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It was Newton that observed “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” His third law has implications everywhere, and that includes in the world of shooting.
Specifically, the action of igniting gun powder in a closed space to propel a bullet at high velocity out of one end of a rifle or shotgun results in an equal force being applied at the other end.
And since that other end is pressed against your shoulder, Newton can be cursed frequently during any extended shooting session.
Since gun stocks are often made of wood or other hard synthetic materials, that rearward force can do a number on you over time, resulting in sore and bruised shoulders. That is where the recoil pad comes in.
A recoil pad is a piece of rubber, gel, foam, or other cushioning material that attaches to the shoulder stock of a shotgun or rifle to lessen the impact of the recoil from firing.
These pads, which can either be temporarily or permanently affixed to the end of the stock, work to minimize the impact of the gun’s kick by spreading out and/or softening the force of the recoil.
Gell padding. It’s basically the best thing to ever hit gun gear since I can remember. Recoil control stocks aren’t just designed to reduce what you feel, but to give you more stabilization while shooting. I would say that the Recoil Eraser does more than a fine job of doing this.
Using gel technology, you feel up to 70% less force from the kick of your gun than if you shot without one. This gives you an insane amount of capability when trying to fire shots in succession, such as when you’re knocking down reactive targets.
This just slips right on. No modding, no hassle. The mouth of the pad stretches with just enough elasticity to be easy to put on, but actually remain on your gun while you’re using it.
Gel has its weaknesses, though. Over time, the force and recoil will take its toll on it. For now, you have nothing to worry about though. These are equipped to last you for about five years, and as an inexpensive piece of gun equipment, that’s less than five bucks a year for enhanced control during every shot, every time.
- Slips on to most stocks without a problem
- Gel pack padding for additional support and comfort
- Reduces feeling of recoil by roughly 70% on most rifles
Shooterpads Gel Filled Recoil Pad
Like I said, gel is the best. It’s not here forever, but it takes one hell of a beating before being destroyed. The gel in Shooterpads is removable through three different cells, each designed to withstand major shock, but moveable so that you can decide where your comfort level lies.
I like the fact that you can customize the feeling, but as it is, the padding is good enough on its own when you slip it over the stock of your rifle.
I’d say it absorbs about half the kickback that you would receive from shooting without one, though it sits at the same price as the Recoil Eraser we reviewed earlier.
I’ve gotten intermediate levels of use out of this one, so I can’t attest to its longevity, but I can say that it’s as good as it was when I first opened the box. From my research, it seems like it lasts about three to five years on average, which is the standard amount of time for most gel recoil pads.
- Highly elastic opening fits on most guns with little to no problem
- Removable miniature cell padding for customizable feel
- Absorbs about half the shock of normal kickback
LimbSaver Grind-to-Fit Recoil Pad
The slip-on pads can look like you decided to get socks for your gun, and it’s just not a look everyone wants. LimbSaver is the low-profile way to augment your gun with a recoil pad, and most folks will be none the wiser.
This sticks on to your stock, so you won’t be able to remove it once you select which gun you want to attach it to. The adhesive bonds it on pretty tightly, adding this to your gun unless you pry it off with a solvent.
Built out of NAVCOM material, it reduces somewhere around 70% to 80% of kick from most rifles.
This thing means business, and because it’s not made from gel, it’s fit to last for as long as your gun will. In the worst-case scenario, I’d say this may start to feel a bit loose after a decade or so.
Low-profile, high durability, and not much more than your standard gel recoil pad. This is something I’ll definitely enjoy every time I go hunting.
- Reduces tons of kickback without being too noticeable
- NAVCOM material dampens vibrations and aftershocks from shooting
- Designed for low-profile stocks
LimbSaver Airtech Slip-on Recoil Pad
LimbSaver is at it again with their proprietary NAVCOM material. It’s the only thing that holds a candle to gel padding, and it works a treat.
The length of this recoil pad, given that it’s a slip-on, is a bit short for me. It feels like it should be coming off the end of my stock when I’m using it.
Thankfully, it doesn’t. The weatherproof finish and sticky feeling to the back means that you won’t have to worry about slipping up while using this. Overall, I’d have to agree with the claim that it reduces about 70% of incoming recoil.
As one of the best selling recoil pads of all time, I like that it comes in six different sizes (and prices, for that matter) so you can have a LimbSaver for everything in your arsenal.
The most important thing it to be able to center on a target in quick succession after each shot, and with this, that becomes a hell of a lot easier.
