Rifle Recoil Table: Comparing Popular Calibers

Rifle Recoil Table: Comparing Popular Calibers

Rifle Recoil Table: Comparing Popular Calibers

Recoil is a simple fact of life when it comes to shooting firearms. There’s simply no way to get around it and reduce recoil to zero.

Knowing what your intended purpose for your rifle is going to be (small game, big game, long-range targets) will help determine what caliber you’re going to want and what kind of rifle you’ll be choosing.

The caliber and bullet weight, along with the rifle and its weight, will both play big factors in the recoil you’ll experience.

We’ll show you a handy table of common rifle recoil scores, explain how recoil is calculated, and give you some tips about how to best mitigate your rifle’s recoil.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the recoil!

Rifle Recoil Table

In the recoil table below, we’ll go over the recoil scores of some of the most popular rifle calibers. While the exact numbers will vary based on specific bullet weight, muzzle velocity, and rifle weight, the numbers listed below are based on an average of each of those factors. That is to say, this recoil table is meant to be a guide and not a final rule. Your exact numbers may vary.

The recoil score is a range from 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. Scores of 1-2 are low, 3-4 are moderate, and 5-10 are high.

Cartridge Recoil Energy Recoil Velocity Recoil Score
.22 LR 0.2 1 1.00
.223 3.2 5.1 1.46
.270 Win 14.7 10.8 2.82
.308 Win 13.2 10.7 3.24
.30-06 Spfld 18.1 12.3 3.26
.338 Lapua Mag 37.2 15.9 5.24
.45-70 Govt 37.9 18.7 5.42
.50 BMG 70 12.3 8.29


Understanding Recoil

When you shoot and your gun jerks backward in your hand, that’s recoil (also called kickback or kick). It is due to the explosive force with which a bullet exits a firearm.

Pulling the trigger releases the hammer that ignites the propellant. Ignited propellant releases gases that expand rapidly to propel a bullet through the barrel and out the muzzle at high speeds.

As the expanding gases escape the muzzle behind the bullet, it generates an explosive pressure that pushes your gun backward, causing recoil. The more explosive pressure a gun generates to launch rounds, the more the recoil, which is why higher caliber firearms typically have a more intense recoil.

How is Recoil Calculated?

Heads up: we’re going to do some serious math here. If you’re like me, it wasn’t my best subject in school, but don’t worry. The actual math itself is pretty easy: addition, multiplication, and division.

This recoil formula requires you to first calculate the recoil velocity. So, that formula is:

(Bullet Weight In Grains * Muzzle Velocity in FPS + Powder Charge in Grains * Muzzle Velocity * 1.75)/(7000 * Rifle Weight in Pounds)

Now that you have the recoil velocity calculated, you can calculate the formula for recoil velocity.

The formula you use for determining free recoil energy of a firearm is:

(Rifle Weight in Pounds/64.34) *(Recoil Velocity in FPS^2)

Recoil Energy

In layman’s terms, recoil energy is how much recoil you’ll feel in your shoulder when you fire a rifle. More specifically, recoil energy is the kinetic energy transferred to the shoulder of the shooter when a rifle is discharged. Scientifically, recoil energy is measured in Joules (J), but it is more commonly expressed in foot-pounds (ft-lb).

Recoil Velocity

Recoil velocity determines how abrupt or jolting a rifle’s recoil will be. This is determined by the speed at which the stock of the rifle impacts your shoulder. Recoil velocity is measured in feet per second (fps).

Managing Recoil

Gun recoil intensity varies between firearms, but you can expect to experience at least some recoil as long as a firearm relies on propellant to launch rounds. While recoil is unavoidable while shooting, there are several things you can do to reduce it.

Proper Grip

There’s more than one way to grip a gun. With the correct grip, you can improve your aim and minimize recoil intensity to reduce the risk of injury. A proper rifle grip typically requires firmly seating the butt of the gun inside the shoulder pocket of your dominant arm. Keeping the butt against your shoulder will minimize how much the gun jerks each time you fire, stabilizing your firearm for better accuracy.

Hold Your Arms Correctly

How you hold your arms when shooting also affects felt recoil. If your arms are straight and rigid, you will feel more of the recoil. It is best to keep your arms relaxed, elbows slightly bent, shoulders flexible, and the rifle’s stock firmly planted in your shoulder pocket. With your arms in this position, they can absorb more gunfire recoil instead of fighting it and increasing the likelihood of injury.

Assume the Proper Stance

Standing straight with your legs together or with your back against a solid object is not optimal for managing recoil. Reducing felt recoil requires taking a stance that allows your body to absorb and roll with the recoil, dispersing most of the felt recoil and reducing the risk of injury.

For example, you can minimize felt recoil by centering your body over your knees and leaning forward slightly at the hips. The stance will stabilize your upper body, allowing you to absorb more of the recoil and lose less accuracy.

Be Confident

A nervous or anxious shooter will feel the recoil more and likely flinch when they shoot. If you flinch, your shot will likely go wide, or you might even drop your weapon. A confident shooter knows the recoil is coming and has better control to hold their gun steady and avoid flinching. You can achieve such levels of confidence by practicing shooting your firearm until you get used to the recoil and gunfire noise.

Using a Suppressor

Suppressors (also called silencers) are arguably the best firearm attachment you can buy. The barrel-shaped device attaches to the muzzle of your firearm to slow down the explosive force with which propellant gases escape the muzzle, leading to less recoil.

Also, using a suppressor reduces gunfire noise and muzzle flash, making you less likely to flinch and miss when you shoot a suppressed firearm. Lastly, you can get a suppressor that adds weight to your barrel to minimize muzzle rise and stabilize your shot for better accuracy.


Start Shooting with Less Recoil Now!

Now that you understand what recoil is, how it is measured, how various calibers stack up, and that you have much to gain from minimizing recoil, you may be considering buying a suppressor. Besides lowering felt recoil, a suppressor will muffle gunfire to protect your ears.

Several suppressors are available for various firearms, and you can find the highest-quality suppressors at Silencer Central. We have options for different budgets and shooting needs, and we deliver to customers in all states where silencers are legal. Contact us today to get expert advice regarding the best silencer to buy, or browse our stock and order your favorite suppressor.