Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Nothing to prove.

In my early years in the gun biz, I was pretty easy to talk into firing nearly anything. Between feeling like I needed to prove myself to the boys and the fact that some guys find it the height of humor to hand the li'l lady the Magnaboomer Loudenthumper and then giggle behind their hands like mischievous schoolboys as she steps to the line and flicks the safety off, I've found myself behind all manner of hard-recoiling beasts. I've shot assorted 10 gauge shotguns and a few .50BMG rifles, as well as less common ones, like .416 Rigby Ruger No.1s with heavy handloads; what was I supposed to do when someone asked "What's wrong? Chicken?"

After a few years of this, I finally stopped treating it like a dare. "No, I don't really want to fire your new .416 Weatherby," or "Thanks, I've shot plenty of .500 S&W already; I don't have anything to prove."

All through that time, I'd been bolstered by belief that "It's just loud and uncomfortable; the recoil can't physically hurt you." Except, as someone else with nothing to prove points out, over the years it most certainly can.


Buffboy said...

Then you have products like the leadslead that just encourage the foolishness. Those deer are getting more bulletproof as time goes by. You must have a 375 Whetherby to hunt deer because bloodshot meat is so much tastier and a loud miss is much more important than a quieter, less impressive, hit when it comes time to actually apply it in the real world.

W/V ablevers because they are

Anonymous said...

Just ask John Taffin, of Sixguner fame, what happened to his wrists from the 'invulnerable superman' attitude he had about recoil, for the many years he wrote about shooting and testing and reporting on 'Keith-plus' handloads.

He is very upfront about the cost of such self-abuse. I know [by BBS and a once a summer shoot] a few of that small circle of folks who have been, and still are, in forefront of heavy revolver loads. Recoil heroics are passe', nowadays.

Whether the rounds are for long range or OMG CLOSE & BIG, the question is not 'if', but 'when and how much' when it comes to accumulated recoil damage.

The gentle reader's mileage and needs may vary, but rest assured that the ride ain't free, forever.

'glutival' I dunno, but it seemed to good a word to just let fade in cyberspace.

JohnM, J t R, John - the Red, and etc.

Tam said...

When it comes to handguns, I long ago decided that if a 240gr .429" bullet at ~1200fps wouldn't do the job, I should go find something with a butt stock.

Anonymous said...

I saw a program on the tube that showed a line of military snipers shooting Barrets shoulder to shoulder. Half were not wearing eye protection.

All I could think was Brothers your going to pay for that down the road.


Andrew said...

I had no idea eye problems could develop from hard-recoiling rounds. How does this occur? Does eye protection help?

wv: vsfin -- premium fish brandy.

Tam said...

You know how revolver bullets can jump crimp? Well, so can retinas.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

I know Tam's post was about eyes and damage from heavy recoil handguns, but I'd add a word about hearing and-surprisingly-the lowly .22.

I shot .22s competitively in high school. There was a basement rifle range in the school (now a storage area for the Drama Club's scenery, I'm told).

Basically, a long cavern with a 4 foot ceiling height and bare cement walls-no soundproofing.

I can attest that four years of heavy practice, with 10-15 .22s on the line and no available earmuffs, is enough to cause irreversible hearing loss.

Wife used to complain that I didn't hear her because I didn't WANT to, but that was only partly true.

It's real, folks, and I didn't know til it was too late.

Tam said...

"I know Tam's post was about eyes and damage from heavy recoil handguns..."

Well, handguns are generally harder on the hands and wrists; rifles work on shoulders and retinas. And, as you noted, they'll all do a number on your ears.

The funny thing about the eyes, hands, wrists, and shoulders is that relatively few people actually shoot enough to tear themselves up like that, but everybody who shoots, shoots enough to cause hearing loss.

DesertRat said...

One of my biggest pet peeves is how a lot of men treat women and firearms.

There's the frat boy attitude where they think it's funny to put a Ruger Super Blackhawk with 300gr Buffalo Bore Grizzly loads in their girlfriend's hands. I stopped her before she fired, got her boyfriend to come back out of his truck he was hiding in explained to her in no uncertain terms what he was up to (She had never fired a gun in her life) and advised her to make him her ex-boyfriend ASAP.

