Understanding Recoil Springs
In this recoil spring guide, we’ll explain recoil springs and the role they play in firearms. We’ll also cover recoil spring types and how to pick the right recoil spring for your gun. Let’s start by defining recoil springs.
What Is a Recoil Spring?
A recoil spring is a spring located behind a semiautomatic or automatic gun’s bolt or bolt carrier group (BCG). In pistols, you’ll find the spring in the slide. The spring is an important part of your firearm because it softens recoil and performs other functions.
What does a recoil spring do?
The spring absorbs recoil force when you fire your weapon. Pulling the trigger ignites propellant gases, which expand and propel a bullet forward. At the same time, the expanding gases cause the gun’s slide or bolt to jump backward. The recoil spring compresses behind the backward-moving slide or bolt to cushion and stop it from slamming against the stock, leading to less recoil.
Also, as the tension leaves the spring, it helps the slide or bolt automatically return to its original position. This role is crucial because the slide or bolt moving backward ejects spent rounds while sliding forward chambers a fresh round. Interruptions in this movement contribute to gun jamming and other issues.
Recoil Springs and Suppressors
Recoil springs are in many of your favorite firearms, including pistols, automatic and semiautomatic rifles, and semiautomatic shotguns. As we’ve discussed, the spring helps minimize recoil and facilitates slide and bolt movement to eject and chamber rounds. On the other hand, suppressors are attachments screwed onto the muzzle of a gun to muffle gunfire noise and reduce recoil.
Suppressors (or silencers) lower recoil and gunfire noise by slowing the release of propellant gases from the muzzle when you shoot. Since suppressors trap propellant gases, it increases backpressure in the barrel because expanding propellant gases can’t escape as quickly.
The gas pressure increase within the barrel can lead to the slide or bolt moving backward with more force, putting more strain on the recoil spring. Constant exposure to such increased force can make a recoil spring wear out faster. A worn-out recoil spring cannot effectively compress and decompress to move the slide or bolt to eject and chamber rounds.
Fortunately, you can avoid such issues by replacing your factory recoil spring with a heavier one. However, only do this after confirming that your factory-installed recoil spring is too light to handle the backpressure from your silencer.
The Importance of Recoil Spring Weight
If you choose to replace your recoil spring, you have to make sure the replacement spring is the right weight.
Recoil spring weight explained
A recoil spring’s weight determines its strength. Heavier springs are stronger than lighter springs, making them more resistant to wear and tear. On the other hand, lighter springs enable the slide or bolt to return to its original position faster. So, if you want the fastest firing rate, you’ll want a lighter spring.
However, lighter springs wear out faster, especially if shooting higher pressure or heavy caliber ammo. Using such a spring for higher pressure or heavy caliber ammo will also cause more intense recoil. The high recoil will be due to the spring being unable to cushion the backward movement of the slide or bolt.
Note that your gun may not correctly cycle if you have a too-heavy or strong spring. Why? The backpressure generated by your fired ammo (with or without a suppressor) may not be enough to compress the spring fully. The slide or bolt won’t eject spent casings if the spring does not compress far enough. Also, the spring won’t retain enough force to move the slide or bolt forward to chamber a fresh round.
In summary, the ideal recoil spring weight is not too heavy to impede smooth cycling. It’s also not so light that it causes excessive recoil.
Choosing a Recoil Spring
The right recoil spring for your gun will depend on your firearm type, ammunition, and shooter preference. If you intend to use a suppressor and shoot high-pressure ammo, the recoil spring shouldn’t be too light.
A too-light spring will not be strong enough to cushion the slide or bolt’s backward movement, leading to more felt recoil. On the other hand, if you have a small firearm or shoot lower-pressure ammo, a light spring should suffice, even if you use a suppressor.
Types of Recoil Springs
Various recoil spring types are available, and they all serve the same function – manage recoil and ensure reliable cycling. However, each recoil spring type has unique pros and cons. Let’s look at the most popular recoil springs and the advantages that set each one apart.
Flat Wire Recoil Spring
Flat wire recoil springs consist of a single piece of wire wound into a flat shape. The flat shape makes the spring a more durable and effective cushion for slides and bolts than traditional round wire springs. It also facilitates consistent casing ejection and smoother recoil. You will typically find flat wire recoil springs in modern pistols and rifles.
Round Wire Recoil Spring
Round wire recoil springs are the OG of recoil springs. The spring consists of a round wire wound tightly, and you can find them mostly in older rifles and shotguns. Round wire recoil springs are more affordable and widely available than flat wire recoil springs. However, the spring is not versatile because you can’t customize it to fit firearms with unique or specialized needs.
Dual Recoil Springs
As the name implies, dual recoil springs consist of two springs – a hard spring nested within a softer spring. Such springs offer more resistance than single spring systems, making them ideal for lowering recoil in high-caliber firearms. The spring also minimizes muzzle dip to improve shooting accuracy.
Variable Rate Recoil Springs
You can find variable rate recoil springs in competition pistols and rifles. The spring has different levels of stiffness at different points along its length. The design allows the spring to adjust its resistance to cushion the bolt when it slides backward. It will adjust again to slide the bolt forward smoothly.
The spring’s movement reduces felt recoil, improves accuracy, and ensures consistent cycling. However, the complexity of the spring makes it harder and more expensive to manufacture. Also, since variable rate recoil springs are for specific firearms and ammunition types, it has limited use.
Captive or Captured Recoil Springs
Every spring we’ve discussed so far is a non-captured recoil spring. A captured recoil spring is one attached to a guide rod. The guide rod goes within the spring with a screw on one end to keep it in place. The rod simplifies installing and removing the recoil spring from your gun. You typically find such springs in modern semiautomatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
Firearms with captured recoil springs are typically easier to disassemble and maintain. Also, the spring is less likely to bind or kink, making the gun more reliable and safe.
Spring into Action… Buy a Suppressor Today
Now that you’ve reached the end of our recoil spring guide, which spring will you choose for your gun? Regardless of your selection, don’t forget to attach a suppressor to your firearm to lower gunfire noise and further reduce recoil. Visit Silencer Central today to browse our silencers and buy the best one for your firearm.