In response to my articles on selecting a gun for home defense, taking a friend shooting for the first time, and facts about recoil, I have been asked how one can get used to the recoil generated by more powerful guns. Getting used to recoil is not too challenging, as this article explains.
Recoil, as previously discussed, is an expression of Newton’s third law of motion, which is often paraphrased as “for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, the bullet/shot and hot gases go forward, and the gun goes backwards. There are ways to reduce recoil, but becoming accustomed to recoil is a good idea. Below are my suggestions for becoming accustomed to recoil.
1. Start with a low recoiling gun
By starting with a low recoiling gun, the shooter will have a chance to get used to the noise, muzzle flash, and basic operation of the gun. A .22 caliber gun is a good starting point. Once they are comfortable with firing a gun, they will be more at ease dealing with a harder recoiling gun.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice.
This really is a case where practice makes perfect. Right after my girlfriend first fired a large caliber handgun for the first time, she put it down and stepped back. She didn’t like the recoil and didn’t want to shoot the gun (a Springfield XD chambered for .40 S&W) again. After some persuasion, I got her to try a few more time, and she found it to be tolerable. I coaxed her into returning to the range with me again, and she came to enjoy firing that same pistol, although she would still flinch frequently. After another visit to the range, she now looks forward to when I go to the range and asks to comes along with me. She now find the .22 revolver to be “boring” to shoot. This is after only firing about 300 rounds of ammunition.
3. Continue to practice some more.
I like to believe that the recoil from most guns simply doesn’t affect me anymore, but I learned this wasn’t entirely true: I was at the range, firing 12 gauge 3″ magnum slugs from my Remington 870. I had fired about 30 so far, and my shoulder was starting to get a little sore. I though I had 1 shell left, but the shotgun was empty (I normally don’t dry fire guns like that). I pulled the trigger and and nothing happed — but I did flinch a little bit. It was not enough that it would have made a noticeable difference when shooting at a paper target 30 feet away, but it was enough that I noticed it. Had the gun not been empty, I doubt I would have noticed the flinch over the recoil. I’ve found the solution is to practice more, and to use standard or low recoil slugs if I’m going to fire a bunch in a row, rather than using magnum slugs. I recently tried this again (but using a dummy shell so as to not dry fire my gun) and found I didn’t flinch.