What are some ways you can reduce recoil on a rifle?

December 13, 2022

What are some ways you can reduce recoil on a rifle?

What is recoil?

Newton's 3rd law of motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, when you pull the trigger, and the hammer hits the primer igniting the powder and the explosion within the casing in the chamber launches the bullet through the bore at an incredible speed, the gases in-between must push the bullet off something which is the rifle's bolt face the gun and the shooter. This reaction is recoil.

Recoil will result in an impact on a shooter's shoulder. With a hard impact on the shoulder comes some discomfort for some shooters.

Recoil causes muzzle climb that it pushes a shooter's view away from the target, so they don't see the target being hit and it can take extra time to get back on target for a follow-up shot.

Recoil happens after the trigger is pulled. It Is the anticipation of recoil that causes shooters to flinch before the shot is actually fired. This will cause the shot groups to be sloppy and can even cause a shooter to miss the intended target. Have you ever noticed yourself or others when they forgot to flip the safety off, and they squeeze the trigger and flinch? Dry fire practice between shots is a good way to overcome this. Just make sure to check with your firearm manufacturer to make sure dry firing will not damage your gun. They will probably suggest snap caps.

If a rifle is set up correctly and it is held correctly, Recoil rarely hurts. The sudden jolt with the loud noise can cause the body to tense up and reflex as the trigger is squeezed. 

How to Reduce Felt Recoil?

Recoil does not affect all shooters. However, some wish to reduce it because they want to shoot a more powerful rifle, and the recoil is just too much for them, or they want to improve their follow-up shots or a child learning to shoot. One of the biggest benefits of controlling recoil is seeing if you hit your target. If shooting steel at long range with too much recoil, you lose view of the target with controlled recoil you can see the hit. Same goes for hunting, if your first shot didn't drop it you will be able to follow it for a follow up shot.

Heavy recoil can cause some shooters to flinch because they are bothered by the kick. Controlling recoil will help with getting tighter groups although best way to solve that problem is to practice but if practice is leading to a sore shoulder well that takes away from the fun of shooting.

You can't reduce recoil without using less powerful cartridges and shooting lighter bullets. So, what we are going to discuss is how to reduce the "felt" recoil. How controlling recoil can help a person stay on or get back on target faster and, in some cases, make shooting more comfortable for some shooters who are gun-shy because of recoil.

Let's Look at Slowing Down and Redirecting Recoil.

By slowing down recoil, we turn the rifle's recoil from feeling like a punch into feeling like a push because a punch hurts a push does not. A soft recoil pad may not help you stay on target like a break, suppressor or weight can however a good recoil pad like those from Limbsaver┬« can really cushion the blow.

It's incredible how much a soft butt pad helps by absorbing the recoil, slowing it down by cushioning it. By installing a soft pad that is correct to your rifle; you should notice a difference immediately.

Using a soft rubber butt pad to reduce recoil

Do Muzzle Brakes Really Reduce Recoil? 

Yes, muzzle breaks significantly reduce felt recoil by venting some of gas out the sides through chambers and vents rather than forward. But they have some problems. Unless you find a set screw muzzle break that fits your rifle, you will need your barrel threaded for one, which could be costly. The other problem with muzzle brakes is they are very loud as they direct the sound to the sides rather than forward. Even though the sound is going out the sides of the brake, it will still be louder to the shooter, especially if shooting a shorter barrel like a 16" carbine barrel. Shooting a rifle with a muzzle brake will damage hearing without hearing protection.

Using Muzzle Break to Reduce Recoil

Adding weight helps a lot, but if you carry your rifle all day long, you don't want the extra weight. You could add purposeful weight like a scope, heavy-duty steel scope rings like our Maxima Steel Line which are perfect for heavy recoil rifles, a bipod, or a buttstock shell holder loaded with cartridges like this one from Buffalo Brand Leather.

A heavier stock is another option. Long-range competition shooters do this and even add weights to their stocks which is fine if you are not carrying your rifle a lot for something like hunting.

Also, there is stock design and cheek weld. How well does the rifle fit the shoulder of the shooter? Even a lighter stock will have less felt recoil than a heavy stock if the stock fits the shooter better. If a shooter cannot properly hold the butt snuggly in their shoulder while getting a good cheek weld, a good grip, and good eye relief without having to are likely to feel a lot more of the recoil versus having everything dialed in for proper fit.

If you are using optics, make sure they are positioned right, so you do not have to push your face forward or backward or off your cheek weld to get a complete sight picture when you aim your rifle. How well a rifle fits you naturally will play a big part in how recoil affects you. If you are using an optic, you want to make sure you have the correct eye relief and ring height for your cheek weld.  

Semi Auto Rifles Have Less Felt Recoil

Semi-Auto rifles also have less felt recoil because they have a gas port that diverts some of the gas back by taking a portion of that gas to push the bolt back against a spring to eject and feed another shell, dispersing the pressure, and slowing down the recoil.

semi auto rifles have less recoil

Do Sound Suppressors Reduce Felt Recoil?

Yes, in the same way, muzzle breaks do but with far less noise, but there is a lot of expense with Suppressors as they are NFA regulated and require an extensive background check and NFA tax fee, not to mention the cost of the suppressor. They, too, also need a threaded barrel.

Using a sound suppressor to reduce felt recoil

Recoil is not just hard on the shooter. It is also hard on the Scope and Scope Mounts. That is why it is essential to use quality scope mounts like those made by Warne here in the USA.