Rifle Recoil Management and Flinching

This is Chapter 4 of my Safari eBook for those who have issues with recoil.

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If you bought my e-book you would be so much further ahead. Go to the header and click the e-book on the header part of the magazine to purchase your own copy.

I believe that flinching is still responsible for more misses and poor hits on game than almost any other variable I can think of, besides not practicing to simulate hunting conditions. Flinching is a learned reaction to painful recoil.  Like Pavlov’s dog that learned to salivate at the sight of food, once you have been hurt (stimulus), your (response) will usually be to flinch.  It can be unlearned.  It is a reaction of the body away from danger or harm and is an unconscious reaction and a normal thing however it plays hell with accuracy.

Managing recoil to prevent flinching is one of the most important things that you should consider for any big game rifle.  I learned that there is more to this than meets the eye.  In larger calibers the shooter learns to grip the rifle firmer and press the butt of the gun firmly into the shoulder on every shot.

My favorite option for Recoil Management is a state-of-the-art recoil pad.  Most production rifles, of almost all makes, often lack severely in the recoil pad category.  For a less than $40 dollar bill you can improve shooter accuracy immeasurably by making an investment in the best recoil pads on the market today providing a reduction in felt-recoil as much as 50%.  Both Pachmayr and Sim’s Vibration Laboratories make pads that are either pre-fitted to your rifle model, ground to fit or slip on like a glove. These are both fine pads that will approach 50% reduction in recoil.

The concept of reducing felt recoil with these state of the art recoil pads has much to do with absorbing the kick over a longer time frame (in milliseconds), thus the rifle pushes the shoulder of the shooter rather than punching or kicking it.  This is great news for those of us wanting to hunt dangerous game or for a youngster shooting his first deer rifle.  We won’t have to flinch at the thought of squeezing the trigger sending our shoulders into tomorrow and our teeth back to the dentist any longer.

The table shown next indicates the caliber, bullet weight, and velocity used to formulate the chart which demonstrates the significant value the shooter gains shooting with a recoil pad which provides 50% reduction in felt recoil.  I could have added other popular calibers like the 7mm Remington Magnum or the .270 Winchester but I merely want to pictorially demonstrate what happens when felt recoil is reduced so dramatically in this way.

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The recoil of each caliber has been plotted twice, once without 50% reduction and once with reduction.  In addition, I have included reduction in recoil when rifle weight increases on the same chart below.

The point of all this information is to demonstrate that using state of the art recoil pads, you can tame some of the bigger calibers so you can step up in power and not be clobbered in the process. By the same token you can tame a .30-06 shooting a very respectable 165 grain bullet for example to have the felt recoil of a .243 Winchester (not shown) that does not have a recoil pad.

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Note that there are two upper lines that overlap on the chart circled on the right. The right circled lines represents the .416 Rigby shooting 400 grain bullets with 50% recoil reduction theoretically shoots the same felt recoil as the .338 Winchester shooting 250 grain bullets without a recoil pad.  The .375 Ruger (very similar ballistics to the H&H Magnum) shooting 300 grain bullets with 50% reduction shoots with slightly more recoil than the .30-06 shooting 165 grain bullets without a recoil pad.  In addition the .30-06 with a 50% recoil reduction (left circle) shoots like a .243 Winchester (not shown) with 100 grain bullets. See the red circle on the left of the chart at 9.5 ft-lbs reduced felt recoil.

And lastly you can see what an 8 to 12 pound rifle does to reduce felt recoil, not as much as the 50% reduction using these recoil pads.  Yes you can add weight but who wants to carry more weight?  Not me.

Sim’s also makes a strap-on Limbsaver pad shown below that spreads the recoil out over a wider area.  I always use this pad when I am benchrest shooting in addition the recoil pad on the rifle.

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The shoulder pad is surprisingly thin and not bulky like some other recoil pads I have seen.

The end result of using these pads is that the shooter has also increased their inherent accuracy, thus allowing the brain to stay focused on the shot and not the recoil.  Yes, there are other ways to reduce recoil but none are as simple as a technologically superior and cost effective as a state-of-the-art recoil pad, such as a Sim’s or a Pachmayr.  I have them for every rifle I shoot.

The best of these recoil pads are made of specially designed rubber and air chambers that have been measured in a laboratory to scientifically reduce felt recoil.  There are several manufacturers who make these recoil pads such as Pachmayr and Sim’s Vibration Laboratories.  Some of these pads will require an adjustment to the length of the stock to fit you correctly.  Oliver Ford and I found both the Sim’s Vibration Laboratories and the Pachmayr worked equally to reduce recoil and tested the slip-on version and the precision-fit shown below, the Pachmayr needs some work to grind and trim.  We found that the Sim’s pad kept the rifles muzzle from jumping where the Pachmayr did not.  Sim’s calls it anti muzzle jump technology.  In addition, the Sim’s was precision-fit pad to fit brands of rifles like the Ruger M77 MK II for wood stocks shown in the lower right photo.

To install it, just remove the screws from your existing pad and use them to attach the new pad.  I had to pilot a new hole for one side of the pad.  It took me 10 minutes extra time.  Mine fit perfect.  Just measure the butt plate area in length and width and note your make and model of firearm.  The Pachmayr is sold as small, medium and large.  The one in the left photo is a medium and is a grind to fit and requires much more effort to in grinding.  Installation is the same with 2 screws.

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The Slip-on pads are terrific in a pinch but I would much rather have them permanently attached.  Both Oliver and I like both the Pachmayr and Sim’s Limbsaver, however, we like the Limbsaver slip-on much better as it has more friction to grip the stock and it has the anti-muzzle jump technology built in.

I discussed the Sim’s recoil pad with a Professional Hunter Jurie Meyer of Afri-Bushveld Adventures.  He offered a testimonial that his PH wife Celia weighs just about 100 pounds and using the Sim’s pads on her rifle and a double strap on Sim’s Limbsaver shoulder pad she can shoot a .458 Express round accurately without any shoulder issues.

When shooting from a benchrest your shoulder is often rolled forward placing the butt of the gun much higher, therefore I wear an additional strap on pad and a jacket to spread the recoil out as well.  For shooting the .416 Rigby at the bench I shoot with all the padding I can stuff under a Sim’s shoulder pad, and have the Sim’s Recoil pad on the rifle as well.  When shooting the .416 Rigby standing with shooting sticks or off hand I don’t need anything but the recoil pad on the rifle and can shoot it in a light shirt with no recoil issues at all, but at the bench it kicks the heck out of me.  An important thing to remember is not to over do your shooting with the big bore rifles in one session as you can become bruised or worse learn to flinch.  During the famous Teddy Roosevelt Safari, Teddy’s son Kermit had to stop hunting for a few days or so to let his shoulder heal as he was shooting big bore rifles too often.

The .375 Ruger is a much lighter rifle and weighs a three or four ounces over 9 pounds with a scope.  It shoots a 300 grain bullet with just slightly more energy than a .375 H & H Magnum but with these recoil pads they tame this round very well when standing or shooting from shooting sticks.  Again shooting from the bench should always include a shoulder strap-on pad to further reduce recoil.  Regular practice just before a hunt with these big rifles is the best way to mentally and physically prepare.Good Hunting!©


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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.