Shotgunners missbirds and develop permanent flinches because of recoil. It’s certainlyunderstandable. 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 recoilsin 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 createsdiscomfort for the shooter.

The simplest andmost effective way to cut recoil is to shoot lighter or slower loads. Forinstance, a 1 3/8-ounce, 1450-fps load generates 50.5 foot-pounds of recoil inan 8-pound gun. Switch to 1¼ ounces of shot at the same speed and you reducerecoil almost 20 percent, to 41.7 foot-pounds. Drop to a slower 1375 fps,1¼-ounce load, and recoil falls to 36.1 foot-pounds.

Switching to asmaller-gauge gun doesn’t guarantee recoil reduction. Recoil depends on gunweight, payload weight, and velocity, period. Some very light smallbores kicksurprisingly hard unless you choose light loads for them. On the flip side, ifyou hate the recoil of your 3½-inch 12-gauge, buy an 11-pound 10-gauge, whichshoots the same loads with significantly less recoil because of its weight.

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

RECOILREDUCTION Steps and solutions for more comfortable shotgunning

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

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

MUZZLE CLIMB The more drop in the stock, and the lighter the barrels, the more a gun’smuzzle rises during recoil. Porting cuts muzzle jump dramatically and is a goodsolution for target or dove guns, but not for waterfowl guns, as it increasesthe muzzle blast to either side. Pro-Port does a quick, professional job ($89for 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 willmake a high-volume target or dove gun more comfortable to shoot. SeminoleGun-works (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 movingparts, a gas autoloader spreads out the duration of recoil, reducing feltrecoil 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, thetoe of the stock digs into your chest. The solution can be as simple as takinga grinder to the toe of a recoil pad or switching stock shims. Extreme casesmay 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 topour a bunch of lead shot down the stock bolt hole. You can add weight to thefront end of a pump or auto, which also will curb muzzle climb, with a recoilreducer that replaces the plug or magazine cap. The Graco (479-787-6520; standard 14-ounce reducer and the magazine tube cost $48each.