Shooting a rifle is different from shooting a shotgun. Having fired thousands of rounds from both, I have developed and learned several best practices that will help you enjoy the practice sessions that will ensure when your opportunity arrives you have the best chance of winning the match or harvesting the game.
A shotgun trigger is pulled; a rifle trigger is squeezed. This simple rule alone can shrink your groups from dinner plate- to quarter- and even nickel-sized. An ol’ time mentor taught me that every shot from a rifle should come as a complete surprise.
Thou shalt buy a gun that fits. Recoil is dynamic. A great number of rounds are fired from a stationary position in which the shooter is taking the full force of the recoil straight back to the shoulder. Because of this, rifle recoil tends to be sharper and higher than shotgun recoil. Make sure you have the proper length of pull, which will allow you to weld your cheek to the stock and have a great site picture.
Always shoot with a recoil pad. Years ago, rifles came with a metal buttplate or, if there was a recoil pad attached, a hard rubber pad that was just as good at taming recoil as metal. Many rifles today come stock with great recoil pads. If yours does not, or, comes with a poor one, there are several manufacturers out there such as Sims, Pachmayr, and others that are made to specifically fit your rifle. Spending $20 or $30 for a quality recoil pad will absolutely make you a better shooter.
Pick the right caliber. Today’s bullets make it possible to take bigger game with smaller calibers than was ethically possible past. Wildcatting has made some great rounds that perform as well as their magnum counterparts with significantly less recoil. My first rifle, a 7mm Remington Magnum, produces a brutal amount of recoil, especially to a youth or woman. A 7mm–08 is practically the ballistic equivalent, uses the same diameter bullet, and yet only gives up around 200 ft/s. If you plan on hunting dangerous game, and required to use a large-caliber rifle there are many manufacturers and aftermarket companies that build muzzle brakes to make even the “heavy hitters” perform mildly in the recoil department.
Practice, practice, practice. The argument could be made that this is number one, however, people who have recoil issues with lots of practice develop substantial flinch, which is then exacerbated with more practice. The more you practice good form, the greater chance you will perform at your best when that “moment of truth” arrives. You will be able to take aim, let out a bit of breath, squeeze the trigger, and deliver the bullet exactly where you want with confidence, because you do not have concerns about the recoil of your firearm.
We’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories of people putting a hard kicking gone in the hands of a first-time shooter, a young woman, or a child. That’s the worst possible thing you could do.