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Some of the comments to the “Top Five Softest Kicking Semi-auto Shotguns” post dealt with the concept of “recoil” versus “perceived recoil” or “kick.” Recoil, as I mentioned, is purely a mathematical construct. Kick deals with the interaction of shooter and the recoil of the gun, and how painfully that recoil is delivered.

Shooter’s stance, grip, pain threshold and many other factors determine how much a gun kicks. So do recoil attenuation devices like recoil pads and muzzle brakes. Stock fit also plays a part. As some of you mentioned previously, even a seemingly unrelated factor like muzzle blast can contribute to the feeling that a gun kicks. That’s one of the reasons I always wear ear plugs and ear muffs to the range.

The two videos below illustrate the difference between recoil and perceived recoil graphically. The guns are identical Browning BARs, a gas-operated semiauto said to be fairly soft-shooting. For the purposes of this exercise, we will assume them to be of the same caliber, and assume that the scopes, slings, and other accessories are of identical weight. Therefore, they would each generate exactly the same amount of recoil.


The first shooter apparently feels very little kick, as he delivers four shots quickly without flinching.

The second shooter feels so much kick he is almost knocked to the ground, even though he is shooting the same type of gun generating the same recoil. How can this be?

It could just be the difference the two shooter’s grips. But if you look closely, you’ll see the shooter at the bench is wearing earplugs, taming the muzzleblast and reducing the perceived recoil. The second shooter* is not wearing hearing protection, so he perceives much more recoil. There’s your answer.

*I have come close to posting this video in the past, but always chose not to because it portrays very irresponsible use of firearms. If you are offended, I apologize. However, it does make the point about the difference between recoil and kick perfectly, and since I had a semi-valid reason to post it, I decided to put it up.