Recoil will NEVER be totally eliminated, but it can be very easily managed to seem as though it has. So, yes, they do work as long as the recoil pad is made properly.
No matter what firearm platform you choose to shoot there is one ever-present factor that plagues them all. One undeniable force that has caused not only frustration but depending on the firearm literal physical discomfort as well. This force that most shooters consistently fight against is recoil. The amount of recoil can drastically differ between different firearms. Some have less and are much easier to run while others may make you feel as though you’ve physically taken a beating. Regardless of the recoil amount, the simple fact remains that’s it’s always there.
Recoil is an Issue We are Constantly Combatting.
Sharpening our shooting skills and fundamentals can help. Through proper grip, stance and trigger control we can absorb and dissipate recoil with our bodies. In no way are we getting rid of recoil, we are just learning how to control it better. Utilizing your body for this is much easier when it comes to shooting handguns. Switching it up to certain rifles and shotguns however, this becomes a much more difficult task. Even with proper grip and stance, there’s a certain amount of recoil shooters have just accepted as part of the process. Waking up after a long-range session to sore arms and possible bruises have become expected and we just deal with it.
Over the years certain products have come to light that actually aid in recoil management. The one I want to shed light on today are recoil pads and the common question of’ “Do recoil pads really work? I could list out reviews from the general public showing statistical answers, but I really don’t feel that is truly beneficial. That is still only an “opinion” and not fact. Instead, I want to bring out black and white facts, physics and concrete reasons to support what I believe to be true, that recoil pads do in fact work.
First, we need to understand recoil. Newton’s third law comes into play with every action having an equal and opposite reaction which goes hand in hand with momentum conservation. I promise not to inundate you with a long-winded physics lesson here, but it is important to understand the principle. Every round and shell has a certain amount of gun powder, or “explosive material”. When the firing pin strikes, the “explosive” is ignited causing the round/shell to propel forward from the gun, this is Primary Recoil. Once this happens the gas that is released from behind the round/shell accelerates the gun backward. This is Secondary Recoil.
Primary Recoil is not the Recoil That we Feel.
What’s socking us in the shoulder is the effect of the secondary recoil. Depending on what you’re shooting the aftermath can be quite painful. Without proper grip and stance, shooter’s often end up stumbling back, or worse yet, on the ground. When the correct shooting fundamentals are there, shooters can handle and absorb the recoil but typically with a painful price that follows a bit later. This is where products such as a recoil pad come into play.
There are many manufacturers who have come out with recoil pads promising an elimination of recoil. The question is, do recoil pads really work?
Now that we understand primary and secondary recoil as it pertains to Newton’s third law, it should be evident that incorporating a barrier between you and the stock should be able to protect you from the punishing effects of recoil. Recoil will NEVER be totally eliminated, but it can be very easily managed to seem as though it has. So, yes, they do work as long as the recoil pad is made properly. Not all recoil pads are even in the same league. Any soft barrier will obviously help take out the “sting” but only a well-designed recoil pad will make you really feel the difference.
As a consumer, you need to be looking for a product that does more than just soften the blow. A good recoil pad should reduce the recoil energy, muzzle life, peak force and rock back. This is done through scientifically converting the recoil energy into heat which causes it to be absorbed and distributed evenly at the point of contact, which would be the shoulder. This energy conversion is typically done through water or air which expands to wrap the recoil pad around your body vs you wrapping your body around the gun. When utilizing a good recoil pad you should notice quite a difference in your shooting such as; less flinching, less pulling and less compensating for absorbing felt recoil.
A sound recoil pad that is scientifically engineered beyond just “another rubber pad” absolutely works when paired with good shooting fundamentals. Utilizing recoil pads will enhance your shooting experience and enable you to shoot longer. They are also a wonderful option when introducing people that may be more timid or fearful into the shooting realm. Shooting doesn’t have to be punishing, with the right products that are true to what they claim it can be a very enjoyable experience that doesn’t leave any punishing effects.
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Great article. And yes I agree, recoil pads really do make a difference. I could tell a huge difference when I added one to my 30-06.
Thank you so much for the input Scott! Truly appreciated.