Free Vs Perceived Recoil

Dear Mr. Technoid,

I’m confused about recoil claims for gas- and inertia-powered autoloaders, as well as for fixed-breech shotguns. It seems to me that, once the ejecta has cleared the muzzle, Newton’s Second Law has done its job, no? Surely the only way to reduce recoil is to

1) shoot a heavier gun,
2) shoot a lighter pellet-load or
3) shoot a lower-velocity shell.

This isn’t one of those Einstein Relativity theory things, is it? Newton got some things right, didn’t he?


Dear Dave,

Yes, you are completely correct in that Newton lives. The formula for Free Recoil could care less about the type of gun action (if we forget about a tiny bit of energy lost as heat due to friction of moving parts).

The problem is that Free Recoil is only part of what you feel. Subjective or Perceived Recoil is also important.

Example: Fire a normal gun and shell from your shoulder as usual. Note the recoil sensation. Now take the same gun and shell and fire it while holding it carefully against the end of your nose. Note that recoil sensation. Unless your nose is considerably sturdier than mine, you will perceive a difference in recoil, even though Newton could prove that the recoil had not changed.

Gas guns kick just as much as fixed breech guns, but the operation of the gas mechanism and sliding parts stretches the recoil out over a longer period of time. Even though the energy is the same, you receive it as a push, not a poke. This is what makes them appear to shoot more softly.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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