If you want to be the best at first person shooter games – if you want to be the very best, then there’s no way around it: you’re going to have to improve your flicking aim.
Flick shots are a staple of the highest-level competitive FPS gaming. You’ve probably watched the instant replays of a shot almost too quick to understand. You’ve seen the top ten videos of shots that made us wonder whether that player was a machine.
But how do you get that good at this difficult, deadly, expert-class bit of wizardry? What can you do to train your aim, improve your FPS game, and max out your skills? Also, what even is flicking aim, how is it different from tracking aim, and why would you even need to learn it? These questions and more, shall shortly be answered.
But First off, What is Flicking Aim?
There are a few ways of wording it. Flicking aim or aim flicking, flick shots and flick shooting, snapping, or even snap aim.
All of these terms refer to a method of taking shots in which your crosshairs begin some distance away from the enemy, and then you instantaneously flick your wrist and arm so the crosshairs snap onto your enemy just as you pull the trigger – and then you can flick away just as fast:
Imagine it. You’re looking one way, when an enemy pops up in a corner of the screen. Without even having to think, you’ve flicked your crosshairs dead center on their face, made a headshot, and snapped your crosshairs back to your original direction, before your enemy had time to do a thing, and barely an instant has gone by, and your original task is seemingly uninterrupted.
There are even players out there who have simply heard an enemy, and used flick shooting to take them out nearly blindly, nearly instantaneously, like a Jedi or a ninja.
Perfect flicking aim gives you absolute control over the space around you. It is precise, effective, and dominating. This is the magic of flick shooting.
Flick Shots vs. Tracking Shots
Your flicking aim is not the same skill as your tracking aim (though there are resources available for how to improve your tracking aim, as well). As the name implies, when you follow an enemy with your crosshairs for an extended period of time, that is tracking aim.
Tracking aim is usually a good fit for automatic weapons, which fire in a steady stream, while flicking aim is more appropriate for single-shot weapons.
There are exceptions to the rule, and both strategies can be used together. For instance, even while tracking an enemy, you might make small corrections with tiny, quick flicks, sometimes called “micro-flicking”.
But it can be helpful to know, in general, when to use which strategy. Flicking aim is not the solution for every problem, but it is a versatile skill that will boost your FPS skills dramatically.
Improving Your Flicking Aim: Start with Your Gear
All the practice in the world isn’t going to make a big difference if you don’t have the right gear. Just like you wouldn’t learn guitar on untuned strings, before beginning your flicking aim training, you should take a look at your mouse and your mousepad.
Most experts agree that a lightweight mouse is best for flick shots. If the whole point is to move with the speed of a hummingbird, you can’t expect success at the size of an ostrich.
A lightweight mouse will allow your wrist and arm to move at maximum speed with minimum resistance. Also, remember to keep it simple! Most pros use a simple mouse with only one or two thumb buttons.
DPI isn’t a huge concern here, but we’ll talk more about sensitivity later. You do want a low response time.
And lastly, make sure it’s comfortable! Training for flick shots is going to take time and practice!
The goal is to make your hand movements smooth, quick, and precise, the arm, wrist, and mouse functioning as one – so invest in a mouse that feels comfortable in the hand, that you’ll be able to use with ease, and that won’t become a burden after hours of practice.
If you can do so safely, see if you can try out your mouse options in a physical store before purchasing. A little extra preparation can make a big difference.
For your mousepad, you want to make smoothness a priority. You will be playing on this mousepad for extended periods of time. Make sure the mousepad is smooth and your mouse is gliding perfectly on it.
The other consideration is size, and this is important: try to get the largest mousepad you can. To execute some of the techniques we’re going to talk about, you’re going to need as much space as possible.
Flicking just isn’t practical if you have to pick up your mouse and readjust it mid-shot. And you sure don’t want to fling your arm out wide for a snap, overshoot the bounds of your mousepad, and knock over a drink, say, all over your gaming gear. The best practice, then, is to seek out the largest pad your setup can handle.
And while we’re at it, a comfortable headset and comfortable glasses are going to make your long hours of practice the best experience possible – and you’re going to need long hours, to make flick shooting into a reflex, not something you have to think about.
On the one hand, we keep talking about speed. The flicking shot is a quick movement. So you might think that a high mouse sensitivity would help you achieve this lightning maneuver.
However, the flicking shot is also a precise movement. To spin quickly across the screen and let out one single elegant shot, but it lands ten feet from any opponent … is not useful.
