There are many ways to soften the rifle recoil and I am going to name a few I know of:
- A muzzle brake
- Recoil-absorbing stocks
- Recoil pads
- Weighing the stock
- Quality Gloves
- Cheek cushion
- Using a smaller cartridge
- Using a gas gun
- Using a heavier gun
- Using lighter loads
I will be talking a little about each of these methods below but first a little bit of a background story.
When I first started shooting from a rifle during my basic training in the military, the AK-47 was the first rifle that I was given.
Considering we only used standard 7.62x39mm bullets, it was still a pain to shoot out all the required rounds effectively for quite some time.
Just as I was getting used to the recoil of an automatic rifle, I was re-assigned to a special battalion and that’s when I got my first long-range rifle, the Sako TRG-42 and felt what real recoil is.
But, that’s also the time when our instructor started working more with me so I could catch up with the others when it came to necessary training.
He also noticed I was still not used to the recoil completely and we started experimenting to soften it to an acceptable level without sacrificing accuracy.
Now, many years later, I no longer have the need for any recoil-reducing methods, but that’s largely due to not using high-powered rifles.
But, as I was scrolling through a forum I frequent lately, I noticed a lot of comments on a question about recoil reduction which is why I decided to write down everything my instructor and my experience have thought me.
Methods have no particular order and you should always experiment with a few to gauge what’s working best for you and your rifle.
#1 Muzzle Brake / Recoil Compensator
We shooters either love or totally hate muzzle brakes, there is no middle ground. I honestly never use it, but the fact remains that the muzzle brake is probably the most efficient method of softening the recoil of a rifle.
Even though most muzzle brake systems are very similar when it comes to efficiency, I would like to mention two that are a bit ahead of the competition in my opinion.
The first one comes from Savage on its Model 16/116 Bear Hunter and 11/111 Long Range Hunter. The muzzle brake does not need to be removed from the rifle, instead, they have come up with an excellent solution – you can simply turn the muzzle brake “off” and “on” whenever you want to.
The second one comes from Ruger. Ruger came up with an excellent solution by incorporating three vital parts into their system – the muzzle brake itself, a lighter thread protector, and muzzle weights. When zeroed in with the muzzle brake on, the system works perfectly and the muzzle weight will serve as a counter to make every shot go to the same zero.
#2 Recoil Pads
If you used the recoil pads before then you know that there are almost no two identical models out there when it comes to how soft they are, ranging from excellent to rock-like.
In my experience, LimbSaver from Sims Vibration Laboratory, the Kickeez, the Pachmayr Decelerator, and the Remington Supercell are the absolute kings. A recoil pad that’s added onto the rifle stock will do its job, but it increases the length of pull. Another option is the strap-on recoil pad for the shoulder.
Independent testing confirms that KICK-EEZ® Sorbothane® Recoil Pads reduce twice as much recoil than all other recoil pads on the market. We have a great guide you can read here.
And as an added bonus, there are shirts out there that were made specifically for hunting and shooting with shoulder pockets that hold thin but great pads. The Browning makes one of the best shirts and they add very very little to the pull length.
#3 Cushion The Cheek
When it comes to recoil, most of us grab our shoulders remembering a time when we got hit hard by it. But there is another part of our body that is more sensitive to the recoil impact – the cheek.
A rifle or shotgun stock with a cheek pad set on an adjustable cheek comb is going to save you from so much pain, and in turn, improve your accuracy as well as response time.
I have not yet seen a shotgun that comes with one right out of the box, but a little DIY with an adhesive-backed pad like Cheekeeze from Brownells will do wonders.
The last but not least, there are also some strap-on cheek pads out there that might be the thing you are looking for. I recommend that you check out Tactical Cheek Pad from Blackhawk, and the Cheek Saver from Buffalo Arms.
#4 Use a Smaller Cartridge
Unless you are hunting some fearsome beast, cartridges generating less recoil will almost always get the job done so don’t always go for the biggest bullet you can find. For example, the .243 Win has been consistently ranked among the top 4 cartridges for big game hunting for decades.
There are other cartridges that generate similar recoil without sacrificing firepower like the 6mm Remington, and .250-3000 Savage. And since the .257 Roberts is available with heavier bullets, it might be a tad better.
Finally here are some cartridges that generate more recoil but are quite comfortable to shoot: the 6.5×55 mm Swedish, .260 Remington, 7×57 mm Mauser, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 7 mm-08 Remington.
#5 Choose a Heavier Gun
Just how much difference does the addition of a bit of weight make? Consider the following figures based on the recoil churned up by rifles chambered in 30-’06 Springfield.
Four guns weighing 6, 7, 8 and 9 lbs. each and firing loads based on 180-gr. bullets at 2700 feet per second will result in recoil energies of approximately 26.4, 22.7, 19.8 and 17.6 ft.-lbs., respectively.
A very surprising difference, right?
#6 Weight The Stock
Drilling a hole or two into the butt of a stock and inserting lead shot will do the job with minimal effort and cash investment. The second is to make a few holes a bit larger than the .50 caliber Great Plains bullets made by Hornady for muzzleloaders and insert them.
Adding weight only to the buttstock can spoil the balance of a firearm so a few of the stick-on lead wheel weights made for use on alloy automobile wheels can be inletted into the barrel channel of a rifle stock and held in place by a bedding compound such as Acraglas or Steel-Bed. They are available at most tire stores.
Another option I have used is a clamp-on weight attached to the barrel of a shotgun forward of the fore-end. In addition to reducing recoil, it can be used to improve the swinging qualities of a shotgun by adding weight upfront. The Graco barrel weight works on all shotguns and on some rifles, revolvers and single-shot handguns. It comes with 4-, 6- and 8-oz. weights and clamp adaptors for 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge and .410 bore shotgun barrels. If the heavy barrel you installed on your AR-15 made it too muzzle heavy, Brownells offers a lead weight specifically shaped for easy insertion into an A2 buttstock.
Other types of recoil reducers for the stock consist of a hollow steel or aluminum cylinder, some with internal piston and springs, others containing mercury. They are available for both rifles and shotguns and sizes vary. The Dead Mule (can’t kick) from 100 Straight fits inside a 7/8″x 41/2″ hole drilled into the butt of the stock. The Graco BreaKO and the Edwards Recoil Reducer have also been around for many years. Graco offers two types, one for inside the buttstock, the other thin enough to be inletted into the fore-end of a rifle. It has long been debated whether their pistons, springs and mercury work as claimed, but since some add close to a pound, the weight alone reduces recoil.
Hopefully, this gets you a little closer to coming up with your own solution to softening the recoil that fits you best. Please do not ask me which one of these is best because I can’t give you that answer, solely because the answer is specific to each and every person as well as the rifle.
However, I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please write them down in the comments section below or to be directly over the contact us page!