Low Recoil Solution For Kids

Dear Readers,

I want to pass along the following from one of your fellow SR readers. It’s for those of you who want to start a youngster in shotgunning and are justifiably concerned with recoil. If you don’t want to reload 3/4 oz 20 gauge shells, using the 28 chamber inserts in a 20 gauge is a good idea and gives good ballistics. I think that Jeff’s done everything right here, using good ear protection, a gun of sufficient length and weight not to create excessive recoil and taking his time, not pushing the boy. I don’t know about the BB gun as I’ve never gone that route.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)


I’ve learned so much from you and the other readers of your column I decided it’s time I gave a little back. I may have come up with a solution for getting kids started shooting without the discomfort of recoil. It involves using a 20 gauge shotgun, 20 to 28 guage Little Skeeters adapters and 28 gauge factory ammunition. Being an engineer, I wanted proof that this solution would work.

Enter my 11 year old, very gun shy, son. He made the mistake of mentioning he would be nterested in shooting a shotgun again if it didn’t kick like his last experience. His request was that I figure out a way to reduce the recoil by 1/2 from what he had before. I hadn’t realized he had a problem with recoil. His last experience was nearly 9 months ago. I had purchased a NEF 28 gauge single shot gun with the intention of using this for training my two children. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the recoil (felt) these guns generate. After shooting just a couple of times, both my kids said they no longer had an interest in shooting. I was devastated. Only my daughter admitted to me the problem was recoil. Now, nine months later my son admitted it was his problem as well.

What could I do? I immediately read a number of your previous postings on the causes of recoil and put together a plan. I intended to provide the following:

1) A gun which fit him and was as heavy as he could comfortably handle. I had purchased a 20 gauge Ruger O/U for my wife. Because she, like a surprising number of other women, is left-eye dominant and of womanly proportions, I had Moe Bragg at Shooters Emporium add an adjustable comb and adjustable recoil pad added. With her blessing, I had my son try her gun it and it seemed like a good fit.

2) As much sound dampening as possible. For this I took another of your recommendations and purchased a pair of Peltor Ultimate 10 ear muffs (the highest NRR around).

3) The lightest load with a reasonable number of pellets. I wanted low-recoil, but I also wanted him to hit something. For this I first attempted to find low-recoil 20 gauge ammunition. I didn’t find any and I didn’t want to purchase a reloader just yet. I still had some boxes of 28 gauge ammunition left over from the earlier experiment. They were 3/4 oz, 1200 fps, 2 Dram equivelent #8 shot Remington STS. This is 1/8 oz less shot and 1/2 Dram equivelent lighter powder load than standard 20 gauge ammunition. From Cabela’s, I ordered a set of Little Skeeters 28 gauge tubes for 20 gauge guns.

Today was the big day. Just so you don’t have to read further, I’ll tell you it was a smashing success! We ran out of cartridges way too soon. It did take awhile for him to get over his nervousness. I helped by testing the gun and load and letting him watch. We then set a stationary target on the ground and I held the forend grip of the gun while he pulled the trigger. He wore the hood of his fleece jacket to provide a little padding against his cheek. After the first attempt, he repeated it holding the gun by himself. I made a big point of lettiing him know I wanted to save the first target he hit. He then moved to trying to hit a slow going away target (I have an Outers trap). After a couple of attempts, he took off the fleece jacket and began to really enjoy himself. When he hit his first target in flight it was cause for a major celebration. After polishing off the remainder of two boxes of ammunition, I let him try firing a 20 gauge target load. His response was that while he felt he could now handle the recoil, he would much prefer to continue shooting the 28 gauge loads for a while.

He is now beggin me to take him out again. I’m not sure I was able to reduce the recoil by 50%, my guess is it was closer to 40% measured but the smile on his face tells me I got it close enough.

I should also mention that prior to firing a shotgun I tried to follow the advice from Bob Brister in “Shotgunning: The Art and the Science”. He started with a BB gun, first shooting at stationary targets and moving up to hitting aluminum cans I tossed for him in the air. We had a large disagreement when he started because I forced him to shoot the BB gun as if it were a shotgun (don’t use the sights, move it, mount it and shoot it watching the target the whole time). He didn’t believe it would work until I put 5 BB’s in a nickel size grouping at 20 feet using this technique. When he tried, he was unable to duplicate my success. He became very upset and stopped shooting. The next day he was back at it again and after several hundred attempts, and a little advice from me, he got the hang of it. I mention the BB gun shooting because I think it is so important to his development as a shooter. It really helped with his self confidence. When he started shooting at moving targets today, he was already confident he could hit the target and he had a good gun mount technique.

What’s my next idea? If his interest continues, and we make it through both cases of 28 gauge ammunition, the next step will be trying to create a 28 gauge load in a 20 gauge cartridge. I found some recipes for this in an article by Tom Ceretto on the NSSA web site. Tom Roster also posted a couple of recipes in an article in Sporting Clays magazine this past year (I can’t locate the exact article in the pile beside my bed). I have a shooting buddy who reloads and has a son who will soon be approaching the age where he is ready to shoot a shotgun. We have discussed buying a 20 gauge conversion for his reloader and creating these lighter loads. Because I am not a reloader, I’m not ready to attempt this on my own. I have also tried sending e-mail suggestions to several of the ammunition companies in an attempt to encourage them to develop and sell low-recoil 20 gauge loads. So far, I have been wholly unsuccessful. I believe the problem is the major ammunition companies are focused on developing ammunition for their existing customers. What they may not realize is felt recoil is a major impediment to the creation of many more customers/shooters. By creating and selling low-recoil 20 gauge target ammunition, they would increase sales of their other ammunition. This issue is not limited to children, it is also an issue with other new shooters.

For now, I have a work-around and a son who finally admits shooting a shotgun may be more interesting than playing video games.


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