Then there's the condescending attitude. Had a guy call the shop wanting to order a .25ACP for his wife because "that's the biggest gun a girl can handle." He didn't quite get it when we asked him if he had a good divorce lawyer.

Sorry for the slightly off-topic rant.

Lewis said...

Yup, yup, yup. Absolutely. 100 percent.

I shoot, let's face it, mostly for fun. My favorite big bore, romper stomper handgun cartridge is the .45 ACP. My favoritest, favoritest handgun cartridge of all is the .38 Special----just ain't nothing like sending bullets downrange with mild bark, blast and recoil. Heck, even with the .357 Magnum, I prefer to load the classic FBI/Chicago load---+P 158 grain LSWC-HP.

In rifle cartridges, I like those first (or early second) generation big bottle, small bore, smokeless cartridges. You know, "sissy rounds" like the 7x57, 6.5x55, .30-40 Krag and .30-06. My idea of a high velocity screamer is the .250 Savage.

For my purposes, my needs and my uses, if you can't get the job done with a .45 ACP or .44 Special (handloaded with a 250 Keith at something under 1000 fps), or a 7mm Mauser or .308 Winchester, you should either a) get closer, b) aim better, or c) call for close air.

I went through a short phase where I thought that the ability of the Marlin and Ruger .45-70 offerings to accept hotsky votsky loads was the coolest thing since the droptop speedster, but then I started to think, "If the original ballistics of the .45-70 with a 500 grain bullet sucked, then why did it last so long?"

The Box o' Truth folks tested a 510 grain .45-70 load---they didn't specify the load, but it was in a Sharps, so it was probably more or less a BP duplicate. I quote the relevant line from their test:

It busted all six gallons, busted through the back of the box, and was last seen headed to Oklahoma.

Sissy rounds, right? Shoot 'em all day, don't tear yourself up, just tear up the target. To put it in Cooperesque Pennsylvania Dutch, the loudencracken flashenboomers just don't do it for me.

Tam said...

Plenty of moose fall every year to the 6.5 Swede, yet I sold a crap ton of 7mm Magnums to Georgia good ol' boys who swore they were needed to anchor rottweiler-sized Appalachian whitetail...

Anonymous said...

I haven't done any real damage to myself from shooting rifles, pistols, or shotgus, yet.

However, the older I get the less I like recoil.
I used to shoot a seven pound single shot 12 gauge shotgun with a lot of drop in the stock with slugs for fun. Not doing that now even if you buy the slugs.

Lewis said...

Hey, it's America, and if someone wants to shoot the 7mm Mags, more power to 'em. The photos of Taffin's wrists made quite an impression on me, and so do Frank's eyes. If someone wants to ask me why I like sissy rounds, I'll tell 'em. If they disagree, or just prefer to shoot something different, heck, don't bother me none.

I guess you could say I'm "pro-choice."

Tam said...

Oh, me too!

It also warms my heart that certain rounds like .405 Win and .38-55 occasionally resurface. Whether it's something new or the reintroduction of something old, the industry needs new stuff to stay alive.

Firing Pin Jay said...

When it comes to handguns, I long ago decided that if a 240gr .429" bullet at ~1200fps wouldn't do the job, I should go find something with a butt stock.

Perfect. In fact I always want to work my way back to the shotgun/rifle if possible.

On the issue of injuries I've shot so much over the years that I do have the aches and pains. Seems worth it though. In fact, I think I'll do it again tommorow.

Tam said...

Aches and pains are one thing; having to learn Braille is another. ;)

Ed Foster said...

My buddy Johnny Hunter and I were down at Blue Trail Range years ago, and ran into a guy I know who collects elephant rifles.

To be polite, I shot 3 rounds out of the .458 Win., but Johnny shot the Weatherby and ended up having to have his retina reattached.

Johnny is about 5 foot 6 inches, and skinny. A really good shot, and certainly the only man I know ever to have killed a tiger with an M-16 (O.K., the entire squad opened up on it too, but he fired first. I wasn't there, dammit, but heard the story from everybody for the next two months).

