Recoil – Reducing Shooting Flinch

Since a friend asked for advice, I thought I better revive this old post about how to reduce shooting flinch. Is this something you’ve ever had an issue with? How did you deal with it? ~Mia

In sighting in my Little Gal’s rifle for her elk hunt, I noticed she had developed a flinch. She was anticipating the recoil when shooting her rifle. It was significantly decreasing her shooting accuracy. Her shots were all over the target, and some were missing it entirely. I have tried a couple of teaching techniques to help reduce her flinch. We needed to get a better shot group and hit the “kill zone” on paper.

The Little Gal practicing shooting from sticks.

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, and when adrenaline is flowing out in the field, the bad habits can ruin a hunt. A shooter can develop a habit of closing their eyes, pulling or jerking the trigger or even sitting back just as they pull it. These bad habits will cause their shots to be all over the place, and rarely hit the zone where they are aiming.


In working with my Little Gal, I have had her practice shooting with her hunting vest on. It is a Prois Sherpa vest which is soft and plush. It provided a significant amount of shoulder padding. Another thing a shooter can do is purchase a butt pad for their rifle. It will absorb much of the recoil between the gun stock and the shooter’s shoulder.

The Little Gal wearing her plush, reversible, Prois Sherpa vest.

The pain anticipation was reduced with the added padding between the rifle and LG’s shoulder. The problem was the bad habit of closing her eyes was still there, as was the reflex of sitting back from the gun as the trigger was pulled.

We worked on relaxing as well as some of the following:

  • Breathing techniques – She took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, then held it for a pause as she pulled the trigger.
  • Trigger control – We worked on not pulling or jerking her shots. She learned to pull the trigger slowly and steadily.
  • Shot at larger targets – Instead of aiming for a point on a bulls-eye. I purchased paper targets that were animal shaped. I asked her to look and see where the shot would hit.
  • Shoot from various positions – I had LG shoot from the shooting bench and shooting sticks to change her mindset.
  • Created shooting scenarios – I asked her to rehearse the following, “The elk just walked out. He’s broad-side. You are going to shoot once. Quickly throw the bolt and reload. The elk didn’t fall. Quickly acquire your target and shoot again.” Rehearsing this scenario not only helped her for real-life hunting situations but also took her mind off the recoil and her shot grouping was much better.

With the added confidence of shots that were grouped much better, LG realized she could overcome her flinch. We also shot a very minimal number of rounds. Generally, a maximum of six. She never left the range with a sore shoulder. We are happy to work on better groupings instead of evading bad habits.

The Little Gal had a better shot grouping after working on reducing flinch.

What techniques do you use to overcome flinch when you are shooting?

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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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Mia Anstine
MAC Outdoors LLC
PO Box 31
Ignacio, CO 81137-0031 

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