When using a bolt gun for .223, I don't even particularly notice the light jolt from so little recoil. A butt pad is nice, but not necessary.
I have a Ruger 77 Mk II that's a light sporter. 22" barrel. Reliable half-MOA for five-shot groups. Works just fine on prairie dogs to 300 yards. I've never owned a heavy-barrel rifle. Never saw any need for one, hunting.
You're from BATFE? Come right in! I use all your fine products!