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Trigger freeze – or the ‘flinch effect’. Here’s how to cure it

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

finger on gun trigger

Trigger freeze – also known as ‘flinching’ is becoming increasingly seen among shooters.

For some Guns it only happens rarely, for others it increases over time. It can even cause some Guns to give up shooting altogether.

driven shooting

Flinching can affect both game and clayshooters

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 a leading shooting instructor 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.”

FITASC Clay Shooting

There are fewer flinching sufferers in FITASC shooting

Who suffers from flinching?

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.”

Lady Gun

Fear of recoil can cause flinching

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.

Release triggers are used in the USA to cure flinching. Other ways to solve the problem include changing shoulders, hypnotherapy and working with a sports psychologist.

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.

A useful technique to know about

If you have your finger wrapped around the trigger or even in the first joint, you will find the amount of movement you need, to both squeeze and release the trigger, (in order to cock the internal mechanism) is quite a lot. The cure for this is to put the first pad of the finger on the trigger, with the trigger exactly halfway across the middle of the pad.

This will give a lot less movement in the finger and even stop 80% of flinching, where you go to pull the trigger but don’t (so you have another go), all in an instant.

Some guns have an adjustable trigger and may need adjusting to feel right when shooting this way. But it can be done on guns with fixed triggers with a little practice.

This trigger technique will also help when you’re having trouble with shooting behind everything as your timing is better. Shooting with a shotgun is very instinctive and your instincts are usually spot-on! Trust your instincts when to pull the trigger.

If you have a lot of extra movement in the pulling of the trigger, you’re going to find that you will pull the trigger very slightly later than necessary, resulting in a miss right on the clay or bird’s tail.

If you’re shooting game then it’s fine to have your finger on the trigger guard or the wood above it for safety – but practice this finger technique before going into the field or you will have trouble.

For clay shooting, find the trigger with your finger pad before you call pull.

This piece has been updated from previous publication