Sims Limbsaver Recoil Pads: The Best I've Ever Used

By Randy Wakeman

Sims Limbsaver
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

When it comes to recoil, the fundamentals have not changed. In rough terms, a 10% increase in firearm weight reduces free recoil about 10%, or a "one to one" ratio. Decreasing payload or payload velocity nets you about a 20% decrease in recoil. Whether you elect to use a load with a muzzle velocity 10% less, or reduce the weight of the ejecta by 10%, you'll get in the area of a 2:1 reduction in free recoil, all things being equal.

Over the years, I've used a variety of gizmos to attempt to cheat the system. Particularly in clays work, where the cumulative effects of recoil take their toll after a few cases of shells, I think I've been through a goodly portion of the recoil regalia. If you are dumb, you'd better be tough. Oral surgery to pull a mass of scar tissue out of my right "chipmunk cheek" shows that, in times past, I've shown signs of at least the former.

Dead mules may not kick, the product is an amusing noisemaker, but the recoil reduction is more placebo effect than anything else. Mercury recoil reducers do reduce recoil a bit, but I can't say that they do so any more than one would naturally expect by adding the equivalent amount of weight. Going the gas gun route certainly breaks up the recoil pulse, but changing an action type is not always desirable or possible.

Recoil pads attempt to attenuate recoil, soften, absorb, and manage it. There are drawers full of these gems here, from the instant collapse type that offer you the pleasure of the double-kick: once when you pull the trigger, the other when it bottoms out with that joyous sensation of being pounded into the ground by a tent stake.

Some ultra-thick, ultra mushy pads like the "Triple X" pad are offensive to the eye and easily take a set when guns are placed in a rack. You might enjoy the variety of a gun that shoulders differently every time you mount it, but I've gotten past this unusual "variety is the spice" form of entertainment. Decelerator, Terminator and other pads do a reasonably good job, but nothing notable, which is why I've not noted them. To date, the only pad that has done a good job in soaking up felt recoil for me to any significant degree is the Kick-Eez sorbothane pad. It is solid and heavy, but if anyone has asked about a recoil pad, the Kick-Eez pad is the only one that I have ever been able to recommend with confidence. I still appreciate Kick-Eez pads, but obviously now there is another pad I can recommend with gusto; the subject of this review.

Two guns were selected for the initial field tests with Sims pre-fit pads: the Savage 10ML-II laminated muzzleloader, and the Thompson Encore. The Savage 10ML-II is not a hard kicker with my normal hunting loads, but after a long powder and bullet testing session at the range with hotter loads, I have found myself reaching for a PAST pad, or groaning when the 100th shot of the day is squeezed off. In factory configuration, it comes with no recoil "pad" at all, just a hard rubber butt plate. This was replaced with the Limbsaver #10601 "Precision-Fit" pad, and I've never had such a great fit from a pre-fit pad before.

Installation took just a couple of minutes, remove two wood screws and screw in two wood screws. The picture tells the story; I think it looks great. The "Michelin Man" sides of the Limbsaver blend in well. There is a tiny amount of proud wood at the toe area, but it is not noticeable.

The Thompson Encore installation was not quite as hassle free, as Thompson used two different screws in my walnut buttstock. Replacing the Thompson factory plastic crucifix with Limbsaver # 10030, the pad fits beautifully at the top and sides, but there is quite a bit of excess pad at the toe. Thompson, in their borderline clever way, has made a few random length-of-pull running production changes to their Encore stocks, as they have told me. Maybe they should tell those that try to follow the plot line as well?

Though I shoot my Encore most often in muzzleloader configuration, I popped on a factory Thompson factory .308 barrel. This is is light, handy, and after a box of 180 grain factory cartridges, has left me with all the fun I can stand popping paper with it.

The performance of these Limbsaver pads was nothing short of superlative. In the case of the Savage 10ML-II it gave me a welcomed increase in length of pull of about one half inch. As I was shooting it again today with heavier bullets and hotter loads than typical, I can tell you that I feel as if I wasn't shooting at all. "Felt recoil" is subjective, of course, but my guess estimate is that it cut recoil by about one third. It really is a no-brainer to pop one of these on a Savage, an observation for which I am uniquely qualified.

The Encore never has tolerated high recoil loads well, despite its being a fairly heavy gun in muzzleloader configuration. As a lighter centerfire, it does worse. Again I was delighted how well the Limbsaver took care of the jolt, and the 180 grain .308 loads I was shooting became markedly sedate. A rough guess was about one third less felt recoil, and in this case the length of pull remains effectively the same.

The Sims Limbsaver pads are sensational, and add no significant weight to the gun. There is, I believe, a pneumatic chamber and series of baffles inside them, but dissection was not part of the test. Anything that makes shooting a more enjoyable experience is worthwhile, and I believe it helps brings younger, older, and "prettier shooters" into the sport. I don't often wax enthusiastic over too many products, but the Sims Limbsaver pads are the best of breed and worthy of consideration by anyone who wants their weapons to be lethal on only one end.

Back to General Firearms & Shooting

Copyright 2006, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.