The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Struggling with recoil using a 12-bore?

A reader wonders if it's time to change to a 16-bore? Shooting instructor Adam Calvert advises ...

struggles with recoil

Q:  I’ve started struggling with recoil using a 12-bore: what can I do to reduce it? Is it time to change to a 16-bore? It’s really strange as my 12-bore fits me well.

A: I come across many people who suffer with this and usually it’s a combination of factors which are coming together to cause this recoil. Most people’s solution to this is to buy a new shotgun and in some situations this can help. You can get some good advice in the gunshop and it can 
cure the problem. In many cases, though, 
it doesn’t.

Not a fan of 16-bores

I know I will attract the wrath of many 16-bore users but I am not a fan of this calibre. They remind me of 34” guns, which were all the rage at one stage but now you can’t give them away except for a few die-hard users. In recoil terms, most 16-bore users shoot a similar load to a 12-bore, and as a result 
they often recoil more as they are lighter than a 12-bore.
If you are not big enough or strong enough to shoot a 12-bore then my advice is to move to a 20-bore. There is a reason why 12-bores and 20-bores are the most popular. In my experience then, provided it is not a weight problem, i.e. the gun is simply way too heavy or way too light, most recoil issues can be solved. Let’s deal with the solutions to recoil starting in order of easiness:


Visit your local gunshop with a good selection of cartridges and buy a box of each brand they have in the sort of load you want to shoot. Then quite simply shoot them and see what the difference in recoil is. Be careful not to be fooled by light recoil. Just because it doesn’t recoil then don’t assume it can’t kill the bird equally as well as a cartridge that does recoil. For all my shooters who suffer recoil I tend to point them towards Hull Imperial Game or Three Crowns cartridges.

What are you wearing?

It may just be a case of wearing a recoil pad. I recommend the Past ones, which are excellent.


You can of course have a specialist pad fitted to the shotgun. I use two types, Kick-ez or Isis, the Isis X pad 
is a particular favourite of mine.

Gun balance

If the shotgun is well balanced then the chances are it will transfer the recoil better. It should balance around the hinge pin, you can add extra weight to a shotgun which makes it stock heavy as this can sometimes help with recoil by quite simply making the shotgun heavier. Be careful not to make the shotgun too stock heavy, though.

Gun mount

It’s quite simple, mount the shotgun in the wrong place on your shoulder and you will probably suffer from recoil. A session with a good instructor accompanied with some dry-mounting practice will cure this. I look at pictures usually posted on social media or in magazines and cringe at the gun mounts that are out there.

Recoil using a 12-bore – what about gunfit?

I think you are all aware of the importance I place on good gunfit. There are many things that can be done to improve recoil when gunfitting. Before going to the expense of changing your shotgun it may be well worth getting your fit checked by an expert gunfitter.

Although recoil is a fact of life it shouldn’t make your shooting life a misery. If in doubt, always seek professional advice.