By Mia Anstine, The Shooting Channel
Many who have had the opportunity to meet me have been shocked at my size. At 5’2”, I am a pee-wee of a shooter and often shorter than kids I mentor. Upon first introductions I have often heard, “You are so much shorter than I expected.” Or, “How do you shoot that big ol’ gun?”
I shoot pretty much any firearm I am awarded the opportunity. Size may matter in shooting but proper shooting form is a must. Something I have noticed over the years is that if a shooter doesn’t start off with proper form, they develop very bad habits from the recoil of the gun.
Shooters feel the recoil as it punches the butt of the rifle into the shoulder. It is most recognizable when shooting from a bench or prone shooting position. Shooters can become nervous or establishes a fear in anticipation. They can develop a habit of closing their eyes, pulling and jerking the trigger or even sitting back just as they pull the trigger. These bad habits will cause their shots to be all over the place and rarely hit the zone in which they are aiming. When adrenaline is flowing out in the field the bad habits can ruin a hunt. It is a must to stay focused and in proper position while you are shooting.
There are many ways to overcome “shooting flinch.” I recommend heading to the range and using a Lead Sled to zero in the gun. Once it is dialed in you can work on making good habits out of bad.
Last fall I worked with my daughter to sight in her rifle for her elk hunt. I noticed she had developed flinch. She was anticipating the recoil of the rifle and it was significantly decreasing her accuracy. Her shots were spread all over the target. I tried a several techniques to help reduce her flinch in order to get a better shot group and hit the “kill zone” on the paper target.
- Breathing techniques – Take a deep breath in, slowly exhaled then hold it for a pause as the trigger is pulled.
- Trigger control – Pull slow and steady in order to avoid pulling or jerking shots.
- Shoot at larger targets – Purchase animal paper targets which have a kill zone versus a bulls-eye. Start by aiming for that zone instead of aiming for a tiny point on a bulls-eye. Look at where the shot is going to hit.
- Laser sites – Add a laser or flashlight to the gun and practice dry-firing. Position yourself in a safe area where it is appropriate to see the beam of light. Practice firing and watch what the light does as the shooter pulls the trigger. The projection should have no movement as the trigger is pulled. Depending on the firearm, you may not want to dry-fire much.
- Shoot from various positions – Shoot from the shooting bench, shooting sticks and other basic shooting positions. This will divert the focus from “recoil” to getting comfortable in position, reducing recoil anticipation.
- Create shooting scenarios – Practice a hunting scenario such as, ”The elk just walked out. He’s broad-side. You shoot once. Rapidly throw the bolt and re-load. The elk didn’t fall down. Quickly re-acquire your target and shoot a second shot.” Rehearsing scenarios like these help for real-life hunting situations. They also take the shooter’s mind off the recoil making a much better shot grouping.
- Shoot a small number of rounds. Try firing a maximum of six rounds at each practice. While you are working on form never let the shooter leave the range with a sore shoulder.
The problem my daughter had was a bad habit of closing her eyes and sitting back from the gun as the trigger was pulled. The suggestions above helped her immensely.
To reduce her anticipation of the shot we supplemented her gear. We installed a larger butt pad on the rifle. It absorbs a great amount of recoil between the gun stock and her shoulder. We added her Prois Sherpa vest which is soft and plush. It made for great padding without impeding her form. It could be worn in the field during an actual hunt so it was appropriate gear for practice. The purpose of the vest was to reduce impact by providing a significant amount of shoulder padding. With the added padding between the rifle and her shoulder, the anticipation of the rifle against her shoulder was reduced.
With the added confidence of shots that were grouped much better and a shoulder that was not tender, my daughter began to realize she could overcome her flinch. Now we are happy to be working on better groupings instead of evading bad habits.
Include proper form, mind-set and attitude and any sized shooter can enjoy shooting some of the larger caliber firearms.
Thanks to Mia and the team at The Shooting Channel, take a moment to visit their site www.theshootingchannel.com