Lighweight Gun And Recoil

Dear Technoid,

I was thinking of getting a new lightweight 12 gauge gun for hunting. What’s that going to do to recoil?


Dear Bob,

Weight affects recoil less than you might think. Here are some free recoil numbers. Remember, gun fit is by FAR the most important aspect of recoil. For standard reference a normal 8# O/U target gun shooting a 3 dram (1200 fps) 1-1/8 oz load has 17.54 ft/lb recoil. The first number is the weight of the gun in pounds, then the shot charge in ounces, then muzzle velocity of the shot charge, then free recoil measured in foot pounds.

5.75# 7/8 oz at 1200 = 15.51 ft/lb
6.00# ” = 14.86
6.25# ” = 14.27
6.50# ” = 13.72
7.00# ” = 12.74
8.00# ” = 11.14

5.75# 1oz shot at 1200 fps = 19.7 ft/lb
6.00# ” = 18.88
6.25# ” = 18.12
6.50# ” = 17.43
7.00# ” = 16.18
8.00# ” = 14.16

5.75# 1-1/8 oz shot at 1200 fps = 24.40 ft/lb
6.00# ” = 23.38
6.25# ” = 22.44
6.50# ” = 21.58
7.00# ” = 20.04
8.00# ” = 17.54

5.75# 1-1/4 oz shot at 1200 fps = 30.03 ft/lb
6.00# ” = 28.78
6.25# ” = 27.63
6.50# ” = 26.57
7.00# ” = 24.67
8.00# ” = 21.59

As you can see, the weight of the gun has something to do with recoil, but not all that huge an amount. Using a 3 dram 1-1/8 oz load, raising the weight of the gun from 5.75# to 6.25# only decreases recoil 8%. Lowering the shot or velocity of the shell is what really changes recoil. in a 6# gun, simply changing from 1-1/8 oz at 1200 to 1 oz at 1150 lowers recoil 26%! Going from a 7/8 load to a 1-1/4 oz load at the same speed just about doubles the recoil.

Bottom line: the shell you use, not the weight of the gun is what really determines recoil if you are only moving gun weight around within a window of 1/2# or so. Obviously, a huge change in weight has more effect, but that isn’t a practical consideration in a field gun.

I think that gun weight has far more to do with balance an “shootability”. For dove, quail, grouse and woodcock, you don’t need more than one ounce of shot, so a gun of just about any weight will be comfortable enough for reasonable shooting. High volume dove is an auto game. For pheasants where a 3-1/4 dram1-1/4 oz load might be more traditional, a light gun is gonna whack you. Then again, unless it’s driven shooting, you seldom shoot more than half a dozen pheasant in a day (three’s the limit in S.Dak). Let’s say it’s two shots per bird, so it’s only a dozen shots a day. If the gun fits and is sufficiently long for proper shoulder seating, that recoil won’t kill you.

On the plus side, the lighter the gun, the easier it is to carry. Every ounce helps. You wear the lightest possible hunting boots for long hunts. It makes sense to use a light gun where practical. Face it, bird hunting means walking. Bird shooting means shooting. There’s a difference. For hunting a light weight gun is good.

Best regards,

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

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