Recoil Limit

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I competed in GSSF with a 10mm, so I'm not very recoil adverse with handguns. But when I was developing 300 grain Ruger-only loads for my .45 Colt Bisley for bear/dump truck defense, I had to start wearing a motorcycle glove on my shooting hand since they were starting to hurt.

I also used to compete in BPCR matches with my Uberti 1885 Winchester high wall in .45-70. 515 grain boolit over 65 grains of blackpowder and a vegetable wad. I shot 50 rounds during a match with no issues. Then I go with my brother to the range to try out his new Marlin Guide Gun shooting 350 grain Hornady FTX ammo and three shots later my shoulder is killing me. That tempered my desire for a lever gun in .45 -70.
I’ve been waiting for this thread to happen.l shoot a lot of 45 hot loaded ,454/460 and all manner of so called bad recoil guns.
The only one’s I find painful are 44 mag and British 303.All others are a pleasant push that I enjoy and the damages down range are what we seek.
But! The 44mag and the Brit 303 just hurt with out enough down range goodness’s to make them worthwhile
.270 in a rifle and .357 in a revolver, I got nothing to prove. I had magnumitis in my 20`s. If I could only have one caliber today it would be .22LR
I find myself not shooting my Anaconda much anymore, my Python mostly gets fed .38 Spl, and I, too, find myself shooting my double deuces. Ammo is a tenth of what .44 Mag runs and they put the holes in the paper in the proper places.
My two cents..shooting position, barrel length, porting or muzzle breaks and weight of the platform changes everything, shooting gloves help too. Full magnum 357 out of my scandium framed chiefs special bites pretty bad. A cylinder full and I am done. I could shoot my ten inch barrel 500 magnum BFR without issue (never should have sold it), same with my 8" smith 500 (never should have sold it either) but my john ross 5 inch a couple cylinders of hot loads is about all the excitment i want. Same thing with my 454 casull raging bulls, i have the snub nose and the 8". The 8" isn't too bad. The snubby is pretty darn snappy.

I have yet to find a single action revolver i think has too heavy of recoil. But i have not shot anything like 500 linebaugh through a custom blackhawk yet either.....

Worst semi auto handgun...the desert eagle 50 AE. I can shoot a 50 round box and don't regret it though.

Rifle...different story. I don't like 300 win mag (uncompensated) much from the bench. Standing up is fine though. I haven't found a rifle that hurts standing up shooting yet. But i haven't ventured into the realm of the nitro expresses, 458 lot or 460 weatherby yet either. The 338 lapua isnt all that bad with those big muzzle breaks on a heavy precision rifle. I liked 450 marlin standing up just fine...lots a variables.
I enjoyed reading everyone's responses. Great thread.

For all day precision shooting, from field positions, w/ a 22" Bbl./8.5 lb. rifle w/ recoil pad...?

Factory 150 gr. .270 Win. will do it.
Factory 180 gr. .30-06 Spg. will not.

So, ~ 18 lb-ft < 20 lb-ft.

As for pistols, out of a Ruger BH 6-1/2"...?

Hot 180 gr. .357 Mag. will do it.
Hot 210 gr. .41 Mag. will not.

Rifle: Enfield #5 "Jungle Carbine".

Comfort limit: with a bare, original buttstock, sitting or standing upright wasn't bad. I'm a skinny guy, and the discomfort was when leaning forward, i.e. on a shooting table.

Handgun comfort (not tolerance limit): Polish P-64, which is in 9x18. It simply isn't enjoyable.
Neither was my beautifully-blued, German Walther PPK/S.
I know what you mean. Some shooters percieve muzzle blast as recoil, it's a mental thing and they may not recognize that it hasn't caused any physical pain, just shook them up and they're not sure why or haven't made the connection that it didn't actually hurt.

Yup. This happened to me the first time I shot a .50 Desert Eagle. I had to duck my head out of the way to keep the pistol from hitting me in the face. I didn't fire a second shot.

A year or two later I shot the same pistol again with no trouble at all. Muzzle rise was probably 20 or 30 degrees. I figure the noise just psyched me out the first time.
What I can handle is definitely dependent on how many shots I will be taking that day.

I lightened up my Marlin 444. I used to be able to put a box of Hornady Superformamce through it before I started to get flinchy. Now it is down closer to 7 lbs than its previous 8 (empty and without scope) and I will need to stop after 8-10 rounds. OK for a hunting rifle IMO. I’m not afraid of it. I just don’t want to shoot it too often.

I can handle 3” 12 ga slugs from an Ithaca Featherweight about equally.

454 Casull I can take from a Ruger Blackhawk for about a cylinder and then I lose my nerve. So 5 rounds. I have yet to find an auto pistol round that I can’t handle indefinitely. 10mm is pretty tolerable and even 50 AE out of a Desert Eagle is pretty tame from the gas operation and heavy weight.
My experience with big bore rifles is slim. I know that I can shoot 12 gauge slugs for quite a while. The couple rifles I've shot that had more recoil made me uncomfortable after just a few rounds.
.44 Mag is my upper limit in handguns, I can shoot it for hours. The really big revolvers make my hands hurt after two or three cylinders.
I'd consider it above my limit if I can't shoot it for an extended period of time comfortably.
  • Skeeterfogger pointed out:
Weight has a big impact on recoil. When my eyes worked good my favorite was the Garand. At 9.5lbs it's sweet.

True, but there's another effect of gas operated semiautos. While the gases are throwing the bullet forward, they're also throwing the operating rod and other stuff backwards, "sort of" leaving the gun sitting in the middle. Sort of.

Hatcher noted that most soldiers liked the Garand because of its softer recoil, but also said that some soldiers thought it kicked worse.

He tentatively attributed this to physical differences in the shooters, but I have a sneaking hunch it had to do with the tendency to fearfully fire without the gun actually contacting the shoulder.

Firmly pressing the gun to the shoulder tends to add some of the mass of the shooter to the mass of the gun, so it picks up less recoil energy when fired.


I got one of those ^ scandium / titanium lightweight guns (S&W Airlight) and because of warnings by a previous owner who had fired full house .357s out of it, I worked my way up from 148 gr target wadcutters to standard 158 gr .38 Specials and stopped there because that was all I wanted to handle. That gun (speaking of picking up recoil energy) was so light it felt, no kiddin', like an empty plastic water pistol. But let's face it. If the gun weighed the same as the bullet, it would be just as dangerous at the back end. :)

In unconscious expectation of feeling "the weight of a gun," people, including me, would overshoot "upwardly" the first time they picked it up:

"Whoa ! Holy Cow !"

Very amusing to watch that reaction.

Terry, 230RN
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I used to have a pretty high tolerance for recoil. I have previously shot some "big" caliber guns: A Rigby .470 Nitro Express double rifle which had a real sizable "push" but wasn't a particularly sharp "hit" to the shoulder you knew that something really big came out the other end. I also shot a Barrett .50 from a bench and was expecting HUGE recoil but the weight of the gun, muzzle brake and heavy bolt really tamed it down. Both are very heavy guns which help tame them. With the .470 it was really critical to have the butt stock pulled in as tight as I could.

Now on to guns that I found to be particularly uncomfortable. I had a Winchester Model 70 chambered in .300 win mag that had a really sharp, unpleasant "crack" to it. I ended up selling the gun because of the recoil. A shot friend's 45/70 lever "guide" gun with Buffalo Bore "grizzly" rounds in it and found it very uncomfortable too. Curiously, the hardest hitting, to me, was a 12 gauge short barreled 870 home defense shotgun shooting 3" mag 1oz slugs at almost 1800 fps. That thing was a beast. For handguns its really no contest. A loaded up .357 mag from a friend's S&W lightweight Scandium snubby felt like lighting off a cherry bomb in my hand.

At age 72, I just don't shoot high recoil stuff anymore. The 7.62 x 51 Savage that I currently own is about as "peppy" as I shoot now and its a pussy cat.
I'm seventy years old. But I do have a predilection for large caliber hunting rifles for dangerous game. With the (rather slim) possibility of going to Alaska, I doubt if I'll be in Grizzly country. If I was in Africa to shoot Cape Buffalo, it would be miraculous.
I have fired .458 Winchester (rebuilt 1903 Springfield action) and a Ruger No. 1 in 450/400 Nitro Express. Definitely not my idea of taking fifty rounds out for a day sniping prairie dogs. I wear a PAST shoulder protector and fire from a standing rest. (Benching those things are far too brutal.) I do not enjoy those rifles, but I can make them work.

I used to be pretty fair with a riot gun. 870 type with a short barrel and slugs. Ten rounds or so and the pain was 'enough'.

