Quick question about recoil...


November 26, 2009, 03:54 PM
In the market for my first handgun, and was wondering which frame material would reduce recoil more, steel or polymer? I've been told conflicting things. I asked a guy at the gun store and he told me that the steel frame would mitigate the recoil better because of the increased weight. A guy at the range told me the polymer frame would absorb the energy from the recoil better. I'm really new to handguns, so any input would be much appreciated. I've fired a SIG P226 and Glock 17 and really couldn't tell the difference in regard to recoil. Thank you in advance.

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November 26, 2009, 04:07 PM
Both guys are right.

A heavy steel gun will kick less then a light plastic gun.
A light plastic gun will kick more then a heavy steel gun.

A plastic gun of the same weight as a steel gun may feel like it kicks less because the plastic flexes to some degree and spreads the recoil over a couple more milliseconds.
But if they both weigh the same, the recoil is the same, although it may feel slightly different to some shooters.

Carried further, grip shape & design can also change the way recoil feels.
Little grips hurt worse then big hand filling grips.
Rubber grips on a steel gun hurt less then hard plastic grips on a plastic gun.

Bottom line is, there is now way to say one kicks less then the other in every circumstance.


Mad Magyar
November 26, 2009, 04:26 PM
A plastic gun of the same weight as a steel gun
The only way that the weight is similar is because of the extra-ammo usually carried by the polymer-wonders.
To the OP query, steel because of weight will make felt-recoil lighter because of the physics involved.
Many purists feel, even if the data is incomplete, that plastic guns are more prone to jams than steel ones...go figure....:)

November 26, 2009, 04:57 PM
I have to go with steel. I can't believe that the slight flexibility of polymer mitigates recoil very much.

November 26, 2009, 06:22 PM
once again i must agree with rcmodel.

lighter guns kick more than heavier guns

if weights are equal, the percieved recoil of the polymer gun will be more comfortable in your hand.

what you choose will depend on your intended use for the gun.

i teach with a stainless steel framed gun, but i usually carry an alloy or polymer framed one.

when engaging multiple targets, in a given calibre, the lighter gun is usually faster

November 26, 2009, 06:44 PM
Well - as an OLD physics teacher, I feel sad to break the bad news. What your gun has happening at you is the *same* as what is happening in the other direction. Yup, that's what 12" of penetration feels like. The shape and feel varies, but the sum is the same. Mass, momentum and leverage are the players.

To find which recoil factors best fit your needs, you might rent some different styles of guns, and compare. Compare what they do to you. When you find what recoil "feel" you like, we might better match you to a gun.


November 26, 2009, 10:48 PM
see rcmodel

Other than the really big guns, recoil isn't the biggest enemy, 'flip' is.

Flip causes you to lose your sight picture, recoil is the push straight back against your grip.

A grip that is higher/closer to being in line with the bbl has less flip (lower bore axis) but has the exact same recoil; so gun design and type of grips used can effect the flip. Imagine shooting your pistol holding your grips two inches lower. The flip will be tremendous but the recoil is the same

An open class gun often vents barrel pressure upwards to stop flip. To do this they usually have to have a hotter round to get enough upward blast. They have MORE RECOIL but LESS FLIP and can get back on target much faster. All the force is straight back.

Add to all the above the laws of inertia, and the heavier of otherwise similar guns will move less than the lighter gun.

November 27, 2009, 02:01 AM
Perceived recoil is so personal that there is really no telling what will be comfortable for an individual shooter. I have guns that I shoot casually and others feel there is too much "kick" or "flip", most likely based on their grip technique and hand geometry, and I have fired pistols with theoretically negligible recoil and been uncomfortable with the flip ... it just varies by handgun and shooter too much to make blanket statements.

The answer is at the rental range, or in a pile of friends'/family's handguns ... you may not find the exact thing you want, but you should get an idea of the general shape and caliber you would like. Also, the more you practice with a given handgun, the more comfortable you will be with the recoil and flip, because you will learn to "ride" the post-shooting motion and return the sights to target efficiently.

November 28, 2009, 10:12 PM
Agree with the above. The bottom line is not how many foot pounds of recoil energy you get; it is how the gun fits in your hand. And all our hands are different.

Shop around until you find something that suits you.

Also, you will get more used to recoil as you shoot more.


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