Two For Flinching: How to Stop Anticipating When Shooting

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Two for Flinching: How to Stop Anticipating When You Shoot

By Chris Sajnog


If you flinch or anticipate when you shoot, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is the way to fix it is easy and scientifically proven to work. The bad news is that it’s not a quick fix and it’s gonna take some time!

The Science

Any time you even think about a sequence of moves, in this case while shooting a pistol, your body puts insulation (Myelin) around the path of neurons needed to repeat that movement. It does this so that in the event you need to do that movement again, you can do it faster.

At some point in learning to shoot or more likely, not learning to shoot the correct way, the sound of the gun going off or the explosion in your hands caused you to flinch. It’s the natural human response to a stressor and yes, no matter how tough you are, they are stressors. Through repetition, you’ve developed a neural pathway that includes a flinch. This is going to stay with you, especially under stress, until you build a stronger, alternate neural pathway.

The Fix

Like I said, this is the easy part. All you need to do is practice the right way, without stress. The only way to do this is dry weapon training; practice going though the movements perfectly with an unloaded weapon. Once you’ve developed a neural pathway that’s better insulated than the one with the flinch, you’ll be cured forever.

Sure, you can learn some tricks (stress suppression) on the range to slowly fire a single round without flinching, but as soon as you add stress back, your flinch will be back, guaranteed.

The Path

The fastest path to fixing your flinch is by using my New Rules of Marksmanship. You’ll learn to shoot faster and easier than any other old-school “fundamentals” based method. The reason why is that the New Rules of Marksmanship is a framework for training, not a set of methods that worked for someone else.

The Truth

Other people might tell you that dry weapons training (a.k.a. dry fire) is not the best way to train and I’ll tell you this, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Unless they know more than what’s been proven repeatedly over the past 30-years through scientific study. I guess it’s possible, but more likely, they’re just repeating what their instructors (Dad, Grandpa) taught them 20+ years ago.

Don’t believe the myth that the only way to get better is to shoot thousands of rounds at the range. In fact, as I’m sure you’ve learned (and why you’re reading this right now) it can actually be worse than doing dry weapons training at home. Take the time to train properly and perfectly at home and you’ll be amazed the next time you go to the range.

Put in the time to train properly and you can fix this!

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Chris is a former Navy SEAL and the Director of Training for  Center Mass Group, which was founded by two retired Navy SEAL Instructors. Giving people the experience of being trained by the most elite combat unit in the world, Chris is currently a Maritime-Counter-Terrorism and advanced marksmanship Instructor who has trained DOD, DHS, FBI, CIA and multiple foreign allies in all aspects of combat weapons handling, marksmanship and Maritime Operations.

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  • John Westcott

    I have found that shooting more, being around others shooting more, and staying calm and pulling my trigger slowely helps to fix that.

  • Tim Andreson

    Caleb Causey says “Drink Water,” Chris Sajnog says “Dry Fire.” So simple, yet the only disciplines that work for either hydration or better shooting!

  • Joel Wise

    Flinching with a pistol only matters if you are going for precision. Precision and Pistol are a bit of an oxymoron to me. Not flinching is important for some competitions and plinking with the dudes. Inside of 5-7 yards just point intuitively and shoot at center mass. Combat accuracy is good enough for defensive purposes.
    Studies show that 86% of shootings happen inside of 16 feet. (Tom Givens)

  • Sean Zarella

    This is what the Military trains, Dry Weapon training SO you dont teach your muscles to tense when you pull the trigger and engrain the thought of reaction when bang happens.

  • Todd Scheck

    Gonna have to give this a try. Been flinching since I was a toddler and father used rivet gun in our basement….that banging is the first I remember doing that.

  • Michael Ludlow

    Oren Gee Bee

  • Mike Rhodes

    Great video Chris….

