When I take newbies shooting for the very first time, the Number One thing that they’re concerned about isn’t noise or the high velocity piece of hot lead rocketing out the end of the firearm — it’s the recoil. They’re concerned that the gun will push them backwards or knock them down.

That’s not an entirely unfounded concern, but with typical firearm cartridges the chance that you’ll actually be thrown off balance or injured by the recoil is between slim to none. Especially with some good, basic instruction. Even so, recoil can slow down your follow-up shots and still be somewhat uncomfortable, especially over a long range session.

For those looking to reduce or virtually eliminate recoil here are my top three recommendations.

1. Shoot a Lighter Projectile

Recoil is nothing more than Newton’s third law in action. You’re throwing a heavy piece of lead very quickly downrange, and however much force that requires will be translated straight back into your shoulder. The simplest and easiest solution to lighten that that equal and opposite reaction is to lighten your projectiles. Heavier bullets need more force to be propelled downrange. Using a lighter round will require less force, and therefore you’ll feel less recoil as a result.

Some firearms won’t function with lighter projectiles. An AR-15 rifle, for example, needs a certain amount of back pressure in the barrel to pressurize the gas system and cycle the action. Lighter projectiles with less force are in the barrel for a shorter period of time, so there isn’t as much pressure available to operate the action. Your mileage may vary — experiment with different projectile weights and see which works best for you.

If using a lighter load doesn’t work, consider changing calibers. There’s a reason I start all my new shooters on a .22LR rifle and not a .50AE handgun.

2. Invest in a Good Muzzle Brake or Silencer

If a lighter projectile isn’t your thing, you can make Sir Isaac Newton work for you.

There are a lot of gasses escaping form the end of your barrel with every shot. Mostly, those gasses are vented into the atmosphere without doing anything else useful. Lazy-ass gasses.

The idea behind a muzzle brake is, rather than just venting those gasses, you can harness their energy. The brake works by using the forward motion of those gasses to pull the firearm forward, canceling out some of the recoil generated by the projectile leaving the barrel. You’ll never get 100% recoil mitigation, but a brake will definitely help.

Another form of muzzle brake that has the same kind of effect is a silencer. If you’re looking to make your gun quieter as well as more comfortable to shoot, a silencer checks way more than just the one box at a time.

3. Improve Your Stance

It’s not the gun — it’s you.

Proper stance can make an amazing amount of difference in felt recoil. Ideally, recoil should be directed straight back into your shoulder where it can be absorbed through your body, all the way down to your feet. Having a slightly forward stance with the gun firmly tucked in your shoulder and a solid grip on a properly fitted and held firearm will do far more to mitigate the impact of recoil than any muzzle device. And when combining a proper stance with a muzzle brake results in a firearm that stays steady as a rock even through full auto fire.

Experiment with a variety of guns and calibers. Get some training and practice good form…you too will be able to handle recoil like a boss.

48 Responses to Three Best Ways to Eliminate Felt Recoil

  1. Well, to be super nerdy about it I could point out that the absolute best way to reduce felt recoil is to not fire the weapon – but that is no fun at all.

  2. Get a heavier gun or buy an expensive chassis or stock that will help. Mirage Ultra Long Rage makes such chassis. For a price.

    • You shouldn’t, they can definitely help. I’ve got a semi-auto rifle with no recoil pad, and a Remington 700 with the “SuperCell” recoil pad on it, both chambered in .308. There’s a very big difference in terms of felt recoil between them.

      • I put LimbSavers on my 12ga shotguns for two reasons; one is to lessen the felt recoil, which they do well, and the other (unrelated) is to increase the LOP, because I’m a big guy.

  3. Adjustable gas block, weaker buffer spring, light weight nickel boron or other BCG, and 2.8oz carbine buffer or less. A slick carrier will let you tone down the gas even more. Midlength gas on 14.5 inch barrel or rifle length on 18″. Put that all together for a nice easy shooting fun AR. I wouldn’t use it for shtf. You also have to use consistent ammo.

  4. I’m really only concerned with recoil shooting my shotgun. Anyone use a slip on Limbsaver or Pachmyr deal? Pistols or an AR is no big thing to me…

    • Since I have a bony shoulder, I bought a 1/2″ sheet of extra soft weather and abrasion resistant EPDM from McMaster Carr and just cut it into butt pads. It glues on securely with impact resistant super glue. You can make at least a dozen pads with $17 worth and they last at least a year and probably much longer if you don’t set the rifle vertically compressing them for weeks at a time.

    • Besides a gas operated autoloader and the normal recoil abatement measures there are many things (gimmicks?) used by target shooter that include mercury recoil reducers, porting and such. There is something new every year and most do very little. Adding weight of course works. One other thing that does work is something called the Evoshield. It’s a shirt that comes with a pad that you fit to the butt of your shotgun.

