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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
How much recoil can you comfortably shoot before accuracy diminishes for your preferred cartridge?

The answer will of course vary, sometimes simply due to shape/fit of a rifle stock, whether it is padded, whether you’re firing a bolt or semi-auto action, etc. Plus, hunters will often describe certain cartridges as having “sharp” recoil while others have “push” recoil, which may be a felt response to powder burn rate and/or cartridge capacity. For example, the 416 Rigby is typically described as a push, compared to the 375 H&H which can be perceived as more sharp.

All the same, recoil calculations can be helpful as a broad indicator of impacts on the shooter resulting from different cartridges. Recoil calculation factors include bullet grains, muzzle velocity, rifle weight, and case powder charge. Rifle weight tends to be the dominant factor, followed closely by muzzle velocity, then bullet weight and powder charge. Here is a link to the SAAMI technical paper as a PDF file regarding gun recoil formulae: https://saami.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Gun-Recoil-Formulae-2018-07-9-1.pdf

Gun recoil is typically measured in foot-pounds of energy. The proper term is “pound-foot” but the colloquial “foot-pound” is so commonly used it has become ubiquitous. The understanding of foot-pounds, however, may not be as widespread. In short, a foot pound is a measure of energy; specifically, the amount of energy required to lift a one pound object one linear foot. [Sidebar: Even less understood is mechanical horsepower, also measured in foot pounds of energy, but in consolidated chunks so that one horsepower is the energy needed to lift 550 pounds one foot in one second, or by its original calculation, 32,572 pounds one foot in one minute.]

Let’s say you fire a 168 grain 30-06 Springfield bullet in a case with 56 grains of IMR 4831 producing a muzzle velocity of 2,720 feet per second. Your rifle with scope and loaded magazine weighs an even nine pounds. In that scenario your projected recoil would be 18.43 foot pounds of energy. If your rifle is much lighter, say 7.5 pounds all set-up, then your recoil with the same bullet weight, powder charge, and muzzle velocity increases to 22.12 foot pounds. That 20% reduction in rifle weight translates into a 20% increase in recoil energy... if you’re thinking there is a 1:1 correlation there, you’d be right.

The general rule of thumb is that shooter accuracy begins to drop when recoil goes above 20 foot-pounds of energy. Needless to say, that is not a hard and fast rule for every shooter, thus the generalized question with this post. Following are some examples of average recoil energy using average charges and average muzzle velocities for different cartridges and rifle weights:
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So given that there can be many variables, just as a broad indicator how many foot-pounds of recoil energy would you say is your accuracy limit, and for which preferred cartridge that you shoot?
 

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It all depends on the rifle stock for me. I like shooting. 308's, and .300 win mags that I own. But I absolutely hate shooting my father in laws .30-06, I even prefer my steel-butted 7.62x54R mosin over his .30-06 lol.

I also have a .375 ultra mag, that I just finished collecting parts for, that I'm building. Hope it doesn't rattle me apart lol (good rubber pad, and an awesome muzzle brake will be on it).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It all depends on the rifle stock for me. I like shooting. 308's, and .300 win mags that I own. But I absolutely hate shooting my father in laws .30-06, I even prefer my steel-butted 7.62x54R mosin over his .30-06 lol.

I also have a .375 ultra mag, that I just finished collecting parts for, that I'm building. Hope it doesn't rattle me apart lol (good rubber pad, and an awesome muzzle brake will be on it).
Oh man! I once shot my granddad's so-called "buffalo gun" that has a steel plate (not sure of caliber). Never again! Glad my brother inherited that one...
 

