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Old April 11, 2013, 11:22 PM   #1
dakota.potts
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How does your body learn to handle recoil?

I'm a new shooter. I've only been shooting since December or so when I took my NRA first steps class.

Recently we went to get my brother a Ruger 10-22 for his birthday and my dad decided while we were there to pick up a Remington 700 so that he and I could start practicing the long range marksmanship we had been talking about.

I'm a small guy. About 115 lbs. and 5'4". I was too short to sit at the bench rest so I had to get up a little bit and hold a squat position standing.

The first shot of that .308 felt like somebody sucker punched me in the shoulder. 2 or 3 shots later it wasn't as bad on my end the rifle was still moving around a ton and even slipping out of the stand we had the barrel on.

We went back the other day and I got to put about 8 or 9 more shots down range (ammo's expensive and we only brought a box). It still kicks a good bit and hurts after a couple of shots but now the barrel doesn't jump and according to my dad my shoulder no long gets pushed back like I'm being punched.

I haven't made any significant conscious changes, yet every time I fire it, it seems I handle the next one a little bit better. This happens over the span of even a range trip. How does this happen? Is it psychological? Do you subconsciously learn the recoil characteristics so your body prepares for the next shot better? I'd be really interested to hear about this.
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Old April 11, 2013, 11:57 PM   #2
alex0535
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difficult question, and really one that has a few different answers.

Physically and subconsciously you might be leaning into it more and holding it to your shoulder better. If the stock is not firmly up against the shoulder you will know it when it punches you. With good contact it produces more of a shove and less of a punch. This would explain the diffence you noticed in the impact and muzzle jump.

On a psychological level the more you shoot something that recoils the less you are intimidated by the recoil. If you have never shot something with a heavy recoil, it can seem intimidating. Confidence in being able to handle it will go a long way towards your body handling the recoil.

On a physiological level there are things that can shift your perception of recoil. Adrenalin can make you not even notice. Take the .308 hunting and shoot a deer with it. Adrenalin rushing because your about to shoot a deer, and endorphins hitting your brain directly after because you shot it. Would bet $5 that noticed recoil is significantly less than you perceive target shooting.

On the whole endorphin thing, if you were to sit down with a few hundred rounds of .308 and shoot it until your starting to hurt, and just keep going. Your brain will respond to the pain by pumping out endorphins. Along with reducing pain, they can make you so happy that you begin to like what you are feeling even to the point of feeling "high". It is the mechanism that allows us to cope with things that hurt.
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:04 AM   #3
ligonierbill
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Until you get to really heavy stuff, it's mostly psychological. "Sucker punched" = you weren't expecting it. As noted, focus on your form, stock firm against the shoulder, good cheek weld, smooth trigger release. Keep shootin' and you'll do fine. By the way, size has little to do with it. Also, take a few shots off hand or sitting. Shooting from a bench is about the worst as far as felt recoil.
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:35 AM   #4
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Until you get to really heavy stuff, it's mostly psychological. "Sucker punched" = you weren't expecting it. As noted, focus on your form, stock firm against the shoulder, good cheek weld, smooth trigger release. Keep shootin' and you'll do fine. By the way, size has little to do with it. Also, take a few shots off hand or sitting. Shooting from a bench is about the worst as far as felt recoil.
A lot of good comments here. As a shooting instructor I always have a new shooter shoot the gun without aiming it. I have them put muffs on and take them up to the berm. I have them just point the gun (handgun or rifle) at the berm and shoot several rounds and tell them to just observe what the gun is doing when they pull the trigger. After doing this several times they are way less intimidated than if they had started at the bench and didn't know what to expect. Flinching is a subconcious reflex that is programed into the subconcious when you start shooting. It takes a good bit of reafirmation to keep it under control. I suggest to all new shooters to do this exercise every time they go shooting until the recoil is no longer a factor in shooting. It works equally well with a shotgun for teaching shooters in the clay bird sports.
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:37 AM   #5
Skans
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.308 from a Remington 700 is going to kick, but it shouldn't hurt.

1. New shooters often do not hold the rifle properly - you really need someone who knows what they are doing show you exactly how to hold and shoot that rifle - this is the number one problem.

2. Also, if you are 5'4", there is a good chance that an off-the-shelf Remington 700 does not fit you properly. The stock may need to be sized to fit you better, or if this isn't your gun, then you may need to look for one that you can have sized to fit you. If the rifle is too long or too short it very well can feel like you got sucker punched, and could even leave a bruise. Shooting a rifle (or shotgun) that is just plain too long is no fun!!

