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Perceived recoil of polymer vs. steel pistols

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by peacebutready, Sep 12, 2018.

  1. peacebutready

    peacebutready Member

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    Cartridges like the 9mm, .40S&W, and .45 ACP are available in both steel and polymer pistols, of course. What is the perceived recoil difference between a polymer pistol weighing about 26 or 27 ounces vs. an all steel pistol like the CZ 75 or full size 1911?

    Possible examples can be the CZ 75 in .40 vs. S&W M&P in .40, or the 1911 in .45 vs. the S&W M&P in .45.

    Some believe the polymer models have less or a bit less recoil all other things being equal (caliber, weight of pistol, etc.)
     
  2. LNK

    LNK Member

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    I have both an all steel 1911 and an m&p 45c. I can not tell you whether there is any difference in recoil. I guess not enough to notice.
     
  3. WrongHanded
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    WrongHanded Contributing Member

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    Sig P239 and P229 (both in .40), have less perceived (by me) recoil than a G23.

    But, I remember feeling more recoil with a P220 than a G21. And come to think of it, I also recall that when I switched from a G22 to a G23 (many years ago), I noticed a significant increase in recoil (muzzle flip). So perhaps the low bore axis of Glocks is much more advantageous in a longer slide.

    Or maybe it is just based on perception.
     
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  4. pblanc

    pblanc Member

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    I don't think you can make a general rule. I think that things like overall weight, grip surface area, and how well it fits your hand might play a bigger role. My full-size, polymer-frame SIG P320 .45 ACP shoots about as softly as my model 1911 all-steel pistols. I only shot the full-size P320 in .40 S&W a couple of times but it was quite soft shooting and handled recoil as well as my SIG P229s do.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
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  5. RETG

    RETG Member

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    I've shot SIGs in 9 and .40 and feel like they had more recoil than any of my Beretta PX4s in the same caliber. However, my old H&K USP .40 felt like it had more when compared to the SIGs. So it might not just be polymer vs. a metal it might also be the barrel locking mechanism.
    Those are my "perceived" opinions and are certainly not based on any scientific data.
     
  6. Drail

    Drail Member

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    Polymer guns have a much higher center of gravity because all of the weight of the gun is in the barrel and slide - there is going to be more muzzle flip on a top heavy gun. This is why the recoil impulse feels different. And as the magazine empties and gets lighter the center of gravity keep moving higher. This is really noticeable when you burn through a high cap magazine in a polymer gun. The last two rounds will exhibit more muzzle flip than the first two. Laws of physics. In the early days of IPSC/USPSA we used to make heavy steel plates to fit under thin wood grips. That brought the center of mass down even lower even when the gun was empty. The difference in recoil between first and last round was very similar as the gun was fairly heavy with a full mag or an empty mag in it. It's not just the weight - it's where the weight is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
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  7. George P

    George P Member

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    If the guns weigh the same, ACTUAL recoil will be the same. Perceived recoil deals more with gun fit - and that is true for shotguns and rifles as well. IMO, one of the reasons companies started making polymer guns with varying sizes of backstraps was to address this.
     
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  8. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    All else being the same, the heavier gun will definitely recoil less dramatically, and may be perceived to recoil less. Things like fit and surface area will alter perceived discomfort, while things like bore height relative to one's grip will have a lot to do with perceived muzzle flip. Spring weights (both recoil and hammer/striker) also play a role, and certainly ammo is a major factor.

    I would note that when Bob Vogel or Shane Coley (two world-class competitive pistol shooters with phenomenal recoil control) compete with polymer-framed Glocks in Limited division (against heavy metal 2011's and the like), they attach massive weights to the rails. Here's Shane:

    59d7c7fc1f95d_ShaneColeyLVS09323.thumb.jpg.9df25b9ceebd418b276918283b0ae643.jpg

    And here's one of Vogel's gun from a few years ago - note the that the "flashlight" is full of lead shot, he's got weight bolted to the slide(!), and that looks like a weighted plug at the bottom of the grip.

    IMG_20140326_141707759.jpg

    Anyone who tells you that weight doesn't matter to recoil is either lying or wrong. It may not matter enough to be worth certain trade-offs (weight of carrying, slower draws perhaps, having to really horse the gun around for wide transitions, etc.), but all else being equal, more weight will always settle the gun down.
     
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  9. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

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    While some polymer-framed guns are lighter than the metal framed guns, they're not all that LIGHT. My Springfield XDm Competition in .45 ACP with a 5.5" barrel (at 32.02 ounces) is close to the same weight of many other metal-frame guns, and slightly heavier than most alloy SIG P220 models, and only .an ounce less than the STEEL full-size Witnesses in .45. Weight is a factor, but not the only one.

