View Full Version : 20 gauge recoil?

June 16, 2012, 02:39 PM
Interested in getting a weapon for my girlfriend to use for HD when I am not home. I have a 12 gauge 870, but she has never fired it and refuses to because she is worried about the recoil. She has fired an AR-15 and enjoyed it, but doesn't want one for HD. Handguns are out of the question at the moment, but she fired exactly one shot out of a .45ACP PX4 Storm and wouldn't touch it, or any other .45, again. She is ok with 9mm out of even small guns. She won't touch my .308, but enjoys shooting .22LR.

So that gives you an idea of her recoil tolerances.

I have no experience with 20 gauge shotguns. Is the recoil enough less than the 12 gauge that someone who is very recoil-sensitive would be ok shooting buckshot out of it? I'd like to avoid going down to .410 if possible, but as a worst case scenario I guess I could fall back on that.

Any other ideas?

Dave McC
June 16, 2012, 03:01 PM
Some 20s have MORE felt recoil than the same models in 12 gauge.

Here's the deal...

Posit a 7 lbs shotgun shooting a 7/8 oz load at 1200 FPS. Keeping all that the same, changing the fit will alter the amount one feels the same amount of kick.

Now,switch to a shotgun weighing 6 lbs but retaining the fit and balance of the former shotgun. Lots more "Kick".

Reduce the surface area of the butt. More kick.

Of all the shotguns here at Casa McC, the hardest kicker is a 5 lbs, 9 oz 12 gauge. Even with 3/4 oz creampuff loads, it's noticed.

Next hardest kicker is a 20 gauge 870, a former "Youth" model that weighs in at 6 lbs, 2 oz, if my kitchen scale can be believed.

BTW, that model is oft recommended for HD for folks who may have trouble with the kick and weight of a 12 gauge. It DOES handle like an M1 carbine, but kick is not to creampuff levels,even for big ol' me. I do enjoy shooting this one, but it's more fatiguing.

Next heaviest is a 20 gauge O/U, weighing 6 lbs, 12 oz. Not the lightest for field work, but I shoot it well and can shoot it all day. Kick,even with just a plate on the stern, is easily tolerated.

I suggest you encourage your wife to try out different shotguns, preferably while under the scrutiny of a competent instructor, and let her pick what SHE wants......

June 16, 2012, 03:05 PM
Remember, there's a difference between free recoil and kick (felt recoil). Recoil is based on physics, kick is based on the gun and the shooter. A light 20-ga shotgun may seem to kick harder than a heavier (and/or better fitting) 12-ga gun.

June 16, 2012, 03:06 PM
Better begin looking at those 410s.


June 16, 2012, 03:14 PM
Why not try a Limbsaver recoil pad for you 12 gauge. I have one on my pump and it works very good.

June 16, 2012, 03:36 PM
Most of this is psychological. Adding a new recoil pad to the 12 gauge isn't going to get her to try it. I would love to take her somewhere where she can try a bunch of guns, but that just isn't a possibility in my area. If I found a 20 gauge, or a .410 or whatever, I might be able to get her to try it, but if it kicked hard, that would be the end of that, no matter what else I brought.

She agreed to try a 20 gauge if I got one, with the promise that it would recoil less than a 12 gauge. But it sounds like that is a dead end. Does a .410 have any possibility of stopping an attacker?

I mean, the way we have it set up now, if something happened, she would grab the 12 gauge, for sure. But, I don't love that shes never handled it at all. I'm not going to get her to take a bunch of training classes with me, but I would at least like her to be familiar with how it operates, and to have fired it a few times.

Long term, we will get her a nice full-size 9mm which she will be comfortable with and will probably take a few classes with. But that's at least 6 months to a year down the road. Maybe I can get her comfy with a 9mm carbine...

June 16, 2012, 03:55 PM
Does a .410 have any possibility of stopping an attacker?

Seriously, it has plenty of chance. At least two offerings have 3 000 Buck pellets in a 2 1/2" shell, others offer 4 000 Buck pellets in the same shell length. If you go to 3" shells you get wither 5 00 Buck or 5 000 Buck. The slowest of these rounds sends the lead out at speeds comperable to the reuced recoil 12 gauge offerings. Think of the payload as 1/2 of a 12 gauge. You still get multiple wound trauma reaction with this as well as 3, 4, or 5 wound tracks at a time bleeding them out.

An attacker is not likely to scoff at the little 40 caliber barrel pointing at him, if so they would scoff at a 40 S&W hand gun too. These folks don't care about the tool or the person wielding it. Put 4 or 5 holes at a time in them and they'll usually change their tune.

June 16, 2012, 04:12 PM
What is the recoil with a .410 using 00 buck loads comparable to? More or less than an AR-15?

June 16, 2012, 04:13 PM
Why not try a Limbsaver recoil pad for you 12 gauge. I have one on my pump and it works very good.

I have a LimbSaver recoil pad on one shotgun and have a Houge overmolded buckstock on the other. Also there are low recoil 00 buckshot loads available and It makes for faster follow up shots if needed.

June 16, 2012, 04:31 PM
A load of 1 oz of shot at 1200 fps recoils exactly the same in guns of equal weight. It does not matter if the gun is a 20, 16, 12 or 10 guage. The lighter the gun the greater the recoil. 20's are almost always lighter than 12's. It is also true that "SOME" 20 guage loads are lighter, but even with the lighter loads in a 20 the weight difference pretty much balances things out. There is a lot of overlap beween loads with many 12 guage loads being lighter than 20's. And recoiling much less.


