« Roll Out the Barrel | Main | Gun Geezer Makes Muscatel* Mist »

February 27, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

How Much Kick Can You Take?

Floyd Paterson, the former heavyweight champ, had a chin of Dresden china and probably spent as much time on the canvas as he did on his feet. Muhammad Ali had a chin of iron, and absorbed some of the most savage beatings in ring history without going down. He could be decked only rarely, and knocked out, never. How come? No one has an answer.

So it is with recoil. Some people can take a ton of it and walk away with a spring in their step and a song in their heart. Others run shrieking for the ice bag and the Ibuprofin if they fire anything bigger than a BB gun.

It doesn’t seem to relate to body size. I know small guys who can shoot horrendous rifles with no trouble, and immense humanoids who swoon at the sight of a .30/06. As a rule, the upper limit for most rifleman is a .41-caliber cartridge such as the .416 Remington or Rigby. Both fire 400-grain bullets at 2,300 fps or so. When you get up to the .458, with 500 grains at 2,000 fps (or a little less) and about 60 foot-pounds of recoil, most people would rather not, thanks. And with bigger cartridges like the .458 Lott and .450 Dakota 500 grains, 2,300 fps), even the toughest riflemen grow pale and begin to tremble.

The worst-kicking rifle I’ve ever used is the .378 Weatherby. It comes back at you so fast you can’t roll with it, and it’s the only rifle I’ve ever sold because I feared it.

The worst thing you can do if you want to learn to shoot a big rifle is use a Lead Sled. The way you learn to take a punch is by getting punched. The way you learn to handle lots of kick is by getting kicked. The Lead Sled absorbs just about all the recoil, and prevents you from becoming a manly man. (If you are a woman, this is obviously not a consideration.) Take your whupping and learn to live it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How Much Kick Can You Take?:



Dave - I've not shot rifles bigger than a .45-70 and a .35 Whelen, but my turkey gun is an old Remington 870 Express 12 gauge. Shooting Federal 3" turkey loads it kicks like a mother. I watched a friend of mine pull the trigger and get a bloody nose. (He's still a friend, fortunately, even though I got a good laugh out of the scene.) To what big game caliber/cartridge would the recoil of my 870 compare? BTW - that gun kicks hard when I'm patterning it, but when I'm looking down the barrel at a gobbler I barely notice the recoil.

William Stojack

Opps, Should have stated thats for the .50 BMG Systems. that they also call Anti_-Material rifles. Thats to not say the evil "S-Word". ___Wm Stojack

Dave Petzal

I might as well pass on my favorite recoil story. Robert Ruark was hunting buffalo with his PH Harry Selby, and was carrying a .470 double rifle. He took a shot at a bull and the rifle doubled. In the same instant the buff and Ruark were leveled, and the rifle went sailing.

Selby stood there a minute surveying the damage and then said, "Really, one of you ought to get up."


Floyd Patterson got knocked down more times than any other heavyweight champ. He also got up more times than any other.

Dave Petzal

To Ronnie: I've heard that quote before, and it's true, and Patterson was one of the most decent men ever to put on gloves, but as a legitimate heavyweight champ he was a fraud. He fought Pete Rademacher, who had never had a professional fight, and Rademacher dropped him. C'mon; that stuff shouldn't happen to the champ.

I paid to see both of his fights with Sonny Liston, whom he ducked for three years or so, and it was like watching a steer go to slaughter.

Ralph the Rifleman

I purchased a couple of single/break barrel shotguns for my son's a number of years ago(their 1st firearms),and for the sheer punishment of it; I tried some 3in mag slugs in it last year. Now the gun probably can't weight more then 3 to 5 pounds, so if you need to "test your metal"(or clear your head of evil thoughts) shoot a dozen of these rounds through a gun like this.(T-shirt clad) I swear it felt like a .375 H&H bolt!
Welcome back Dave-



That is not normal.

Chad Love

Well, as long as we're airing recoil stupidity stories...
I went dove hunting one day this past year with my young son (he was five at the time).
I was carrying a little wand-like Beretta BL-4 20 gauge, a hair under six pounds. My son was hunting with a stylish little Daisy Red Ryder. We were having a grand old time until my son asked me if he could shoot my gun.
Now my son is absolutely, feverishly gun-crazy (as all properly brought-up boys should be) but my initial reaction was to say no, junior, you've got a few years yet. But the way he looked at me when I said no clouded my judgement to the point where I told myself that A. my refusal might set off a chain reaction that would eventually push him toward skateboards and naval piercings and B. if I held it while he shot it wouldn't be too bad.
Well, you know where this is going. I kneeled, got behind him, we got ready, picked out a good-sized cowflop and vaporized it.
Nothing overtly bad happened, I suppose. He didn't cry or complain or drop the gun and run away, but I could tell by the way he looked that it was just too much for him.
He also didn't want to immediately do it again, always a bad sign...
Fearing that I had singlehandedly and in one fell swoop utterly destroyed my son's future enthusiasm for the shooting sports, I spent the next half-hour ignoring dove and ruining a perfectly good box of AAs by opening the crimp, pouring out almost all the shot and letting him shoot the quick-and-dirty squib loads at dirt clods and grasshoppers. We had a grand time, but I won't take another stupid chance with the second one...


