How Much Does That Rifle Really Kick?

posted on November 12, 2014
bs_2015_fs.jpg (15)

The Good Ole' Boy Saying
"This 7mm Mag. don't kick at all!"

It's common for a proud man to uncase his favorite big-game rifle, look at it lovingly, and pronounce that "it hardly even kicks!" or "it kicks about like a .22!" Then inexperienced hands shoot it, and wind up with a bloody nose wondering what happened.

While some stock designs fit shooters better than others and seem to mitigate perceived recoil as do recoil pads and especially muzzle breaks, recoil is a measure in physics that can be calculated as a base line estimate for comparison. The cartridge's bullet weight, muzzle velocity and especially gun weight all factor in the equation. The lighter the gun, the more the kick with all else being equal. Also, some cartridges burn power more quickly than others, and therefore the recoil impulse is quicker, resulting in higher perceived recoil despite its numbers on paper. Nonetheless, all guns kick—just some more than others.

The Numbers
According to the NRA Fact Book, here are some recoil calculations based on average loads and gun weights typical for that caliber.

.223 Rem.; 55-gr. bullet; 3240 MV; 7 lb. rifle: Recoil Energy: 3.7 ft. lbs.
.243 Win.; 80 gr. bullet; 3350 MV; 8 lb. rifle: Recoil Energy: 8.4
.270 Win.; 130-gr. bullet; 3060 MV; 8 b. rifle: Recoil Energy: 15.7
7mm Rem. Mag.; 150 gr. bullet; 3110 MV; 8 lb. rifle: Recoil Energy: 24.3
.30-30 Win.; 170-gr. bullet: 2200 MV; 7 lb. rifle: Recoil Energy: 11.4
.308 Win.; 180 gr. bullet; 2620 MV; 8 lb. rifle: Recoil Energy: 17.8
.30-06; 180-gr. bullet; 2700 MV; 8 lb. rifle; Recoil Energy: 20.0
.300 Win Mag.; 180 gr. bullet; 2960 MV; 8 lb. rifle; Recoil Energy 27.2
.338 Win. Mag.; 225 gr. bullet; 2780 MV; 8 lb. rifle; Recoil Energy 32.2
.458 Win. Mag.; 500 gr. bullet; 2040 MV; 9 lb. rifle; Recoil Energy 58.1
.460 Weatherby Mag.; 500 gr. bullet;  2700 MV; 10 lb. rifle; Recoil Energy:  111.0
12-gauge shotgun; 3-inch mag.; 1.75 oz. Payload; 1245 MV; 8 lb. gun: Recoil Energy: 55.4

The Conclusion
When Bubba yanks his new ultra-lightweight .338 Win. Mag. from the back of his truck, shoves it in your hands and says, "It don't even kick!"—beware. It probably does. While some additions to a rifle can help lessen its bite, it's tough to completely undo physics. So don't get too close to that scope, and hold on tight.


MAIN1875 Outlaw
MAIN1875 Outlaw

Taylor’s & Company Introduces 1875 Outlaw Revolver in 9mm

Taylor’s & Company has partnered with Uberti to create the 1875 Outlaw 9mm Revolver.

New for 2023: Primary Arms Optics SLx and GLx

Primary Arms Optics has released its inaugural pairs of binoculars: the SLx 10x42mm and GLx 10x42mm binoculars.

First Look: XS Sights Ghost Ring Sights for Henry Big Boy Carbines

XS Sights is offering its Ghost Ring sight sets for Henry Big Boy Carbine lever-action rifles chambered in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum.

New for 2023: GPO Spectra 4.5-27x50i SFP

The German Precision Optics (GPO) Spectra 4.5-27x50i SFP is built for those who hunt game in environments where shooting at extended ranges is often required.

#SundayGunday: Davidson’s Pietta 1873 Great Western II

Get a closer look at the Davidson’s Pietta 1873 Great Western II, the latest addition to our #SundayGunday series.

Recipe: Fettucine with Ricotta and Venison Sauce

Contributor Brad Fenson gives his readers a hearty pasta sauce recipe to help round out the cold winter months.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.