The Evil Recoil Monster

One of the most popular topics, every year, is recoil. If you're looking for recoil, regardless whether shotgun, rifle, or handgun, your best best is to get the lightest gun possible. As long as you have the lightest gun in its class, the odds are the best that you'll be able to terrorize women, children, horses, and perhaps yourself most successfully. It was the variably intoxicated Elmer Keith who claimed recoil was “all in your head.” Don Zutz explored the avenues of curing flinch with amino acids. Mr. Keith's chosen method was probably more effective, but far more of a menace.

Invariably, you'll get a lecture of sorts about “physics,” but physics was hardly created for firearm enthusiasts. Once in a while, you'll hear someone go off about “wimps,” as if self-inflicted nerve damage, flinching, and hearing loss is a badge of honor, not an emblem of unsmartness. It is a colossal collision of wimpiness, for too wimpy to carry a heavy gun, yet somehow far too wimpy thoroughly to enjoy self-abuse doesn't not easily sit on the same plate.

I just grabbed on old 1903A3 bolt-action, unloaded and unscoped. It weighs 9-1/4 lbs. For comparison, I weighed a Springfield Armory M1 Garand, no sling, no scope of course, unloaded: 10 lbs. on the nose. Unless gravity has somehow changed over the last 110 years, classic heavily shootable firearms of moderate load intensity generally are heavy.

I've learned the hard way, fighting my way through my own remarkable brand of youthful stupidity. Getting ready for an elk hunt for the first time, I “knew” that elk were really tough animals, and that lesser loads would just bounce off of them. It is the old, goofy, mistaken belief that the harder something kicks you, the better it will flatten your trophy. I'd like to forget those days at the range, practicing with my .338 WinMag. At the end of the day, you're broke from the high-priced ammo, and your body is trashed as well. It is hard to kill things much past dead, but the ads suggested that I learn to do that, anyway. They still do, for it is isn't “magnum,” you might as well just stay home and eat some oatmeal, or so they like to say.

The same goes with handgun hunting, for rather than rely on my .44 RemMag, there were more “advanced options”: Uncle Wildey. Uncle Wildey came from Charles Bronson in “Death Wish 3.” The .475 Wildey Magnum was supposed to be the ultimate handgun hunting round. I could not afford “friend Wildey,” but a good friend of mine did. It was reliably unreliable and incredibly expensive to shoot. As an added bonus, this heavy gas-operated marvel torques violently to the left when you pull the trigger, ejecting hot brass perfectly against your chest and down your shirt. My friend was burned financially; I was simply, far more conventionally burned.

On the other side of the fence, there is of course the peculiar minimalist cult. It is the type of eccentric thinking that tries to make the .410 bore shotgun into a goose gun, the .220 Swift into a moose rifle that has the extra special “Hammer of Thor” quality. It continues with the Taurus Judge that is apparently effective if you are attacked by fruit.

Let's not forget the “Benjamin Rogue” (discontinued in 2011, now re-released as the $1000 BULLDOG .357) big game hunting air rifle that includes the “awesomeness” of blowing air at a 145 grain lead bullet that manages 750 fps or so for the first shot, and dwindles down from there. There is a “highlight reel” that apparently shows embarrassingly slow, unethical (eventual) airgun kills on a black wildebeest, a red hartebeest, and a gemsbok.

A .357 magnum out of a handgun is somewhat of a minimalist round itself, yet can throw a 180 grain Swift A-Frame at 1130 fps and a 140 grain Barnes Expander at 1400 fps. A .357 Magnum handgun is a passable whitetail round out to 75 yards, sure, with the right bullet. But 145 grains of lead at 750 fps is miserable stuntsmanship on big game whether blowing hot air or cold. The extremely low recoil for the shooter apparently is an attraction?

Recoil has been measured by Kistler dynamic load cells and a high resolution PCB accelerometer. With higher intensity loads, the best recoil pads provide 6% recoil force reduction. This is fact-based, not ad-copy based. Sometimes the facts are less than exciting and this is one of those times. The problem with springy stock things is not only that they break, add weight, but you have moving comb and face slap issues.

Bothersome recoil, aside from the discomfort, slows down follow up shots. There is recovery time involved, regardless if we feel “it isn't so bad.” The balanced approach has proven to be the best. If you want a painful gun to shoot, it will be the lightest one. While “the lightest gun in the world” attempts to sell things, odds are the lightest gun in the world also is the harshest shooting gun . . . in the world. That type of “lightest and softest-shooting” hyperbole fits right in with things that “increase velocity” and reduce recoil. It is easier, for most, to find the Loch Ness Monster.

There is good reason to seek a balanced approach to personal firearms. A firearm, any firearm, should be fun to shoot. If it isn't, then naturally practice won't be any fun at all and probably won't happen. No practice means no experience and no confidence based on experience. No proficiency is the expected, bitterly distasteful result of a firearm that you really don't enjoy using.

Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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