View Full Version : Ladies and Recoil

July 19, 2008, 08:50 PM
I have only shot a shotgun once, using a rifle kind of round (not buckshot). I could handle the recoil, but it did smart. I have been thinking about buying a shotgun to defend myself, and I have a couple of questions:

1. I live in Los Angeles. Are there issues with having a shot gun in an apartment in Los Angeles? (I have taken a gun safety class.)

2. I was told that the Winchester Defender doesn't have a bad recoil. Is this true?

July 19, 2008, 08:55 PM
using a rifle kind of round Sounds like you fired a slug round, and they do have more recoil. The Defender( or any shotgun) will have less recoil with buckshot...even less with #6 or#4 shot shells.

I'm not sure of LA laws...California has screwy gun laws, best to check with the local police dept.

BTW Welcome to the forum:D

July 19, 2008, 09:12 PM
There are some good options, I have a Mossberg 500 which I started to enjoy shooting more than I thought I would. I purchased a recoil pad like this one for it, and it really took the sting out, now it's just a dull shove and I can shoot it more.
Pachmayr Pre-Fit Decelerator Recoil Pad System


July 19, 2008, 09:20 PM
Josie, if you chose to use a shotgun to defend yourself, I believe that is even OK in California. As for recoil, you might buy some reduced load recoil rounds for practice. They're pretty inexpensive, and they won't pound you so hard. Once you've used the gun more and are comfortable with it, I recommend 00 buck for your defense load. Someone already mentioned a good recoil pad, which is a good idea. You can even get a slip-over type recoil pad to cushion the recoil. Remember, always be conscious of your background when firing that gun.

July 19, 2008, 10:11 PM
Josie, it is unfortunate that some clod had you shoot a round that would smack the bejeebers out of you. Chances are he knew it too. You know, "watch the little lady when she shoots this one!"

Fact is, with proper technique and ammo the shotgun does not need to be uncomfortable to shoot. The advice you have received regarding recoil pads is good.

I am not familiar with the Winchester Defender, but I am familiar with quite a few other guns. A gas operated semi auto will mitigate much of the felt recoil, and be much more comfortable to shoot.

This is very important, because training and practice are imperative to being effective with the weapon. If the gun is uncomfortable to shoot, you will not practice with it.

Reduced recoil loads can be highly effective at HD ranges, and not uncomfortable to shoot.

Good luck, and it is nice to see women taking up the art of the defensive shotgun.

Scattergun Bob
July 19, 2008, 10:14 PM
Welcome to the firing line forum,

My suggestion is to go to your local Trap & Skeet range and rent a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge. Try shooting both guns, for home defense a 20 gauge is totally adequate and may have less recoil.

If you just have to have a 12 gauge, there are many "low recoil" defensive round available these days.

Now, for the important part, the gun needs to fit you correctly, the big issue is the length of pull, basically the length of the stock in relation to your arm length and head position. Have the range staff at the trap & Skeet range help you with this. Most of the time female shooters require a shorter pull (length of stock).

Good Luck & Be Safe

July 19, 2008, 10:46 PM
Ladies and Recoil
I have only shot a shotgun once, using a rifle kind of round (not buckshot). I could handle the recoil, but it did smart. I have been thinking about buying a shotgun to defend myself, and I have a couple of questions:

1. I live in Los Angeles. Are there issues with having a shot gun in an apartment in Los Angeles? (I have taken a gun safety class.)

2. I was told that the Winchester Defender doesn't have a bad recoil. Is this true?


I have been teaching the combat shotgun for some time now, and often to female officers who are downright petite. The simple fact is that when used with combat loads, the shotgun just flat kicks. I have had pretty good results by coaching these shooters to take advantage of their lower center of gravity by standing with their feet spread a tad further apart, bending the leading knee a little and leaning into the gun just a bit more than their male counterparts. It seems to spread the recoil out over more of their anatomy. I also note that girls with longer arms seem to have less trouble with the scattergun and this makes sense because stock fit is important if you're going to do your best work with any long gun.

