Flinching is actually a natural response from the body and you should flinch when something happens. 

Say you’re going to lift a heavy couch or desk. When you go “one, two, three – lift”, your body is going to tighten and tense up. Whether we’re punching, throwing an elbow, kicking or any type of physical combative you’re going to tighten your body and react.

The Problem with Flinching When Shooting

When your body tenses that might be okay with physical activity, but it doesn’t translate well with firearms. Ideally, we want to do the opposite.

What you want to do with your trigger press is take out the slack in the trigger and manipulate that trigger correctly. This way you’ll be able to press the trigger without flinching.

How to Manage Recoil When You’re Flinching

As much as you’d like for your body not to react and flinch, sometimes it just happens. Often, your mind is just anticipating recoil, so your body tenses up as a reaction to your thoughts.

For new shooters, the best way to minimize the flinch is to focus 50 percent of your attention on your front sight and the other 50 percent on the trigger. You want to focus on getting that surprise break.

The Counting to 5 to 10 Method

An easy method to practice is to count to five or ten as you press the trigger. Odds are, it will go off once you count to two or three.

The idea behind counting is that once we’re thinking “one, two, three…” the gun will go off with a bang. It’ll be somewhat of an “expected surprise” and you won’t have much time to think about it.

Five to ten counting method

Why Counting to 5 or 10 Works

You may think that counting to five or ten is unnecessary, but there’s solid reasoning behind it. You want to count to five or ten because it gives your mind a focal point. As you’re pressing the trigger you’re thinking about your counting and not about your trigger press. It’s a way to trick your mind into manipulating the trigger without focusing on when it’s going to go off.

People tend to really focus on the “when moment”; that moment the bullet is about to go off. When we focus on this moment, we tend to mash the trigger or flinch. Your left or right hand, arms, biceps, or triceps can all tense up and as you press the trigger you move the gun.

Tense biceps, triceps, and arms

By keeping the gun steady, keeping your position locked in, and just moving the trigger, we get center shots on the target and it minimizes the chance for a flinch. 

If You’re Tensing Up You Will See …

For the counting method, say you were to instead count “one, two, three,” and then immediately fire; what do you think would happen? You’d likely tighten or tense up right before you fired your shot because you’d be anticipating it.

When you tense up right before you press the trigger, it causes the gun to deviate, the sights to misalign, and the shot will go somewhere you didn’t expect it to.

You want to focus and make sure your sights are aligned with your target. You also want to focus on correct trigger manipulation, with the slack out and just the right amount of pressure needed for a slow and steady press to the rear. This way, when you pull the trigger, it will be a surprise and will have less of a chance of going off target which will lead to more accurate shots.

Shooter getting ready to fire

Use a Low Caliber Pistol When Starting

In addition to the counting technique, if you’re a new shooter you’ll want to have a good gun to help you minimize the recoil.

A good gun to start off with is a .22 caliber pistol. Since these pistols are not firing a large caliber round, recoil will be negligible. Because you’re not experiencing as much recoil, you won’t develop flinch response that will carry over to another, larger-caliber pistol.

Starting out with a smaller caliber or a heavier gun will allow the new shooter to really work on the basics without having to deal with much recoil. You want new shooters to build up tolerance.

In a short period of time, you can build up from .22 to .38 to 9mm or to any of these calibers. You’ll find that the recoil is manageable and the flinch response can really be minimized or negated, as long as you do some dry fire practice in-between. 


Counting to five or ten, slow presses on the trigger, focusing on the correct gun and ammunition, and having a good grip on the pistol will help you stop flinching. By focusing on these fundamentals you will see your shooting improve.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Stop Flinching When Shooting a Pistol with concealed carry expert, Bill Desy.
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Tactical Hyve Cadre

A group of our cadre members who cannot or do not want to be in the public's eye, often because they are on active duty, but who still want to provide you with vetted information and recommendations.

2 thoughts on “How to Stop Flinching When Shooting with a Pistol”

  1. I tried this approach last weekend. Worked like a champ. I was nailing the bullseye center consistently at 5 yards with a Glock. The pistol is known not to have a great trigger. The group spread out to about fist size at 10 yards and this is my next area to work on. Thank you so much.


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