  • Oren Gee Bee

    Haha yup no kidding its a big problem, well if they don’t get it, more accuracy for us! 🙂

  • Matt LB

    Marksmanship is BS filler training

  • vrsanches

    The three ITS patches: There’s the easy one on the human target, then there’s another smaller on top of the speaker and the last one is within a Red Cross, just under the helmet attached to what it seems to be a backpack or hydration bag.

  • Ashley Blythe

    The ball and dummy drill with a friend works wonders.

  • Gerald Wallace

    at 16 feet an inch of flinch can translate to 2 feet of miss..And that’s just shooting at paper.

  • Mate Standard

    Just…stop, Joel.

  • Joel Wise

    A flinch doesn’t cause the barrel to deviate an inch off of center. That would be a serious problem. Caused more by inappropriate grip I would think. The word in your sentence to key in on is “can”. But it typically doesn’t.
    I’ve been teaching people to shoot pistols for years – hundreds of students, and I’ve never seen a flinch cause an outright miss at these close distances.
    I’m agreeing with your math Gerald, but I just haven’t seen it play out like that.

  • Joel Wise

    lol stop what Mate?

  • Joel Wise

    I should add that I’m NOT suggesting that fundamentals aren’t important.

  • Devon Turner

    To cure flinching stop being afraid

  • Emilio Ricardo Lisi III

    Kelly Crea

  • Chris Spaur

    Craig Bock

  • Steve Smith

    Joel, just stop it.

  • Joel Wise

    lol I still don’t know what I’m supposed to stop.

  • John Moretz

    Steve Heleine

  • John Culpepper

    Balance an empty shell casing on your front sight and see how many times you can dry fire without it falling off

  • Scott Betterton

    Jon Randolph

  • bullitt4686

    Damn!  As soon as I read “find the three ITS logos” I completely stopped listening.  SQUIRREL!

    Good info–when I watched it the second time.  lol

  • Dwayne Miller

    Good practice. U0001f609

  • Jor El

    Always had a problem with this using Glock 22 a very snappy round. Switched to 1911 Kimber Warrior with no issues.

  • Brian Redgrave

    I learned “flinch” control using a revolver. Have someone load a few live rounds and a few shells. Safely shoot down range and see how bad you’re anticipating the shot.

  • Ben Brown

    Does that mean we can stop misusing “let the gun surprise you” on the range? If I had a buck for every time I’ve heard an “ex-part” shooter-husband incorrectly explain that to his little lady, I would own my own range!

  • Rick Reyes Jr

    Good stuff, Chris! Thanks for the help. I really appreciate knowing the science behind the advice and training methods you offer. With all your experience as an instructor in the Teams an now as a civilian professional I respect your positions in this realm. Cheers!

  • Pete Calabrese

    Dry fire!!!

  • Mitchell Burke

    Snap caps mixed with live rounds at random worked for me.

    • Dick Bates

      Let your instructor load single rounds each shot . He can tell if you’re flinching when you jerk on an expended round. Works every time I taught . Then I can correct you easily. Be Sr took me more than a couple hours with an individual.

  • hkennethhills

    There is a reason the USMC spends a week dry firing before going to the range, it works wonders.

  • Pavel

    Hi Chris. You are on the money! Went to the local range for an intro course four months ago. Used a .38 and a 9 mm. I was terrible. The noise was the number one thing and the rush of firing a gun for the first time. I then found your web site and determined to spend just a few minutes four or five days a week dry firing. The difference has been huge! I can now hit a target with two or three shots from 15 yards routinely and keep a fairly tight group. From half that distance I can put the shot in just about the same spot.

    Dry Fire!

  • tirador

    I like very much the fact that you include meditation as a learning tool Chris. It is extremely valuable not only to improve shooting skills, but any aspect in our lives. God bless you Chris and thank you.

  • sjohnson1776

    I literally set my plan in place to use Chris techniques just yesterday. And I’m going all the way back to the basics too. My plan: draw the weapon from holster and go to full 2 hand grip extension. INTENSIVELY focus on the front sight for maybe 15 seconds and then re holster. Repeat ad nauseam.