3. Think about adding a good recoil pad to the rifle. If you do this, you will still need to make sure the rifle is sized properly to compensate for a recoil pad.

Last edited by Skans; April 12, 2013 at 09:39 AM.
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:35 AM   #6
BigD_in_FL
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Your body does not learn to handle recoil. Your brain tells you it isn't too bad, but the damage from harsh recoiling guns or massive amounts of firing heavy loads DOES do damage. Look at trap shooters who shoot heavy loads by the thousands - they develop flinches so bad they either have to - use a release trigger, go to a lighter load, or in the worst scenarios, give up shooting.
Firing heavy metallic cartridges can lead to detached retinas, shoulder damage, flinches, etc.

Shooting the heaviest gun with the lightest load, utilizing good recoil pads (to some degree) and shooting a gun where the stock fits all help mitigate the effects of recoil
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:48 AM   #7
JerryM
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It is not physical, but psychological. It is like flinching/pushing a handgun when you pull the trigger. I am not sure of all the mental gyrations your brain goes through, but I am pretty sure it is just to try to offset the recoil. If someone fakes a punch at you you might flinch.
If it is physical good recoil pads, and maybe muzzle brakes can help.

I don't know the answer. I found that a 30-06 is the hardest kicking cartridge I can shoot and know when the gun is going to fire and not flinch. When I fire a larger cartridge I must be sure and squeeze the trigger.

Evidently some of the gun writers like Jack O'Connor were recoil sensitive, while small Elmer Keith was not.
FWIW
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Old April 12, 2013, 11:44 AM   #8
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Find a proper platform to shoot from that does not require you to squat or stand or half sit in uncomfortable positions. Try standing up all the way even.
And have another shooter give you advice on how to hold and stand so your center of gravity can be used to lessen felt recoil.

Always remember, the recoil felt at the rear of the gun is much better than the forces going out of the barrel.
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Old April 12, 2013, 12:03 PM   #9
lcpiper
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I have another drill for you. This is more about proper shooting and less about the recoil.

Try this routine when it's your turn to shoot.

First, just get yourself used to the sound of the other guns firing. Your wearing hearing protection so you will hear them and even feel them, but it doesn't hurt. Once your comfortable with the different booms and bangs, do like they said above, put a few rounds into the berm if you need too to settle in.

Now that Model 700 is a bolt gun. Get someone to help you, let them load one round into the chamber, or let them pretend to load a round, the idea is that you don't know if it is loaded or not, if it will go bang or not.

But you will get to see if you anticipate the recoil the first time the gun is empty when you pull the trigger and don't know it. This works better after you have shot a few and all of a sudden it doesn't fire.

Once you see what you are doing, you'll be able to work through it.
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Old April 12, 2013, 12:55 PM   #10
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In your case it really was physical. From what you wrote about your stance you had no ability to roll with the shock, you were a solid platform. Ditch the .308 for awhile and go back to a 22 LR and learn to shoot offhand at the ranges you want to shoot the .308. I am assuming 100 yards. It isn't that difficult to keep your shots in the scoring ring of a standard 100 yard NRA target. When you go back to the .308 make sure the stock fits you. If it does not then have it shortened till it does and a decent rubber recoil pad is on it. Shoot the gun offhand and you will discover to your delight that the recoil isn't as bad as you first found if it to be when you were propped up on the bench with no place for the shock to go.

Get a shooting coach who knows what he is doing and have him or her teach you to shoot in the kneeling and sitting position, learn to shoot from a shooting stick. When the gun fits and you have confidence in your marksmanship the recoil you experience in the future will be a good recoil. Remington makes a reduced recoil load that will help you too. They are still powerful enough for deer hunting out to 100 yards.
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Old April 12, 2013, 01:32 PM   #11
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Lots of good advice in above posts.

Shooting from a bench will always seem more harsh than offhand. Shooting in a field position such as sitting, kneeling or standing your body can absorb the recoil along its entirety, where as that bench it is all focused on your shoulder.

NoSecondBest has great advice to just shoot off hand for a while and not worry about hitting a specific target. Just get use to the operation and dynamics of shooting the rifle.

You perception to recoil is both physical and mental. The physical aspect is that yes, a loud BANG and sharp movement is happening near your face and impacting your shoulder. Keep the rifle snugged up to your shoulder as having any looseness there allows the rifle to accelerate more before hitting your shoulder. Have a stable stance so you are not knocked off balance. For some reason new shooters seem to lean back with the rifle, putting them in an awkward stance that does not control or absorb recoil well. Make sure you have a solid stance, your body is solid (not tense, but firmly positioned), and lean slightly into the rifle. Wear good ear protection. Also, if the stock is too long for you it makes it real hard to have decent form so consider getting it trimmed by a gunsmith or replaced with a youth stock.

