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Author Topic: Firearm recoil question  (Read 11404 times)

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Firearm recoil question
« on: May 20, 2011, 08:00:02 PM »

It's a while since I posted, but I have a question about small arms and their 'kick'. I hope someone understands what I'm asking here and can answer my query, so here goes. Does the firearm start 'kicking' upwards as soon as the firing pin hits the primer? If so, does the bullet hit its mark slightly above where it's being aimed at (if, of course, you can aim all that well with, say, a revolver), as there will be a very slight delay between the firing pin hitting the primer and the bullet leaving the barrel, which will have already started to rise? Or does the firearm 'kick' when the bullet leaves the barrel, in which case it will hit its mark? Or is there such a short space of time betweeen the firing pin hitting the primer and the bullet leaving the barrel that it makes no difference?



Dave Freas

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Re: Firearm recoil question
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 08:59:34 PM »

I'm no firearms expert, but I'd guess there'd be milli-, micro-, or nanosecond delay between the firing pin hitting the primer and the kick--probably not enough to make a difference as far as accuracy.  As the burning powder sends the bullet forward, it sends the gun backwards.  Physics 101: For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction.
Some of this is abated in automatics because part of the kick is absorbed driving the slide back and ejecting the spent shell.

But I could be way, way off base.


Bob Mueller

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Re: Firearm recoil question
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 09:01:55 PM »


Recoil is relative, first of all. What's easy for me to deal with at 5'8/225 will be not so easy for my wife (5'0, 135).

The type of gun has much to do with it as well. A semi-auto uses some of the recoil energy to work the action, so a semi-auto handgun will tend to have less felt recoil than a revolver of the same caliber and weight. Bolt-action guns (and pump or lever-action as well) tend to have more felt recoil than a semi-auto as well, for the same reasons. Those firearm actions are manually operated after the firing cycle, and no energy is used to work the action.

Remember too that the kick, or recoil action, is opposite to the action of the bullet, which is moving straight away from the shooter (ideally). So the recoil is first straight back along the shooter's arm. There's probably some interesting physics involved with why everyone tends to let the recoil from a single shot push the gun up, but I'm not sure of the exact explanation.

To answer your basic question, technically the recoil reaction starts as soon as the bullet starts moving (action) forward, but it's probably not felt or acknowledged by the body until about the time the bullet leaves the barrel.

An experience shooter is going to aim at what they want to hit. An inexperienced shooter, who has time to second-guess themselves, might well try to anticipate the recoil and aim low. They also tend to flinch a bit as they pull the trigger, and that will show by the bullet hitting below the point of aim, as the muscles clench and they try to anticipate the shot. Sometimes they'll hit high because they're tightening up the heel of their hand, forcing the barrel higher. But typically, they hit low, as they're trying to keep the barrel low.

See this chart for diagnosing where shooting errors will hit:

Let me know if this helps any. You might also check YouTube for something like "slow-motion rifle" or "slow-motion handgun" to get some ideas.

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Old Bill

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Re: Firearm recoil question
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 09:31:29 PM »

The biggest problem with aiming a handgun is the short distance between the front and rear sights, vibration from every source (wind, muscle tensions, blood pressure), anticipation of the kick, trigger jerk, and the down right inability to hold the darn thing steady.  That doesn't answer your question however.

One of my favorite shows is "Top Shot" where experts compete with lots of different weapons.  They do a lot of slo-mo showing the bullets leaving the barrel and one thing that soon becomes obvious is that the bullet is ALWAYS, ALWAYS well away from the gun BEFORE it even begins to "kick".  Same with semi-automatics; the slide doesn't even begin to move until the bullet is well on its way.  So, with the exception of the aforementioned "anticipation", recoil or "kick" would have no effect on accuracy.

Good question, James.

Old Bill

Of course, the second shot is another matter.  Recovery time from the recoil would depend largely on the caliber and type of weapon.

Andy Connor

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Re: Firearm recoil question
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2011, 10:57:18 AM »

A little late - but better late than never (unless, of course, you're my agent...  >:D)

If you look at the process of firing a handgun (as opposed to a long barrel, or shotgun or rifle) then there is a slight dipping of the muzzle as the finger squeezes the trigger (compensatable by experience - no one just 'picks up a gun and hits the bullseye' first time)

Hammer spring kicks in, hammer forward, pin to cap, pause for cap to ignite charge, charge to build and force bullet from gun.

Recoil is at the force bullet point.

Now, if you are going to have a professional shooting then they may well have made their own rounds ("shells are what you find on the f-n sea shore!" to quote my old range instructor) in which case, as is usual with a professional hit, they are likely to be .22 with a 'half load' - the kickback is minimal, and the penetration is softer.  Upside, no bullet exits the other side, just tumbles around inside the skull (yummy!)  Also little noise.  Downside - you gotta be up close an' personal, Johnny - don' let him get wise to ya.

Other comment - use a 12-shot .22 revolver (automatics usually throw out their spent cases all over the place, whereas revolvers contain their empty cases within the cylinder) - apart from the CSI aspect, it means you don't got nuffin' rollin' around ya feet ta trip yous up, okay?

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