Managing Recoil at the Shooting Bench

For many shooters, the idea of owning a big bore rifle is attractive, but they are put off by the thought of dealing with heavy recoil. While heavy recoil and big bore rifles generally go hand in hand, recoil can be managed by the firer to the point where it does not need to be an impediment. Like many things, familiarity can take away some of the fear. The more you shoot a big bore rifle, the more you get used to it.

Most hunters will tell you that when in the field hunting, that they don't notice the recoil as much as when they are at the range. This is mainly due to the fact that they become target focussed. When trying to close the deal on their prey, the hunter becomes immersed in concentrating on the animal. This is especially true with dangerous game, when an element of danger exists and the hunter is also concerned about their own safety. Their senses become less attuned to the sights, sound and movement of their rifle upon firing, as all their attention is directed towards their prey. Also a factor is that in the field, the hunter will generally only fire a few shots in succession, and often only a single shot. So the cumulative effects of recoil are avoided.

The big bore enthusiast will spend far more time firing their rifles at the range than in the field against game. Whether for practice, zeroing rifles or working up handloads with various projectiles, range time will usually occupy the majority of firing. Most shooters will fire the bulk of their rounds from a shooting bench, which exacerbates the effects of recoil. When in the seated position, the body is less well able to absorb recoil as it moves less, so recoil impulses will be more sharply felt at the bench than when standing up.

Reducing Recoil While Shooting from the Bench

However, there are some simple techniques that the shooter can put in place to make their range session more tolerable, and so avoid becoming recoil sensitive, or worse, developing a bad flinch.

Posture:           One of the most simple methods is to ensure that when sitting and firing from the shooting bench, your torso is as upright as possible. In order to achieve this, you will either need to adjust the height of your seat, or the height of the rifle on the rests on your bench. The more upright you are, the more your body can 'roll' with the recoil movement of the rifle. The easier your shoulder can move rearwards under recoil, the less energy your shoulder will be subjected to. Some of the recoil is absorbed in moving your entire torso back, rather than being absorbed wholly by the small area of your shoulder. The difference between being hunched over when you fire compared to being upright in your seat is very noticeable.

Padding:          There are various padded jackets and shoulder pads on the market for purchase, which will both help absorb the recoil energy and also transfer the recoil force over a larger area of the shoulder. Whenever you can spread a force over a larger area, the impact against any given point within that area is reduced. However, there are even more simple padding options available. Clothing or material that is soft (a jumper or fleece jacket for instance), can be folded a few times and placed between the butt of the rifle and the shoulder. Admittedly, this will affect the eye relief to a degree, but the benefits in reducing felt recoil far outweigh this manageable side effect. You will be surprised what a difference this will make to the comfort of your shoulder, compared to using no padding.

Firing Interval:                        An easy way to reduce the cumulative effects of recoil is to space out your firing over a longer shooting session. 10 rounds fired over an hour is much easier to put up with compared to 10 rounds fired in five minutes. Allowing your body some recovery time between shots fired reduces the fatiguing effects of felt recoil. Take the opportunity to get up from the bench and move around between shots.

Weighted Rests:          There are various benchrests available on the market that are designed to incorporate additional weights (usually in the form of bags of lead shot or sand). The Caldwell Lead Sled range of benchrests are good examples of these. These absorb impact force by incorporating a buttstock capture, so that under recoil the rest and all the weight on it is being moved by the recoil force. This effectively mimics firing with a much heavier rifle. However, while these rests do tend to reduce the impact force on the firer, they also tend in increase the impact force on the stock, and make for a somewhat jarring stop for the rifle and scope. Additionally, despite the weight, you will probably find that the rest will jump, and that you will need to reset its position after every shot in order to get back on target, which is all the more difficult given the additional weight that is now upon it.

V-Straps:          A V-strap is a relatively simple, yet effective, recoil arresting device in the form of a v-shaped strap, made from seatbelt type material. The butt of the rifle rests inside the apex of the V, while the ends of the strap are attached securely to the front of the bench, or even to the front face of the bench over the front edge. The rifle will sit on a rest as normal and the strap should be kept relatively taut before firing. The material limits the rewards motion of the rifle and will stretch slightly to absorb the recoil force. While simple in design, V-straps will need to be home made, as they are not available commercially for shooting. Additionally, you will need two strong attachment points somewhere at the front of your bench. If you are using the bench at a club range, then lack of attachment points may mean this option is not available to you.



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