But his entire experience with shoulder arms was the M-16, and that .460 was something from another planet. Maybe if he had pulled into the stock tighter there wouldn't have been so much whiplash.

Someday I'm going to find my dreamgun for eastern woods hunting, a Model 100 Winchester in .358 Win. Bears on down to deer, compact,with good pointing and snapshooting abilities, and a .308 case opened up to spit out a .358 diameter, 225 grain bullet at maybe 2,500 fps.

At the high end,it's all you need out to 200 yards, and for deer alone, my .243 Ruger No. 1 does just fine with a 100 grain bullet. So does the .303 Savage with 190's.

Even the 1,000 yard target shooters have realized the monster cartridges aren't needed anymore. Look at what they're doing with the 6.5/.284.

Same trajectory as the big magnums, less windage correction, and .308 Win. class recoil. Prone with a 28 inch target barrel and a Cuthbertson stock, it''s like shooting a .223.

If I want to launch big lead turds for fun, I use my 50-70 and keep the velocity at 1,200fps. The operative word here is fun, and I can actually hit things instead of missing them with massive power.

Tam said...

"...for deer alone, my .243 Ruger No. 1..."

I sometimes find myself missing my .243 No.1 International.

I console myself that, when I get around to replacing it, it will be with one in .275 Rigby, for that more "International" flavor...

Mark B. said...

John Peddie (Toronto) said:

" . . . I'd add a word about hearing and-surprisingly-the lowly .22."

Unfortunately, not many folks get that .22LR rounds are deadly to the high-frequency sensitivity of unprotected ears. The reports of rimfire .22s are full of high-sonic and ultrasonic harmonics that just tear up the most delicate portions of one's hearing apparatus.

Just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean it's not hurting you.


wv: "aicar" -- an automobile that drives itself.

Firing Pin Jay said...

Aches and pains are one thing; having to learn Braille is another. ;)

True. :>)

The aches and pains are worth it but loss of sight or gross motor function is an altogether different thing.

Bram said...

I lost interest in macho rounds once I learned basic math. I can shoot a whole lot more .22lr at 5cents per, than buck+ a shot monster rounds.

I'm not too worried about my sight. My hearing is already poor from my time with Uncle Sam - I had a tanker decide to fire his main gun while I was standing right next to it with no ear protection. So I'm careful to keep what I have left.

George said...

I came to hand gun shooting somewhat later in life than most American might. I was in my 50s ... so I didn't need to prove anything from a macho standard. I never shot anything more powerful than .357 Magnum ... and that only infrequently. I truly loved my S&W 629 ... but we loaded .44 Magnum once fired brass to .44 Special specs ... and I could fire them all day (or until I ran out.)

I never had a desire to see how tough I could to be ... as the blast and recoil of the .357 Magnum was enough.

I did get caught, once, by an entire firing line of .45 ACP being touched off ... and some of the tinnitus I blame on not having my "ears" on when the range master said, "Fire!"

I also concur with John's comments about .22 ranges in high schools. No one wore "ears" then ... and the racket was huge. (I only fired as part of Scouting, not as part of a regular school program.)

Tough is good but shot placement counts every time.


Matt G said...

My father's retina detached. We at one point had to ask RJL to fly lower to reduce the bubble forming in his eye, and that trip he hunted hog with an Art Eatman .243.

We can deal with the recoil, often, by simply avoiding it.

ZerCool said...

I'll generally try something new and different once, just to say I've tried it. A .454Cas Super Alaska snub? Sure. .30-30 Contender? Anytime. .50BMG? Yeah, did it once.

When I started hunting it was for turkeys. I went out and got an 870 SuperMag, 12ga 3.5" chamber. Nothing - and I mean nothing - recoils like 2oz of lead accelerating to 1400fps from an 8-pound pumpgun. (According to recoil tables, 12x3 1-7/8oz@1210fps = 54ft-lb... so ... more.)

After two years of hunting with (and missing with) those, I switched to the (relatively) more sedate 12ga/3" loads, holding a mere 1.5oz of lead. My flinch is nearly gone, my shoulder no longer aches, and the turkeys are still safe from me...

