Dave's Got Mail: The Flinch vs. the Rush

Readers talk about recoil in the field.

Field & Stream Online Editors

LAST WEEK I POSTED a letter from a reader named Bill, which in part read: "RULE NO. 1 - RECOIL ONLY OCCURS WHEN SIGHTING IN. I shoot a .30/06 BLR using the maximum loads I can, and I can honestly say I have never felt any recoil when shooting deer." I thought this might spark an interesting debate, so I asked you if recoil affects in-field accuracy. Here's what you had to say: - No, it doesn't. When you've got a deer in your sights, there's too much adrenaline flowing for you to think about your gun's kick. And if you're not thinking about it, it won't affect you. -Dan

- I suspect reader Bill suffers from a recoil-induced lobotomy. Magnumitus seems to be a serious problem with today's shooters. I can't for the life of me understand why someone would want to hunt with a gun that kicks like a mule and costs twice as much to shoot. If the rifle you shoot loosens your bridgework every time you pull the trigger, you are going to develop an uncontrollable flinch. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want to dig a wounded grizzly out of the alders with a .243. It's just that I can't justify toting a .300 WSM around the deer woods. Most deer are shot at distances under 200 yards. Forget about those 400-yard shots you keep reading about but never see. If shooters would practice regularly in field positions with light- to moderate-kicking guns, they would pack out a lot more venison. -Keith

- Does recoil affect field accuracy? I believe it does. If you teach yourself to flinch at the range, you are very likely going to flinch (subconsciously) when shooting at deer. I'm sure Bill was simply trying to say that the recoil you feel as you sight in is never felt when you're shooting at a deer. I would agree, and I'm certain you would, too. But if you're flinching at the range, how can you not flinch later? -Bruce

- Recoil affects my accuracy. I'm definitely not a "natural" shooter. I have to practice regularly at the range to maintain consistently tight groups. The harder a rifle kicks, the less I want to practice. I have a .30/06 in an old short-barreled, hard-kicking rifle. It's on the shelf until I put a recoil pad on it. I see lots of guys who bring their antitank rifles to the range just long enough to establish that it's sighted to shoot zero at 200 yards. Then I never see them again. They must all be "naturals." -Mike, Tucson, Arizona

- I have a Model 70 chambered in .300 Weatherby that sits in a fiberglass stock with no brake. The recoil is abusive, to say the least. I cannot tolerate more than 10 shots from this gun at the bench. Yet, it is one of my most accurate rifles. Having hunted and killed game with it, I can attest that felt recoil appears to be nonexistent in the field. Not only don't I feel the recoil, but the muzzle blast doesn't seem so loud. -Mark

- In the heat of the moment, I don't feel recoil either. But that doesn't mean it doesn't affect my shooting. I have switched over to Remington Managed Recoil ammunition. I like it a lot and am waiting for opening day to shoot a deer. -Brian

[NEXT "Continued"] - Whether hunters realize it or not, recoil does affect shots in the field. My primary hunting rifle is a Remington Model 710 in .30/06. Before putting a Remington R3 recoil pad on it, I could only fire five shots before my shoulder started to hurt; now I don't really feel much after 20 rounds. More to the point, my accuracy off the bench has greatly improved. -Anonymous

- I shoot a Remington 870 Super Mag with a rifled shotgun barrel. Sighting that gun in with sabots the first time was worse than dealing with a cranky mule. My shoulder hurt at least two days after sighting in. Yet in the field, none of that recoil was felt. Whether it's adrenaline or the confidence I have in the accuracy of this gun, I don't know. But I have yet to worry about recoil when out hunting deer with this gun. -Chris, Le Mars, Iowa

- I agree with Bill that rrecoil isn't noticeable when hunting, primarily due to adrenaline. But I do feel that if someone has a great deal of discomfort shooting a particular gun, he will be less likely to go to the range regularly. And in-field accuracy depends on frequent practice, as much as anything else. -John

- Does recoil affect field accuracy? Most definitely. Any shooter preparing to pull the trigger on a hard-kicking gun knows what's about to happen, and consciously or not, his body is bracing and preparing for the punishment. Let the pin fall on a dud round, or empty chamber, and you can see the muzzle rise and the gun jerk. Now, is it always catastrophic? No. With practice and proper measures, recoil and your response to it can be managed. But just because you're not conscious of it in the field doesn't mean your body isn't still reacting to recoil. If the gun is painful to shoot at the range, it will definitely impact your ability to use it well in the field. -Phillip, Union City, California

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, I agree with the majority of readers that recoil does have an effect on in-field accuracy. At least, I suspect it does. And to me, that's reason enough not to carry a hard-kicking rifle, particularly when you don't need to. For most shooters in most deer hunting situations, there's very little a magnum round (or even a .30/06) can do that a .308, 7mm/08, 7x57, .270, .260, 6.5x55mm, or .25/06 can't do with less recoil. With so many good light- to moderate-kicking choices, why beat yourself up?

To anyone who hasn't weighed in and would like to: You can e-mail me atdavesplace1@aol.com.