Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Shotgunners miss birds and develop permanent flinches because of recoil. It’s certainly understandable. Frequent shooters have been known to suffer detached retinas, which should give you an idea of how hard a shotgun can jolt your body.

“Recoil” and “kick” are related. Recoil is an objective measure; a gun recoils in direct proportion to its weight and the weight and speed of its payload. Kick is more subjective-it’s how much that recoil in a particular gun creates discomfort for the shooter.

The simplest and most effective way to cut recoil is to shoot lighter or slower loads. For instance, a 13/8-ounce, 1450-fps load generates 50.5 foot-pounds of recoil in an 8-pound gun. Switch to 1¿¿ ounces of shot at the same speed and you reduce recoil almost 20 percent, to 41.7 foot-pounds. Drop to a slower 1375 fps, 1¿¿-ounce load, and recoil falls to 36.1 foot-pounds.

Switching to a smaller-gauge gun doesn’t guarantee recoil reduction. Recoil depends on gun weight, payload weight, and velocity, period. Some very light smallbores kick surprisingly hard unless you choose light loads for them. On the flip side, if you hate the recoil of your 3¿¿-inch 12-gauge, buy an 11-pound 10-gauge, which shoots the same loads with significantly less recoil because of its weight.

Here’s why guns kick us, and what we can do about it.

Recoil Reduction: Steps and solutions for more comfortable shotgunning

Hearing Protection
Much of what we perceive as “kick” is painful noise. For most hunting, I wear Sonic II Hearing Protectors ($10; 800-430-4110;

Aftermarket Pad
The Sims LimbSaver ($42; 877-257-2761; and Pachmayr Decelerator ($37; 800-225-9626; fit many shotgun models.

Muzzle Climb
The more drop in the stock, and the lighter the barrels, the more a gun’s muzzle rises during recoil. Porting cuts muzzle jump dramatically and is a good solution for target or dove guns, but not for waterfowl guns, as it increases the muzzle blast to either side. Pro-Port does a quick, professional job ($89 for single barrels; 586-469-6727;

Forcing Cone
The shorter and sharper the cone’s angle, the greater the jolt of recoil. Having the forcing cone lengthened or “relieved” by your gunsmith will make a high-volume target or dove gun more comfortable to shoot. Seminole Gunworks (800-980-3344; will relieve forcing cones for $75 per barrel.

Gas Autoloader
By bleeding off gas to cycle the action and storing recoil energy in its moving parts, a gas autoloader spreads out the duration of recoil, reducing felt recoil up to 40 percent with some loads.

Stock Fit
A comb that’s so high you have to scrunch your head to “get down on it” will bite your cheek. If the pitch, or angle, of the butt is wrong for you, the toe of the stock digs into your chest. The solution can be as simple as taking a grinder to the toe of a recoil pad or switching stock shims. Extreme cases may require a full stock fitting from an expert like Fieldsport (231-933-0767;

Gun Weight
The heavier the gun, the more it absorbs recoil. One way to add weight is to pour a bunch of lead shot down the stock bolt hole. You can add weight to the front end of a pump or auto, which also will curb muzzle climb, with a recoil reducer that replaces the plug or magazine cap. The Graco ((479-787-6520; standard 14-ounce reducer and the magazine tube cost $48 each.