Petzal, how much foot-pounds of recoil for a Rem. 870 3 1/2 12 ga.


60ftlbs is a guidline for evaluations / systems designs. I'd have to dig to find the exact number but it's one of the mil-specs established by the Small Arms ARDEC (army research,desighn & engineering command)at Picatinny Arsenal. In service weapons that generate 45-60 ftlb of recoil are pump shotguns M870 or M500 w/ the tactical slug or buckshot rds, M203 40mm grenade launchers especially when shooting illume rounds, and M82 or M107 .50 cal SASR. Suprisingly the .50s aren't that bad due to the cheveron muzzle break (take it off and it's a beast). I shot an Xsystem that shot 40mm High velocity in a single shot launcher 80ftlbs. That concept never went far. Since we're on neutral ground so to speak (I'll leave "the issue" where it belongs back at the wailing wall) I'm kinda new back to the sporting scene (just retired after 20yrs usmc and didn't shoot much sporting arms while in)and I'm trying to catch up on the whole market not just my little EBR nitch. What is a "Lead Sled"?



It's a product from Caldwell meant to tame heavy recoiling guns.


I've heard tales of them ruining scopes but I don't think any has ever actually been proven true. Unless I run into some money I think I'll keep using a sandbag between me and the gun when patterning turkey loads.


Figured it was some manner of rest. I could see where something like that could lead to a stock split
with the cannon calibers. If I'm not manfiring for what ever reason I like shooting from a buffered rest.


Recoil is very subjective. I can shoot my .30/06 all day, but bigger is not my cup of tea.

Handguns are a different story. I have shot revolvers up to the S&W 500 without problem.


Krusty, My Man…..

You’re gonna have to learn normal “gun nut” speak, and drop the governmental-ese. That way we can all understand what you’re talking about and your vision.

I’m amazed the Government spent this much time to document in minute detail this recoil stuff. Sounds as if a light colonel didn’t have enough to do and was looking for way to make full-bird.

BTY I don’t know what a Lead Sled is, either. I always used a 20-lbs bag of shot between me and my big rifles when shooting from the bench.

See you on FUDD-Land Campus! :-)


How well do the PAST pads work anyway? I have a M70 in 30-06 with a steel buttplate and after 20 rounds or so I don't really care to shoot it much more; it really digs on you. This makes working up loads a very annoying procedure so I thought a pad might help a bit.


The past pads work about like a Limbsaver pad. The do reduce the recoil a significant amount. Do them make shooting hard kicking guns fun? Hell no, but they make it a whole lot more doable.


All I know is my Savage Slug Warrior 12 guage will kill me in 5 shots unless I use some sort of recoil pad. Then it's bang bang bang all day long. Anything else doesn't really bother me.



I heard chocolate covered grasshopppers taste great. I think you can get them at Godiva.

Perrry Peltonen

I Reload, And Hunt Alaska, Got 4 big magnums ,none of them kick at all compared to the Hand R single shot 12 ga 3and half magnum shooting turkey loads xfull choke a guy i know actually broke his nose ,and got the racoon look,shooting one,not a rookie either hunted with him for years , even the 835 mossberg kicks like a 2000 pound mule shooting these 3.5 mags

Perrry Peltonen

Krusty, on the 454 cas/ sold mine i use a 480 ruger now in my ss redhawk for alaska almost same snort less pain can hit stuff better not worrying about the earth quake getting me


I think I'll start hunting
with the 50.....M2 that is!
Knock down a whole hell of
game with that. Wouldn't ya
I really don't care what you
all think...Go to Hell!
I'll use whats befitting to
me!....Same back at ya!

Chad Love

Speaking of handgun recoil, I got the chance to shoot one of the S&W .460s a couple weeks ago. I was shocked at how mild the recoil was. Granted, it was a big, heavy gun with an 8-inch compensated barrel and a scope, but with a handcannon like that I figured it would be much worse than it was. Now muzzle blast was significant (you want muffs fer sure) but it was, I dare say, almost pleasant to shoot, and it sent those 200-grain Barnes Xs downrange at 2,000fps. Impressive. I'm not a handgun hunter, but I'm seriously considering trying one out next deert season.


The lead sled has its place. Sighting in and working up loads.
After that it is time to wrestle with the beast. Like David said "The way you learn to take a punch is by getting punched. The way you learn to handle lots of kick is by getting kicked."


Hey, Anti-Fudd!

You must be built like Goliath of Gath. The last thing I’d be lugging in Montana at the 4,000 ft level heading for the 6,000 ft level is an M-2. The damn thing is a turkey with cranberry sauce and dressing for the game fields.

For the game fields and mountains I want something light that handles, and takes ammo where each round doesn’t weight as much as a lead boat anchors.

Just remember shooting a deer or elk is easy. Lugging the carcass down off a mountain is a real drag…play on words……while carrying a rifle and your gear. From experience, I was dismayed what a Herculean chore dragging a mere 120-lbs buck off *DOWN* a mountain was. I never knew a dead animal could tie its legs around every damn sapling in my path!


I was at the range when a guy beside me started shooting his .460 s&w. The muzzle blast from that thing is ridiculous. I could feel the blast from 15-20 feet away. You guys have @ it.
I'll pass on the hand cannon.

Our Blogs