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Rifle Recoil – How to Protect Your Shoulder

After our recent family trip to the range, each of us responded to the recoil from the rifle differently. Both girls shot the same rifles (so did the guys), and only one girl ended up with broken blood vessels from the recoil of the gun. So, to help reduce the chances of this on the next trip, as well as the bruising and soreness from a full day of shooting, we’ll look into ways to reduce the recoil of the rifle as well as how to reduce the amount felt by the shooter.

Reducing Recoil

Below are some things to do to your rifle or to keep in mind when buying a new rifle to reduce the amount of recoil produced by the gun:

  • Wood stock – Wood stocks will absorb more recoil than synthetic stocks.
  • Heavier guns – I love my Kimber handgun for lightweight carry but the aluminum frame kicks my hand much more than the steel frame guns I shoot. This same principle applies to rifles. The lightweight ones will be nice and easy to carry around but you’ll get more recoil from them so stick to the standard weight guns.
  • Lighter ammo – A bullet with more grains will provide more recoil. Hot or magnum loads will kick more than standard loads.
  • Recoil pads – Most rifles will come with a recoil pad built in and most of them can have this switched out for a more efficient recoil pad. A few manufacturers also make recoil pads that slip over your existing stock (instead of the install type).
  • Muzzle break – Adding a muzzle break to your rifle can reduce the recoil up to 20% in some cases. **They really increase the amount of muzzle blast through and can cause permanent hearing loss even with normal ear protection. They are also outlawed in some areas**
  • Anti-recoil tube – These are typically installed in the buttstock of a rifle and basically slow down the recoil. The gun still has the same amount of recoil but you spread out the effect of it. They are often mercury filled or weight and spring loaded.

Reducing Felt Recoil

Below are a few ways to reduce the amount of recoil that the shooter feels:

  • Wear a padded jacket! This was the biggest difference between the two girls that shot. One wore a nicely padded jacket and the other wore a thin jacket. Some shooting specific jackets will have a shoulder pad in it for this purpose.
  • Pull the rifle firmly against your shoulder when shooting. If you don’t keep it tucked into your shoulder properly, the gun will essentially get a running start at your shoulder and if it’s a rifle with a lot of kick, you could even break your collar bone in addition to a nasty bruise.
  • Shoot less. Ok, this may not be what you want to hear but hang on a second. We can all shoot the plinker Ruger 10/22 almost all day long without batting an eye clearing through tons of ammo. If you do that with a .375 or anything stronger, you probably will not be able to move your shoulder much the next day. So my point is, the more powerful the gun, the less rounds you should go through. One tip is to alternate which gun you shoot at the range. Shoot the big guy, then work on something with less kick for a bit before going back to the big guy again.
  • Shoot more. Have I confused you now? Well, what I mean by shoot more, is this… A first time shooter will “feel” the recoil more than a seasoned shooter. The more often you shoot, the more you will get used to experiencing recoil overall. Don’t take this to mean go out and shoot the big guns all day every day to toughen yourself up. But to take it like any sportsman would. Any pro ball player (in a team sport, we’re not talking golf) can get hit with the ball and not be fazed near as much as a rookie just picking up the sport. So go out and practice!

As far as broken blood vessels goes, some people are more prone to them than others. People with fair skin, dry or dehydrated skin, or sensitive skin, have thinner skin and are more prone to broken blood vessels due to trauma (like rifle shooting). Luckily, broken blood vessels is largely cosmetic and usually heals on its own in a couple weeks without treatment.

I hope you enjoyed our talk on rifle recoil. Stay tuned for more great gun guides, tips, and news.

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