- Non-slip surface holds onto your shirt/jacket material perfectly well
- Reduces roughly 70% of all incoming recoil
- NAVCOM material lasts for ages
Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-on Recoil Pad
Last on the list, I always like to include a budget-friendly item that met or exceeded my expectations.
This inexpensive stock comes in black or brown, so you can match it to your stock for discretion, and comes with a fair amount of shock resistance. Look at those link-like indents on the back of the stock—that’s where it absorbs the shock, and you can feel it.
In my opinion, it takes about half the shock out of each individual shot. If you fire in succession and keep pinning down reactive targets, it retains about 50% absorption the whole way through.
If you’re looking to save some money and you have a smaller rifle, choose from one of the three sizes, where they prorate the price accordingly.
In short, it fits on easily enough, and may even outlast gel padding based on how rugged the construction is. That doesn’t make it the best solution, but an inexpensive one that will stand the test of time.
In my book, that’s good enough to stock my rifles with while still being conscious of my budget.
- Extremely affordable
- Designed to replace factory issue padding on gun stocks
- Slips over your stock in about ten seconds tops
Recoil Pads FAQ
How to Install a Recoil Pad?
Almost all recoil pads are made to just slip over the back of your stock.
Pads made from nylon, polyester, rubber and other similar materials are very easy to just mount on your gun. Leather can sometimes be difficult.
Slide the pad over the bottom of the stock first, then pull the top section up. It’s like a reverse bottleneck: it’s going to get easier as it goes.
You may have to sneak your finger between the stock and pad to ensure it’s going on smoothly and doesn’t roll up.
Then just gently guide it down the remaining portion of your stock. It will have a few air bubbles in the bottom, so move the stock around and smooth it out. Voila—you’re done.
How to Fit a Recoil Pad?
Most recoil pads will just slip on over your stock. In rare cases, some leather ones (usually older stock pads) will require a lace up with leather strips.
You treat those like a shoe: undo the laces, fit it, retighten them.
Once it’s on, you have to account for the padding in the back. It’s going to mess with where your center of gravity was when you didn’t have a stock on.
They can add 1-3” onto the back end of your stock, which can really mess with your aiming and shooting.
What are the Benefits of Recoil Pads?
Recoil pads help to reduce injury and physical strain from firing a gun.
Recoil pads come designed for different stocks, but each are equipped to reduce the impact of the stock pressing against your shoulder from firing.
With a recoil pad you’re preventing your probability of getting injuries, even mild ones.
When your stock comes slamming backwards, it can cause mild fractures (especially if you’re an inexperienced shooter), which could carry on as long-term injury and lead to future problems.
On top of that, they’re just more comfortable. When you use a recoil pad, your gun feels better on your shoulder.
If you’re comfortable in your shot, you’ll be able to hold your aim better.
What is the Best Material for the Recoil Pad?
It’s up for discussion, and some of it comes down to preference.
The two main materials are leather and rubber, which are polar opposites of one another. Leather is a naturally-occurring polymer, and rubber is an artificially created polymer.
Leather is arguably more comfortably and will definitely last longer, but rubber is often regarded as being better at absorbing shock.
Rubber also tends to be cheaper. Leather will fit a bit tighter around your gun stock, so it’s harder to put on but harder to get off.
Rubber is easier to work with right out of the package. We’ll let you decide on how to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.
Choosing The Right Recoil Pad
A good recoil pad should be able to take the brunt of the damage that comes from firing your weapon repeatedly.
It should sit comfortably against your shoulder, while also adding some distance between you and the stock of your weapon.
Some of the most high quality recoil pads offer balancing capabilities that help make sure there is not too much drift in your shots from one to another, allowing you to be more accurate in the long run.
However, these more complicated recoil pads are made to be used in tandem with top tier weapons, and as such may not be what you are looking for when it comes to outfitting your basic hunting rifle.
A good recoil pad should be able to protect your shoulder from the prolonged wear-and-tear of rifle kickback, while also fitting comfortably on to the stock of your gun.
The kind of recoil pad you are looking for depends on the amount of kick back that you are looking to reduce, as many different types of recoil pads offer up kick back reduction anywhere from 20-70%.
When you are looking for a specific recoil pad for your hunting rifle, do your research to see what other people have purchased for your particular rifle, as they have more hands-on experience with the product than anyone else.
If you have a wide range of guns with interchangeable stocks, you may consider investing in a higher quality recoil pad in order to allow it to be used across your entire hunting arsenal, or you may consider investing in more than one recoil pad for each of your hunting rifles
Recoil Pads Video
Here is a video discussing installation of Recoil Pads:
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