      It was recommended to me the first time I went dove shooting in Argentina. You can easily shoot a thousand or more rounds a day there. Really the number of shots depends on how much money you want to spend on shot shells not the number of targets available. The Evoshield worked extremely well for me.

      It is like an undershirt so you can wear other clothes under it. I would never go on an Argentinian dove shoot without one.

      http://www.evoshield.com/en-us/shooting?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhrzLBRC3ARIsAPmhsnUUDz7NMuYXxV6BSupkWdzvHETqqw-Niz134N_4ECG4cVmPiRx101gaAv_fEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

    • I’ve got a Limbsaver slip on pad on my Rossi single shot 12 gauge and it works wonders for taming recoil. Just have to keep my head down so it doesn’t hit me in the cheek.

  5. Managing felt recoil in handguns comes down to a few things:
    1) cartridge power
    2) gun weight
    3) gun thickness

    As to 1: The more powerful the cartridge, the more recoil you’ll feel. There’s a reason the .45 delivers more felt recoil than a .40, which is more than a 9mm, which is more than a .380.

    As to 2: The heavier the gun, the less felt recoil. The lighter the gun, the more felt recoil.

    As to 3: The wider the handgrip, the more surface area the recoil energy is dissipated amongst, and the less perceived recoil felt by the shooter. The thinner the handgrip, the more concentrated the recoil energy will be, and the more it’ll hurt. Slap a big wide baseball bat, it doesn’t hurt much. Slap a knife edge, that hurts a whole lot more; same principle applies.

    These items added together explain why a lightweight single-stack Glock 43 displays a lot more felt recoil than a big fat heavy Glock 17, even though they’re shooting the same power cartridge. Or why a super-lightweight .380 like an LCP or TCP can have even worse felt recoil than a larger 9mm pistol.

    Finally, there’s revolver vs. semi; the cycling action of a semi can lead to lesser perceived recoil in the hand, as vs. the rigid frame of a revolver. Comparing something like a 9mm Glock 43 against a .38 Special +P Ruger LCR, the semi exhibits more power, with less felt recoil, than the little revolver does.

    If you’re teaching newbies, or they’re getting their first gun, a small thin revolver or single-stack semi is probably the worst choice if trying to manage recoil. As said, start ’em off with a .22LR, or get ’em used to a bigger/heavier pistol. A 30oz double-stack like a Springfield XD Mod.2 displays featherweight recoil, a 17oz single-stack Glock 43 displays much more recoil when shooting the exact same bullets.

    • A 340 PD with Underwood 180s will do the trick for almost any newbie. Dose them at the same time and the fear sticks for months to maybe forever;-)

    • My wife shot my lcr (.38) with no problem. Then she shot my lc9 once, gave a little scream and handed it back to me. That skinny little single stack 9 has such a sharp kick to it. So she got an lc380. The reduced power makes it a comfortable gun for her. Since then I’ve added a grip sleeve to lc9 to give it a wider grip, which really helps a lot.

  6. Double ear protection should be worn with muzzle brakes. I always wore protection practicing but unfortunately hunting I didn’t and I have paid the price in hearing loss. I stay clear of muzzle brakes now. A silencer is a better option if practical.

    Another thing is to never shoot a hard kicking rifle from the bench without some real recoil protection like a Lead Sled. The recoil from a .458 WM is something else from the bench. I would shoot my .458 a lot and became pretty good with it. I always shot it from a standing position though at targets and while hunting. I had someone borrow my .458 to shoot an elephant and pulled the trigger while in a catcher’s squat position and ended up looking at the sky! The elephant was killed.

    It is a bit of a myth that smaller, smaller lighter people can’t shoot heavy recoiling rifles. Some can, some can’t. I have seen the same with large people. It is mostly mind set, proper position and practice. I knew a 105 pound woman that could shoot a .458 WM real well. She would flex with the recoil. A larger person absorbs all that recoil.

    In smaller rifles a lot of the aversion to recoil is in the mind. I knew a woman that had never shot before and she wanted to shoot an “elephant gun.” It was some sort of bragging rights. So I took her to the range and after some instruction with smaller rifles she was banging away with the .375 H&H. She seemed to be doing real well so I asked what she thought of the recoil. She replied “Recoil? You mean the push? I guess it is OK.” A lot of experienced shooters that have never shot something like a .375 would approach it with a bit of hesitation because of stories that they had heard and would get what they expected to get. Ignorance is sometimes bliss.

  7. Position makes a huge difference. Standing in isosceles/MOUT square instead of Weaver/bladed stance works for recoil control in pistols and rifles.

    Use of sling in rifles reduces recoil and steadies the rifle also.