Some gals however seem unfazed by the shotgun and my daughter is one of them. She is tall but not heavy. When she moved to Alaska I gave her a my 870 RS and a couple hours instruction on 'fast & dirty' with the slug gun. We started with contact/retention drills, and then moved back. She caught on immediately and punching center X's on a B27 at 15 yards, fast, with full-tilt Federal slugs. It made me wince to watch her because I knew they were beating the hell out of her. She ran through two boxes and said "Got any more, Daddy? This is FUN!" Pity the poor bear or miscreant who gives her a split second to get that 870 on them.

Finally, there are now stocks available that mitigate recoil to the point that almost anyone can manage a 12 gauge stoked with serious loads. If they had been available when I started teaching the LE shotgun years ago, my job would have been a whole lot easier,


Good luck with your quest.

July 20, 2008, 12:01 AM
I am wimpy and I can shoot a 12 ga sport load with no problem.
I can shoot buckshot a few times without much trouble.
The one time I shot slugs I had a bruise the next day. First day I shot a 12 ga though and it was partly how I was shooting.

Suggestions to reduce recoil
1.get a semi-auto. The action will absorb some of the force for you. get one used if a new semi is more than you want to spend. I would say 25% recoil reduction with semi auto v. break action.

2.somebody makes a homedefender slug and maybe buckshot. I can't find it right now, but I know one is made. Shorter shell so you get less power/recoil but the tube can hold a few more(this is what I would use, the power would still be plenty to take care of any unarmored problems)

3.push forward on the forearm stock when you fire. Make sure the butt is snug to your shoulder when you pull the trigger, but use that front hand to take some recoil(I have only sort of figured out how this work and it seems to lower accuracy but when I do it correctly felt recoil is minimal). Pistol grip might help also. I don't mean only a pistol grip, but a stock with shoulder and pistol grip.

4.Recoil pad- A cheap limbsaver makes a ton of difference for me. You just slip it over the stock, no tools or anything. The pads that come with most shotguns just are not designed for more than a few shots. That is fine if you are deer hunting, but not for familiarizing yourself with the gun at the range. If you have some change you could even get one of the spring recoil butt stock things. I have never seriously looked at those, but they apparently drop felt recoil to pretty much zero.

Stick with 12 ga. You may have to make a few adjustments a 220lb 6'0" male wouldn't, but it is definitely doable. I am sure you can handle it. Find a store that will help you out. Don't pay MSRP, buying guns is like buying cars. That is all I have.

July 20, 2008, 10:07 PM

A truly outstanding self-defense shotgun for a lady like yourself would be the CZ brand model 720 Youth shotgun. This is a very reliable semiautomatic 20 gauge shotgun shotgun. It has a shortened length stock so it will better fit women and youths. It also has a shorter barrel length of 24 inches too. So this gun would most likely fit you much better, unless you are a real tall lady. And you will be able to shoot the gun much more easily, due to this better fit.

In addition, the semiautomatic action will absorb a lot of the gun's recoil, making it far easier for you to shoot. It is also a 20 gauge caliber, which will recoil less than a 12 gauge would. However, for home protection, a 20 gauge shotgun is just as effective at close range. So you will still have a very potent and powerful gun. You would also not have to worry about pumping the action to fire the gun. All you would have to do is to concentrate on aiming, and then pulling the trigger when you are ready to fire.

Recoil on the Winchester 12 gauge Defender is very brutal with buckshot ammo. Even large men have trouble with the recoil, which is almost as much as an Elephant rifle has. I would definitely recommend that you avoid the Winchester Defender.

The CZ 720 Youth model is not that expensive, at a retail price of $374. Loaded with some 20 gauge buckshot ammo in it, your home will be very well protected indeed. You would be able to rapidly fire several powerful loads of buckshot with it, at any home invader.

Here is a link to dealer that sells this model shotgun. You could purchase it from them, and have them ship it to your local dealer in California for you to pickup and register it:


These CZ brand shotguns are very well made and reliable. And you definitely should get a shotgun with reduced stock dimensions to better fit a woman, if you are an average sized lady. The advice you got from Scattergun Bob is right on the money, and this is a most important consideration for you to have when selecting your shotgun.


July 20, 2008, 10:26 PM
"I would definitely recommend that you avoid the Winchester Defender."
Are you talking about the shotgun or a shell? I am talking about a shell that is about half th length of a normal slug. I have only shot them once and the recoil seemed low. I did not check out the DRAM EQ and I was shooting an 870 I have never shot anything else out of (was just testing these rounds a friend had bought). I guess they could have some high power powder and the gun could have been heavier or had a better recoil pad than it seemed. I think we are talking about two different things though.
What is the difference in number of buckshot in 12 gauge v. 20 gauge? I know for size 9 shot it is about 100 pellets.
The youth model may not be a bad idea. I thought about getting the youth model for my 22lr to make it lighter and easier to handle.

