Recoil/KIck 101...


Dave McCracken
November 25, 2003, 06:23 AM
The scene was a classroom on the Regional range, smack dab between several prisons in Jessup Md. Time was the 80s. I was the big guy at the front of the room with the Instructor's hat. I addressed the crowd of preservice trainees thus....

"Some of you have heard the war stories about how bad the kick from a shotgun is. Shotguns do kick. The ones telling you how much they hurt after shooting are the same ones that didn't LISTEN and do as they were told. Do it the way you're shown and you'll get through this painfree. Be a knucklehead and hurt. It's your choice.

Some of us, including me,LIKE shooting shotguns. There's no big red S on my chest, I enjoy it because I know how, and that's what we're going to teach you, IF you're willing to get with the program. Let me remind you that passing the shotgun segment of training is essential to keeping your job. Good news, they're hiring down at the Burger King for those that do not listen and do".

With that motivation in mind, I'd pass out the 870s and have them go over the proper firing position. Besides being in their course materials, there would be demos and dry fire, using dummy rounds and under CLOSE supervision. With all that, failure to pass the easy qualifier ran over 10% the first time through. Remedial gave them one more chance, then out the door if not up to snuff.

Back to the present...

Kick is why not everyone is a shotgunner. Shotguns are wonderful tools for defense and recreation,but they come,like all in this world, at a cost. All that energy going out the barrel means an opposite reaction. Just ask Isaac Newton.

Free recoil is simple to measure. Energy equals Mass times Velocity squared.

Felt recoil, AKA kick, is dependent on Free Recoil, but is subjective. Some shooters, regardless of size, handle recoil better than others.

The reasons for that include better form,better fit,better padding and mindset.

Good form for shooting a hard kicking shotgun includes leaning well into the shot. If your nose is over the toes on your leading foot, you're in the zone.

One also has to ensure there's solid contact between the pad and shoulder, and that ALL the butt is firmly in touch to spread the push over the greatest possible area.

Both hands should grip firmly, of course, and help pull the weapon back into the body. Stance is behind the weapon, not facing sideways like a Medieval archer. This helps the upper body act as a spring and absorb kick, then quickly return to the firing position for another shot.

Fit is covered elsewhere.

A good pad really helps, and a wearable pad like the PAST is excellent for certain types of shotgunning.

As for mindset, it's like I told those rookies....

"If you think you can't do this, you're probably right. If you think you can, you're probably right too".

Another invaluable tool is light loads. Once some confidence is gained after shooting light loads with good form and fit, then one can help a student advance further with progressively heavier stuff. Light loads are an oz of prevention, you know the rest of the cliche.

If you enjoyed reading about "Recoil/KIck 101..." here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
November 25, 2003, 08:33 AM
Thanks Dave.
Great post on another great topic.

In addition to your post above I want to mention good ears - again.

We "harp" about good ears, SAFETY is a priority Applicable to all platforms, however there is another benefit...

Grant Isleng commented once that one of the best recoil reducers for a beginning shotgunner was a good set of ears.

fomerely '73

November 25, 2003, 08:50 AM
good ears
:confused: Could you please explain the term to this neophyte?

November 25, 2003, 09:11 AM
I apologize.

Good ears = ear muffs, ear plugs ( using both is common )
Good eyes= shooting glasses,
( designed to resist shatter and testing to ANSI standards)

November 25, 2003, 02:33 PM
Good post Dave.

I'm afraid that people get intimidated by shotguns, they build them up in their minds as being these super powerful shoulder howitzers. :) Then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

November 25, 2003, 04:18 PM
Perceived recoil is a funny thing. My wife is pretty small (actually, small and pretty :) ), at around 5'3" and 110#. She's shot a lot of different guns over the years, and shotguns are about the only thing she really enjoys.

