What Is a Rifle Recoil

VD July 07 2021

Rifle kickback, also known as recoil or drawback, s the backward energy that a gun produces and sends towards the operator during shooting. It is measured by its velocity and energy. For precision purposes, a gun operator should choose a gun and magazine that doesn't produce a high volume of drawbacks. 

There are a few ways that can be used to reduce a rifle’s drawback although the proven ways are the addition of a nozzle brake and the use of silencers (suppressors). We are going to figure out how to calculate a gun’s kickback for the different magazines.

Finding rifle’s kickback force

To get a gun's kickback force, the following formula is useful: 

(Kickback velocity in FPS^2 * Rifle Weight in pounds/64.34).



Kickback velocity = (Nozzle Velocity in FPS*Bullet Weight in Grains + Muzzle Velocity* 1.75 * explosive charge)/ (Gun’s weight * 7000)

Things to keep in mind during calculations

  • Find the common weight to use in the calculations. A gun’s operator should analyze a sample of the gun’s weight to be used. In most scenarios, a 9 lbs gun is used in kickback calculation tables. When a 9 lbs cannon is used for a heavy mass 50BMG gun or a light mass 22lr, the results are unreliable.
  • Always consider many loads of each cartridge to obtain a correct average mass of a bullet for the cartridge and caliber.
  • The most used accessories and extent should also be incorporated in the calculations to get the correct gun mass. In each caliber, put equal explosive charges. This helps in making a fair comparison. You can load an H4350 or a 7 Rem Mag with non-identical amounts. 
  • Determine realistic muzzle velocities. Find the average of more than 6 similar loads in each cassette to get realistic muzzle velocities to include in the formula.

Rifle kickback velocity and energy

Younger gun operators should consider the 243 Winchester's recoil. It produces 8.89 fps of velocity kickback and 8.89ft-lbs of energy drawback on firing. This results in a low volume of kickback. 

Both teenagers and adults can make use of 6.5 Creedmoor as it brings about 8.83 fps rapidity and 8.89 ft-lbs of energy on firing. It is one of the firearms considered to have a light recoil.

Grown-ups can use a 6.5 PRC magazine. It brings about 11.01 fps recoil rapidity and 15.74 ft-lbs of energy. This is a minute kickback. Grown-ups consider this as a very small and almost unnoticeable force. That’s why it mostly doesn’t require the use of a silencer or a muzzle brake.

A .270 Winchester gives rise to 11.19 fps of recoil velocity and 16.29 ft-lbs of recoil energy. The magazine is categorized as having tolerable kickback. It does not result in body pain during drawback, but on many occasions, during a shoot it causes shooters to get off target.

7mm-08 Remington generates 11.19 fps recoil velocity and 14.52 ft-lbs energy. It is mostly used by shooters with lower body weight and it is also used for hunting due to the mild recoil. 

The 7mm Remington Mag produces 13.1 fps in recoil velocity and 22.39 ft-lbs of recoil energy. Youth and small-framed shooters don't like to use it as it has high recoil. The recoil, however, can be managed only by large-framed, heavier shooters.

With the .28 Nosler, the cartridge generates 14.38 fps of recoil velocity and 26.99 ft-lbs of recoil energy.  These amounts of recoil are considered high by many shooters. To use it, they mostly require the use of a suppressor or a muzzle brake. It is advisable to use it with heavier rifles.

The .30-60 cartridge is mostly used by adult shooters since it has a strong recoil. It produces 11.12 fps of recoil velocity and 16.74 ft-lbs of recoil energy. When used with poorly designed rifles or old rifles the recoil can be very powerful and painful.

The .50BMG generates 11.83 fps of recoil velocity which is considered to be relatively slow for 82.06 ft-lbs of recoil energy. Due to the high amount of recoil, shooters use suppressors and a big muzzle brake to reduce the impact of the recoil. 

Reducing Rifle Recoil 

The most common methods used by shooters to reduce rifle recoil are the addition of muzzle brakes, suppressors, and 'downloaded' rounds.

1. Muzzle brakes

Depending on effectiveness and muzzle brake size, they can reduce the recoil by 20-50%. Muzzle brakes increase the volume of the gunshot. A large proportion of shooters prefer to use both earmuffs and earplugs when using muzzle brakes to protect their ears. There are two types of muzzle brakes:            

  • Side-port brake.
  • Radial port brake. It contains holes on its sides to make it more effective.

2. Suppressors

The majority of shooters use a suppressor (silencer). It can silence and reduce a rifle's recoil up to 45%. According to shooters who use this method together with earplugs and earmuffs, this method makes the blast tolerable.

3. 'Downloaded' rounds

The method is used by hand loaders. They put small amounts of powder in the cartridge. It reduces recoil by 10%. 


To enjoy shooting activities, all firearms enthusiasts are encouraged to use cartridges that they are most comfortable with. They should also be well educated on recoil reduction techniques to practice safe shooting.


Can a rifle recoil break your arm?

For small guns, the answer is no. The recoil is not sufficient to cause bodily harm. Expert rifle users can manage to use large guns without causing themselves any harm as long as their placement and handling are right. Improper gun handling can cause detached retinas and to some, it causes nerve injury.

Does recoil happen before or after the bullet has left the barrel?

A gun's recoil starts the moment when the shot charge starts to move and, not after the bullet leaves the muzzle of the barrel. When a shooter pulls a trigger, the primer is hit by the firing and causes it to ignite and then explode. This causes pressure which pushes the bullet forward towards the muzzle. As the pushing force increases, the recoil is also pushing backward with equal force.