You can use this website to calculte recoil. 1 oz of shot equals 437 gr bullet weight. A reasonable powder charge would be about 18 grains for either and both a 12 and a 20 will shoot to about 1200 fps. A Remington 870 in 12 guage weighs about 7.5 lbs and would have round 15 ft lbs of recoil. A 20 guage weighs about 6.5 lbs and would generate about 17.4 ft lb of recoil. These are pretty light loads and ANY buckshot load from either would have significantly more recoil.

Just for reference, a 308 generates around 16-17 ft lbs of recoil, a 30-06 around 18-19 and a 300 mag about 20-22 ft lbs. A load of buckshot from either is near 300 win mag recoil levels. An AR 15 only generates 3-4 ft lbs of recoil and is every bit as effective as a 12 loaded with buckshot with far less recoil than even a 410. A 410 in a 5-6 lb gun is still generating 10 ft lbs or so of recoil with a far less effective load. There is a reason the AR carbine has almost completely replaced fighting shotguns in LE.

What is the recoil with a .410 using 00 buck loads comparable to? More or less than an AR-15?

About 3X more recoil with the 410 vs AR

June 16, 2012, 04:49 PM
If she is recoil sensitive, she won't like any kind of shotgun.
How about a carbine in a pistol caliber?

June 16, 2012, 05:37 PM
I scratched this, as on second thougth I don't know if reloads for HD are a good idea.

June 16, 2012, 05:40 PM
The other thing is to get her to shoot a gas operated semi automatic shotgun. The gas system will suck up much of the recoil.

Any pump is going to recoil like a mule compared to some auto loaders.

June 17, 2012, 09:56 AM
jmr40, excellent post. Thank you.

I think I need to push an AR or pistol carbine...

June 17, 2012, 11:28 AM
or just leave it alone ...until you can buy a handgun.

Many folks ...including me ...even though I have a dozen or more shotguns / for home defense rely on handguns / not shotguns ...and even a smaller 9mm handgun ...like a Sig 239 in 9mm ( with all the good defensive ammo out there today like Hydra Shok 147gr in 9mm ) is a fine defensive weapon...in the one in a gazillion chance she'll ever need it - in my view.

A 9mm carbine is a poor idea in my view / but then so if pushing her to shoot something she doesn't want to shoot.

June 17, 2012, 12:07 PM
I know this is sacrilege, here at the shotgun forum... has she looked into low-recoil pepper spray?

I'm with my friend, Big Jim, in preferring a handgun for HD. I may add a long gun if there's something going on (like a LE helicopter orbiting the neighborhood).

June 17, 2012, 12:36 PM
An alternative is to get a girl friend with more tolerance for recoil.

June 17, 2012, 01:22 PM
Sounds like you need a German Shepherd.


Stuff this in your 870 (at the range) and let her know it's low recoil. Sounds like she's in her own head. If she's freaking out about 12 ga recoil then imagine how she'd freak out if she heard someone messing with a door or window. Chances are she wouldn't be able to find the safety if in condition 1 or the slide release if in condition 3.

June 17, 2012, 04:50 PM
You have a balancing act in regards to the GF's ability to hold the gun up (weight of weapon and fit) and felt recoil (accelerating mass reacting on weapon weight and action type as distributed through the stock to her shoulder).

One of the most critical parts that is overlooked by many is the fit of the gun to the shooter. If the fit is poor, the felt recoil is usually translated in ways like cheek slap, shoulder digging, or other unamusing ways. If the LOP is too long and you have to lean back to hold the gun up, you really feel the kick. Conversely inf the LOP is way too short, you could get a knuckle in the cheek from the recoil because you are crawled up on the stock. Unfortunately off the shelf guns don't fit people out of the first standard deviation of height and build well at all. The bigger problem is that the manufacutrers base the norm on men.....women present a differing height and build profile to the mix. Most "Youth" models only have a shortened stock, they do nothing to move the trigger closer to the wrist or reprofile the wrist for smaller hands.

Whether shotgun or carbine, the GF should try on many different guns and find what feels good (something that shoulders well and she can easily get to the trigger. Once the field is narrowed, she should test fire as many as possible to find what she likes. Caliber / Gauge is secondary.

June 17, 2012, 04:57 PM
jeez this has been blown out of proportion. find a good 870 in 20g, fit it to her, and install a pachmayr f990 recoil pad on it before she ever pulls the trigger.


June 17, 2012, 05:16 PM
jeez this has been blown out of proportion. find a good 870 in 20g, fit it to her, and install a pachmayr f990 recoil pad on it before she ever pulls the trigger.

Smaller fingers can get bit by the shell elevator when loading on an 870. A semiauto also kicks less than a pump. One size doesn't fit all; even if you chop the stock.

June 17, 2012, 05:53 PM
Get a 20 and teach her to fire from the hip and to shoulder-depending. When shouldering make sure the butt pad is on the shoulder--NOT the biceps.

Raising the shooting side elbow to be leven w/ round (or nearly so) causes a natural 'pocket' to form on the shoulder. That is where the butt pad should be when firing-shotgun or rifle. Any other place magnifies 'kick'.

Pad on arm/biceps will hurt and on GF may bruise.