Safety and Training

Reviewing Recoil Reduction

Recoil Bruise

Pump shotguns are a great way to protect your home. While an AR-15 is arguably the most outstanding home defense firearm, the shotgun fills the role nicely at a small fraction of the cost. Not everyone can afford to spend a grand on a new M&P these days. Many gun buyers get a pump shotgun as their first gun; unfortunately, some of these well-meaning people buy their shiny new gun, and leave it in the closet. They never take it out to practice with, or bother to remind themselves how to reload it under pressure. When they finally get around to wiping the dust off their shotgun and taking for a spin, they find out an obvious fact. Small, lightweight 12-gauge shotguns kick like mules.

Proper Recoil
Instructors Demonstrating Recoil

The Recoil

Unlike most hunting shotguns, a short barrel Mossberg 500, 590, or Remington 870 with a pistol grip or an AR type stock will remind you every time you pull the trigger, that you are firing a full size 12-guage shell. I’ve seen people bruise their jaw from a loose cheek weld, and I’m sure plenty of people had to put their arm back into its socket. Over an extended period of time, the darn things are just plain uncomfortable to shoot. Going through just half a box of shells can wear some shooters out. Therefore, should I ever have to use my shotgun to fight my way to a stack of ARs, what can I do to make the gun function more comfortably? A few simple modifications will help ensure you can shoot all day long, and not have to replace your shoulder.

The Barrel

Whether you port the barrel or install a compensator, the result is the same. You will have less recoil. This is a good thing if you plan on shooting for an extended period of time. Another advantage to porting is the reduction in muzzle rise, so your follow-up shots will be better, since you are not having to regain your composure after each shot. There are however, disadvantages to porting a shotgun barrel. The gas escaping from all the holes in the barrel creates a great deal more noise. If you plan on shooting without hearing protection, a ported barrel is not a good idea. In addition to noise, your visibility is greater. A ported barrel can light up the night sky, and give away your position much quicker. If you choose to go with a brake or a compensator, know that they are often quite bulky, adding length, diameter, and mass to the muzzle end of the firearm, where it will most influence its handling.

Recoil Bruise
Recoil Bruise

The Butt

A padded buttstock is cheap, and effective. For about 20 bucks, you tame your beastly shotgun by installing a simple pad on the butt of the gun. Like with most things however, you get what you pay for. There are some pads made of higher quality materials, and will last longer and perform better. Some products have springs inside the buttstock designed to reduce recoil. While they do indeed reduce it, they tend to mess with your cheek weld, and follow up shots are more difficult.

The Ammo

While I would not recommend using low recoil ammunition for home defense, it works great for a long day of combat shotgunning at the range. Winchester and Fiocchi both make low recoil buckshot, just be careful, since they can cost as much as regular buckshot.

I think more people would be interested in combat shotguns if they were more comfortable to shoot. Putting 500 rounds downrange with a small 12-gauge could ruin your week, as well as your shoulder.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. I had a partial shoulder replacement this year on the side I normally use to shoot. Surgeon questioned my wanting to shoot again (other than handguns). Anyone with experience shooting after such surgery?

  2. I use a 20 guage, and the problem of recoil is essentially moot! It has power, yet is fun to shoot and practice with. Consider the 20 over the 12!

  3. Proper stance has a lot to do with “Felt Recoil”. Far too many times I see shooters leaning back “away” from the recoil which only makes “Felt Recoil” worse. However with the proper “Aggressive Stance” which entails leaning into the long gun (also applies to rifles as well) and pulling the fore end/hand guard so the long gun is tight against the pocket on the shoulder you will quickly notice an improvement on “Felt Recoil”.

    One other option for recoil reduction that should be considered if the Aggressive Stance is not enough would be Mercury Tubes. Benelli makes them to be added to many of their shotguns and others can be added to your butt stock by a competent gunsmith. The Mercury Tubes add weight and change the forces of the recoil with the hydraulics provided by the mercury in the tube.

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