Preparing for recoil

I've mentioned recoil many times. Coyote hunters, who often rely on small caliber centerfire rifles, may not realize just how much recoil a 3.5" magnum shotgun shell generates. In a 7 pound pump or O/U shotgun that transmits most of the shock directly to the shooter, the felt recoil can be more than a 9# scoped .458 WinMag rifle. Most people realize that the recoil is typically transmitted to the shooter's shoulder but they don't realize how hard a hit the shooter's middle finger can take, the one that lays right behind the trigger guard.


Pad the back of the trigger guard

Pad the back of the trigger guard with some shock-absorbing material or a "Bumper Buster." Heavy ammo in a pump or OU shotgun has a lot of recoil and if it gets away from you even a little, you'll take the skin off a knuckle or even break a finger. A Bumper Buster from Connecticut Shotguns is a bit of soft rubber with a plastic clamp that pads the finger nicely, but it costs $19. + $10. s&h. A bit of neoprene pipe wrap and some electrical tape are almost free and work well also.

The camo Cynergy shotgun in the main photo is wearing neoprene and electrical tape. The inset shows Connecticut Shotgun's "Bumper Buster" on a Beretta Onyx shotgun. I've also tried gloves, band aids, and other tape wraps. I learned the hard way how much recoil these heavy loads generate. My finger was badly broken in '07 by a slam fire or AD while running after a wounded coyote, reloading a shotgun with one hand, and trying to keep my pants up with the other. Prepare for that recoil and protect yourself from a dislocated or broken finger. A Note on the Beretta and Benelli autos. The Benelli recoil-operated Super Black Eagle is known for its reliability with most ammunition and healthy tolerance for dirt. The Beretta Extrema is gas-operated, a bit more finicky, but slightly softer shooting. Both of these shotguns were designed for waterfowl, but are as close as it gets to perfect coyote guns. The Benelli comes in a left hand model. Either will shave that .458-ish recoil down some.

The Pistol Grip

Through the years, I've told many folks to stick with a bead or fiber sight and standard grip, like those in the photos above, to keep the gun slim and trim.  That kind of gun is much easier to store, case, and draw. 

In 2011, looking for a 12 gauge that would better mitigate heavy recoil, especially as a loaner to novices or smaller shooters, I purchased a Mossberg 935 with a pistol grip stock and hunted with it extensively.  The 935 is gas operated and has an extreme overbore, actually a 10 ga bore on a 12 ga gun.  On test firing the new gun, I discovered that the barrel was a snake.  The bore was pointed in one direction, the rib in another, and the point of aim was a foot high and a foot right at 35 yards.  It was useless for hunting.  After some tooth gnashing, I added a Piccatinny rail and an Eotech holosight, an ugly and expensive solution to an otherwise unusuable shotgun.  It is the absolute opposite of "slim and trim."  The gun is a beast, big, heavy, and ugly.  But the combination of gas operation, overbore, weight, pistol grip, and holosight really cut the recoil.  The zeroed holosight put it dead on target.  It is "the best solution" for smaller shooters, recoil-shy shooters, and shooters with cheeking or aiming problems that anyone could possibly imagine.  It cut the recoil by MORE than half of the O/U.  It's real killer too.  Over a period of a few weeks, I called 60+, shot at 41, killed and recovered 40 of them.  Anyone who's hunted much with a shotgun in thick cover can appreciate that percentage.  Since then, I've hunted three coyote seasons and put down more than 200 animals with it.

Several observations deserve some discussion, first the pistol grip.  The pistol grip effectively transfers recoil to the web of the thumb and forefinger instead of the palm swell.  It doesn't require a vice-like handhold on the stock.  With the pistol grip, it just is not possible to slam a middle finger.  The pistol grip is a better way to mitigate the recoil from these big loads of buckshot and to protect your hand. 

Second, as stated, the gun is a pig.  It's heavy.  On the downside, while it is now much softer to shoot, the gun is hard to put into a case and hard to draw out.  It is much more bulky and takes a lot more space.  For the run and gun hunter who doesn't mind heavy recoil, the Extrema, the SBE, or any good O/U with a standard grip and bead or fiber sight are all superior handling weapons.

Third, I was surprised to find that the Eotech or Aimpoint on a shotgun are clearly superior aiming systems for anyone having problems hitting targets.  Properly zeroed, it hits the red dot every time.  Put the dot on the target's nose and pull the trigger.  Dead Coyote.  However, the experienced shooter will have to get used to NOT cheeking the gun.  With either of these sights, Aimpoint or Eotech, my face is up and over the comb of the stock.  Cheeking the gun in standard fashion isn't possible and won't put the dot from the sight in your field of view.  The first few times I shot at coyotes, it felt very strange with my head up over the gun, very different from everything I'd ever read or been told about shooting a shotgun.  But after that initial experience, it becomes familiar very fast.  If you wonder about shooting a shotgun without cheeking it and possibly taking a hit to the face, my face is high enough over the comb of the stock that my cheek stays clear of the recoiling gun and doesn't get whacked.  Not even once.  Additionally, rising shots like the springing teal at the clays range (any coyote that blows by you running away is a rising shot) isn't obscured by the barrel leading the target as it is when using a bead on the rib.  Something else to consider is the use of the holosight with a flashlight.  At night, a bead sight is almost useless.  Aiming is next to impossible.  But a red Aimpoint or Eotech with a green, or white, or even red LED flashlight, is like shooting a video game.  I still don't like the bulk, weight, and the way the holosight and pistol grip go into or come out of the case, but a gun set up this way is very deserving of a try both at night and during the day.  It's a real killer, much softer on recoil, and much less scary for a novice.

Finally, if you try the Eotech, always make sure the sight is turned on.  If it isn't, if you forget to turn it on, and a coyote blows through the stand, the best thing to do is turn the gun sideways and use the barrel to aim like any other shotgun.  Using a holosight that isn't turned on, no dot showing, just looking in the window, is a waste of ammunition.  You will miss.