minimizing concealed carry recoil

Recoil Reduction In a CCW Gun

A lot of people look for methods of recoil reduction as a way to shoot a gun for longer, thereby increasing practice time. Naturally, there are many applications; becoming better at shooting is equally beneficial for the defensive carrier, sport shooter and hunter alike.

However, it's not as easy as it sounds. Part of what creates recoil is simply the laws of physics. With that said, there are some things one can do to for easier shooting at the shooting range and elsewhere.

Actual Recoil versus Felt Recoil

handgun shooting recoil

Recoil, blowback, knockback or kick are the terms used to describe the force generated by a gunshot in the opposite direction of the path of the bullet. In essence, it's Newton's third law:

To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction

To put that a little better, shooting a gun generates a certain amount of force that's expelled from the front of the barrel. The bullet is sent out along with gases and other detritus. An equivalent force goes in the opposite direction.

However, there's a difference between the total force of recoil and what a person actually feels, which is felt recoil.

Most of the force from a gunshot is actually directed through the shooter into the ground. The body, after all, is mostly water, which is a conductor. Additionally, the force of recoil only lasts as long as the gases created by the shot are still in the gun. In other words, part of what creates recoil is the exhaust gases created by the gunshot. Once the gases are totally expelled, the recoil period is over.

Granted, there are certain factors that control how much recoil a person feels. One of the biggest factors is caliber relative to mass. For instance, a full-size 1911 shooting .45 ACP is not a difficult pistol to shoot. It's a big gun, and most models are made of metal; lots of mass to soak up part of the recoil. However, a subcompact Kahr shooting .45 ACP, or an S&W J-Frame chambered for .357 Magnum...less mass, more felt recoil.

What a person feels as recoil, then, is the force conducted in a manner so the shooter can feel it. Part of what people describe as "recoil" is muzzle rise or when the muzzle of a handgun is propelled back and upward by a shot.

How, then, can it be reduced or mitigated?

Recoil Management

ccw ammo caliber

There are a number of methods of recoil management.

Granted, this also begs a question of what a person wants to reduce recoil for. Practice shooting? Makes absolute sense; why hurt yourself practicing for defensive or other shooting? Most self-defense shootings involve few shots. Likewise, a lot of big game hunters are advocates of the "one shot, one kill" axiom.

The easiest? Shoot less powerful ammunition.

The force with which a bullet is expelled is contingent on the propellant charge of a cartridge. Less propellant by volume or a less powerful propellant equals less force and therefore less recoil.

Another method that's used to manage recoil is to augment the parts of the firearm that make contact with the shooter. A common rifle and shotgun accessory is a recoil pad, installed on the butt of the stock. These attenuate recoil, by adding mass or by softening the "blow" against the shoulder by various means.

Many handgun grips are available from aftermarket producers which do the same thing. They won't eliminate recoil, but will diminish it or at reduce felt recoil.

There are other strategies as well. Part of what creates recoil is the gases involved in a gun shot; the exhaust gases exit through the muzzle, creating muzzle rise and contributing to felt recoil. There are two methods of attenuating recoil from these gases: ported barrels and compensators.

A ported barrel has holes tapped in it - and in semi-auto pistols, in the slide over the holes - to allow gases to escape from both these holes as well as the muzzle. A compensator is essentially a barrel extension with an exhaust port (or several) in addition to the muzzle at the end of the compensator.

Granted, these devices won't erase recoil; they may ease it somewhat and will certainly curb muzzle rise.

How To Manage Recoil In a CCW

So, how then to manage recoil in a CCW that one will carry every day? That's a bit trickier. Aftermarket grips or a ported barrel is going to be one's best bet. Reduced power ammunition is fine for the range, but you wouldn't want to necessarily carry it. Ammunition has to be up to the task that it's carried for - downing a threat. Sore wrists could be a small price to pay.

A ported barrel (and slide, if one carries a semi-auto) is certainly the lowest-impact solution. Nothing really changes about the gun except a bit less muzzle rise and felt recoil. Aftermarket grips likewise are a low if not no-impact solution; at most you add a millimeter or two to the width of the grip. Otherwise, it makes handling and shooting more comfortable.

However, ported barrels often come at a cost, namely that of slightly reduced velocity. Then again, a round that normally travels 1,200 feet per second that's reduced to 1050 feet per second is still going to do what one needs a bullet to do.

Compensators, on the other hand, are not the most practical option. Part and parcel to concealed carry is the ability for a holster to hold a pistol. The carrier must be able to draw from a concealed carry holster with a certain amount of ease. Adding an extra bit to the muzzle can make both more difficult.

gun blog writer sam hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests include camping, hunting, concealed carry, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible..