By Brad Fitzpatrick

If you’re going to hunt, you will need to learn to manage recoil. Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, which means every time you pull the trigger the gun will push back. Learning to control recoil is key to making a successful shot in the field, and here’s how you can beat the kick:

Don’t Be Overgunned: There are a number of light-recoiling cartridges and loads that don’t have a lot of recoil. Some options for rifle shooters are the .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, and the 6.5 Creedmoor. Bird hunters can use light 28 and 20 gauge loads to reduce recoil impact.

Find a Gun that Fits You: My wife shoots substantially better with her shotgun than with mine. Why? Her gun has a shortened length of pull (hers is 13 inches, and mine measures 14). That means she can properly mount the gun, which leads us to our next point…

Gun Mount and Stance: The rear of the recoil pad should rest on the junction of the arm and body or slightly closer to the midline. Make sure that your cheek is firmly planted on the comb (top of the stock). This “cheek weld” prevents the stock from rising up and hitting your face. Lean into the shot and learn to roll with the recoil.

Gun Weight: We’ve already discussed Newton’s Third Law, but his Second Law of Motion states that, roughly paraphrased, recoil is lessened as gun weight increases. The heavier your gun, the less it recoils.

Upgrade Your Recoil Pad: Some guns come with very good recoil pads that absorb kick and don’t hurt to shoot. Others, however, have very thin, dense pads or plastic plates. Having the right recoil pad appreciably reduces the pain of recoil. HIVIZ offers slip-on recoil pads for rifles and shotguns, and they have an MSRP of just $20.55. Their Universal XCoil pad, which has an MSRP of $44.65, replaces the existing pad on your gun and offers serious recoil reduction.

Practice Dry Firing: While you are on the range, have your fried hand you your rifle or shotgun and safely fire downrange. Tell them to occasionally leave the gun unloaded. When you fire, you’ll see how badly you flinch. Practice slowly pulling the trigger and controlling the sight picture until there’s no noticeable flinch on those surprise dry fires.

Wear Hearing Protection: A flinch isn’t just an anticipation of the rearward movement of the gun; it is anticipation of a very loud noise. You should always wear hearing and eye protection, but protecting your ears will also prevent you from flinching.

Recoil Chart for Common Hunting Firearms (Figures from