Everyone's Favorite Topic: Recoil

The perpetual favorite topic of shotgunning (and firearms in general) has always been recoil. Recoil itself is easy to calculate, there have been very handy calculators available for many years by now, that show what free recoil is, and how payload, velocity, and gun weight affect it.

You might think that after all of these years there just wouldn't be much left to discuss, but to say that it isn't discussed is an understatement along the lines of saying, “General Motors recalled an automobile.” Agreeing isn't much fun, apparently, so we don't agree on simplistic things like gun weight. But, weight just is, and whether we feel it is heavy or think it is light, then so it is. No matter how hot or how cold a room gets, it is still “room temperature.”

It is particularly bad with shotguns, for everyone makes the “World's Softest Shooting Shotgun.” Just read the ads, or ask them. Everyone has “that model.” It is a pity, though, for now the savvy consumer has to assume that gun companies are always lying. If it really is the “world's” something or other, than only one company can possibly be telling the truth. Gun companies don't mind suing each other at all, Browning is suing Ruger right now, but I've never heard of a “most reliable,” “fastest cycling,” or “lowest recoil” lawsuit. Some companies don't believe their own nonsense.

But, as folks like to point up, the point isn't recoil, it is just a feeling, with no coincidence it has been dubbed, “Felt Recoil.” It is a perfect term for marketing, because feelings about things cannot be shown. If you feel we have been invaded by Martians, well . . . the straight fact is, that is how you feel. It isn't easy to disprove. Just because we can't find them on Mars is no explanation, as they could have all landed here before recorded history. It isn't that easy to check the records of unrecorded history, of course.

The solution for the individual is easy enough, just shoot every shotgun ever made with every available shell and “Bingo!,” there is the answer. The only catch is that the human lifespan is not without its limits.

Here's a subjective example using three twenty gauge autoloaders, selected at random. They are a vintage Browning alloy B-80 at 6-1/4 lbs., a Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe at 6 pounds, and a Benelli M2 Comfortech at 6 lbs. These guns were shot all afternoon with a variety of loads; the video mercifully does show all of it. The unscientific comparison is with F2 Legend 1 ounce loads.


You might be disappointed to hear that none of these three shotguns are the softest-shooting we have used, not even close. Yet none of them are anything but completely comfortable to shoot with 7/8 oz. loads. One ounce loads were used so the difference could at least be felt.

If you want a pillow to shoot, go with a heavy gas gun such as a steel Browning B-80, Remington 1100, or the older and heavier Browning Golds. Only the 1100 is still made, so that suggests that recoil isn't all it is made out to be, particularly for a hunting gun. Sure, a good recoil pad can help things, so does proper gun fit, but there is no agreement about the best recoil pad or precise gun dimensions for all. A buttstock with a bigger contact area of course spreads rearward movement over a larger area, but we don't all have the same shoulder pockets, either, so bigger isn't always better . . . it may be worse.

Gas operated guns are softer-shooting, as a class, there is no doubt. Yet, it hardly means that a really light gas gun with a hard plastic buttplate throwing the heaviest payload available (that would be 1-1/2 oz. in 20 gauge) is going to be a lot of fun for all day use. It isn't.

At the end of the day, here's how they ranked. Softest-shooting: the no longer made Browning alloy B-80 (essentially a Beretta 302 series action) with a rubber butt plate, followed by the quarter-pound lighter Weatherby SA-08 with a softer, better recoil pad, followed by the comparatively harsh-shooting Benelli M2 ComforTech. There is no doubt as to the ranking, according to my shoulder.

Yet, of the three, the differences are not huge, and really aren't enough to matter with 7/8 oz. loads. As it happens, for wild pheasant with 1-1/4 oz. to 1-5/16 oz. lead loads that I normally use, the Benelli M2 is my favorite due to fit and the way it comes up. Though three inch shells are nothing to bother with for clay pigeons, wild pheasant hunting isn't high volume shooting and heavier upland hunting clothes do their own bit of adding to the comfort level.

The downside to gas guns is the same as always, they need to be cleaned, while the inertia and long-recoil guns can be almost ignored. Almost, just keep a drop of oil on the rails of a Benelli or similar, half a drop of oil on the sliding contact surfaces of an A-5.

Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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