What is Felt Recoil?

What is Felt Recoil?

What is Felt Recoil?

Felt recoil is the backward push you experience from your gun when you fire a round. Depending on various factors, including ammo type and your body weight, felt recoil can be mild or intense enough to feel like a painful mule kick. Keep reading to learn more about recoil, its effect on shooting, and how to minimize it.

How Is Recoil Measured?

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. Recoil represents this law perfectly because the force used to propel a bullet forward and out of the muzzle pushes a gun backward in the opposite direction. The more force used to propel a bullet, the harder the backward push (or recoil) will be.

Felt recoil varies between various firearms, and you can learn a specific round’s recoil force by consulting a felt recoil chart, many of which are available online. If you cannot find a handgun or rifle recoil chart with the specific data you need, you could always measure your firearm’s recoil yourself.

You can measure recoil with a device or calculate it by considering factors like projectile mass and firearm weight. For example, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) provides the below equation for measuring recoil.

  • FRE = Free recoil energy
  • WE = Bullet weight (in grains)
  • VE = Bullet velocity (in feet per second)
  • WPG = Propellant gases weight (in grains)
  • VPG = Velocity (fps) of propellant gases (in feet per second)
  • 7000 = Conversion factor for grains to pounds
  • WF = Firearm weight (in pounds)

If you are not a fan of math, you can get your answers with the help of an online recoil calculator. Most online calculators use the SAAMI equation to automatically calculate and display free recoil energy (felt recoil) in feet-per-second (FPS) after you enter the required data into the relevant fields. Above 15 FPS is when recoil starts getting uncomfortable for many shooters.

Recoil Factors

Recoil is unavoidable if your gun relies on propellant gases to launch a round. However, several factors influence how much felt recoil a shooter experiences. The biggest of these factors are:


A 12-gauge shotgun has more recoil than most rifles, while among rifles, gas-operated semiautomatics have less recoil than bolt-action rifles. If you think a handgun will have less recoil because it’s a smaller firearm, that’s not necessarily true.

A handgun shooting 9mm rounds will likely have more recoil than a rifle shooting the same round. That’s because rifles weigh more, and heavier guns dampen more recoil. In summary, heavier and lower-caliber firearms typically have less recoil than lighter and higher-caliber guns. Lastly, guns with recoil buffering systems kick less because the recoil buffer cushions the impact of a firearm’s recoiling parts.


Bullet weight and propellant charge weight all affect recoil. The heavier and bigger a bullet is, the more recoil you can expect. The high recoil comes from larger bullets needing more force to launch from a barrel on a flat trajectory.

Such bullets typically contain more propellant charge to generate a greater explosive force and enough velocity to carry the round. These factors combined will lead to more felt recoil than a smaller round.


Fit and Handling

Felt recoil will be worse if a gun is too large for you to handle correctly. For instance, if your rifle feels uncomfortably long or heavy, you will feel the recoil more intensely because you cannot hold the gun properly before pulling the trigger. The same thing applies if using a handgun that you have trouble holding up or wrapping your fingers around the butt.

How Recoil Impacts Shooting

Moderate recoil won’t overly affect your shooting experience. However, if it is excessive, recoil can throw off your aim, making it harder to hit targets, especially targets beyond 100 yards. Also, when recoil is too much, you are more likely to flinch when you shoot, leading to reduced shooting accuracy.

Lastly, excessive recoil can make shooting less enjoyable because your weapon jamming into your body can cause shoulder, back, and arm injuries. Consider switching to a lower recoil option if your firearm’s recoil is difficult to bear. However, with enough practice, you may grow accustomed to a high-recoil weapon and learn to shoot it accurately.