All the speed in the world isn’t worth a thing if it doesn’t come on top of a foundation of precision aiming and skill.
Surprising as it might be, most pros avoid using a high mouse sensitivity for flicking aim. For speed, they train their arms and their wrist, while keeping their mouse at a normal sensitivity in order to be precise as well.
Move with the Whole Arm
This might be the number 1 change most aspiring flick-shooters need to make.
Let’s try an easy experiment. Flick your hand from left to right using just your wrist, and note how much distance you can cover. Now try it again, but this time, instead of pivoting on your wrist, let the motion come from your shoulder, travel down through the elbow, into the wrist, and pay attention to how much distance you cover now.
The difference is dramatic, isn’t it? Your arm is capable of exponentially more than just your wrist – and not only that, using your arm is more efficient and comfortable, too. Save yourself the wrist cramps and inefficient movements.
This is something painters have known for centuries. Baseball players know it, too. You’ll want to get comfortable using your whole arm for movement.
Moving your whole arm instead of just your wrist, you’ll be capable of much more. You’ll be able to turn a full 180 degrees without lifting your mouse or interrupting your movement, and go anywhere with ease.
That doesn’t mean this change will instantly make you a ninja. At first, your aim will probably be worse. That’s okay. It makes perfect sense. We’re taught since preschool to write and draw using only our wrists – you probably aren’t used to using your whole arm in this way. It’s an entirely different way of using your arm.
Don’t be disappointed in your awkwardness at first. Allow yourself this time of awkward practice.
At the end of it, when you learn to aim with your whole arm, your technique will be far more versatile than what the wrist-aimers are even physically capable of.
Make Small Movements with Your Wrist
That might, at first glance, seem like a contradiction, but hear me out. Using your full arm enables you to make large movements more elegantly.
Moving with your wrist enables you to make smaller movements more precisely. Once again, we can see examples of this with artists. Artists draw large lines with their arms and small details with their wrists.
For instance, when drawing a face, an artist will outline the head using their whole arm, but draw eyes and other small details with delicate wrist (or even finger) movements.
The equivalent for competitive FPS gaming is distance. When enemies are far away, they are close together, tiny distances apart, on the screen—and when enemies are up close to you, the distances between them take up the whole, or even more than your entire, screen.
If you are far away from enemies, a small, precise wrist movement is enough to snap your crosshairs across those short distances and to proper aim.
If you are close to your target, the distance you have to turn is much greater, so you’ll want to use your whole arm to turn widely without interruption.
When you really get this technique down, to make large turns, you’ll move your whole arm to put the crosshairs close to your target, while simultaneously making small adjustments with your wrist, to hone in on your enemy.
Combining large arm movements with tiny wrist movements is the most versatile, efficient, and effective way to make your aim impeccable.
Crazy Idea: Take an Art Class
If you have a lot of trouble getting used to moving with your whole arm, here’s a crazy idea that might help.
We’ve already brought up artists twice. They’ve been using this technique for centuries, while competitive first-person shooter games have existed barely for decades.
Try taking an art class. Who better than an art teacher to help you learn smooth arm and wrist movements?
Try learning to paint using your whole arm for broad strokes, and your wrist for fine corrections. Find a teacher who can help you make your movements smooth.
And once you’ve mastered smooth curves to any corner of the canvas, perhaps you’ll find that you’ve also mastered perfect turns to any corner of your gaming screen.
The precision and muscle movements will be identical, and all that will be left to add in will be the speed.
At the end of the day, a flick shot is meant to be faster than your opponents can even register.
For this, you have to be faster than your conscious brain can even process.
You have to prepare your arm, wrist, and trigger-finger to operate without needing detailed instructions from your brain. A flick shot is instinctual, reactionary. It needs to become a thoughtless reflex.
If you have to consider how far across the screen your enemy is, and think, “Should I use mostly my arm or mostly my wrist?”, and calculate how far to move, with how much strength to trigger your muscles – if you have to think at all, then you’re already too slow.
But bear in mind, that statement is regarding the final product. In the end, what you’re striving for, is to not need to think when flick aiming.
But in order to get to that end…
Practice, Practice, and, If You Have the Time for It, Practice Some More
To master a fast technique, you first have to master it slow. If you can’t yet aim at a fast speed, continuing to whip the crosshairs around won’t help you improve your game. You have to slow down and think about whether you overshot, undershot; slow down and think about what adjustments to make to improve next time.
