Sometimes it causes sufferers to even give up shooting ...

Trigger freeze – also known as ‘flinching’ is an affliction that is becoming increasingly common.

For some Guns it only happens rarely, for others it increases over time. In extreme cases, trigger freeze can become constant, making the sufferer give up shooting altogether.

What is trigger freeze or flinching?

    • Flinching is the inability to pull the trigger at the time you want to, meaning that, while you swing through the bird you try to pull the trigger, but are unable to.
    • Some claim that it is caused by shooting with heavy loads over long or sustained periods of time, while others believe the flinch is due to a mental block.
    • Both clayshooters and gameshooters can suffer from the problem.

Levels of flinching

I asked leading shooting instructor Peter Harris for his views on flinching. He said: “In clayshooting, flinching seems to be more of a problem for trap and skeet shooters, and there are fewer sufferers in FITASC or sporting.”

“Sufferers of trigger freeze fall into three categories

  1. Those with an occasional flinch, normally youngsters, beginners and casual shooters who leave the sport early
  2. Those who develop an early flinch and actually trigger the shot prematurely
  3. The worst affected, who suffer from a full-blown flinch, which can also be called ‘staggers’.

What causes it?

Peter continued: “I believe it is caused by a fear of noise, recoil and failure to hit the target. It occurs less frequently in sporting shooters, partly because of the movement involved. they start with their guns down, whereas trap shooters start with a mounted gun.”

Young shooter learning

Sometimes fear of recoil can cause trigger freeze

How to deal with flinching

For gameshooters, double triggers are a factor. In fact  it could be said that a double-trigger helps those with a flinch, as the hand movement and greater extension of the finger may well prevent trigger freeze.

One of the keys to dealing with a flinch is to recognise what brings it on – the ‘trigger’ if you like.

  • For example, if the flinch starts at the end of the season, it can be remedied with rest and recuperation
  • If the trigger is a fear of recoil, then dampers, light cartridges or even a different cartridge brand may help
  • If the cause is a fear of noise, then foam plugs and ear defenders can be used.

Under the supervision of a coach, training with snap caps and live cartridges can be helpful. Substituting snap caps for live cartridges at random can break the cycle of fear, calming the shooter and allowing the fear of noise or recoil to dissipate. Of course, it is vital to work with a good coach, building up trust, and to use visualisation techniques for triggering the shot.

In the USA, release triggers are used to cure flinching, while other ways to help the problem include working with a sports psychology expert, changing shoulders and using hypnotherapy. However, it is important to remember that, in many cases, these can only have a partial cure, and there are no preventative measures that are known.