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Forum Index > Rifles general discussion > Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil

Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil

22 Jun 2017
@ 02:38 pm (GMT)

Lane Salvato

I see a lot of talk these days about recoil. Mostly how to avoid it. I've read all of Nathan's books, but for sure "The Practical Guide to Long Range Shooting" gives some excellent details on proper shooting technique. The weight of the rifle, the type of stock, and a person's shooting technique make a big difference in perceived recoil.

It is an issue because many guys don't learn proper shooting technique, and settle for smaller calibers, which may not be suitable for a wide range of game. I've learned a lot from Nathan's books, but shooting technique, and understanding about proper grip (Hold that Fore-End), and managing the weight of the rifle make a very big difference in perceived recoil.

If you are young and healthy, or middle-aged and mostly healthy, and want to shoot long range, or shoot heavier calibers at closer range, Nathan's books and articles are worth the investment. I used to try and stay at a 270 Winchester or smaller, and now I'm not afraid to make hay with the 338 Win. Mag.

My 55-year old boss routinely loads and shoots a 375 Magnum, mostly because he's insane, but also because he understands proper technique and thinks it's fun. My other hunting buddy is a Weatherby man, and loves to take whitetails at long distances with a 340 Weatherby. He's a very small fellow, 140 lb soaking wet (but he does have a big beard), and the 340 doesn't bother him. Again, this is due to proper rifle construction, and practice with proper technique.

It's a bad thing not to be able to shoot what you want caliber-wise because you're recoil shy if you haven't learned good technique. It's possible for just about anyone who isn't suffering from a real injury. Even if you are injured or have bad arthritis, learning proper technique is going to make lighter recoiling rifles all the more pleasant to shoot.

I'm grateful to Nathan for what I've learned and how my technique, while far from perfect, is improving. I don't always shoot a big bore, but when I do, I use Nathan's techniques. Shoot straight my friends!


22 Jun 2017
@ 05:48 pm (GMT)

Jon Short

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
I second that!
23 Jun 2017
@ 01:24 am (GMT)

Ricardo Laborin

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Amen! But, once knowledgeable of technique, stock and weight.... No broom-weight .300's
23 Jun 2017
@ 10:19 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
See my comments in Brendon's post.........

Couldn't agree more Lane.

For those lucky enough........... think back to when your Granddad taught you to shoot, it didn't matter if it was a single shot 22 or a 303 the technique employed was the bloody same, period.

Solid rig, Solid technique = Solid outcomes!
23 Jun 2017
@ 11:49 am (GMT)

Stephanie Foster

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
I am really glad that you started this thread Lane because I find the subject of recoil very fascinating. What I find so interesting is the question when did recoil and the avoidance of it become paramount when using a rifle? It seems that people spend more time thinking about recoil than they do thinking about a planned hunt. So to me it seems that maybe the issue is more about where a person puts their focus, rather than actual recoil.

Maybe I have been very fortunate in the sense that over the years I could not afford to worry about recoil. I mean it. I don't even think about it - at all. The reason for this is because every time I go out with a rifle (or 2 or even 3), regardless of what caliber it is, I have a job to do. Generally I will have a couple of rifles with various loads that need testing on animals at different angles and a small window of opportunity to get the shots I need once the first shot has been fired. I have no time to think about recoil! Get in, get the job done!

For some months now I have been going out with a .358 Norma, the .35 Whelen, the 7mm Practical, our little AR .223, the 6.5, .308, 7mm Rem Mag and a .300 Win Mag. None of these rifles are braked or weigh less than 9lb. The only one that actually fits me properly is my 7 Rem Mag. I walk to where I can get the shots I need, often carrying a couple of rifles so I can get the results. A classic example of a day for me is getting close enough to animals to use the Whelen at close to intermediate ranges and then once the animals get further out, swap to a Magnum to test at longer ranges. And then it is time to gather the carcasses, autopsy, get them into the trailer and get home in time to cook tea. I honestly have no time to think about recoil - doesn't even cross my mind.

The most intense recoil I have ever felt was from using the .375 RUM unbraked firing 300gr bullets at 2950fps, the rifle weighed 9.5lb. I have to admit that this is my absolute limit as far as recoil goes. I did shoot some animals with it but it was not a happy experience. It was the first time I had ever felt like I had been kicked in the jaw when I pulled the trigger lol!

I understand that not many people are hunting with the intensity that Nathan and I do but that kind of makes my point. It strikes me that the issue of recoil comes from having too much time on your hands. Because of the lifestyles that so many people are forced to lead there is more space for thinking about hunting than there is actually doing it. And when our brains get busy things can very quickly get out of proportion - small hills very easily become mountains. Also I think making recoil a big issue is a marketing ploy by various companies who sell gadgetry. There are solutions for sale out there for problems you didn't even know you had!