July 20, 2008, 11:09 PM
A gun that fits you will have less felt recoil. My daughter is 16 and no heavy weight by any means but she shoots a 12 gauge double with no recoil pad. She'll frequently pull both triggers at the same time shooting clays. It doesn't bother her in the least. That same gun kicks the snot out of me but she loves it. She won't shoot my 97 pump and to me it kicks less than her double.

July 21, 2008, 03:15 AM
Are you talking about the shotgun or a shell? I am talking about a shell that is about half the length of a normal slug. I have only shot them once and the recoil seemed low.

There is no shotshell on the market named the Winchester Defender. So I have absolutely no idea what sort of shotshell you may be talking about. Any shell that is half the normal shotshell length, as you have described, would have very serious feeding problems in most shotguns. That alone would make it most inappropriate for self-defense.

The Winchester Defender shotgun has been around for many years, and was recently re-introduced by Winchester guns on the market again. It is however only available as a Pump shotgun in 12 gauge. A pump is going to recoil far heavier than a semiauto gas operated shotgun. And a 12 gauge will recoil more than a 20.

So that is why I told Josie it would be a very bad choice for the average woman.

20 gauge buckshot loads have plenty of stopping power. There is no need to have to go to 12 gauge.

Federal cartridge company has the biggest selection of 20 gauge Buckshot loads, both in 2 3/4 inch and 3 inch shells. All 4 of their 20 gauge Buckshot loads deliver over 1,400 ft/lbs of energy, or about equal to being shot 4 times with an average 9mm or 38 Special load, or 3 times with very powerful .40 S&W or .45 ACP loads.

The most common Buckshot for use in the 20 gauge is #3 Buck, which is .25 caliber. The Federal brand 2 /34 inch 20 gauge loads have 20 #3 Buckshot in them. But you can find loads such as the Federal 3 inch 20 gauge loads, which have 18 .27 caliber #2 Buckshot in them.

Any person hit squarely with any of these loads is going to be absolutely devastated, and probably will not need any additional shots. But with a gas operated semiauto 20 gauge like the CZ 720, one could very quickly recover and follow up with additional shots very fast if necessary.

So that is why I highly recommended it for the average woman to consider.


July 21, 2008, 08:46 AM
Any person hit squarely with any of these loads is going to be absolutely devastated,
Well I would be worried about hitting squarely in the situation that I needed it. I am up to shooting low 20s in trap and my slug and buck shot patterns are pretty good at the range. In HD situation I wouldn't be at all surprised if I hit with half or 1/4 the pattern in a limb.

As far as the shells go, I had absolutely no problem with them feeding in a rem 870, although that is a pump. With a semi auto I would be worried if it was recoil operated. Even so, i think any shooter can fire a 12 ga comfortably if it fits and just a few extra dollars are put into recoil reduction.

July 28, 2008, 06:10 PM

There has been lots of good advice for you in the preceding posts so I just wanted to let you know that my wife can handle our 12ga OK for about 10 rounds per session (so far). This is at a range that only allows slugs. Keep in mind that the 2 3/4" rounds in low recoil will help and work well for HD. Pair them up with a good recoil pad, proper technique and some practice and you should be just fine. It will kick but should not hurt on a per shot basis. Now the next day after your first few practice sessions you might be a little stiff and sore but not incapacitating. Also, don't forget the importance of good eye and hearing protection. My wife and I like to use the soft insert style ear plugs combined with the hard over ear kind for the big dog! :-)


B Hillen
August 5, 2008, 10:34 PM
Dear Josie,
Shotguns are wonderful for self defense, hunting, and target shooting. My husband and I used to live in SoCal. It is weird there, as far as firearms go. I suggest going to a trap or skeet range - there are friendly shooters who will help you out, let you try their shotguns and such. I have fond memories of International, in Rosemeade.
After sampling a few shotguns, you can make an educated decision. With the right loads, the right shotgun and action, even a 12 gauge can be comfortable to shoot. Don't give up - keep shooting!

