Managing Recoil


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Apr 10, 2010
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S.C.I. International. Rowland Ward. Sporting shooters Association of Australia. Australian Deer Association.
Aus. N.Z & Zim.
In response to the thread regarding muzzle breaks, and a very valid point by one reply who suggested that those who disagree with the use of brakes should provide some effective, constructive options to alternatives in managing recoil in big bores.

I do not profess to have all of the answers, but I will post what I have learnt and what I do to manage the recoil in my heavy rifles.

I hope that all those who frequent this site also input valuable contributions that may help others avoid the need for what some of us consider a counter-productive firearms accessory, the muzzle break.

The very first point I will make is gun fit.

Im not here to suggest that every big bore rifle needs to be custom made. What I will suggest is that in order to minimize felt recoil and increase control of the firearm in recoil, proper gun fit is essential/mandatory. We all come in different shapes and sizes, with different lengths of pull, different grasps on the wood stock with different sized palms etc...The generic dimensions provided by factory made (mass produced rifles) do not fit ALL. Heavy kicking rifles should be cut to the correct length of pull for YOU, not the general market.

I have all my big guns cut to 1/4 to 1/2 an inch shorter than my actual length of pull as I have found this allows me to "pull" the gun in closer for a tighter fit, and hence better control. Being of relative small stature with smallish hands I also have the pistol grip and the fore-end thinned down to the point where at least 3/4 of the surface area of both of my palms are in constant contact with the wood stock in the normal holding position. A thin grip and fore-end allows for more recoil absorption through the hands and more rifle control as well. Once the desired length of pull is achieved I always have a good quality kick pad installed, the Pachmyre is very comfortable and effective in taming felt recoil.

With any big bore I have found that the less the drop at heel, the less the felt kick. Unless your rifle comes stocked this way from the start this measurement is hard to change without actually starting with a new stock.

Of course weight can also go along way in reducing felt recoil. Personally, I prefer my rifles relatively light and am currently having two 45 cal + rifles built, both will weigh less than 8.5 lbs, that is my personal preference. Reasonable carrying weights for big bores can be up to 9 or 10 lbs for 500's etc, I just personally prefer not to lug around a beast weighing this much for four or five months of the year. But if it helps you, then by all means use some additional weight for control.

Last summer I spent several months modifying the stock on my new CZ 550, in Lott to the above requirements. I hand rubbed the stock down, removed some 1 1/2 lbs of weight, thinned down the pistol grip and fore-end, had a pad installed (along with new open sights and a single stage trigger) and shortened the pull to 13 1/2 inches. The gun now points like a shotgun and is very comfortable to shoot. In its original shape, despite my previous comfort with the same cartridge in a different rifle, the gun was a pig to shoot over the bench. The cost of the stock-work was about $400 including $300 for a stock maker to re-checker it for me.

Next to correct gun fit, the most important tool available for managing recoil would be a proper and intensive familiarization process.

It is my belief that any rifle to be taken on a hunt that provides some element of risk should have at least 200 rounds through the barrel in a controlled environment (range). If you can, start by using mild loads in the gun until the stock and handling properties become familiar. There's no shame in padding your shoulder down at the range during this stage of getting to know the firearm. Also, whilst at the range, use ear muffs AND plugs whilst practicing. Muzzle blast contributes a great deal to felt recoil. The new weighted shooting rests such as the "lead-sled" provide an ideal opportunity to get familiar with the gun without getting pounded into oblivion by recoil you're not used to. If you can manage bench sessions that do not create any apprehension and you can shoot the gun comfortably with mild loads and all the other precautions mentioned, stepping up to full power loads will be far more agreeable and by this stage you'll have a good "grip" on the gun and it's characteristics.

I still remember the very first time, as an 12 year old, when I fired a 30/06 with full power loads. It was incredible and at that stage I thought I'd never be able to handle anything larger. Now, I have little issue benching 40 rounds from my Lott and grouping the bullets simply through exposure and familiarizing myself with properly fitting rifles.

Beyond these suggestions there are other factors such as proper stance and holding technique and firing technique that I'm sure there are better qualified people using this site better able to contribute than I would. Also there are many of you out there that have your own suggestions for managing recoil that I hope you contribute, ALL of which MUST be better for all of us concerned than relying on vented ports on the end of a barrel that compromise back-up situations and blow P.H's ear drums into next week.

I'm looking forward to your positive contributions on a subject that many of us take for granted. I hope you can help out with advice which may lead to many more rifle shooters becoming comfortable and effective with the big bore cartridges that we all love to use.



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Apr 25, 2010
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US, Canada, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana
Time for humour. A master hunter was carrying my 375 blaser in Namibia and somehow the recoil pad came off! This, at the beginning of the Safari. The outfitter, Peter Thormahlen, ducktaped a sock to the Butt. I proceeded to collect the Rhino, Lion and a wonderful collection of game. We took about 20 animals using the 375 H&H as well as the 300 win mag interchangeable barrel. With a sock. So I can recommend a white, mildly used athletic sock. There are piston style recoil pad systems out there as an alternative.


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Sep 3, 2009
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Tanzania, Nepal, Canada,

Very adroit post !! shall savor the practical discription of the big bores recoil facts you put forth.


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