So at the end of the day I think the issue of recoil is just about where you put your focus. And perhaps the question people need to ask themselves is, is recoil really an issue for me or have I just let myself be sidetracked by it because I have lost focus on what my true goal is?


23 Jun 2017
@ 02:01 pm (GMT)

Lane Salvato

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Man this is good stuff Steph. It's so good to play around with medium bores, and other larger calibers. So nice to see what happens when a 35 caliber impacts any animal.

I asked my 340 Weatherby friend one time why he shot such a big bore at small animals, and he said "well, I do it because I can."

If one thinks about it, we climb hills, suffer cold, heat, sweat, mosquitos, encounters with snakes, and the occasional bear or cougar, all for the love of pursuing game. What's the big deal about recoil?

We got to be tough!
24 Jun 2017
@ 01:27 am (GMT)

mark whiteley

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
I have to agree with you Lane this discussion is bringing out some good stuff
I also agree with you about using a proper technique, weight of rifle and stock type to manage recoil

I must admit I have never noticed recoil or remembered it when shooting at an animal with any caliber up to 458 lott
but I do not enjoy heavy felt recoil such as from a 505 gibbs or a 600 n/e,
if you ever want to feel your brain shaking around in your scull shoot them,
the 458 lott is at my personal limits to what I want to shoot and that is not at long distance or what I call very accurate shooting

recoil is unavoidable when shooting and must be managed
proper bullet placement is the principle factor in killing power
consistent bullet placement is not possible if the shooter jerks the trigger or flinches because of recoil
hence a proper technique, weight of rifle and stock type to manage recoil

as you get older you are supposed to get wiser, this wisdom would make you try to reduce something that is kicking the shit out of you and causing your shooting to become average, especially if you have an injury, seriously why not make it better if you can, this is why I added my 2 cents worth in Brendon's post as he has a shoulder injury as I have so I offered advise that has worked for me to try and help him out

as Martin said in Brendon's post it would be ludicrous to get a big 1" lump of soft jelly and screw it onto the back of your rifle,
that's why I suggested the 1" decelerator pad, I would never use soft jelly lol
The camera part he talks about holds a heap of merit as you can see your technique and setup in action and make sure your rifle is recoiling straight back like it should

last weekend my 13 year old daughter who is 50 kg's and stands 4.5 ft shot my 6.5x55 with a stiff loaded 140gr bullet, she wants to shoot a deer with dad so I asked her to prove to me she could shoot a medium cal accurately
she did, she was shooting prone off bags hitting clay targets solidly at 180yds no misses, 20 of them, I have taught her very good technique with a well set up rifle
I would say that would be at her limit at this time but she has worked up to it shooting 22 rimfire, 22 hornet, 222, 22-250 and 6mm dasher very accurately
the more shooting she does and gets used to the bigger the recoil she can try

am I doing the wrong thing by not throwing her in at the deep end to toughen her up?

so what would be the benefit of a lowering the recoil felt in a rifle?
I would say it is easier to shoot more accurately
especially for the injured, young or people learning to shoot

discussions like this are enjoyable even if I act a bit like the devils advocate

regards Mark

24 Jun 2017
@ 08:09 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Stephanie makes the point that I think is the crucial piece of so many things. If I know my purpose and am able to focus on it then I am better able to understand the tool(s) to help achieve that purpose. Once I have confidence that I have the right tool, I will focus on learning to use it well. Many purposes, once clearly identified, render a lot of considerations tertiary. If I am going to be pursuing an animal that has the capacity and perhaps the disposition to harm me then comfortable recoil becomes a luxury, not a necessity. But proper technique becomes more of a necessity than ever. Likewise, if my purpose is to kill deer cleanly out to 100 yards that purpose should create a pool of optimal tools. If my purpose is to kill cleanly out to 1000 then the purpose changes the pool.

"Because of the lifestyles that so many people are forced to lead there is more space for thinking about hunting than there is actually doing it. And when our brains get busy things can very quickly get out of proportion - small hills very easily become mountains." Well stated. I think a large chunk of corporate marketing is simply identifying "small hills" and presenting them as mountains alongside the product you produce to address the perceived mountain.

Lane brings up recoil and it's a terrific example but these notions apply in many areas of shooting, hunting, and outdoor pursuits of all kinds. How about Havalon knives? Rather than expect that someone who owns a knife to learn to care for it we'll just sell infinite replacement blades? Come on.

