Firing a shotgun is not one-size-fits-all. Depending on your size and skill level you may need to take measures to ensure your comfort when shooting or while on a hunt.
When a shotgun is fired, the gas from the ignited powder propels pellets out the shell and down the barrel to the target. This action creates an equal force projected backwards that is known as recoil, kickback, and knockback. The weight of the shotgun is higher than the weight of the pellets and this additional weight is what absorbs most of the recoil. Even still, the recoil from a shotgun can result in some painful and nasty shoulder bruises. For many beginners, this might dampen any enthusiasm to continue waterfowl hunting.
Using a shotgun that fits your body correctly will make all the difference between enjoying and totally rejecting waterfowl hunting as a sport. Be sure to seek the advice of the friendly staff at Minturn Anglers stores in Denver, Minturn or Vail to aid in the choice of the right shotgun. There are technical stock adjustments they can make to help achieve a comfortable gun fit:
- The cast, or angle of the stock compared to the barrel axis, should toe out
- The pitch, or the angle made by the stock butt in relation to the barrel, should be positive
- The length of pull is often a quick adjustment to ensure that the trigger finger is well positioned
- A drop at the comb and one at the heel of the gun are also sometimes needed
With a properly fitting gun in hand, the next task is learning how to correctly fire your weapon. The butt of the gun must be placed firmly into the shoulder to reduce the kickback when the gun is fired. This tight position allows the whole body to absorb most of the recoil instead of having the gun kickback into the shoulder. Learning the correct firing position as well as a correct cheek to the stock stance for accurate shooting skills are typically taught in an introductory hunting course, such as the Waterfowl Hunting School offered by Minturn Anglers.
For a visual representation of how to properly hold a shot gun, check out this quick 2 minute video.
Other approaches to help reduce shotgun recoil can include:
- Using a smaller gauge shotgun, such as a 20 gauge
- Switching to low-recoil ammunition
- Installing recoil pads at the end of the shotgun stock
It’s beneficial as a beginner to take the extra time and effort to find a combination that works for you. Then, as with any sport, practice makes perfect.
It’s completely possible to have a satisfying shooting experience without being knocked around. By taking the time to find the best gun suited for you and learning to fire it properly, you (and your shoulder) will be much happier. If you find you still have questions, check with the professionals at Minturn Anglers.