How Felt Recoil Affects Different Guns

Felt recoil when shooting a rifle feels different from firing a handgun. The difference is due to the weight and firing mechanism differences between each firearm type. Below is a breakdown of how felt recoil typically varies between different guns:


Correctly firing a handgun requires using your arms, wrists, and fingers. You will feel most of the recoil in your grip hand, and if the recoil is excessive, it may cause wrist problems. Also, depending on the intensity of the recoil, you may experience little or a lot of muzzle rise.

The heavier a handgun is, the more recoil energy it can absorb, leading to less felt recoil. Also, the heavier the bullet you load into your firearm, the more recoil you can expect. For instance, shooting 147-grain 9mm bullets out of a Glock will generate more recoil than shooting a 115-grain round out of the same gun.


Shotgun recoil is far more intense than that of handguns and most rifles. The forceful recoil is why tales of a shotgun flying out of a shooter’s hand and smacking them in the face when they pull the trigger are not uncommon.

Shotgun users feel most of the recoil from the butt of the firearm, which is why most individuals attach a recoil pad to the stock. However, recoil intensity will depend on the shotgun you choose.

For instance, a 12-gauge shotgun has an intense recoil, while a 20-gauge shotgun recoil is manageable. If you want even less recoil, you can opt for a 28-gauge shotgun. Also, short-barrel shotguns kick more than long-barrel options because short-barrel shotguns are not heavy enough to absorb more recoil.


Automatic and semiautomatic rifles typically generate less felt recoil than bolt-action rifles. The recoil in automatic and semiautomatic rifles is less because such firearms spread their recoil over multiple components. Regardless of your rifle type, you will feel most of the recoil in the gun stock. You will also experience significant muzzle rise when rapid firing with an automatic rifle.


Tips for Reducing Felt Recoil

Now that you understand how recoil feels and what causes it, let’s look at some of your best options for minimizing felt recoil and improving your shooting experience:

Use a Suppressor

Suppressors (or silencers) are tube-shaped devices that you attach to the muzzle of a gun. An attached suppressor slows the exit of expanding gas from a bullet’s ignited propellant. If expanding gas explodes out of the muzzle with less force, you will experience less back pressure and recoil. Besides lowering recoil, suppressors muffle gunfire noise to protect your hearing.

Suppressors come in various sizes, and you can find options for handguns, rifles, and shotguns. The higher the quality of a suppressor, the lower the felt recoil you will experience when shooting.

Muzzle Brake

A muzzle brake is another attachment that goes on a muzzle to reduce recoil. The attachment has side vents that divert the release of expanding gas from a bullet’s ignited propellant. The diversion leads to less expanding gas blasting from the front of the muzzle, leading to less recoil.

Shotgun, pistol, and rifle muzzle brakes are available, and the best quality products can lower recoil by up to 50%. However, since muzzle brakes amplify gunfire noise, we recommend softening the noise and further reducing recoil by attaching a suppressor to your muzzle brake.

Low Recoil Ammo

Low recoil rounds are typically lighter than regular rounds. Since low recoil rounds weigh less, they do not need as much propellant to launch from a barrel. Using less propellant leads to generating less explosive force and lower recoil.

Since smaller rounds use less propellant and weigh less than other rounds, you might assume that they have less stopping power. Such an assumption is only partially correct because several low-recoil rounds with enough stopping power to take down elk from long distances are available. Examples of high-impact, low-recoil ammo include 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06 Springfield, and 6.5 PRC.

Buy a Suppressor and Manage Felt Recoil

A rifle or handgun recoil chart will let you know if you can handle the recoil of your preferred firearm. If the recoil seems like it will be hard to handle, get a suppressor. With the right suppressor, you can minimize felt recoil and make your gun more fun and comfortable to shoot.

Our Silencer Central online store offers industry-leading pistol, shotgun, and rifle suppressors for various calibers. You can count on us for doorstep delivery in every state where suppressors are legal, and we’ll even handle the paperwork on your behalf to make your order as hassle-free as possible.

Contact us today to learn more about ordering a Silencer Central suppressor, or head to our store to order the perfect suppressor for your needs.