In coaching youth sports I've learned that there's a point at which you have to stop talking up the risks, speak success as your expectation, and let the kids play. I don't mean to presume, but I think Nathan's books include an element of this. Here are the pitfalls, now that they've been acknowledged, here are the tools and techniques you need to succeed, go succeed.

One of the interesting things that has come out of Nathan's books and the discussions in these forums are the different and more advanced descriptions of recoil. The recoil of a .45-70, of the 35 Whelen, etc., have been described not just as hard, harder, not as hard, and so on, but in much clearer terms. That has helped think to encourage my son, as he learns to shoot different calibers, not to fear recoil, but to analyze and compare it.
24 Jun 2017
@ 09:59 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
very interesting discussion indeed.
my personal take on it..... hearing protection goes a long way to adjusting the "percieved/imagined " part of recoil and this is I believe a huge part of the secret to why suppressors are so popular,sure they reduce recoil a bit,not as much as a brake but a fair bit. the noise reduction makes a huge difference.
my mid 80s .270 came from factory with too short of barrel for top velocities and it added to the volume of sound that my ears got battered with,now with can added its a much more pleasant rifle to shoot.
another really good case for the sound factor can be seen with the .12ga shotgun
the change to steel shot saw Alliant ASteel powder become the go to stuff for is LOUD very very loud,I can put together a light payload going mid range speed (1 oz at 1500fps) and if you fire it without knowing what it is most fellas will say its a hot heavy load yet it actually kicks very little but earmuffs are a must.
if you really want to feel brutal recoil try some of the Remington hypersonic shot shells in a gun without all the recoil reducing add ons eg a break open gun..... these are poking payload out at around the1600- 1700fps mark and they are just plain old naaasty to shoot many shotguns have malfunctioned or been broken from using them and most fellas wont use them anymore as they too brutal. I dont feel shotgun recoil when shooting at live game but taking an aimed shot while prone with the .12ga is a different kettle of fish.
earmuffs and hunting ducks from fixed position work but I will have to dig gorse out of my pocket and buy a sterio pair for jump shooting as picking direction of noise isnt possible otherwise.
24 Jun 2017
@ 10:45 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
OK, how do I post this without ending up with a divorce.

If recoil has a negative affect on accuracy, then it must be addressed. Accuracy must always come first.

When I am teaching, whether via the website, the books, one on one or via lectures, I begin by placing great emphasis on the stock and rifle design followed by technique. I do not expect folk to pick up the first POS they find and 'take it like a man'. But what I do hope, is that with the right kit and the right form, the client can use enough or more than enough power to achieve his or her goals with optimum accuracy.

But sometimes things just don't go the way we want them to. For example, Jon Short's sister in law wanted a nice carry weight rifle with enough power for deer, one that was not expensive and yet would shoot well without a great deal of work. A Tikka rifle in 7mm-08 fit the bill, using heavy bullet hand loads for both bush and open county. This lady has a fine build but is physically active. Her rig actually produces a great deal of recoil. But this is due to the design of the rifle, not the cartridge. There are various ways she could reduce this recoil but she like many woman has just put this out of her mind. She expects the rifle to do a job and so it does. Perspective is the key. In this instance, she is aware that the rifle physically pushes her back, pop's her head up under recoil and physically shifts her shoulder. So these are physical aspects. But she has yet to complain of any bruising. To me, this is an ultra light rig. To her, it is a medium weight rig.

Many times I have seen clients beaten into next week by very poorly designed rigs. We have dealt with the same here. I have shot client 7mm08 rifles that I loathe to this day for their unnecessary recoil. I can handle such a rifle and shoot it fine all day- but it grates on me to know that such a rig will handicap less experienced shooters. I also remember Steph once taking out an ultra light .300 Win Mag loaded with 180gr pills at 3070fps that really jarred her. I found the rifle somewhat more manageable but hopeless for truly good long range form. The trouble is, folk get put off the cartridges when most times, it is the gun design at fault combined with the rantings of some loud mouth 'expert' at the rifle range pushing poor shooting technique.

We are also fortunate in that on a single day, we may have three 7mm Rem Mags (as an example) side by side, each with different stocks. These situations really highlight major differences in stock / rifle designs.

You are correct Joshua when you say that I try to teach the reader / client to be more analytical towards recoil. I might for example say that a particular rifle produces a great deal of recoil which does not cause pain but due to the large movement, may effect accuracy. So yes, I do try to break it down. What I most want to achieve is to empower hunters. I believe Steph wants the same and her comments regarding high power should be seen as encouragement. I have never really likes the term "harden up" because we each have areas in our life where we may be very strong versus other physical, mental or emotional limitations that we may be struggling with. When dealing with our own limitations, we may need great courage to perform the most basic of tasks that another person might find easy. 'Harden up' is a very subjective and often damaging statement.