If you are at a public or club range and you see someone that seems to have good form and shooting comfortably don't be shy to ask for advice. There are lots of experienced shooters out there that would happily give you a few minutes of their time to help you out.
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Old April 12, 2013, 01:39 PM   #12
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In my experience, these are two things that will help reduce the negative aspects of recoil:

1. Make sure that the rifle butt is pressed firmly against your shoulder. It does not have the be jammed in there with force but it should rest firmly. If there is a gap between your shoulder and the rifle butt you will experience recoil as being 'punched'. If it is resting firmly against your shoulder, recoil will be experienced as being 'pushed' and there is a big difference between the two.

2. Do not work against the recoil (or at least not too much). It is a natural tendency to want to tense up and jam your shoulder forward in anticipation of the recoil, i.e. your body and mind wants to anticipate and actively counteract the recoil. This makes things worse since the force exerted on your shoulder increases by the forward movement of your shoulder against the rearward movement of the stock. Instead, start picturing the recoil as the reward for lining up that awesome shot and enjoy / appreciate the unexpected movement when the shot goes off. Doing this you can train your body to 'ride' the recoil (or 'roll with' the recoil) which also helps in following through on the shot.

Of course you should not be limp when the shot goes off, especially if shooting offhand, but do not work against the recoil as much as contain it / experience it.
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Old April 12, 2013, 02:37 PM   #13
dakota.potts
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Thanks for all the advice here guys.

My dad's been instructing me and helping me keep the rifle against my shoulder. He had his M14 in the Navy and had to qualify with it on full auto I am leaning forward as much as possible and keeping it as tight into my shoulder as I can.

One thing I did notice is I ended up with a bruise the size of a nickel or so on the inside of my breast near the arm, which tells me that maybe the stock wasn't being seated properly.

As far as a flinch goes, I'm certain I don't have a flinch in the traditional regard where people tend to jerk the gun to counter it. However, as the shots started hurting I noticed that I started tensing up in anticipation of pulling the trigger and although I got a smooth trigger pull, this would affect my aim. At 25 yards I put two bullets through the same hole (barely jagged edges) but they were about a half inch from my target. This was after the rifle had been zeroed.

I do wear good hearing protection (I use the in-ear foamies and if I'm shooting the .308 I double up with the muffs over it). We do have .22's but they're not really "mine". They're in stock configuration and belong to my mom and brother so while they're at the pistol bay I can't take it down to the 100 yard range. I do get off about 100 shots at various ranges from 7 to 25 yards when ammo's available.
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Old April 12, 2013, 03:22 PM   #14
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The push/pull method can help...especially for people with a small stature.

Just push the forearm of the long gun forward with the support hand, and pull the stock into your shoulder pocket, with your reaction hand. I use Clyinder & Slide's shooting strap, that employs the same method; that I use for rifles, shotguns and pistols.

For target shooting offhand {besides the isosceles stance for rapid fire shooting}, I like to quarter away from the target, weight on the balls of my feet, knees slightly flexed, back arched slightly backwards, shoulders relaxed. Try to triangulate your main body for bone support, rather than muscle support.

Do 75 -100 reps a day --- raising and lowering a heavy rifle or shotgun --- so you can aquire the muscle sets for shooting offhand.

It is important to follow through on the shot. If the rifle or pistol --- after recoil --- settles back into your original P.O.I. {point of aim}, you'll know that you've made a good shot. Try to call your own shots.
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Last edited by Erno86; April 12, 2013 at 03:47 PM.
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Old April 12, 2013, 04:17 PM   #15
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One thing I did notice is I ended up with a bruise the size of a nickel or so on the inside of my breast near the arm, which tells me that maybe the stock wasn't being seated properly.
Caused by your elbow of your shooting arm being to far down.

The supporting hand should be directly under the forearm of the gun and the elbow resting on your rib cage. That allows the weight of the gun to be supported by your forward leg and not your shoulder and back muscles. This is hard to do if the gun stock is to long for you.

The shooting arm should be sticking out at a 90 degree angle which makes a pocket in your shoulder for the butt to snuggle into, The shooting hand should have just enough of a tight grip that if you let go with your support hand the gun will stay in place, any tighter than that and you are creating problems for yourself.

