Thursday, January 27, 2022



One of the first things you will hear when you recommend a shotgun as the first or potentially "only" firearm for a family is "Too much recoil".

There are several things a mentor can do to help mitigate the issue of recoil.

But first I want to give a quick review of the physics of recoil.


Let's look at a simple two degree of freedom system.

125 ounces is about 7 pounds

Conservation of momentum. If the red jart moves to the left at 1200 feet per second then the 125 ounce cart will move to the right at 12 fps.

The heavier the cart relative to the jart, the less energy will be transmitted to the cart.

In this case the mass of the cart is rigidly connected to another 1440 ounces and the amount of energy transferred to the cart-assembly is miniscule

A slightly more sophisticated model is to have three degrees of freedom connected by a spring.

So the key to mitigating "felt recoil" is to firmly pull the butt-stock into your shoulder with your hand on the pistol-grip. The other key is to push the gun away from you with your hand on the fore-arm. That is, it is like you are trying to stretch out your weapon like a big rubber band.

That push-pull does some other things. For one thing, it puts tension in your neck muscles and takes the slack out of your joints. It changes your body from a floppy spring that must deal with a great deal of potential energy into a semi-rigid brick that results in less energy being will convert the significantly smaller amount of energy into kinetic energy as it comes in.

There is a wide range of recoil potential based on ammo.

Some kinds of ammo, the commodity, target type shotgun ammo for instance is gentle on the shoulder. And before you dis target ammo, an ounce of #8 shot will kill rabbits and squirrels quite handily. The downside is that it will not exit the animal and you will  have to deal with it when you eat the meat.

Other kinds like magnum slugs and buck-shot kick much harder.

Practice firmly planting the butt of the weapon into the pocket of your shoulder or slightly outboard so it is on "meat"

Push the weapon away from your body with the hand on the fore-stock to take the slack out of your joints and put tension into your neck and core muscles.

Lean slightly forward with one foot slightly ahead of the other and put some lead on the target.

Bonus videos

Hat-tip for the incomparable Old NFO for the videos.


  1. The techniques suggested for mitigating recoil work and they work well. In addition, might I suggest adding what used to be referred to as a "sissy pad" to the buttplate? In my experience, it does reduce the felt recoil. (And I don't care anymore if anyone calls me a sissy.)

  2. 12 gauge light trap loads. End of story.

    Do not start kids and noobs with a .410. That is an expert’s gun and will only discourage the beginners.

  3. Sorry I couldn't find the video you mentioned.

    1. You were very helpful, sir.

      The video I asked about was one of a young lady who weighed about 87 pounds and was wearing shrink-wrapped clothing. She presented the information on push-pull technique and was firing the shotguns.

      My thoughts were that a family firearm ought to be a tool that can be used by any responsible person over the age of 12. The fact that the wee-slip of a girl was hammering the gong would be compelling to the distaff side of the family that shotguns are something they can shoot.

  4. Don't forget that reduced recoil loads are available, as well as mini shells ( though neither works well in semi autos).
    For easy comparison, check the Dram eq on the box.

  5. Back in the day. Kay Ohye would come out to California for the state shoot. He shot a K80. He had this little leather thing he would drop at his right foot. It was teathered to his belt with a leather strip. He put his barrel in the middle of it when he wasnt handling the gun to shoot his bird.

    He got into a shootoff with a California guy at Kingsberg. They both went 200 straight. The shoot offs were held under lights after the days regular schedule.

    Kay dropped one target during the last twenty five totalling 750. The school teacher ran his. 750 plus 200.

    Couple of years later, I’m at the Winter Grand Nationals. Steve Carmichael was running the club and doing a superb job! I was. Struggling. Strike up a conversation with one of the best shooters. Retired MLB player. Super nice guy. He looks at my gun. Says “You like it?” I say hell yah, recoil is managable!

    Whats it weigh he says? Nine pounds was my reply. “Here. He shoves his Perrazzi in my hand. Stupid heavy. He says, “Eleven pounds”.

    I am stunned. Two pounds was huge. Tell him so.

    Ray Stafford is in his squad. This guy points to him and says, hell , Rays gun weighs thirteen pounds!

    I look at Ray. 13 pounds?

    He hands me his gun and says, “Yah, it doesn't kick!”

    Wonder what Kay Ohye’s gun weighed?

  6. Thank you for the video and recoil push-pull technique discussion with video. I've used the push-pull technique with handguns but never thought to use it with long arms. Bird shot isn't too bad, but slugs and buck shot have some recoil, especially when seated. My shotguns aren't fancy, pretty much factory 870 with some minor accessories on it.

    I wonder if this technique would be useful with the full pistol gripped stockless shotguns.

    I haven't had much luck with reliability of Aquila mini-shells in repeaters. Especially semi-autos but even pumps will not always load correctly. If you plan on loading those for 'harms way', make sure you test your gun for reliable functioning.

    Thanks again for this discussion.