You have to slow down to speed up.
Speed without precision is worthless – you’ll be shooting fast, but hitting nothing. Whereas, if you develop your aim first, and your speed is lacking, you still will be making good shots!
This means that even during your training process, you will still be playing your game at a solid level. And you can speed up gradually, over time.
Allow yourself that time. Get good at working slowly, try shooting a bit faster, then a bit faster, then a bit faster. You have to repeat the motions to make them instinctual.
And over time, your arm and hand muscles will learn.
Eventually, they will know more about aiming than your brain. You won’t even remember what it used to be like, dragging your mouse slowly across the screen using only your wrist, thinking about how to aim; you’ll no longer be thinking, you’ll be flicking by instinct.
There are two main philosophies for how to practice your flicking aim.
One holds that playing the game itself is the best way to get good at the game. Whatever your FPS game of choice is, just play it. That’s the best way to practice and earn that muscle memory we were talking about.
Proponents of this philosophy say that there are nuances to every game, and each game can only be thoroughly understood and learned by playing it repeatedly. No other game is going to teach you how to play this one, they believe.
But other players think there is value to practice strategies that lie outside the game itself. Aim trainers, for example, allow you to work on particular skills one at a time, which you can then bring back to your particular game of choice.
Many aim trainers are available for free. You can use them to hone in on whatever skills you need the most practice for. AimBooster, for instance, has a mode all about speed, another all about precision, even a mode specifically designed to improve your reaction time, as well as an “autobalanced” mode, which is advertised as the “best mode ever trust me”.
You can use aim trainers to practice one skill at a time, over and over, and build your muscle memory. Or you can play your chosen game, over and over, and learn all its quirks and nuances, and build your muscle memory.
Both paths are solid strategies for improving not just your flicking aim, but all your competitive FPS skills.
Anticipate Enemy Movements and Positioning
Flick shots give you extra ability to react to unexpected enemy maneuvering.
But it’s still better, whenever possible, to avoid the unexpected.
The most effective strategy for aiming is to anticipate where your enemy is going to be. Train your crosshairs on the spot you think the enemy will be before going around a corner.
Wait with your crosshairs on the edge of the passageway—the spot your enemies have to pass through.
And if an enemy appears unexpectedly on the other side of the passage, then you can flick shoot to their new location.
Even if you’re not right 100% of the time, trying to anticipate your enemy’s location will get you closer to the right spot when you have to flick – making your flicks simpler to execute, and more accurate.
Weaknesses of Flicking Shots
On the one hand, flick shots are a staple of high-level competitive FPS games.
But there are skeptics, who don’t believe flicking skills to be worth the trouble of all that training and time. The skeptics point out the low accuracy of flick shots.
It makes sense: especially if you’re still learning, when you’re trying to move as fast as possible, with as few movements as possible, then a lot of the time, you’re going to miss.
But the skeptics also point out that even at the highest level of play, when players use flick shots, they are less consistent.
Flick shots are a risk; they are not as consistently accurate as other methods of aiming. However, to counter those skeptics, it should be noted that flick shooting is widespread among the highest level of FPS gaming, and the greatest players in the world.
But why would that be? Why would the very best players flick in such high-stakes games? If flicking shots make you less consistent, yet flicking shots are widespread among the very best players, what is going on here?
Quantity versus Quality
Sure, flick shooting doesn’t always land you a kill. What it does, though, is it allows you many more opportunities for kills. Once you’ve mastered flick shooting, you will be taking many more shots than you were able to before.
You will be able to take shots that were impossible before, due to the high versatility of flick shooting. And you will also be able to take simply more shots in the same amount of time, because of snapping’s speed.
This is why pro gamers still use flick shooting. Even if the percentage of hits goes down a little, since the number of shots goes up a lot, their hits and kills will improve dramatically.
Remember that, when working on your own flicking aim. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, flicking will probably never be “perfect”. But if your flicking aim is good, your game is going to be great.
Try Your Best, and Have Fun!
Look over your gear, and make sure it’s not hampering you.
Practice proper arm movement, to open the door to the most masterful gameplay techniques.
Slow down and put in the time to perfect your aim. Practice in your preferred game to understand its nuances, and practice in aim trainers or elsewhere for particular skill training.
Speed up your technique and turn it into a reflex.
And in the end, even if your flick shots are not 100%, chances are, you’ve still improved your competitive gameplay. You will now be capable of more than you imagined when you started this process!