My deer rifle is either a .270Win or the old reliable 870 with sabot slugs... although I'm seriously considering stealing the wife's 20ga 870 for next season.

Ed Foster said...

.275 Rigby. Cool. Is that something like a 7mm Mauser?

Did you hear the story about old man Rigby in WWI?

He always hated spitzers, thought they were inefficient, and wouldn't load them in his ammunition.

At about the age of 60, he pulled some strings and got himself into the army during the war, runniing a sniper outfit.

He took a long range shot from a machinegun, almost spent by the time it got to him, that penetrated his helmet, broke the skin on his head, slid around to the back of his scalp, and knocked him cold.

When he came to, he opened up his scalp with a pocket knife, pulled out the heavy boattail spitzer, held it up for all to look at, and said "See, a spitzer!".

Crotalus said...

Hearing loss for lack of protection is well-documented, but this was the first Ive heard of recoil shock tearing retinas.

As far as "OMGCLOSE&BIG", that's why I'm considering the .454 revolver. Since it can fire regular .45s as well as the "kill me a b'ar" .454s, I can practice with the lighter round without beating myself up too much. Then I can load up with the heavier round for the rare "KILLBIGBITEYCRITTERNOW!" event

Tam said...


".275 Rigby. Cool. Is that something like a 7mm Mauser?"


Geodkyt said...

Worst gun I ever fired was a lightweight .300 Win Mag that a buddy had had for YEARS and had never fired. He got it in the late 60's or early 70's, and never got around to it.

Skinny stock, and not an ounce more wood that structurally necessary.

He offered to buy the ammo and range time if I would just get his scope on paper at 100 yards, so he could sero it himself.

Yes, he was planning on going deer hunting with it -- had been invited, and the only other choice he had was a 12 gauge cruiser gun he kept in the coat closet. . .

My other buddy fired two rounds standing. Another fired fired three standing.

I finished the box from the prone. Could barely scratch my own butt for three days afterwards. . .

Team that with the .45 deringer, the .44 Magnum I fired at 12 without ear protection, and I have done my "you can't hurt me" BS time.

I'm not recoil SENSITIVE -- I'm recoil AWARE. And I choose NOT to shoot things I don't enjoy.

Doesn;t mean I'll shy away from teh .454 Casull someone wants me to try. . . unless it's a Miracle Metal short barrel lightweight. (Yeah, I can see some dumbass building one "for the ultimate in carry power".)

Anonymous said...

Myopic eyes(nearsighted) are more prone to retina detachment from sharp recoil or any other hard knocks to the noggin. I fired many rounds in NRA Highpower matches and never believed I was undergunned using a 6.5-08 in a prone gun. The trade offs for a bit less twisting on the wind knob are not worth it.

Anonymous said...

Many many thousands of rounds through my Rem #514 w/24" barrel starting at age 7 or 8. The cylinder full of .41 mag on the front porch of Dad's hunting cabin at age 15 (wall and roof for reverb effect-ears rang for three days, not a good sign). Forgetting my ears (was switching between plugs and muffs) in practical rifle class. Me with a 16" .223, next to a Garand w/muzzle brake, followed by an M1A1 and a 20" .223. Prone. Damn muzzle brake and short barrel, ears were ringing for days.
Loud bikes and hotrods and air tools.
Trouble understanding conversation, told at age 20 that I was reading lips.
At 5'6", 115 lbs, I don't much care for heavy recoil in shoulder arms. .30-06 is my usual cutoff. My .41mag Redhawk is about my limit for revolvers, but I find the .50AE Desert Eagle exhilarating. Incredibly fast return to target. (might get one some day)
Occasional tinnitus. Not helped by a recent .308 round in a hallway, with me a few feet offset in front of it. Saw the muzzle blast expanding (very weird), and threw myself back out the door. Not fun. Ears still ringing.

Michael in CT said...

As I've gotten older (just past 40) I've found that hot 44 magnum loads that were fun 10 years ago, hurt now. The only gun I load "heavy" anymore is the 20" 10 gauge double I use for shooting blackpowder at cowboy matches and that is more of a very firm shove. I've fired about 40 in a day and not been sore, the silver lining in weighing rather more then I would like.....

