There is another component to recoil called “felt” or “perceived” recoil. Felt or perceived recoil is basically the shooter’s sensitivity to, or perception of, the actual recoil force generated by the load. The gun plays a big role in felt or perceived recoil. That’s because it is the transferring agent for passing the actual recoil force generated by the shotshell load to the shooter.
The most important factor of the gun in transferring more or less actual recoil is its overall weight. The heavier the gun, the less actual recoil force transferred. After that, things can be done to the gun to lessen the impact of the actual recoil force transferred. They include, but are not limited to, things such as recoil pads, spring devices between the shoulder and the gun (such as hydracoil-type stocks), and lastly, the square inches of surface area of both the butt and the comb of the gun in contact with the shooter’s shoulder and face, respectively. The softer or more “cushiony” the recoil pad, the more recoil is absorbed by the pad. Thus a sharp wrap to the shoulder is converted more into something like a push. Additionally, the larger the surface area of the butt and comb of the gun, the less recoil force is transferred to any point on the shoulder or face. Simply put: They both can make recoil feel better.
The action of the gun can also play a big role. Specifically, a gas-operated autoloader can absorb a certain amount of the actual recoil force so that there is less total recoil transferred to the shooter. In all the other shotgun actions, the total recoil force generated by the shotshell is always transferred totally with only the gun weight or recoil pad, etc., able to provide any felt recoil relief.
An important component of felt recoil is the direction of the recoil force transferred through the gun to the shooter. With all shotgun types except side-by-sides, the recoil force goes primarily straight back, depending upon the pitch and drop of the stock. The less pitch and drop the straighter the recoil force. This feels better to most shooters.
Beware the side-by-side. With a side-by-side there is always a twisting recoil force coming back to the shooter. This is felt primarily in the face and is an insurmountable negative of shooting side-by-sides. The only way to overcome some of it is to have a big old beavertail forearm which allows the forehand to better control the torque.
The final factor in felt recoil is the shooter’s personal sensitivity to recoil. There is no way to quantify this variable. Some shooters are simply more sensitive to recoil than are others. The lighter the body of the shooter, the more sensitive it is to recoil. Sensitivity also seems to increase with age for many shooters. Sensitivity also increases as a result of any degeneration or medical operations to the shoulder to which the shooter mounts the gun.
To sum up both parts of this treatise on recoil, recoil is always a negative to everyone’s shotgun shooting. Don’t let it destroy or reduce your shooting potential. To reduce the effects of recoil, do one or more of the following things:
1) Shoot the lightest, slowest shotshell load that you know can get the job done; gauge is irrelevant.
2) Shoot the heaviest gun that you can handle and swing well; again gauge is irrelevant.
3) If you are especially sensitive to recoil or are light-bodied, strongly consider shooting gas-operated autoloading shotgun actions.
4) Regardless of the shotgun type you shoot, be certain it possesses a good cushiony recoil pad. If you are especially sensitive, avoid side-by-sides and shoot some type of hydracoil or spring-type stock.
5) Make sure your shotgun stock has a large butt area and that the comb is rounded and not sharp in contour.
6) Keep connected to your shotgun. It is important to keep your face tight on the comb and to allow no space between the gun butt and your shoulder as you slap the trigger. This prevents the gun from developing momentum to bite your face or kick your shoulder.
7) Keep a firm grip on your shotgun because much recoil force can be absorbed in your hands preventing it from ever getting to your shoulder or face.
No one can tell you that you aren’t feeling nasty recoil if in fact you are. So, if you are a recoil-sensitive individual – for whatever reason – do everything possible to lessen the recoil – real and perceived – in your shotgun shooting. This, if you care about shooting the best you possibly can.