  • HTEngineer

    I read this yesterday. Then Ian posted this on the Forgotten Weapons page, and it seemed to mesh nicely. A man learns to ride a backwards bike.

  • Nick Mauriello

    Patrick Carlo

  • Cathy Caudle

    Thanks for sharing. I needed this.

  • Brandon M Tjaden

    Matt Vieira

  • theonlyomar

    Refrigerator, Speaker, and medkit under tool box.

  • john6137

    Chris is the ultimate instructor for firearms training. Consider yourself lucky if you have the honor of training with him.

  • Dragonscout

    Great simple video, Chris. Even though I’ve shot hundreds of thousands of rounds since military in the 70’s, it’s still good to go over things again and again to continue to reinforce those concepts. Will enjoy watching your videos and when I get some free money grab your book. The ITS logos were on the target on the fridge, the left speaker, and looked like the lower left side of the tv, though I can’t be sure…

  • Joel Wise

    I agree that dry fire drills can help. Doesn’t make my original post untrue. My original argument was a simple generalization stating that for a majority of people in a personal defense situation, a flinch wouldn’t necessarily cause a miss. That’s it.

  • B Acuna

    The ITS Logos are on the target to the right of the screen, on the left speaker under the TV, and on the ETA Kit in front of the toolbox. There’s also an ITS “Baboon Ass” patch on the right speaker unter the TV (Extra Credit?).

  • markross

    Good morning Chris! Thanks for your help on my flinching issues. I’ve already started a new dry fire routine.I’d like to impose on you again with another question if I may. Rifle
    shooting prone, muzzle jump, and natural point of aim. Here, I’m shooting bolt
    guns with bipods and the muzzle tends to jump up and to the left. This is making
    me wonder about my natural point of aim. Am I correct? Thanks, Chris!

  • Dick Bates

    Remember the word brass . Breathe ,relax ,aimed, take up the Slack ( trigger slack ) and Squeeze . Let the round surprise you . Then if you flinch , t by e round is ALREADY GONE ON ITS WAY TO THE BULLSEYE ! Another bastard bites the dust !



  • Edmund1248

    Great video programs on YouTube. Thanks 

    Flinch and anticipation is my worst sighting issue. I push forward when the shot goes off.
    Does not happen with dry fire practice or when zeroing on a lead sled.

    What is the brand, make , model of the single point sling you have on the blue carbine on the table?
    I’ve seen it on several other still pics of you with an AR-15. It looks strong, reliable and comfortable.
    I have a cheap sling that is made for an airsoft rifle, but it will not hold the weight of my AR.

  • ehb5150

    It would have been nice to have real instructors instead of DI’s when I was going through the academy all those years ago. Thank you!

  • watchara8996

    Very nice.

  • Eternal Student

    Chris, you mentioned adding a stressor to enhance the mylenization of the neural pathways by adding an emotion. Will adding a physical stressor (i.e all out rowing 1000m, burpees before dry weapons training) have the same effect?

  • Black elk

    Rockin good video

  • Slydee

    That is great Chris…

    I had a HUGE Flinch, 3 month ago, since I’ve starting shooting with handgun last year. It’s was so dramatic, I wasn’t able to touch any target over 15 yards, and all my grouping (I did call my shotgun grouping) was miserable too…

    I eliminate 80% already, with doing Dry Fire at home! Every day I shot hundreds of dry shot, and keep focus on everything, position, good grip, sight alignment, focus on front sight, trigger pull… just like Chris mentioned in his book.

    And i works so well for me, my grouping getting tighter, I’m hitting the target at 25 yards now!

    I do my Dry Fire everyday now!


    Outstanding, thank you Chris, when i get tired i start to anticipate a bit.

  • Evaggelos

    The dry fire shows to be a great training,I found exactly what was the wrong I do. It was the flinching,now that stop it with a few practice and I shoot now perfect feel the guns part of my hand.Thanks Chris

  • Sheepdog Rob

    I have been working with dry-fire for a short while now and my shooting has been improving for sure.  Also, the three logos… Fridge, TV, Speaker… LOL

  • DonaldlGilbert2

    Thanks for the video..