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As stated stock design has a lot to do with mitigating recoil. I like a nice straight stock design with little drop of the comb line. I like a nice Pachmeyr Decellerator pad. The most that I could comfortable sit through a sight in a scope with was the .375 H&H, I had a Commercial Mauser in .375 H&H that needed some sighting work done on it. I benched it and bore sighted it then chased the bulet hole to get it on target. The rifle was a beauty, it had a nice profile and weighed about 8-1/2 lbs. It let you know it was fired but in my younger days it was totally acceptable. The same guy that owned that rifle brought me his Weatherby .300 WbyMagnum and was having scope zero shifting issues. The Weatherby was in their high comb M/C rollover stock, it was pretty to look at. The issue with the rifle was the scope rings were not aligned properly and they needed to be properly aligned by honing the rings for better contact. Once the rings were all set the scope needed to be remounted and the rifle needed to be re-zeroed. Took the rifle to the local range after bore sighting and took the first shot on target with a live round. I could not believe the punch that that rifle inflicted, it was violent and quick. I looked at the paper in the spotting scope and I hit high but on the target. Reset for next shot and when the trigger was pulled again the recoil was violent..I did not like this I was out of my comfort zone. I hit where I was aiming and did a follow up shot, the last shot I pulled that rifle in tight and she still barked and bucked but was on target. This was one rifle that I just did not like to shoot. The stock design did not fit me or my style of shooting. The guy that owned it was happy his rifle held zero and talks about it every time I see him, he did not realize that scope rings can have issues than need to be addressed to keep the scope from moving or being stressed especially in heavy recoiling rifles. Today after two neck surgeries I do not shoot heavy recoiling rifles or shotguns too much. The craziest rifle I ever shot was when I was in school in Colorado, a fellow student from Norway bought a brand new .460 Weatherby Magnum and re-barreled it to .510 Wells which is a necked up .460! He had McMillan make him a special order stock and the recoil broke the first one. He had to add a secondary recoil lug on the barrel in order to spread the force over a wider area. He offered us a few shots at school using cast bullets, his normal round was a solid monolith bullet. I shot the .510 Wells once, it reminded me of shooting a 10 gauge but I was free standing and took on a Shotgunner stance...today I like the .308, .223, 7.62x54, .303Brit,.243Win, .270Win and the .22LR! I have ported some shotguns and it helps as does lengthening the forcing cone.
 

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yep it's a stock design thing.
as well as what the stock is made from.

i have 2 375 winchesters, i shoot a 265gr. cast bullet in them.
one rifle is obnoxious, the other is meh i can go another 1-200 rounds.

some of my shotguns are the same way, some loads lead to an owie and others are nuthin, swap guns and the nuthin loads start to get a bit choppy.

i got rifles in bottle neck hunting type calibers that are the same way.
a 150 at 2800 fps is nothing in the 0-6, a 150 at 2700 in the 308 is a bit rough on the shoulder after 4-5 rounds.
their weight is comparable with the 308 being maybe a half pound lighter.
 

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All of my bolt action hunting rifles all have straight composite stocks with very little drop at comb and heel with either a or Limb Saver recoil pads. For me, I find this combination easier to shoot. Less perceived recoil.

My current favorite rifle is a Winchester M70 Extreme Weather in .300 WSM. With a 3 - 9 Khales scope it weighs in just a hair over 8 pounds. I can shoot this rifle a lot without the recoil becoming an issue.

The largest caliber rifle I own is a Savage 116 FCSS in .338 Win Mag. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s just under 9 pounds with the scope. After about box of shells I’ve had enough fun for the day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The largest caliber rifle I own is a Savage 116 FCSS in .338 Win Mag. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s just under 9 pounds with the scope. After about box of shells I’ve had enough fun for the day.
With that Savage 338 Win Mag weighing in at let's say 8.9 pounds you're enduring some genuine recoil. 338 Win Mag is a pretty amazing cartridge with standard bullet grains from 180 all the way up to 300. 180 grains and that rifle hits you with about 31.77 foot pounds of recoil, at 210 grains 32.05 foot pounds, at 225 grains 32.11 foot pounds, at 250 grains 33.87 foot pounds, and if you're firing the big 300 grain bullets that would be around 33.01 foot pounds of recoil. Ouch! All of those are in bruiser territory.
 

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Actually foot-pound and pound-foot are not interchangeable terms. A pound-foot is a unit of torque, I.e. 10pounds of force applied from a one foot lever. Think torque wrench.
A foot-pound is a unit of work, as described above. Think an engines ability to spin your tires.
You apply pound-feet of torque to tighten a nut, then the engine applies foot-pounds to the driveshaft. Seems odd, but that’s how it is.
 

