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Shooting the Breeze: Dealing with recoil

By Dale Valade

For the Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on October 30, 2018 4:43PM

Dale Valade

Dale Valade

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Let’s face it, no one looks cooler than Snake Plissken wielding twin .44s or Harry Callahan blazing away with a .458 magnum. The problem is, looking “cool” does nothing to mitigate heavy recoil. And, sadly for many gun owners, looking cool is the final deciding factor in a gun purchase.

Many thousands of guns are sold annually by crafty salesmen with quotas. There are a few people that need a magnum. Then there are the vast majority. They have read a few outdoors articles or talked to a few macho friends who told them that it was senseless to buy a .270 or a .30-06 to hunt with. One may have to take a “long” shot! And what about elk? They’re apparently bulletproof! To hear these “experts” tell it, one should question their sanity if caught with anything less than a .300 magnum.

Don’t take me wrong, the various magnums are quite useful and effective. But the deadliest thing in any case is a first-shot kill. If you can’t hit it, all the nearby shrapnel will only serve for proverbial confetti on your animal’s exit parade.

A cool head will kill more elk, grizzlies and elephants every time. You gain this attribute through practice; you’ll practice a lot more if you’re not afraid of your rifle.

Recoil tolerances are developed over time. As we get older and shoot bigger and bigger guns, it grows. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll take each rifle on an individual basis, regardless of caliber. Everyone has a “peak recoil tolerance.” A lot of different factors go into this, but typically a caliber is the designation.

Wherever you have peaked, if you want to move to the next level, it’s time to refine your fundamental shooting skills. Trigger squeeze, breath control and sight alignment are key. Allow recoil to happen before you attempt to operate the action or to look at your intended target. Avoid pouncing on the trigger. A smooth, consistent squeeze should be your goal. Make each shot you take a quality production.

Recoil mitigation isn’t only about form. A quality recoil pad is worth its weight in gold, and the shoulder pad rigs work well at the range. The Caldwell Lead Sled is also a fine product for use on the bench. If all else fails, you can have a muzzle break installed. Be sure to plug your ears.

Spend time shooting from field positions. While a bench rest is the best way to sight in your rifle, it’s also the best place to develop a flinch. Due to your position, you absorb the most recoil from a bench rest. Sight in that rifle and then practice from prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.

On the same token, if you are feeling a flinch coming on, then perhaps it might behoove you to drop down a notch or two in caliber — you know, just to see if the flinch follows. A sure way to know is to have a friend load your gun for you at the range next time. By intermixing empties with live rounds, they will catch your flinch.

When previously good guns suddenly “go bad,” the first thing you should check is you! You may be surprised. Love shooting the big guns? Have any ideas for articles you would like to see? Contact us at shootingthebreezebme@gmail.com!

Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.



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