    More than frame weight affects muzzle flip.
    • BORE AXIS may play as much (or more) of a role in muzzle rise than frame weight -- because a higher bore and slide (riding higher above the hand) can affect the top-heaviness and balance of any handgun, whether they have steel, alloy, or polymer frames.
    • Technique (how the shooter handles the gun) can affect muzzle flip, as do the loads, recoil springs and buffers (if any) used.
    • A heavy slide moving to the rear is going to upset the balance of the gun in the shooter's hand and can cause muzzle flip in any gun -- and the weight of that slide, with some guns,can vary with caliber -- as some gunmakers (like Glock and SIG) sometimes use heavier slides to help reduce muzzle velocity.
    • Combine a heavier slide with a high bore axis and you've got even more muzzle flip.
    Happily, most of this has little effect on the bullet's point of impact, since with Browning Short Recoil Locked Breech designs (not .22s or revolvers) the bullet leaves the barrel before the slide has moved more than a fraction of an inch. Slide movement is tied to recoil transfer -- so not much recoil force has been passed to the frame at that point. Most of recoil's effect on the gun's frame and the shooter 's hands or arms happens after the bullet is gone.

    I've watched some pros shooting in competition and with some of them you might be amazed by how LITTLE recoil can seen, even when they're shooting a Glock (which has a very light frame) in near-stock form (without weights added.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
  10. Grumulkin

    Grumulkin Member

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    When shooting a P229 and a Glock 22 in 40 S&W I didn't detect any difference in perceived recoil.
     
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  11. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart Member

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    I have found that a heavier receiver/s slides do reduce muzzle flip. Higher bore axis vs lower bore axis cannot be a sole factor. That will be determined by the individual shooter. I do not like low bore axis pistols, others prefer lower. I have ran guns side by side and will stick to a heavier receiver and a higher bore axis. Each to his own. The Bottom line,is not to listen to any advice but to go out and shoot different guns with different grips and make you own decision. Manufacturers make their guns in different grips and bore axis for a reason. When I made a move to change my Micro 9mm, I spent six months shooting different guns to determine which would be the best for myself. Many times would shoot them side by side. Yes, it was time consuming, and you could say expensive, but it was worth it for me since I will be depending on it with my life.
     
  12. zaitcev

    zaitcev Member

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    Well yeah... Other things being "equal" means that the steel gun will be much smaller than the polymer gun in this pairing. Of course it's harder to hold onto it, then. Other factors may be at play as well. One of the softest shooting .380 guns that I tried is Glock 42, and the nastiest is NAA Guardian. The Guardian is even heavier than the 42, actually. But I would not make any general comparisons this way. It's more useful to think that a similar size and design steel gun is going to be easier to shoot, because it's going to be much heavier. Look no further than steel-frame versus plastic-frame Kahrs, especially K40 versus P40.
     
  13. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    I would rather carry polymer, but I would rather shoot steel.

    I have similar and/or identical pistols in the same caliber. The steel ones generally weigh more and recoil less.
     
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  14. George P

    George P Member

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    Of course they do, thank Newton for that
     
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  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    That's a heck of a good idea!
     
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  16. DLrocket89

    DLrocket89 Member

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    My experience here is shooting a 9mm CZ 75 SP-01 and SP-01 Phantom (steel is mine, polymer is a friend's). I guess I'd say that the steel gun's recoil is sharper but lower overall, the polymer one feels like it "mushes" in my hands a bit.

    Overall, the steel frame fits my shooting style more...I feel like I can get back on target faster.
     
  17. Drail

    Drail Member

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    A polymer frame does "mush" in your hands. There are some extreme slow motion videos on Youtube that show it. It's pretty amazing. The dust cover flexes a great deal.
     
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  18. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

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    If we're talking about felt recoil and not muzzle flip, how the gun fits your hand -- whether it has a narrow or wide grip, the size of the grip. grip angle, and how high you can get your hand on the grip without slide or hammer interference -- can be very important.
     
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  19. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    That's true. And, combined with the typically-wider backstrap of many modern polymer pistols, that can reduce the physical discomfort by spreading the recoil forces over both a larger area of the hand and a longer space of time. It doesn't diminish actual recoil nor muzzle flip, but it can make the gun physically feel less harsh.
     
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  20. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Yes. There are a bunch of things that contribute to how shooters perceive recoil, only some of which involve actual recoil. Blast, flash, flip, area of contact, friction levels, pinch/cut points, bore axis, portion of recoil transmitted to frame during slide movement versus slide-to-frame impact... all of these things have influence on how shooters perceive recoil, and different people's perceptions will (totally subconsciously) attach different values to each. And that can even change over time! A shooter who first picks up a compensated race gun may perceive it to recoil violently, based on all the blast and flash from the comp... even though video evidence will show it shooting very flat and with moderate recoil. Once they get used to all the fire-and-fury, they will begin to perceive the gun as not recoiling much at all.

