For many people, the shotgun is the first choice for home defense. Unfortunately, for many of the people who live in the same household, the recoil the gunny person handles easily, is not so easy for the others.
As they say, the best gun for self-defense is the biggest caliber you can handle well. A 12-gauge shotgun that disables the shooter or the shooter is afraid of, isn’t that gun.
There are several ways to reduce recoil in a shotgun. We will look at them. Feel free to mix and match many of them.
Go with Lighter Loads
This is by far the simplest method. The shotshell manufacturer does one of three things to make this happen, or a combination of the three. The weight of the shot can be reduced.
This sends a lighter shot, which reduces the total energy of recoil, but it can shorten the shotgun recoil impulse, which may make it seem sharper. The amount of powder can be reduced.
This decreases the velocity of the projectiles, which decreases total energy. It also increases the duration of the recoil impulse, which tends to lessen perceived recoil.
The burn rate of the powder can be made to be slower. This does the same thing as reducing the amount of powder as far as increasing the duration of the impulse, but it can keep velocity the same.
It is not common, but using a lighter load (eight 00-buck pellets instead of nine) and using less of a slower-burning powder would have the most effect for reducing the shotgun recoil by changing the ammunition.
Speaking of stopping power getting weaker, you can always drop the gauge to 16, 20, 28 or .410. Of these, 16 and 28-gauge shotguns have almost no defensive loads available, so they should not be strongly considered.
Quite often the problem with moving to a 20-gauge shotgun is the platform weight drops too. Although a standard buckshot load in 20 gauge has less energy, the six-pound gun may actually kick more into the shoulder than a seven-pound 12-gauge shotgun.
The .410 Bore has very low recoil, but it also has very low knockdown power, except with slug loads.
Increase the Weight of the Shotgun
The formula for recoil is E=1/2MV²
For those not willing to dive into the math, the higher “M” (for mass) is the slower the gun recoils and the less it moves. This results in both lower recoil and lower perceived recoil.
Almost everyone knows the other term for recoil, “kick.” All other things being equal, a heavier gun “kicks” less.
For our purposes, there are several ways to increase the weight of a shotgun. The first is to buy a new shotgun that is heavier.
If you currently own a Mossberg 590-A1 synthetic stock at 18.5” (seven pounds), making a switch to a Remington 870 Express with an 18.5” barrel and synthetic stock (7.5 pounds) will gain you half a pound.
At roughly $400, that is probably not the best method to gain half a pound.
Some better uses of money might be adding a +2 magazine tube extension. The tube will add two rounds, each weighing about 1.5 ounces, as well as roughly six to eight ounces for the tube.
The extra two rounds add additional firepower and the magazine tube is a lot cheaper than a new gun. This idea can be expanded by also purchasing a side-saddle.
They are typically aluminum and weigh about four to six ounces, but hold four to seven rounds, so the total weight may increase by close to a pound.
It also provides a lot more on-board firepower, as well as the option to have specialty rounds on hand.
Adding weight can also be done in the form of useful tools. This could be a red-dot optic, like the Holosun HS403R or the Swampfox Kingslayer.
The choice might also be a weapon-mounted light such as a Streamlight TL-Racker system or a Surefire 6PX with a tube mount.
If you chose to add a magazine tube extension, a side-saddle, a red dot optic and a tactical light. Both the weight of your firearm and potential performance would go up.
The weight of the weapon has likely increased by at least one pound and maybe as much as two. A gain of 1.5 pounds is roughly a 20% increase in weight for a seven-pound gun.
That will result in a significant reduction in shotgun recoil. On the performance side, you now have double the round count, faster target acquisition, greater accuracy and better ability to see in the dark.
There are mercury and steel ballasts that can be fitted into the stock of many shotgun brands. These can weigh as much as 1.5 pounds. I would only suggest these for the most recoil sensitive or those who will NOT be carrying the firearm very far.
They also tend to make the platform very stock heavy, which can make handling quite awkward.
Add a Shotgun Recoil Pad
There is a significant difference between reducing recoil and reducing felt recoil, but for most shooters, felt recoil is the concern.
If a shotgun has a hard plastic or steel stock plate, the recoil will feel stronger than if it is a spongy rubber material. This process can be further enhanced with specialty products.
It adds about ½” to the length of pull, but that ½” is made up of an aerated rubber cushion. This slows down the velocity of the shotgun recoil, acts as a shock absorber and spreads the impact over a slightly larger area.
All of which act to reduce the perception of recoil. The Limbsaver products do similar things with a slightly different mechanism.
Add a Shock-Absorbing Stock
There is a company called KickLite that produces shock-absorbing stocks. They have incorporated a spring system into their replacement stocks. The spring stretches under recoil, slowing the recoil impulse.
The collapse is regulated by the spring system and returns to normal length of pull after the recoil impulse. Depending on the platform and load being shot, their products reduce felt recoil by 35-50%.
This is an impressive amount, and the stocks are roughly double the cost of an OEM stock replacement, which considering the benefit, is not a bad trade.
Change to a Semi-Auto
A pump shotgun’s action is fixed during the shooting process. The action is manually operated by the shooter after the shot. This process has no ability to reduce shotgun recoil.
All semi-automatic systems have a significant amount of weight moving away from the shooter during the recoil process. The action moves forward as it ejects the spent shell.
This forward action helps to mitigate felt recoil. Depending on the system, the reduction compared to the same weight pump gun can be 10-30%.
The higher number is especially true of the inertia-driven systems of Benelli, Franchi and Stoeger. One side effect of this inertia system, it makes the recoil of all loads feel very similar.
Assuming the load has enough energy to operate the system, there will be little felt difference between #7.5 birdshot and a one-ounce slug.
The downside, adding weight to the platform can disrupt the reliability of the action, especially when added at the barrel end.
As with all things gun-related, there is no magical answer. There are many products that can be used to accomplish the desired task. Often more than one option can be used to magnify the effect.
Conclusion: Reducing Shotgun Recoil
I am not recoil-adverse and neither is my girlfriend. She LOVES to shoot 12 gauge, and slugs make her giggle.
That may be in part because her shotgun scores are usually higher than mine. I think it also has to do with much lower shoulder fatigue, which helps with better scores.
How do you reduce shotgun recoil? Let us know in the comments section below!