I am apparently not the person you should ask about a gun’s recoil. Some people are recoil-sensitive, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I am recoil-insensitive. People say things like ‘The Sig P365 is pretty snappy!’ and I have no idea what they are talking about. Seems fine to me.
I’m no rocket scientist, but I do grasp basic physics. All other things being equal a smaller, lighter gun will have a higher recoil impulse. This can be mitigated by the grip and to some degree the locking mechanism (or lack thereof) but the raw force of recoil will be the same.
I cannot help but notice this matters more to some people than to others, and it matters less to me than to some. Let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean I can shoot a .45-70 Derringer all day long and not notice. But when it comes to service-caliber weapons it’s a little harder for me to judge.
There are guns that I find unpleasant to shoot, but they tend to be outliers like the Detonics Pocket 9, a straight-blow-back subcompact 9mm. With aluminum grips. Ouch. Let’s face it, I am a big guy with a lot of experience shooting a variety of handguns. Lots of standard-for-comparison and a lot of mass to soak it up. It makes sense that I might be less aware of recoil than some other folks, right?
It does, but that’s not it. I have come home from shooting sessions, particularly small guns in large calibers, and felt it in my strong-hand. I’ve come to realize it’s not that I don’t feel the recoil, it’s that I don’t care.
I have come to judge recoil by a different standard. Being focused on self defense and to a much lesser degree action shooting competition I want fast, accurate follow-up shots. Because of this I tend to judge recoil not by the energy of the recoil impulse but by how fast the gun comes back on target.
This focus on the gun’s performance overrides noticing the ‘kick’ of the gun, much like when I am hunting I have never noticed the recoil impulse of the shot. My attention is focused elsewhere. Just say I am ‘result-driven.’
So I guess you shouldn’t ask me how hard a gun ‘kicks.’ Odds are I haven’t the slightest idea. I mean, unless it’s something obviously stupid, like an air-weight .44 Magnum. In case you were wondering that’s going to kick like a mule on meth. If you hate yourself and covet wrist injuries I can recommend that one whole-heartedly.
OK, fine, I hear you cry. ‘I won’t notice in the heat of the moment.’ Yes, you will. You’ll notice that you missed because you never practiced with the gun. To me this is why recoil matters. If you find the gun unpleasant to shoot you won’t shoot it. If you don’t shoot it you won’t get good with it. Yes, you can dry-fire practice, but that will only take you so far; you also need to used to re-acquiring your front sight after recoil and other things you can only get from shooting the gun.
I have heard the ‘won’t notice if I need it,’ argument applied to the Seecamp LWS .380, which has absolutely brutal recoil. I also hear that doesn’t matter because it’s only meant to be fired at near-contact range. Fair, but if what was meant to happen did you would never be in a shooting. Civilian self-defense shootings are so rare that you’ve already blown the odds, and you might need to shoot at 5, 10 or 15 yards. The Seecamp, being tiny and lacking sights, is a difficult gun to shoot well. It can surprise with its performance, but only if you practice. And if a gun hurts to shoot you won’t.
Whatever gun you rely on you need to practice with it. The more the better. Isn’t it funny how these conversations always wind up right back at that fact? Make sure you like to shoot that gun too. If practice is enjoyable you’re more likely to do it.
Stay Safe and Take Care,
Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 February 2023