  • Edmund1248

    Hello Chris,

    It’s been a while since making a comment or question. I do flinch when I shoot larger caliber weapons, but my problem is keeping the sights still to get that perfect shoot. Especially unsupported pistol. Recently I just added a micro-red dot sight. Zeroed it while resting the grip on a shooting bag. Followup shoots on the bag where very good, but as soon as my support is gone so are my groups. Without shooting I notice that I can not keep the sights on target. The front sight and red dot are co-witnessed. Maybe I’m not yet familiar enough with the red dot combination; but I sure see it moving off target without shooting. Can’t seem to keep it still. What do you think?

    Thanks for your expertise


  • RockyHernandez

    Hello Chris is my pleasure to meet you, I must say you are right on point, I dry fire a lot at home with my reaction targeting system, I am not formerly in the military, but I try to train as they do in all my tactical classes, which are pistol’s, shotgun, and ARs including NVG training, here is a photo of the system I train with, I just ordered your book on how to shoot like a Navy Seal, I am very excited to read all your information and help, I like to thank you from all of us for all you have done in serving our country..God Bless you, I am proud to call you my brother..P.S my profile photo is me, not someone’s else’s photo from the Internet, just wanted to clarify that with you, Thank You Again..

  • JeffFergason

    I have to tell you, my first time going out shooting with a friend was an eye opener. He was a MP in the Army and I respect the fact that he knows his stuff when it comes to guns. I have always liked shooting but never could afford to really get into it. The only gun That I owned at that time was .22 revolver and I was pretty good with it. Well he handed me his 9mm and told me to shoot it at the target, well I wasn’t even close. He asked me for the gun then handed it back to me, I squeesed the trigger and fired the gun still no luck. He asked for it again then handed it back to me and as I squeeded the trigger nothing but a click. The funny thing is that as the gun went click I pushed the gun forward and down about 4 inches. All I could do is laugh at myself, but it showed me I was antisipating the recoil and way over reacted. I have since corrected this issue but I am no way an expert. Just had to share in case there are any new gun owners fighting the same thing. It’s a dry fire but unexpected to the shooter. It will teach you a lot about your technique.

  • Bruce A

    I just purchased both books. It’s the first time I’ve attempted to better my accuracy by reading. I like your advise.
    I’m 52 and have been shooting LOTS my entire life. On my own quest for perfection and accuracy I have been “Dry Firing” at movie characters and objects in my room ever since I can remember. I’ve never told anyone or heard it being recommended. I just wanted to shoot more then time allowed so I filled the need by “Dry Firing”. Not only did it fill my need to shoot more, but more importantly, I could see improvements from doing it.
    I’m glad to hear that I haven’t been off my rocker all these years. I can attest to the sound advise and validity of “Dry Firing”.
    An important note that you’ve touched on is consistently practicing! It doesn’t take long to lose advantages gained if I don’t stay committed to consistently practicing. Whether I’ve been consistent or not in practicing at home reveals itself, without exception, when live firing.
    Dry Firing DOES help!
    It needs to be practiced faithfully!
    Happy Trails
    – Bruce A.

  • teedie46

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us in a real way. I was wondering if you could break down a holster draw. In addition to the flinching, this is definitely a failure point of mine. I know it sounds lame, but I’ve watched myself in the mirror and I constantly waste time during this portion of the shoot because I believe my holster draw method is lacking perfect practice.

  • Virginia Larraine Hall

    I’m glad I put the search in it’s not every time I go into the range and shoot it’s while I’m waiting it’s not every gun shot.Its only the loud blast guns. Actually I believe what you say about dry around shooting.I like going to the range once after the first flinch I don’t flinch again and once I start shooting my weapon the flinch is over with.
    I need better instructions I believe my flinching can stop all together.

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