Trying to figure out why I'm a better shot with shotgun slugs than with a rifle


November 1, 2013, 10:25 AM
This is a very weird shooting quirk of mine.

I've always struggled with centerfire rifles for some reason. Even though the recoil energy produced by a shotgun slug is greater than that produced by a typical deer rifle round, I enjoy shooting slugs more and tend to hit my mark more frequently with slugs (assuming typical Northeast woods ranges, of course).

I'm wondering if this is a result of:

1. A miserable experience I had with my first centerfire rifle at age 13.

2. The slower recoil velocity produced by a shotgun slug (they produce more energy, but that energy is delivered over a longer amount of time than a .30-06 class round).

3. The lower pressure produced by shotguns. Even with proper hearing protection, I've always found that pressure spike associated with a rifle shot to be uncomfortable. This may also explain why I've also typically struggled with handguns.

I've usually done well with pistol caliber carbines as well as shotguns, which leads me to think that I'm weirdly pressure sensitive.

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November 1, 2013, 12:59 PM
My question would be, is this something that happens with your firearms or just firearms in general? If you are comparing one personal shotgun against one personal hi-powered rifle, it could be the recoil thing....or just how each gun fits you. Over the years I have had several firearms that I just couldn't hit squat with, regardless of ammo or how much I practiced. But my sons or someone else would be a crack shot with the same firearm. Seems those firearms that did not feel "natural" to me were the ones that also didn't shoot, whereas those that felt like an old friend shot well. This is true with both rifles and shotguns.

November 1, 2013, 01:02 PM
This has held true with numerous firearms over the years.

November 1, 2013, 01:29 PM
I'm no shrink, but it sounds like you have a mental thing against hp rifles. Normal due to a bad experience as a youngster. Try shooting a .223 and work your way up.

I'm just the opposite. I can't take the recoil of a 12 ga slug so I choose to shoot a rifle which is more accurate anyway.

November 1, 2013, 03:23 PM
This definitely sounds like a training issue which shouldn't be hard to fix. Try some dry-fire practice, aiming the gun and watching the sights to see where you're pulling the point-of-aim as the trigger is depressed. It sounds like you have some serious flinching going on when using rifles that should be fairly easy to overcome once you have a handle on what you’re doing and are able to correct your methods. Your technique should be the same with dry-fire and with live ammo. Do a lot of dry-fire practice while watching the sights, once you feel confident that your aim and trigger-pull is staying consistent, switch to live ammo and work to keep your technique exactly the same. Try switching back and forth from dry-fire to live ammo while at the range - fire a round, then dry-fire 2 or 3 times while watching the sights to see what you’re actually doing.

Generally the range of shotgun rounds is 100m-200m max, while a rifle will be capable of accuracy at multiple times that range. The only possible mechanical reason I can think of is that you've been using rifles with really bad triggers: long heavy inconsistent pulls, while you happen to have a shotgun with a lighter crisper trigger-pull which makes accurate shooting a lot easier.

Either way, practice, practice, practice. And try a few different kinds of guns to see how the trigger-pulls differ. It might also help to get a trigger-job done on your rifle to improve your chances.

November 1, 2013, 03:29 PM
Try shooting a .223 and work your way up.
I relate to the OP. Shot skeet, doves, tactical shotgun most of my life. Rifle limited to 22LR or .30 carbine. Yesterday, I'm out with my new .223 for the first time and am surprised at the recoil which makes me wonder how well I'll be able to shoot this rifle. Two possible factors are the AR15 trigger and stock. Although polished and not gritty, the trigger remains long and heavy. The stock feels nothing like an 870 -- cheek weld is not the same. Anticipation, flinch...

Thinking I'll pay for some instruction for some basic AR15 shooting tips and see it that straightens me out. I'm not inclined toward any $200 triggers.

100 rds allowed for break in and for sighting in iron sights and the red dot. The rifle will definitely do its part. I put this AR15 together with 2-gun/3-gun in mind, but thinking there's no way I'll shoot this platform as well as I've shot the M1 carbine.

November 1, 2013, 06:20 PM
There could be many reasons and you note some yourself.

There is also the fact that shotguns have generally been easier to practice with. Birdshot is inexpensive and widely available.
You can fire hundreds of cheap birdshot rounds just getting familiar with the gun before using the heavier recoiling and more expensive slugs.
With a rifle you are starting at that point already.

In many places games like skeet have also been common, while long range rifle shooting is limited in many areas.
Your typical shotgun is also designed to swing and be fired on the move and so may feel better than some production rifles designed to be shot more stationary and not fit the shooter in as many positions without customization or adjustment.

And the high pressure rifle sound signature is certainly more painful than a shotgun boom. It is also more damaging to hearing for a given decibel level in those higher pitches. So with minimal or no hearing protection it could certainly induce a flinch or discomfort, along with more hearing damage.

If you use good hearing protection and get a rifle that feels good to you or has an adjustable stock you should find it becomes easier to be accurate with it than with a shotgun after some practice.

November 1, 2013, 07:11 PM
It's not so much the sound of a bottleneck centerfire that gets me. It's that uncomfortable feeling in the chest and sinuses when I touch one off.

November 2, 2013, 09:29 PM
Plugs and muffs are very helpful when shooting pistol or rifle.