Picture is worth a thousand words and this is a good picture.

http://www.riflesilhouette.com/instr...echniques.html

A shooting vest or jacket can be had fairly cheap and are worth their weight in gold. The pad spreads out the shock over a wider area reducing the spot bruising. Just make sure whichever one you get fits snugly across the chest and shoulders, you don't want it loose and comfortable like your casual clothing because you don't want the padding to shift.

You should get in your shooting position standing relaxed and upright and the only leaning forward will be to get your head down on the stock so you can see your sights, more than that is unnatural and will adversely affect your shooting. This is easier to say when coach and shooter are in the same place at the same time and he can see and correct the problems. All I can do from here is give you a basic outline.
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Old April 12, 2013, 06:00 PM   #16
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I always recommend "pumping iron" as part of any shooting program. In addition to building strength which makes handling firearms easier I have found that muscle makes a better "recoil pad" than just skin and bones.
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:10 PM   #17
BigD_in_FL
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However, as the shots started hurting I noticed that I started tensing up in anticipation of pulling the trigger and although I got a smooth trigger pull, this would affect my aim
See my mention about flinching above
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:43 PM   #18
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I think it's just a question of practice. I think the body does learn. Or that may be the brain. And you get used to the recoil.
Like a rattly old pick up truck. At first you get in and the thing shakes and vibrates more than a cyclo massage bed at your favorite adult motel.
But after a while you get in and don't even notice the vibration.
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:52 PM   #19
BigD_in_FL
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But after a while you get in and don't even notice the vibration.
A PERFECT diagnosis of now having severe nerve damage....something that, like hearing loss, NEVER goes away

The shoulder damage can be fixed in most cases by a nice ortho surgeon, but nerve damage is not as easily repaired

Been there, done that, still suffering from that
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Old April 13, 2013, 01:31 AM   #20
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Lots of good scary advice so far . I have a couple things I might suggest .

1) Make sure you are behind the rifle . Meaning be more square to the rifle . The best way I can describe this is have your midsection/torso facing the target and not your hip/side .( if anybodies got a better wat to say that please do ) This is where the rifle fitting you can help .

2) If your getting pushed around alot and at times it hurts I would stop shooting that gun and start shooting 22lr . Why you ask ? IMHO a new shooter getting knocked around a lot is bound to pick up some bad habits that could be hard to work out of at best or stay with you for life at worst . Shooting the 22 will help you relax and work on the fundamentals . trigger pull , sight picture . cheek weld , follow through with out the anticipation of the recoil . I always take my 22 target rifle with me . When ever I start to feel my self muscle the rifle around or start anticipating the recoil of the larger recoiling rifles . I put them down and and start working on the fundamentals with my 22 . Once I'm settled back down I jump back on the big dogs . I can shoot pretty good but I'd be the first to tell you I can have a huge trigger flinch .

Thats great you don't have a trigger flinch . It does seem at odds from my experience with new shooters and heavy recoil . There are ways to check for sure . I know I do and really don't know how I shoot as well as I do . I was shooting my Buddy's M1 garand and I flinched so bad I took a step forward not kidding . The funny thing about that is . That was in the middle of a off hand 8 shot string @ 100 yards . All eight shots were in the 8" target .
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Old April 13, 2013, 10:37 PM   #21
pat701
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Flinch!
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Old April 14, 2013, 06:52 AM   #22
CurlyQ.Howard
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I also recommend building up muscle. Yes, proper technique is also critical, but the stronger you are and the more you weigh, the less that recoil will affect you.
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Old April 14, 2013, 12:23 PM   #23
Old Grump
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pat701


Flinch!
That was helpful???

Are you saying he flinched or is going to flinch or should flinch or will develop a flinch or your dogs name is flinch? A little clarification please.
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Last edited by Vanya; April 14, 2013 at 12:38 PM. Reason: small correction.
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Old April 15, 2013, 08:21 AM   #24
zukiphile
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dakota.potts
I haven't made any significant conscious changes, yet every time I fire it, it seems I handle the next one a little bit better. This happens over the span of even a range trip. How does this happen? Is it psychological? Do you subconsciously learn the recoil characteristics so your body prepares for the next shot better? I'd be really interested to hear about this.
The changing response to recoil over time will not necessarily be an improvement. I have seen people who start with heavy recoiling weapons developed a flinch worse than I have ever had.

In your position, I would put many thousands of rounds through that 10/22, reading some books on proper form along the way, before I spent more money on 7.62X51. You will not have anything like reasonable accuracy at longer distances anyway until you have a reasonable grasp of your form and held the trigger behaves.

I would also consider a good bolt action .22. You can do your long range practice with that at a mere 150 yards.

Last edited by zukiphile; April 15, 2013 at 01:02 PM.
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