Anonymous said...

I likes me some oddball shootinstuff, and I recently took up for big bore derringers when someone claimed permanent hand and wrist damage after firing one just once. As I said then, either this gentleman had a prior medical problem or he was doing something bad wrong.

Just because some configuration or caliber *can* cause injury on the non-business end doesn't mean it *will*. Proper grip/stance/gear make it possible for most any healthy shooter to get in enough practice to feel comfortable for defense use. And applying those preparations and stirring in the requistite sprinkle of common sense should mean no one should be afraid to try something new/different.

But like I said there, that doesn't mean I think popping off a quick hundred rounds of hot .44 Mag. from a hand cannon on a regular basis would be either fun, advisable, or conducive to long-term good health. Then there are things that are too weird-useless-dumb to appeal even to me: a snub-barrel revolver stuffed with five rounds of 45-70 Govt. comes to And the idea of shouldering up those elephant guns does not seem enticing to me under any conditions, except maybe facing that giant polar bear who's looking at me with lunch in his eyes.

Of course, age is a bitch and shooting smarter and in more moderation is but one of many sacrifices we will make to minimize the pain and extend our stay. All the best to Mr. James :) as he deals with that.

And to J.P from Toronto:

Shooting clubs in high schools in Canada with on-site ranges? Times they do change, eh?


RC said...

I'm not all that interested in anything bigger than a .30-06, myself; at least not without a very good muzzle brake, and the rifle should weigh at least 12 lbs.

By the way, did you know that if you add 3 lbs of lead to the butt stock of a Remington 700 SPS .30-06, the felt recoil will be about the same as a .243? Really kills the balance, but it makes shooting from the bench a lot nicer.

Anonymous said...

Noting that sensible and moderate loads are a growing trend across the shooting press, for some while now.

The success of the Ruger .44 Special Flat-top,and the .44 Flat Top Bisley [Lipsey's] AND now the possibility of a Ruger New Vaq .44 Special pretty much has answered the long campaign by The Taffin, Brian Pearce, and other savvy pistola writers.

The contemporary core of writers, experimenters and pioneers of heavy revolvers and loads are well pleased, on the whole, with the re-introduction of the .44 Special.

It may just be the graying of the generation, but 'moderate and functional' in all the sport's disciplines seems to be the current trend.

Now,if Ruger would just get around to a a SS Flat-top on the New Vaq frame, I do indeed see the pairfect packin' pistol AKA the PPP.


Crotalus said...

Hmmm... Maybe we should have elephant guns. Never can tell when one o' those giant predatory underground worms'll show up. Say what you will about Bert Gummer, but he was prepared! :oD

Word is "jawatics". Jawa politics?

Ed Foster said...

Crotalus, when my kids first saw "Tremors", they all started laughing and saying "Yep, that's Dad".

Michael, Cowboy shooting in CT? Where?

Tam said...

I like the .44 Spl so much that I own five or six of the things. :)

og said...

I am a recoil junkie- where rifles are concerned. I don't like to shoot hot handguns, it messes with my wrists which have carpal and cubital tunnel issues enough.

I may shoot 250-500 rounds of 22 in a session, but i rarely shoot more than 10 rounds of anything with heavy thumpy qualities, for the abovementioned reasons.

There is also an increased risk of doing some serious harm to the blood vessels in your shoulder, and if the trauma is sufficient, you can throw a clot into some very nasty places. Most people are not at risk, but I know at least one person who has had enough trouble with this type of injury that he had to stop shooting sporting clays.

Michael in CT said...

Ed, I shoot cowboy at the Hartford Gun Club (
although there are 2 other clubs as well in CT, &
We'll be starting back up at HGC in April

Firehand said...

Worst I ever fired was a .416 Rigby; which wouldn't have been that bad in a full-weight rifle. But the guy had this one built light("You'll carry it more than you shoot it"), as in lighter than my Garand.