    • Good point! I just automatically use a hasty sling when shooting rifle and it certainly does take some of the recoil off your shoulder. There are people that are very knowledgeable that say a sling used with stud mounted on the barrel in the English style will cause the rifle to pull left. I have tested it many times even going to far as to use weight on the barrel and haven’t been able to confirm this. The rifle shoots the same with or with the barrel mounted sling. Still I prefer the forward stud on the stock since I see no advantage to a barrel mounted sling stud except I guess some think it looks cool. No, I don’t see the claimed benefit of it protecting the forward hand from the stud in recoil. If the rifle recoil that far you would have more than your left hand to worry about.

  8. Install good recoil pad.
    Tuck the gun in so it can’t jump and bury itself in your tender flesh at inopportunate angle.
    Prove your machismo in ways other that shooting 30+ round prone from this Mossy with steel buttplate.

    There, you are good. You don’t even have to convince the Spouse that the bruises are not a gift from some bondage done under guise of “range trip”!

  9. I’ve eschewed breaks in the past but this one I’m working up now has me considering it. Damn interwebz!

    • Don’t put it there. Picture a clock with the hands at 12:30. The hour hand(at 12:00) is the rifle. Your body is the minute hand (@ 6:00). This places the butt on your collar bone near your neck. Now position your body ( the minute hand) somewhere between ( :35 and :40). This will move the butt into the pocket of your shoulder.

        • Mark,

          I do believe you are understanding correctly.

          If someone is hovering above you looking down at the Earth, your rifle and your body should not be in a straight line. Your rifle and your body should make an angle — of something like 160 degrees if you are familiar with angles.

          (If your body was in a straight line with your rifle, the “angle” would be 180 degrees. If your body and rifle made an angle like the corner of a square, that would be 90 degrees. I apologize if this seems condescending: I figure there are probably a lot of people that never really studied angles.)

  10. “Eliminate Felt Recoil”

    Gimme a friggin’ break.

    Nick has written some good articles for TTAG. This isn’t one of them.

    1. Shoot a less powerful cartridge. Such as starting out newbs with .22 rifles and .410 shotguns. And loading .38 Special in that .357 Magnum.

    2. Shoot a heavier gun. Like a full-sized duty pistol instead of a plastic pocket wonder in the same cartridge. Like a nice, heavy revolver with a 6 inch barrel instead of that lightweight 5-shot pocket snubby. Like a 10 pound trap shotgun instead of a 6 pound field gun.

    3. Shoot standing, not from a bench. The body absorbs recoil much better when it’s upright.

    4. Recoil pads. As mentioned.

    5. Make sure the buttstock is firmly against your shoulder pocket before you fire. You want the gun to push you, not kick you.

    Muzzle brakes are an abuse of those around you. They have their place, but a gun range with spectators on either side of you isn’t one of them. They really shouldn’t be on your top 3 list.

    Eliminate felt recoil? That has all the intelligence of the snowflakes who want to “eliminate gun violence.” Stop it. Just stop it. The laws of physics tell us that recoil is a thing. Learn the laws of physics to learn how to make it tolerable.

  11. And some guns are just going to kick the shit out of you.

    My LCR 357 can bring a tear to my eye when shot a lot.

    But it nothing like shooting a pump shotgun with slugs for me.

    Different bodies will object to recoil in different body parts.

    Start newas out with something soft and they will find theit limit in time. I find most people develop finches from the muzzle blast and not from recoil unless it’s a SW 342 with hot loads. Then it’s both blast and recoil

    • Yeah. Out of all the wide range of guns I’ve shot, it seems to me that 12 gauge slugs, particularly with 3in slugs (of course) has more felt recoil than just about anything else.

  12. Yep, get you some training. But first, grow a scruffy beard (ladies too) get some tats, buy some tacti pants, shirts (ladies tight low cut ones), hats, cool sunglasses, a para cord bracelet and tacti looking watch. Now you’ll be ready for some guy to show you the ropes of shooting. After you pay him/her of course.

  13. I have found the biggest thing for me is stock fit. I can fire a supposedly hard recoiling cartridge, but if the stock fits me I don’t really have a problem with it. I have also fired a 20-gauge gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that didn’t fit me that liked to have beat me to death. So, if someone asks my opinion about a particular gun for themselves, I usually tell them to make sure it fits them and feels “right” when they shoulder it and they should be okay.

  14. I put a 22 Oz homemade shot buffer in my 300 Weatherby and it changed it from spine breaking to merely really uncomfortable.

  15. Improving your stance is the key! Most people don’t realize that using a heavier gun will help with the recoil. Also, wearing gloves is the best thing I can recommend. Thanks a lot for the tips.

  16. #1… it’s not the projectile weight… its the combination of projectile weight and velocity. Also, known as Muzzle Energy (ME). ME (or the kinetic energy of the projectile) is defined by ME = 1/2 mv^2. So reducing the weight (m) certainly helps… shooting a slower projectile helps by the square of the velocity change. Shooting a projectile that is half the weight means half the energy. Shooting a load that imparts half the velocity means a quarter of the energy. (Not real world examples…)

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