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With that Savage 338 Win Mag weighing in at let's say 8.9 pounds you're enduring some genuine recoil. 338 Win Mag is a pretty amazing cartridge with standard bullet grains from 180 all the way up to 300. 180 grains and that rifle hits you with about 31.77 foot pounds of recoil, at 210 grains 32.05 foot pounds, at 225 grains 32.11 foot pounds, at 250 grains 33.87 foot pounds, and if you're firing the big 300 grain bullets that would be around 33.01 foot pounds of recoil. Ouch! All of those are in bruiser territory.
I’ve been loading 225 grain Hornady SST’s. The .338 has a big bark and does buck a bit. It sure is entertaining to shoot the steel spinning targets with. The targets don’t just swing a little they actually spin on the bar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I’ve been loading 225 grain Hornady SST’s. The .338 has a big bark and does buck a bit. It sure is entertaining to shoot the steel spinning targets with. The targets don’t just swing a little they actually spin on the bar.
Oh yeah, and does a pretty good job against watermelons as well, as shown by Hickok45. He's using same 338 WM I have, Ruger M77 Hawkeye Guide Gun. I don't much mind the recoil from the 338 WM, but I have the exact same rifle in 375 Ruger and that sucker really punches.
 

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I guess my experience with heavy recoiling rifles tops out at my uncle’s 340Wby, but I was standing when I shot it. I can stand to shoot a number of 12ga foster slugs in a session out of my dad’s old Wingmaster. I enjoy shooting them. It’s a shame they’ve become impossible to find.
 

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Aside from the stock designs that several have mentioned, some cartridges just feel like a hard push where as another very similar cartridge producing almost identical numbers feel more like a swift punch. So for me it isn't always just a clearcut apples to apples comparison.
 

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I'm 73 and 20 years ago I kind of enjoyed fairly heavy recoiling rifles. I had a number of 45/70 single shots. A couple that could handle the high pressure loads which I loaded for them. After a couple brain surgeries 12 years ago my max recoiling rifle that I can comfortably shoot is 30-06.
 

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The worst recoil I have ever experienced was with a youth model NEF 20 gauge shotgun. That was chambered for 3" shells. The recoil pad was very thin, too short, and small in profile. The gun weighed just 4 pounds. I shot it with 1&5/16 oz magnum turkey loads. On the first shot, my shoulder just went instantly numb - kinda like taking the first bite of a ghost pepper when the whole mouth goes numb. I remember thinking that I might as well try another shot since the shoulder was already numbed so it won't hurt any more. I was wrong! That one hurt even more.
I lost any curiosity after that and didn't shoot anymore.
I've shot some hard kicking rifles and shotguns in my life, but that was by far the worst.
 

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If something bites you when you're young, you never forget.

I have good fried that lives in central Montana that's been very successfully hunting deer and elk with a 7mm Rem Mag for a long time. He won't shoot a .30-06, claims they kick something awful. Told me story about a time when he was young and used the ranch foreman's 03 Springfield. Said it bit him bad, he has no need to put up with that kind of punishment. I've tried to convince him that the old Springfield didn't fit and had a steel butt plate, and the 30-06 actually has less recoil than his beloved 7mm Mag. He's not interested in trying my 06.
 

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It's a stock thing to a point. That point being when the recoil is so heavy you loose control of the gun.
The .577 T-rex comes to mind. A buddy has an African knock down gun that has so much recoil that you can't shoot but maybe 25yds & still be able to hold it on a normal sized target.
I shoot steel butted Mosin-Nagants & small slug barrled shotguns & used to recoil, but they are just over the top of what is normal felt recoil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
It's a stock thing to a point. That point being when the recoil is so heavy you loose control of the gun.
The .577 T-rex comes to mind. A buddy has an African knock down gun that has so much recoil that you can't shoot but maybe 25yds & still be able to hold it on a normal sized target.
I shoot steel butted Mosin-Nagants & small slug barrled shotguns & used to recoil, but they are just over the top of what is normal felt recoil.
Holy crap! I don't think I'd ever want to even try a .577 T-Rex with that monster 750-grain bullet. Even using a 12-pound rifle that would smash the shooter with more than 200 foot pounds of energy. Nope.
 
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