Shooting a rifle is different than shooting a shotgun. Having fired thousands of rounds from both, I have developed and learned several best practices that will help you enjoy the practice sessions that will ensure when your opportunity arrives you have the best chance of winning the match or harvesting the game.
A shotgun trigger is pulled, a rifle trigger is squeezed. This simple rule alone can shrink your groups from fitting inside a dinner plate to quarter and even nickel-sized. I was taught by an old timer mentor that every shot from a rifle should come as a complete surprise. That is still great advice.
Thou shalt buy a gun that fits.
Even though the gun moves linearly at the moment the trigger is pulled, shotgun recoil is dynamic. As the gun is fired, it is moving across a large range of motion-Up, down, overhead, left to right, right to left, etc. Rifle recoil is mainly linear. A great deal of rounds are fired from a stationary position in which the shooter is taking the full force of the recoil straight back into their shoulder. Because of this, rifle recoil tends to be sharper and more “harsh” than shotgun recoil. Making sure that you have the proper length of pull will allow you to weld your cheek to the stock and have a great sight picture. Having a long eye-relief scope will prevent it from bashing you in the eyebrow.
Always shoot with a recoil pad.
Years ago, rifles came with a metal butt plate or, if there was a recoil pad attached, a hard rubber pad that was just as good at taming recoil as metal. Many rifles today come with great recoil pads. If yours does not, or comes with a poor one, there are several manufacturers out there such as Sims, Pachmayr, and others that are made specifically to fit your rifle. $20 or $30 spent on this purchase will absolutely make you a better shooter, if only for the “Flinch factor.”
Pick the right caliber.Today’s bullets make it possible to take ever increasing size game with smaller calibers than those of the past. Wildcatting has made some great rounds that perform as well as their “magnum” counterparts with significantly less recoil. My first rifle, a 7 mm Remington Magnum, gives a brutal amount of recoil- especially to a youth or woman. A 7 mm – 08 is practically the ballistic equivalent, uses the same diameter bullet, and yet only gives up around 200 ft./s. If you plan on hunting dangerous game and are required to use a “large caliber” rifle there are many manufacturers and aftermarket companies that build muzzle brakes to make even the “heavy hitters” perform mildly in the recoil department.
How big if a difference does a muzzle brake make? Check out the video of me shooting a “Heavy hitter” – the .416 Taylor- below.
Practice, practice, practice.
The argument could be made that this should be number one, however, people that have recoil issues with lots of practice develop substantial flinch, which is then exacerbated with more practice. The more you practice good form, the greater the chance you will perform at your best when that “moment of truth” arrives. You will be able to take aim, let out a bit of breath, squeeze the trigger, and deliver the bullet exactly where you want to deliver it with confidence because you do not have concerns about the recoil of your firearm.
We’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories of people putting a hard kicking gun in the hands of a first-time shooter, a woman, or a child.
It may be the WORST possible thing you can do, so DON’T.
It’s not funny, is dangerous, demeaning, and can ruin them forever.
Please use the comments below to let me know how you feel. What was your first experience with recoil like? How did you finally address it?