The Horror of Shotgun Recoil

By Randy Wakeman

Discussed in more detail in previous articles, the subject of recoil is one that just won�t go away. There are things that make a tangible difference in shotgun shooting comfort and most of the drama included in recoil discussions is not particularly helpful.

This rule holds true for all firearms: other factors being equal, heavier guns are more comfortable to shoot. It is simply a matter of physics. Regardless of firearm, if that firearm is heavier it will have less rearward force on your shoulder than a lighter gun. There is a lot to be said for shooting the heaviest shotgun that you can reasonably carry when recoil is an issue.

Fixed breech guns deliver all of their kick directly to your shoulder and are the hardest kicking guns made. There is no question about it; if you want a soft shooting gun, a gas operated autoloader is the answer.

Beyond that, the eternal recoil questions have simple answers, but not the answers that you might want to hear. If a gun pounds you to the point of discomfort, you have a limited number of options: use a lower velocity load, use a lighter payload, or both. That�s it, those are the only things that mean something to a gun you already own.

You can forget backboring, gauge, wads, powder and pressure. Pressure in a shotshell, meaning the maximum average peak pressure, happens inside the shell and has nothing to do with recoil. You cannot get away from the fundamentals of muzzle velocity and shotshell payload. Nothing comes close to careful shotshell selection if recoil is an issue for you. Porting (in a shotgun) won�t change your world, except to annoy those around you. Aftermarket chokes can do a lot of things, but reducing recoil in a meaningful way isn�t one of them. It still comes down to reduce payload or reduce velocity if you want to make your shooting more comfortable.

Sure, recoil pads help soak up recoil. Kick-Eez and Limbsaver remain the two choices I�ve found to be most helpful. The Limbsaver padded shirts and vests also help. So does the �PAST� pad, although most find it impractical in the field, even if it is an effective barrier at the bench.

This brief article does not try to sell you on drilling extra holes in your barrel, it does not suggest that bore diameter means anything and hopefully it will persuade you that powder, wad and other trivial matters are just that: trivia.

Common sense and matters of fact are usually hyperbole free. Recoil is a simplistic matter. A somewhat heavy, gas-operated auto that fits you with a Limbsaver pad and relatively light and slow shotshells can be an eerie, almost recoil-less shotgun to shoot: you know you�ve �found it� when you can barely feel the action working.

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Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.