There's a thread for that too :-)

November 2, 2013, 11:23 PM
Have the rifles you've fired poorly been iron sighted? Are you overthinking your rear sight?

November 3, 2013, 06:35 AM
Both scoped and iron sights. I actually shoot best with peeps and ghost rings across the board, with scopes coming in a close second. I'm terrible with any sort of front post/rear notch sights.

It the past I had a Marlin 1894 in .357 mag with which I was pretty good. Of course, in a rifle, the .357 shoots like a souped up .22 mag. It's really when I get into the modern bottleneck centerfire cartridges that I start to struggle.

Where I hunt now, sticking to shotguns and slower, low pressure rifle rounds isn't much of a handicap since I can't see 100 yards, let alone shoot that far. However, if I ever get a chance to hunt out west or for caribou in Quebec, I'm going to need to get a lot better with rifles in the '06 class.

November 3, 2013, 06:45 AM
I want to clarify that I'm not so bad with a rifle that I'm printing buckshot like patterns across the targets. What I mean is that with a rifle capable of 1" or better groups at 100 yards, I'm often getting 2-3" groups off a bench. With the right shotgun/slug combo, I can often get cloverleaf groups at 100 yards.

November 3, 2013, 07:34 AM
Maybe the shotgun fits you better, and it sounds like you found the perfect slug for your shotgun if you are cloverleafing at 100 yards.

The shotgun loaded with full power slugs has recoil levels similar to African Big Game Rifles and you are shooting them well. Usually excessive recoil causes flinching and if you aren't flinching with the shotgun you should not be flinching with the lower recoil rifles mentioned. Sounds like the rifles you are shooting poorly have ill fitting stocks. I think it is more of a physical thing than a mental thing. A good rifle coach should be able to cure the issues.

Also, most 1 MOA rifles only shoot 1 MOA off the bench :). With better bench technique and maybe better shooting rests/bags you might improve your groups and your confidence.

Just my .02,

November 3, 2013, 09:31 AM
It's not so much the sound of a bottleneck centerfire that gets me. It's that uncomfortable feeling in the chest and sinuses when I touch one off.

I think this nails it. Possibly due to some unique-to-you quirk of physiology, the sharper pressure/sound "spike" of rifled firerms is impinging on your sensitive sinuses, whereas the more general "blat" of a shotgun does not.

I have something similar with water. I love to swim, dive, etc, but I cannot keep water out of my sinuses short of noseplugs, which I find uncomfortable.

November 3, 2013, 09:50 AM
I remember once I was at the range and a guy next to me was doing some rapid fire stuff with his AR. I had great hearing protection on, but was still getting mildly disoriented.

Maybe I'm just a weird dude.

November 3, 2013, 07:10 PM
I'm willing to believe almost anything about variability of anatomy. We're not all plumbed or wired in exactly the same fashion.

This isn't very practical, but I'll bet if you shot wearing a full motocycle helmet along with ear plugs you wouldn't erperience the same pressure issues. That would reduce the conducted sound that isn't blocked by plugs and muffs. Users firing really high pressure/blasty pistol rounds tried out that concept for a while.

Try shooting with noseplugs and your mouth closed (along with ear plugs and muffs) when breaking the shot on a higher pressure rifle cartridge as an experiment. That would at least confirm how the pressure wave is getting into your sinuses.

November 3, 2013, 07:54 PM
"Maybe I'm just a weird dude."

No, I usually leave in short order when a braked AR shows up next to me. Same for nearly everyone else I've ever shot with. I know of no cure other than getting distance from the ARritant, or getting behind it. At this point, I think the pressure wave travels in through the eyes, as holding my nose doesn't do much, but wearing glasses close to my face seems to help more. I'll have to try biker goggles some time and see if that cures it.

To the OP, you may try out some heavy and slow rifle chamberings as an alternative. 45-70 is plenty "high powered" but the lower pressures may be less punishing for you (and it's not like the recoil will bug you much ;))


November 3, 2013, 08:45 PM
Cloverleaf sat 100 yards with a shotgun, give me a break. Pure b.s.

November 4, 2013, 08:31 AM
Cloverleaf sat 100 yards with a shotgun, give me a break. Pure b.s.

I've done it before. It's not that big of a feat as long as the wind isn't blowing.

I'm also talking a scoped shotgun with a rifled tube installed, not a bead sighted bird gun.

November 4, 2013, 01:12 PM
This has held true with numerous firearms over the years.
Many shooters first gun was a shotgun with rather crude sights and the shooters from the get go adapted to point and shoot, AKA instinct shooters.

November 4, 2013, 11:15 PM
Well I have never seen that done. I would pay money to see you do that. You should join the American Slug Shooters. You would be a top shooter, maybe set a new record. Good luck to you.

November 7, 2013, 12:04 PM
I think there is probably no escape from the pressure wave. You may just have sensitive Sinai?

You could try taking a decongestant. You may have sinus pressure you were unaware of. Also, I double up on hearing protection any time I go shooting. Plugs and E-muffs. I can have a normal conversation and it helps dramatically with flinch and startling.

I have an Ar15 and Socom II that both have muzzle brakes on them. Shooting them is fine. But standing behind or next to the shooter. Especially indoors is very discomforting. You can feel it in your chest.

Not sure what else to tell ya bud. Are you flinching at all with the rifles? Are you intimidated by them at all?

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