August 5, 2008, 11:09 PM
the 20guage 870 youth i saw had a pad on it new.
I specifically recommend the 20 gauge for women and recoil-sensitive men who dislike the blast and recoil of the 12 gauge. "Delivering roughly the ballistic force of two .44 Magnum rounds at once," comments the knowledgeable Ayoob, the 20 "delivers 75% of the lead for only 50-60% of the recoil".
12 Gauge

If you simply want to know the best defense load, go out and buy: 12 gauge 2 3/4" shell 00 buckshot. You shall live happily ever after, as this is the most effective man-stopping firearm cartridge yet devised by man.Many experienced shooters prefer #4 or #1 buckshot to 00. I really cannot argue, but Lt. Marshall is on record as stating that 00 is superior, both in penetration and stopping power. Good enough for me, but if you have a #4 or #1 buckshot jones, go ahead (Ayoob favors #1). Stay away from 2 3/4" Magnum or 3" Magnum loads, however - the brutal kick of these rounds makes them a bad choice, and you gain nothing in stopping power over the 2 3/4" standard loads. Controllability is important, and standard 12 gauge shells have quite enough kick as it is.

August 6, 2008, 10:39 AM
Josie - after checking the laws where you live, one of the first things is to get properly fitted to whatever gun you choose - without that, you will be letting the gun beat you up mercilessly - and when that happens, you'll be less inclined to practice.....and when THAT happens, it might not help you in a dire situation. Once the gun is fitted, decide on ammo types and practice, practice, practice.....owning a gun doesn't mean firing a few shots and putting it away somewhere until an emergency arises..

good luck and stay safe

August 6, 2008, 12:41 PM
for once, I might agree with LanceOregon - a 20gau. might be your best bet. But there's SOOOOO many options that you have.

If you stick around these shotgun forums long enough you're going to here the infamous Mossberg 500/590 vs. Remington 870 debate. Both guns are amazing and they are merely chosen on preference. I have a Mossberg 500, an Rem 870 12ga and an Rem 870 20ga. My wife (5'1", 130lbs) has shot all 3 and like the recoil of the 20ga. the best, but its not comfortable to hold. The 870 has a slightly longer stock which requires a little longer reach. She's most comfortable with the Mossy 500. The stock recoil bad does a great job of cutting recoil, aftermarket pads are great too. The nice thing about the Mossberg is that it can be had in a "combo" version for $250ish. This means it comes with both an 18" barrel and a 28" barrel. The 28" is great for trap/skeet and practice, while you'll want to put the 18" on in the house for maneuverability. The shorter the barrel the easier it is to move around, especially in an apartment.

As far as loads, I started wifey out shooting Walmart $21 special Federal Target loads #8. They're a great CHEAP light load so that you can used to the recoil - you'll want to fire a couple hundred (maybe not all at once, spread it out over a week or two) until you get comfortable with the gun and punch - an rental from your local trap place will be a good start. Once you're comfy with #8 loads, you might wanna drop down to #6. As far as home defense, I, along with countless others would reccommend #00 buck. I've found that Remington Managed-Coil #00 buck loads are VERY comfortable. My wife shoots them as easy as #8 shot and they do a fair amount of damage to a target. I honestly don't even notice a kick difference between them and light loads - they're amazing!


1. Walmart doesn't sell ammo in LA County - its illegal for them to. www.cheaperthandirt. com or www.ableammo.com might be a good place to purchase.

2. Its hard to find a trap shooting place in LA, you might need to head into Inland Empire

3. There's no law against having a shotgun (of handgun for that matter) in CA, Los Angeles, or in an apartment.

4. If you're in a rental apartment, thats even more pressure for you to practice with your shotgun frequently. A bad placed shot in an apt could mean severe property damage, or loss of life for a neighbor.

5. CA law says that the only way you're justified shooting an intruder is if you feel your life is threatened - burglary is not enough of a reason. That being said, while some might push you toward purchasing a semi-auto gun, the loud rack of a pump gun's action might be your best defense. Most smart bad guys would run the minute they heard you rack that thing, saving you months in court and lot of problems.

You're in a GREAT place to find info here on TFL, read up on all you can, and let us know if you have any questions. Also, keep us posted what guns you've tried, or bought, we'd love to here it!