If you hand her a pistol or revolver with anything hotter than a light .38 round and she'll complain bitterly about the recoil. However, she shoots trap and sporting clays as often as possible (weekly at least throughout much of the year) with a 12ga Benelli and 1 1/8oz loads. She doesn't ever complain unless she shoots over a couple hundred shells in a day.

She'll happily shoot a round of trap with my Browning O/U, which I sometimes find punishing. But, put a 9mm SIG in her hand and she'll politely go through one mag and hand it back, reaching for the Ruger Mark II. Go figure!

As far as form goes, she does use a very "forward" approach, with quite an exaggerated lean. Also, she does prefer winter trap league, when she is wearing a few more layers under her vest. In the summer, she would probably benefit from a Past recoil pad.

BTW, I wholeheartedly agree about good hearing protection. In the past, I've hunted without my "ears", and those hunting loads sure seemed stout. Now that I always wear custom-fitted plugs or electronic muffs, those same shells seem much more tame.

Now, can anyone 'splain to me why the biggest recoil babies I've ever met usually look like offensive linemen?

Dave McCracken
November 25, 2003, 05:02 PM
Thanks, folks....

Good point about eye and ear protection, sm. I remember Ilseng's comment too.

For those coming in late, Grant Ilseng was one of the top shotgun instructors of all time, with many of his students getting on Olympic teams. He did the intro on Brister's masterpiece,"Shotgunning, The Art and The Science".

Larry, all too true. I used to tell the students to forget all they had heard about shotguns and start with the idea that it was the BEST close range defensive weapon and well worth taking some time to learn. For some, it helped.

TR, good form and fit help her,IMO, but thy spouse's mindset is probably examplary. As to why some Manly Men whimper and kvetch about kick, it's another example of Testosterone Block. They do not listen, and feel pain as a result. Once the trauma starts, it's hard to help them. Another reason for the lightest loads for starting out.

November 25, 2003, 05:26 PM
When I introduce people to shotguns I use my 870, and I use the el-cheapo Winchester bulk pack #8. Heavy gun + very mild load = good teaching combo.

When my Dad started dating my Mom, he thought he would be funny. She had never shot a gun before, so he loaded up a light load and shot his 870 one handed, just to show her how light the recoil was. He then put some heavy loads in it (I've heard buckshot or high brass bird loads, depending on what relative is telling the story) and handed it to her. Then since she had not received any instruction, my Mom put the but of the gun (old original 870 with hard butt plate) about an inch from her shoulder. I guess it raised a heck of a bruise and she almost dumped him. Lucky for me and my siblings she kept dating him, despite his being a dork. :)

November 25, 2003, 05:50 PM
I have taken shotshells with primer only and loaded a gun for a new shooter. Usually someone whom is afraid of guns, woman and kids that have gone through something,or seen / read TV and movies.

With the 4 rules, 'eyes and ears' and primer only they get comfy. I will then go to a very very light load. I've even used a bbl set or tube gun and used the this stage we are not into hitting anything, just getting over a real fear. A heavy gun and light loads, just gaining trust is a big step.

Once these ladies and kids trust and gain skills Dave originally posted proper fit and technique...Katie Bar the door :D

Like TR's half ,petite and running and gunning bunches of rds and hitting targets...big ole boy has headed to the drug store for Ben Gay and ice...:D

Real men don't eat quiche...some don't listen either...:D

Dave McCracken
November 25, 2003, 07:57 PM
With all due respect, Corriea, that stunt deserves ten strokes with the bastinado, laid on well. The usual result is a non shooter.

Mom cared little for shotguns, but on occasion she would powder a few clays and then hand it back to Pop. Her thing was smallbore rifles.

sm, well said and well done. I see a father and son at PGC every so often. Son is 10, and hits a fair amount of trap birds with a 20 gauge 870 YE. With the butt setting on the ground, his chin barely clears the muzzle. Light loads, decent fit and Katy better get busy...

If you enjoyed reading about "Recoil/KIck 101..." here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!