These days I think a CZ 527 in 7.62x39mm with 154 grain bullets is just dandy. For bigger problems, I'll take the 7x57mm rifle.
30-06 150 gr. target load is A OK. 180 gr. hunting load is NOT A OK, too much!!!!:(
Used to love recoil, few motorcycle accidents later im a recoil baby. 38 specials out of a heavy target revolver or 45acp out of a 1911 is my max for handguns. 30-30 is my max for rifles, although it does hurt after 1 box. I still do own a 4570, but it really only gets 1 box collectively shot through it a year. Needless to say, I shoot a heckload of 22s.
Used to love recoil, few motorcycle accidents later im a recoil baby. 38 specials out of a heavy target revolver or 45acp out of a 1911 is my max for handguns. 30-30 is my max for rifles, although it does hurt after 1 box. I still do own a 4570, but it really only gets 1 box collectively shot through it a year. Needless to say, I shoot a heckload of 22s.
You should try some trail boss in your 45-70. I like a 405 rnfp over 12.5 gn trail boss, good for about 950 fps. It's accurate and clean with less recoil than a 30-30 and it'll shoot clear through anything that's not armored.
The worst I've shot on a regular basis is my mossberg 500 12 gauge slug gun. The stock is just too short for me, so in a t shirt it is a rough ride every time I pull the trigger and I have to watch the placement of my thumb on the stock so I don't hit myself in the face. In the winter with a coat and vest the fit is better and it doesn't bother me too much between the padding and the fact it also changes where my face touches the stock. I considered modifying the stock but then the Ohio regs changed and I was able to buy a .450 bushmaster rifle to hunt with.

In a handgun, I think the only thing I've shot that I didn't care to shoot more was shooting .410 slugs out of an American Derringer with a birds head grip. I've never tried anything larger than a .460S&W though and that was out of a long barreled BFR. I am sure there are plenty of big bore handguns that would test me.
I am not a fan of recoil. I load my own .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt cartridges and mostly shoot them in Ruger revolvers. While I load some full power hunting rounds and practice with them, I mostly shoot mid-power loads that are adequate for the range and for self-defense. I have not shot anything larger than the .45 Colt and have little interest in doing so.

I gave up my last .30 caliber rifle last year. I found the .300 Win Mag uncomfortable under the best of circumstances. The .30-06 was fine, as were my .308s, but I determined that I didn't need a .30 cal to do the hunting or shooting I most enjoy ... so why bother with the recoil? Now I shoot .243/6mm, .264/6.5mm, and .284/7mm cartridges for the most part. The hardest recoiling in the bunch is a 7mm Remington Magnum; it's uncomfortable but tolerable, and I don't shoot it much.

I did recently acquire a .375 Ruger. I have been experimenting with moderate loads for that rifle, too. I haven't worked up to a max charge with a 300 grain pill yet, which I expect packs a punch. But a max charge under a 235 grain bullet wasn't as uncomfortable to me as the .300 Win Mag with a 180 grain pill. I expect I'll work up a moderate load with a 260-270 grain bullet for general use, and only work up a heavy load should the need (opportunity?) arise.

3-inch 12-gauge slugs are manageable in my shotgun, but I only shoot them when hunting. And now that I'm in my sixth decade, should I ever find myself back in a shotgun-only hunting area, I might see what I could do with a 20 gauge.

So overall, I wouldn't call myself recoil shy, but since I can do all I want with lower recoiling cartridges, why beat myself up?
458 win mag shooting full power loads was my recoil limit. Not interested in shooting any shoulder fired weapons with anything more powerful than that. I could get decent accuracy (4 MOA) shooting off-hand standing out to 100 yards with irons, but after about 10 rounds it became painful and I began to flinch. It takes a lot of concentration and practice to shoot heavy recoiling rifles well.

I made a big jump from 30-06 to 458 win mag. I am interested in the calibers in between 35 whelen, 375 H&H, etc. but have no experience with them yet.

Handguns, I am not sure yet. Haven’t shot anything more powerful than the common calibers 45 ACP, 40 s&w, etc.
Don't know of a threshold, but there are some I probably would not try nowadays. I've shot a 500 S&W, and once was enough. My 30-06 heavy loads out of a M70 featherweight are plenty for me at the range. More that a dozen rounds an I'll feel it. Featherweight is nice for carrying up a mountain, but not so much for range sessions. I notice it more now than I did when I bought it 30 years ago.

Strangely, my early 80s M77 in 30-06 was the most unpleasant to shoot. I've shouldered bigger calibers but this rifle just hit! So much so I sold it. I now want to buy it back though because it was just so pretty.
You should try some trail boss in your 45-70. I like a 405 rnfp over 12.5 gn trail boss, good for about 950 fps. It's accurate and clean with less recoil than a 30-30 and it'll shoot clear through anything that's not armored.

I dont roll my own yet, but ive been reading, lurking and researching it for 2 years now. Ive just been too chicken to do it. This ammo shortage is going to change my mind on that for sure. I sure do enjoy big holes in paper.
3in slugs out of a single shot H&R. Yeah that was fun. Growing up my grandpa was talking to our neighbor. Complaining about 12 ga kicking. Mr hynson leaned forward a bit and said well lester I got a 470 nitro in the basement you can shoot anytime. Never fired it.
My limit was a Marlin slugmaster with synthetic stock. 3" Brenneke slugs off sandbags. 3 shot group, decided if I couldn't get one with my old 870, I didn't need a deer that bad.
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