How To
How to Reduce Recoil on a Bolt Action Rifle

How to Reduce Recoil on a Bolt Action Rifle

How to Reduce Recoil on a Bolt Action Rifle


Bolt action rifles are a hunter’s best friend. The rifle’s simple design makes it less likely to jam or fail, making it more reliable for shooting in various conditions. Also, traditional bolt action rifles have a fixed barrel that delivers more consistent shooting accuracy. On the downside, felt recoil on a bolt action rifle can be intense. Keep reading to discover what causes recoil and how to reduce recoil on a bolt action rifle.

Bolt Action Rifles v. Lever Action Rifles

Bolt action v. lever action rifle comparisons always pops up in conversations about the best rifle for hunting or long-range shooting. The biggest differences between the two firearm types are:

  1. Operation: Bolt action rifles require manually pulling the bolt to eject spent rounds and pushing it back to chamber a fresh round. The bolt handle is usually at the top of the rifle. Lever action rifles, on the other hand, rely on a lever beside the trigger to perform the same actions.
  2. Reliability: A bolt action rifle’s chambering mechanism is more reliable than a lever action rifle’s. The reliability means bolt action rifles are less likely to jam.
  3. Durability: Bolt action rifles are typically more durable because they have fewer moving mechanical parts than lever action rifles.
  4. Accuracy: Bolt action rifles have a fixed barrel design that provides a more stable shooting platform and better accuracy. Also, bolt action rifles typically have higher muzzle velocities, making them better for long-range shooting.
  5. Speed: Lever action rifles have a faster cycling time, allowing you to chamber and fire off rounds faster. Also, you can typically reload a lever action rifle faster than bolt action rifles.

Since bolt and lever action rifles have unique advantages and disadvantages, your specific needs will determine the right one to buy. For instance, a bolt action rifle may be your best choice if you want a reliable and durable rifle for long-range shooting. On the other hand, a lever action rifle may be the way to go if you want a fun firearm with a faster rate of fire.

What Causes Recoil?

When you squeeze the trigger, the firing pin strikes the primer and ignites the propellant. The ignited propellant releases gases that expand and push a round through the barrel and out the muzzle with explosive force. The force with which expanding propellant gases escape the muzzle behind a bullet will cause the gun to jerk backward with equal force.

The backward push caused by the escaping propellant gases is called recoil. If shooting a pistol, you will feel the recoil more in your dominant shooting hand. On the other hand, rifle or shotgun shooters experience recoil more in their dominant shooting shoulder.

Anticipated Recoil vs. Felt Recoil

Felt recoil is the amount of recoil you feel in your arm or shoulder when you fire a round. The intensity of the recoil can vary depending on various factors, such as:

  • Gun weight
  • Ammo caliber
  • Shooter experience
  • Shooting stance
  • Grip

On the other hand, anticipated recoil is the amount of recoil you expect to experience when you squeeze the trigger. A firearm’s weight and ammo’s reputation can influence how much recoil you anticipate feeling. For instance, your recoil anticipation will likely be lower if shooting a .223 Remington rifle and higher with a 50-caliber rifle.

In summary, felt recoil is the recoil you actually feel when you shoot, while anticipated recoil is the recoil you expect to experience. Anticipated recoil can be less or more intense than the recoil you eventually feel when you shoot.

Tips for Reducing Recoil on a Bolt Action Rifle

As we’ve mentioned, bolt action rifles can have intense recoil, and it’s more intense when shooting high-caliber rounds. Since excessive recoil can ruin your shooting accuracy and comfort, you must learn to minimize it. Below are our best tips on how to reduce recoil on a bolt action rifle:

Keep Your Barrel Up

Anticipating recoil can help you mentally prepare and physically adjust to take the recoil from your gun. An effective tactic to physically prepare to take recoil is to tilt your barrel slightly upward.

As we’ve pointed out, ignited propellant generates gases that explode and expand to propel a bullet. The force with which propellant gases exit the muzzle is equal to the recoil force that jerks the firearm backward.

Holding a firearm with the barrel parallel to the ground will cause the recoil force to push directly into your shoulder. On the other hand, if you tilt your barrel slightly upward, it can reduce your felt recoil. It accomplishes this by slightly changing the direction of your firearm’s backward motion. However, if you tilt your barrel too high, you may lose control of your firearm and miss your shot.

Proper Stance

How you stand and hold your gun will significantly affect how intensely you feel the recoil. For instance, shooting with your back against a wall will cause you to feel more of the recoil. Also, leaning backward or standing up straight while shooting can intensify felt recoil.

While several shooting stances are available, a basic shooting stance that minimizes felt recoil involves standing on the balls of your feet. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your left foot’s heel (if you’re right-handed) parallel to your right foot’s toes. The stance will help distribute your weight evenly.

Also, bend your knees slightly and lean forward from the hips a bit so your upper body becomes centered over your knees. About 60% of your weight should be on your front foot and your toes pointing toward the target. In this position, your body can absorb recoil more effectively, leading to experiencing less pushback and pain.

Proper Grip

How you hold your bolt action rifle will also influence felt recoil. For instance, your rifle could fly out of your hands if you hold it too lightly, sending your shot wild. A too-tight grip, on the other hand, can intensify how much felt recoil you experience.

Minimize felt recoil when shooting a bolt action rifle by holding your rifle firmly around the grip with your dominant hand. The dominant hand’s elbow should be facing outward. Place your non-dominant hand under the rifle’s fore-end or forestock to support it. Your non-dominant hand’s elbow should be facing down.

The butt of your rifle should be snug against your shoulder, and your cheek should be firmly against the rifle’s stock. When it’s time to shoot, don’t pull the trigger. Instead, squeeze it smoothly and steadily to maintain control over your rifle and minimize recoil impact.

Use a Suppressor

Our how to reduce recoil on a bolt action rifle guide would be incomplete if we didn’t mention suppressors. A suppressor minimizes recoil by reducing the force with which expanding propellant gases escape the muzzle behind a bullet. Besides significantly reducing recoil, suppressors or silencers also reduce gunfire noise to protect your ears.

Various rifle suppressors are available for different calibers and rifle types (including big-bore rifles). Note that how effective a suppressor is at reducing recoil will depend on your rifle and the suppressor you choose. Check out our test trying 27 suppressors on two bolt action rifles.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Hunting Goals – Start Shooting Suppressed Today!

When recoil is too much, shooting hurts, and the excessive muzzle rise can make you lose sight of your target. Improve your shooting experience and stop enduring discomfort by getting a suppressor for your bolt action rifle. At Silencer Central, you can find the perfect rifle suppressor for you, and we make buying a suppressor as hassle-free as possible.

Do you need help finding and buying the right rifle suppressor? Call or email us today to speak with an expert who will guide you toward your perfect suppressor.