Recently, at the rifle range, a friend of mine who is full of years and wisdom was shooting a brand-new lever-action chambered for the horrifying .454 Casull. The rifle is built on the lines of a Winchester Model 92, and has a small buttstock with a lot of drop to it, and not a lot of weight.

My friend took three shots and put the gun away. “This thing is killing me,” he said, “the next time I shoot it I’ll have a wool coat on.”

Despite the fact that the Casull does not have the power of, say, a .577 T-Rex, it still generates enough steam to hurt in a rifle that delivers punishment at both ends. Many a shooter would have kept right on firing that evil rifle with nothing between it and himself but a T-shirt, and they would have paid.

There are rifles that kick a lot, and there are rifles that hurt, and it is the smart shooter who recognizes the difference. Rifles that are poorly designed, or weigh too little, or have rocklike recoil pads, hurt, and if you shoot them you deserve whatever happens to you.

Some people can take more recoil than others, and if you have a low tolerance there is no way you’re going to develop a high tolerance. Also, your ability to take recoil diminishes over time. Wayne van Zwoll has told me that he just isn’t willing to take the pounding he was once able to soak up, and I feel the same way myself.

At some point along the way, you have to figure out what you can take and not go beyond that. In my own case, the biggest rifle I’m willing to shoot is a .458 Lott, which is plenty for anything that walks this planet. The Lott develops about 66 foot-pounds of recoil. I might shoot something that develops 70 foot-pounds, but not 80.

If you get brave you may pay for it with detached retinas or a screwed-up spine or a flinch that will ruin you as a shooter. Thanks, but I’ll pass.