Sometimes flinching actually can be a good thing. It’s an involuntary reflex that prepares your body for what’s about to come, and in some cases can help you avoid pain or injury. Boxers train hard to overcome this natural instinct and prepare for the inevitable impact of their opponent’s glove. And like a boxer, you can avoid flinching and prepare for the jolt of your rifle as it recoils back into your body.
Flinching can cause your bullet to go astray and you might not even realize it. Instead you search for other reasons, such as riflescope issues, poor trigger control or faulty ammunition as causes for inaccuracy.
If you suspect flinching might be the reason for your shooting inconsistencies, go to the range with a partner. Have him load one round at a time into your firearm, out of sight, and then have you take the shot. Have him pretend to load a live round every so often without your knowledge. If you involuntarily flinch when you pull the trigger on an empty chamber, you’ve identified the problem. Here are two approaches for fixing the flinch.
FAST AND CHEAP METHOD
As strange as it might sound, the easiest and cheapest way to reduce flinching is to shoot less frequently at the range. Flinching isn’t as common in the field because buck fever takes over as you become hopped up on adrenaline. But this adrenaline rush is missing at the range and your mind has time to consider what’s about to occur. The more you shoot the more your mind prepares you for the recoil, and flinching intensifies.
If you feel you need more range time, consider replacing the factory recoil pad on your rifle with one made of high-tech absorption material available in aftermarket butt pads. Companies such as Pachmayr and LimbSaver use innovative materials designed around chambers of air to diminish felt recoil by 35 percent or more. Some models simply slip over the buttstock, while others require installation.
Another option is shooting shirts or jackets with shock absorption material inserted into shoulder pockets. Or you can purchase the absorbing pads separately in strap-on models. Even wearing additional layers of clothing can help reduce the recoil jolt.
A final inexpensive approach to reducing flinch-inducing recoil is to switch to reduced-recoil ammunition, such as Hornady’s Custom Lite ammo. Its .30-06 recipe, for example, reduces felt recoil by 43 percent from standard loads and tames muzzle blast.
Foam ear plugs and electronic protective ear muffs can help minimize the jarring sound associated with shooting.
SPARE NO EXPENSES METHOD
A more effective, but spendy way, to tame recoil and reduce flinching, is to downsize to a smaller-caliber rifle. Your .300 Win. Mag. or .338 Lapua Mag. might shoot flat and hit hard, but they also wallop on the other end. Consider downscaling to a shoulderfriendly, efficient caliber such the 6.5 Creedmoor or the classic .243 Win., both great whitetail calibers. And make sure your rifle fits you perfectly. Poor-fitting rifles can cause even moderate recoil to hurt more.
If beefy is your game, then you can still tame the recoil of large calibers by shooting a heavier rifle, which will soak up more energy than a lighter, mountain style, rifle. If the pounding is still too much to bear, then either add a muzzle brake or upgrade to a rifle that comes with one. A gunsmith can add the vented attachment to the end of a barrel to release extreme gas pressure, the cause for recoil. Be sure to always wear adequate ear protection when shooting these guns, because muzzle brakes generate dangerous sound levels.
Finally, when considering a rifle update you might want to think semiautomatic. Gas-operated semiautomatic rifles absorb recoil better than other rifle platforms due to the use of gas in the cycling mechanism.
There’s no need to grimace and flinch while shooting. Just try one of these quick fixes and see if it helps. Say goodbye to the flinch Grinch and celebrate whitetail success.