In any case, looking at Stephs's post, she is quite right, she shoots a lot of rifles and only a few fit her well. She will be quick to tell you which of these chamberings cause her to have to climb (I can generally tell her location from the swearing) into a ravine to retrieve a carcass following a long dead run versus those which drop the animal on the spot. I would hope that her comments here would be seen as a sign of encouragement.

Sufficient rifle weight, a good trigger and a good stock design followed by good technique. Thats the key. Unfortunately, many of the ultra lights we are seeing now produce very high recoil and beat the shooter into next week. You can come away from these without bruises but if the shooter is not practicing week to week, accuracy is often very poor. Gun makers sell these light weights to cater to our low fitness / modern lifestyles while at the same time saving money on materials. Its a win win for the gun maker. We pay for this with increased recoil. But the most recent trend from gun makers is the offering of low powered cartridges. Its a downward spiral.

Add ons are sometimes but not always necessary. The first things to look at is the design of your rifle and your form. But as we go up in power, we hit out limits. Both Steph and I get concussion headaches from some African rigs. There are two ways around this, one is to use a non traditional rifle design (such as when I fitted Clive's Precision Platforms stock to our .338 Edge). In this case, the stock is radically different to a slim M70 while the barrel has some meat to it. The more I shoot this stock design, the more merit I see in the design for heavy bush guns, not just long range rigs. The other way is to fit the likes of a brake.

The one thing we have to watch with add ons is that we are not trying to correct a flaw in the rifle design with an add on that creates new negative variables. Its all very well for folk to post about how for example a brake can fix recoil issues but you are not the ones who end up with these on your bench after the add on has created new problems. I came across a brake last week that was based on a half inch thread, but expected to handle big magnums, The brake was tiny, generating huge amounts of pressure. Long term, the muzzle will bulge. Simple as that. So to say "fit a brake" is on its own a hopeless statement. If the design, materials or machining are not optimal, you will ruin your rig.

Hopefully you will understand that there is more to this than just sticking stuff on your rifle. I see so many project rifles derailed before they have even had one shot fired through them, the client accidentally destroying any accuracy potential while increasing recoil in the way he has set the rifle up, often through no major fault of his own but simply due to the way the trigger behaves or how the scope fits its bases. Those of you who have seen my latest private client video tutorial will understand what I am saying here. Many hunters will never know just what they are capable of because they never have or never will actually use a decent rig. And this takes us back to the start regarding Lane's discussion heading - felt versus imagined recoil. My preferred term is perceived recoil. And by this I mean our perception of recoil relative to the power of the cartridge.

Quite often, recoil has very little to do with the actual size of cartridge.
24 Jun 2017
@ 11:00 am (GMT)

Phil Van Zuylen

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Excellent topic,well written responses, only thing to add is probably lack of trigger time for most of us these days unless you are lucky enough to have your own range!
01 Jul 2017
@ 12:15 pm (GMT)

Brian Vickerman

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
What really surprised me is the choice of factory load bullets can greatly affect recoil.

Last year when I bought my new 30-06 I bought 5 or 6 different types of factory loads and went to the range. As i went through various bullets i eventually got to the 180 gr. Remington Core-Lokts. My first shot and I asked myself " Where the Heck did that kick come from??"

Your bullet choice and loading can make a huge difference in recoil. Fear of recoil may cause a flinch which may cause inaccuracy which may cause etc. etc.

The choice of your bullet is also part of fitting the gun.

28 Aug 2017
@ 06:31 am (GMT)

Lane Salvato

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Got in some range time with a new 338 Win. Mag. today, and it became apparent after three shots, that I had my hand on the fore end but I wasn't holding it. Big difference I discovered. Makes me wonder how long I've been doing this. Hand on the fore end but not a good grip. Groups were 2 1/2-inches with 225 grain Interbonds.

Got down on it, and really concentrated, held that fore end with a death grip, and managed to get two groups to 1-inch. Not less than an inch, but an inch. This was with 225 grain SST's. The recoil really wasn't bad. It's just that the barrel is going to jump all over the place if it's not held. Never knew how much this affected accuracy for larger calibers.

I'd say of all the articles that I've read on the Knowledge Base, the "Hold that Fore End" article has been one of the most useful. I'll be out there again in a week or so with some 250 grain bullets, so the fun will continue.
28 Aug 2017
@ 10:01 am (GMT)

Brendon Greig

Re: Heavy Recoil versus Imagined Recoil
Hi Lane I know exactly what you mean if I don't get myself into the right position with my 7mm it jumps around but when you are right it hardly moves this is also aided by it being in the precision platform laminate stock which is very well designed


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