It actually shoved me back hard enough that I scraped both elbows on the bench top. Once was enough; I ever make that trip to Africa, I'd rather carry something with enough weight to soak up some of that and allow faster followup if needed.

Tam said...

Worst rifle I ever shot was also a .416 Rigby, in a 9-lb. Ruger No.1. And it was stoked with anti-therapod handloads that equalled factory .416 Weatherby ballistics. I didn't get sat down or drop the gun, but just barely. The rifle's owner said "You don't often see someone lose their grip on the forearm and lift their front foot off the ground and not get dumped."

Mind you, this was many years ago; I was a lot skinnier and hadn't shot near as many rifles, and my technique probably could have been better, but still, I was done for the day about halfway through that first shot.

Moriarty said...

Same stories here. I used to be a recoil addict, then round about age 40 the warranty ran out on multiple systems. (This became evident when I ate pepperoni pizza and got heartburn. Me.) Since then, I've noticed that my vision isn't what it used to be (bifocals now),things ache that never used to ache, I don't heal as fast, lipid profile when to hell and... well, you know the rest.

I've seen broken carpal bones after slight falls (leading to lifelong debility) and retinas detach after bike rides. I talked to a guy the other day who forgot his hearing protection at the range when another shooter touched off a .50 BMG a couple of bays over. He has significant and permanent hearing loss in his left ear.

.38 and .44 Specials look more attractive all the time while my Casull gathers dust. I find myself wearing plugs and muffs even when shooting .22s and the big bore rifles are mostly safe queens now.

I had an opportunity to shoot a .500 S&W for the first time the other day and turned it down cold. There's just nothing there that's interesting to me anymore.

og said...

The top five rounds I've shot, thumper wise, are
577 nitro. Double rifle, very manageable recoil. Heavy gun.
500 nitro. Also, double, also heavy, recoil less manageable due to size and shape of stock.
416 rigby. Very heavy bolt gun made on an Enfield 17 frame, very heavy stock, very thick recoil pad, still a killer load. High comb stocks just beat my face off.
375h&h: This I shot in two guns: A winnie 70, with a "traditional" monte carlo style stock, which beat me senseless though it had an inch and a half of sorbothane on it, and a CZ 550 safari magnum, which was as clean shooting and had MUCH less felt recoil, though it had less recoil pad and weighed about the same as the 70. I attribute this to the "Hogback" shape of the stock, which is common in europe and not America; it seems to fit me fairly well and direct the recoil in a way that my body can handle better.

I also carried the CZ550 for nine days and a couple hundred miles. It is heavy.

Ed Foster said...

Michael, I'm 3+ miles down the road from Hartford Gun Club, and I just picked up a .45LC revolver. Do you still have my e-mail and/or phone number?

Ed Foster said...

Plus, we can practice anytime from sunup to sundown at the Windsor Marksmen's Club range, 1 mile from the house. Please get in touch.

Michael in CT said...

Ed, I can't seem to find either, you can e-mail me at

Michael in CT said...

Ed, there is a 22 pistol plate shoot this Friday at New Haven's Sportsmen ( if you're interested in plate matches, I expect to be there.

Ed Foster said...

Michael, gotta play Merchant of Death all day Friday, but Windsor Marksmen starts back up in April.

They make it interesting by cutting the bowling pin necks off at the stripe and setting them next to the bodies. You shoot the bodies off the 4' by 8' table with major caliber, then go back and get the necks with a .22rf.

As a guest, you get to shoot free.

Tam said...

We shoot "pinheads" as a separate round at MCF&G.

5 pins for an iron-sighted pistol.
+1 pin for long guns.
+1 pin for optics.

Ed Foster said...

Hmmm... Did you ever try shooting a handgun from prone at 100 yards?

It becomes suprisingly easy to keep most of them in the black once you learn the holdover, and I could see the practical aspect in Serious Social Intercourse, especially if the rifle you never should have left was back in the trunk of the cruiser.

I'm wondering if I might be able to get that into a match format.

Frank W. James said...

Ed, It isn't that hard off your back two legs. I do it all the time on my range behind the house.

Think Bullseye shooting with two hands...

All The Best,
Frank W. James