Recoil, even if you don’t think you feel it, has an insidious and corrosive effect on shooting. I saw a perfect example of this happening at trap practice a couple of weeks ago. If you shoot a lot, it’s worth noting.
One of the senior girls on the high school trapshooting team that I coach shoots a Remington Model 870 Express, a slide-action shotgun. We give the kids mild 1-ounce loads, but those Expresses can give you a pretty good thump nonetheless. She is not a big girl, and I have watched that gun rock her for the last three years. She is tough. She has never showed signs of getting kicked. She didn’t lift her head, shut her eyes or drop the gun off her shoulder at the shot to get away from it. I asked her repeatedly over the years if her gun hurt and she insisted it didn’t.
Once I replaced her 1-ounce loads with 7/8-ouncers, which recoil less, and she asked for the old shells back. And, for a casual shooter, she did well, averaging around 19-20 birds per round of 25.
Until this season. All of a sudden she couldn’t hit anything. Her scores dropped to 4s and 5s. She struggled back up into the mid-teens. I watched her closely. She still didn’t show any signs of getting kicked, but one day a couple of weeks ago she said, “Do you have a different gun I could try? Mine hurts.”
I gave her my Beretta Model 391, a gas-operated semiauto that’s soft shooting, along with a recoil reducer in the stock. I had put a rubber band around the receiver as a shell catcher. She shot it and her face lit up. “This is so much better than my gun!” she said, and started powdering clays.
Now she comes to practice and asks if I brought the gun with the rubber band. She has gone from 19-21 to 20-23.
The lesson: Do not think that just because you are not a skinny high school girl that you are immune to recoil. A few people genuinely are immune, but most of us are not. Getting kicked erodes your shooting. It may take time for it to happen…but it will. Recoil, like rust, never sleeps.