Reducing Shotgun Recoil.

The question below was asked on the SASS wire. The SASS Wire  The principles are helpful for all of us – especially for anyone sensitive to recoil.

I would really like to get my wife involved in CAS and really think she'd have a ball...but, she is on the small side, 5'1''/100lbs. I know the .32 caliber handguns and rifle won't be a problem...but that shotgun, weeeeeelllllll, I'm not sure she can take the pounding...she isn't frail by any means but I don't want to totally discourage her from the sport.

So, what do you suggest? What do most of the smaller woman do, do they use recoil pads or pad their clothes?

Lou Graham, SASS # 26112 gave a great answer

It sounds backwards, but a 12 GA. or 16 GA. shotgun will be less felt recoil that a 20 gauge. Stay away from 20 gauge. Get somebody that understands shotgun fit to measure and cut the stock to the correct length of pull specifically for your wife. She can't use your gun. If it's too long for her, it's going to hurt. A barrel on the longer side is better than really short.

Some of the pards that are introducing shotgun to their little girls are using very light BP loads. The kids ain't shooting BP -- just for shotgun. BP has a slower pressure curve and it "shoves" rather than giving you a "crack" sort of recoil. It would give her a chance to get used to it before she moves to light smokeless loads.

The pads under your clothes are a PITA. They catch the stock, get out of position and are not really much good for cowboy. Trap shooters don't move around like we do.

Make sure she knows how to stand. I tell the young girls:

Stomp that front FOOT forward and get your weight on it.
Get the BUTT of the gun into the pocket on your shoulder.
Get your CHEEK down onto the stock.

I almost didn't do cowboy because I was afraid of the shotgun. I have enough now that I think I qualify for having a "collection" of 16 GA. shotguns.

There's bunches of other stuff you can do, but the most important is to make sure the gun fits her to start with. Nothing else will help if you start from a bad fit.

A few other folks commented that their wives used and like the pads such as the Herean recoil shield.

Recoil Shield

Hacker, SASS #55963 stresses being sure the chamber length is proper and using a longer forcing cone:

I am a gunsmith and found that cutting a longer forcing cone reduces the felt recoil dramatically. The problem is that many of the older guns and even some newer shotguns have very short forcing cones. The short forcing cone is a hold over from the old paper shotgun cartridges and no shot cup. With modern ammo longer forcing cones are necessary and are not really hard to cut. But really should be done by a gunsmith.
Cost runs around a $100 per barrel.

My addition was:
Marauder SASS #13056:

Lou pretty well nailed it!
My wife wanted to shoot the SxS. I started my wife with a Stoeger coach gun using light reloads, a good recoil pad and cut to length. She hated it!!

So I went with a longer barreled, slightly heavier Baikel (now Remington Spartan) 24 inch barrel gun and she likes it much better. It is only 1/2 pound heavier. It has much less rotation in the recoil due to the different stock design and weight distribution.

As Hacker noted, most find that a longer forcing cone helps to reduce recoil as well. I have the cone lengthened on most of my guns. This is especially true of original Winchester 97 - even the last ones made in the 1950's. Their chambers are NOT set up for modern 2 3/4 shot shells. Brownells sells a tool that will lengthen the chamber to the proper length as well as lengthen the forcing cone.

Conejo Kid, SASS # 51342 added some more good info:

It's great to have your wife involved -- so go for it. You will find that she get's a lot of support from the other female shooters.

We've gone through several changes over the past year. Here is what I've learned.

1. S X S's kick harder than 97's
2. Length of pull is very important. Probably should be 12 to 12 1/2 inches for her.
3. Put on the very best (and thickest) butt pad you can find.
4. Shoot the Winchester Low Noise – Low Recoil shells (we call them Featherlites, but many sales folks won’t know this.). These only come in 12 g and they kick way less than any 20g. So there is no need to go to a 20 shotgun. Ref Winchester part no AAFL75 or AA12FL8.

Other tricks are (as mentioned): lead the stock (but it also make the gun heavier); 18 1/4 - 20 inch barrel (good weight distribution); Secondary butt pad (neoprene with a lace on leather pad); have a gunsmith "relieve the chamber" -- we did this and it does help; and be sure she "LEANS INTO THE GUN".

Black powder does help but it's a real pain in the rear for most of us.

My wife still doesn't like the shotgun but she loves the game and the recoil is at least manageable for her.

For those that reload:

Prairie Dawg, SASS #50329:

Make sure the shotgun stock is the correct length. My wife's Stoeger is cut to 12", and then a lace-on ""Kick killer" recoil pad from Cabela's is installed. I also load up special shells :
Win AA hull 13 grains Clays Grey Win Wad, 7/8 ounce shot. Or Green Remington "Gun club" hull 13 grains clays federal 12so wad & 7/8 ounce shot. This load was worked out over the phone with the folks at Hodgdon's tech support. Good CAS load knocks everything down. Almost no recoil when used with wife's Stoeger. (Note: these are below the published loads, so keep that in mind)

Peso Bill SR SASS #54015 added:

My Katt shoots a 97 and says the recoil is felt less than with a SXS, I cut the stock to 12" Including a good recoil pad covered in deer skin so it doesn’t slip. Winchester low-noise low recoil or extra light target loads, I also filled the butt bolt hole with lead shot, gives it more weight.

Another point to remember is to cut the stock on the reverse angle, you normally shoot a shotgun up but we are shooting at a down angle, this drives the bottom point of the stock into a lady’s soft parts and hurts them a lot! If you cut it flat or with the point on the upper side it doesn’t dig in. That sharp part digging in is why so many ladies get afraid of the shotgun real fast, it’s a girl thing we guys have to be aware off.

Pick Pocket, SASS #64071 added info about using a recoil reducer.   (The have spring loaded ones as well as mercury filled units):

My wife is 5 foot nothing. She shoots a '97 (manufactured in 1919) with a shortened stock, a recoil pad, a mercury recoil tube in the stock, and feather light shells. She has no problem with the recoil at all, hardly there at all.

(For a “poor man’s” version, just take some smaller lead shot and fill the hole in your shotgun stock, then pack it tightly with some paper filler and tape over the stock hole to keep things solid.   Then put the recoil pad back on.)

Junebug McCaffrey #51549 added:

Hi -- no gal was ever more ' fraid of a shotgun than I was -- Now, I don't even think about it because it is so easy -- this is what you need.

1. One of those kick pads that goes under your blouse -- attached to the undergarment strap to keep it in place.

2. Then you have to position the shotgun in that shoulder in the right place, hold it in to you so you move with it instead of it "kicking" you. A GREAT GUY -- El Maestro -- from Kings River Regulators taught me how to shoot a shotgun.

3. Use those Featherlites (Low Noise – Low Recoil) shells.

3. Put a kickpad on the bottom of the stock. Mine is a Kickease -- just spongee and has that baffle area on the bottom of the pad.

4. I did all the above and still had some kick but a GREAT GUY -- Wildcat John -- from Kings River Regulators took my shotgun and sized it to me and gut down the stock for me -- I cannot BEGIN to tell you what a difference that made. (Still put that kick pad on the bottom of the stock though.)

Now -- no kick -- none whatsoever. I believe all these things together and especially proper fitting reduce recoil. I have a previous shoulder injury -- and my shotgun never bothers it at all.

So for a summary:

A Winchester 97 will normally kick less than a double barrel, but many folks will still prefer a double barrel.   And the principles work for either gun type:


Stomp that front FOOT forward and get your weight on it.
Get the BUTT of the gun into the pocket on your shoulder.
Get your CHEEK down onto the stock.
Lean into the gun as you are shooting


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Updated on 9/9/2007    By Our Excellent Staff          Email: