One of the most common causes of poor shooting is recoil anticipation, along with poor grip and errant trigger manipulation. This isn’t news, we all know this. We’ll talk about what to do about it in a bit, but we’re going to get the bad news out of the way first.
Recoil Anticipation Is Always Going To Be A Problem
It’s never going to not be a problem. There is no cure for it. There are only things you can do to manage it. With time and practice, you’ll have fewer flare-ups, but it will always be there.
It’s like living with a chronic condition in that regard; it’s there, and it’s not going away. All you can do is manage it to the best of your ability. If you’re diligent, you’ll be able to manage some quality shooting. Even the best shooters still have trouble with it from time to time, the rest of us have to put in the reps to keep it under control.
We, humans, are a mess in the broad strokes, but in many ways, we are (sort of) rational creatures. (Not many!) Recoil anticipation is caused, of course, by wanting to minimize the unpleasantness of AN EXPLOSION A FEW FEET FROM YOUR FACE. That kind of self-interest is pretty powerful stuff.
Curbing recoil anticipation is, therefore, an act of conquering your instincts, which for some folks isn’t easy.
Point being, it’s like a fear of spiders, heights, snakes, and so on. Flinching is an instinctual, hardwired response to something going boom. That’s a powerful psychological force to fight against. You can’t get rid of that sort of thing; you can manage it, but you can only do so much about the collective unconscious.
How To Manage Recoil Anticipation
We’ll go over some tricks for managing recoil anticipation, but the reality is that there’s no secret to it. There’s no silver bullet; there are no shortcuts. If you want to do something about it, you have to get out there and practice because that’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere.
There’s no shorting the reps, folks. You either put in the time, or you don’t.
To see if recoil anticipation is throwing your shots off, have someone load your magazine with snap caps. Don’t do it yourself, or you’ll know when they’re coming. What’s happening is you’re driving the gun downward to fight muzzle rise.
If you hit a snap cap and notice your gun diving forward…that’s a flinch due to recoil anticipation.
Once you know for a fact that you’re doing it…here comes the hard part: your problem is mental. You have to get your mind not to do the thing you’ve been doing, which you’re doing for what are (again, you’re right behind a kaboom) rational reasons.
To keep from overthinking, you want to use a surprise break trigger press. It’s almost like meditation. (Zen and the Art Of Pew.) You want to keep the front of the mind busy, so the rest of the mind turns off or at least has the volume turned down.
Set your grip and get the sights on target. Keeping the sights on target, but only think about the trigger press. Let the gun surprise you when it goes off, again thinking only about the squeeze.
Practice with dry fire, of course, and hone your grip and trigger press. Practice letting the “click” surprise you by getting a good grip, presentation, sight picture, and focusing on the trigger press itself. If your sights are on target, your grip is good, and your trigger press is good, the bullet will go where you want it to, so you want to focus on those things.
However good a tool dry firing is – and it’s one of the best things a shooter can do to improve their shooting – you also need live fire reps. Do the same thing at the range. Don’t worry about drawing from the holster, do some slow-firing instead with a surprise break.
It also doesn’t hurt to get some professional instruction. An hour or two with a trainer can pay off. This could be part of a class or a private session
Again, you’re never going to get rid of it entirely, but you can learn to manage it.