    This is closely related to the phenomenon of some people caring a lot about whether a pistol cartridge is "high pressure." Uncorking a barrel at 10k PSI is definitely different in terms of blast than uncorking it at 5k PSI, but if the total momentum of the bullet and ejecta are the same, there should be no or virtually no difference in actual recoil.

    I may have mentioned this before, but golf equipment manufacturers spend millions on R&D exploring how the sound of a club at impact alters the perceived "feel" of the club, even though one can prove as a matter of mathematics and physics that there is no difference in the input that travels to/through the hands and therefore no actual difference in literally "feel." And different people's brains integrate/synthesize these different sensory inputs into a coherent whole a little bit differently. Perceived recoil is much the same, but the science is not nearly as well developed.
     
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  21. John_R

    John_R Member

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    I used to have a Kahr K9 and also their CW9. Same size gun, one steel and one polymer. I was surprised at how little difference there was in shooting them. The K9 might have had a little more dampened recoil, but not that much.
     
  22. rskent

    rskent Member

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    Ok, not exactly scientific. But in my hands, I feel like polymer guns have much more felt recoil than their alloy brethren. I feel that I need to hold them much more tightly to control them. And steel guns seem soft in comparison.
     
  23. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart Member

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    Before I buy a new pistol or revolver, like many i start doing the research. Then will take a few months to shoot different firearms. Shoot them side by side if I have a chance, and since I belong to a club for a long time, it is fairly easy to do some comparisons.
    One thing I find to be fairly accurate is the standard recoil rating on Genitron. The perceived recoil also seems to be follow close. However some of them have much less muzzle flip or snap even though weight is close. For me, the Nano and the Pico had little muzzle flip compared to others I shot. The Kahr and the Pico on the rating are very close to being the same in recoil. Many times I have shot them and when I tried to access the recoil, it would be hard to compare as both were minimal, but I always gave the slight edge to the Kahr. As you can see they are very close to the same with the Kahr getting a tiny slight edge.
    The Ruger LCR's I am very familiar with and the recoil rating seem to go with the Genitron rating. Notice the recoil rating of the 357 compared to the 38 or 9mm.
    Regardless, you can plug in your own firearms and start to compare. What is nice, you can compare the size of the gun you will carry, the weight etc. all of importance, especially if you are seeking a smaller CCW firearm.

    igHxzPM.jpg vklFrOw.png


    Here is the link if you want to plug in any gun you are researching.

    http://www.genitron.com/My-Handgun-List
     
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  24. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    My 1911's in 45 ACP bite the hand much harder than my G21 in 45 ACP. The 1911 is heavier, but the Glock has a wider grip to spread the recoil out over a wider area. The grip angle of the Glock helps reduce muzzle flip. And while I have no steel counterpart to compare it to my G20 and G29 in 10mm are very mild shooting even with the hottest Buffalo Bore and DoubleTap loads. Much more comfortable than my Smith 28 with similar 357 mag loads. One of the most uncomfortable guns to shoot that I ever owned was a steel framed Makarov in 9X18.

    Any time recoil is discussed we have to remember that most of it is between our ears anyway. Actual recoil can be mathematically calculated and I often see people making comments that aren't physically possible. Someone tells them that gun "A" will have a lot of recoil and they believe it and are convinced it recoils more than it actually does. Especially in comparison to something else.

    Felt recoil is even harder to define, but there are some basic facts. The smaller the area the recoil is concentrated in the more painful it will be This is a bigger deal than a lot understand. A lot of older rifles and shotguns hurt more to shoot than modern long guns in the same chambering because of better stock designs.

    And if recoil is spread out over a longer period of time it hurts less. You can spread out the recoil over more time several ways. All semi and full auto guns spread the recoil out over a longer time period than fixed breach guns. Gas operated guns bleed off some of the gases as well. A recoil pad spreads out the recoil over a longer time period as does a stock with some flex. That applies to long guns as well as handguns. Even the loads we choose make a difference in recoil velocity. A 300wm and a 35 Whelen have almost identical recoil. But the recoil velocity of the 300 is faster and most people will tell you the 35 Whelen is a little more comfortable to shoot.

    At the end of the day it is as I said earlier largely between the ears. At least up to a point. Obviously a 44 mag recoils more than a 38. But when comparing more similar guns the actual difference is so close that it can be hard to tell the difference. And most people are going to perceive it the same way they expected it to be.
     
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  25. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Nothing replaces actually shooting any gun in question and feeling it for yourself. Not only does nothing replace it nothing helps in making a decision based on the mechanical or felt recoil of a certain round in a particular gun. Go shoot.
     
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