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The 4 Steps of Managing Shotgun Recoil

By Greg Nichols

We’ve been talking a lot about shotguns, styles, models, ammunition, actions, and applicable situations of use. I want to look at the actual functioning of a shotgun during use and take you through, step by step, the method I use to run one so fast. In specific I will be addressing a pump action as it addresses the management of pump and auto, with an auto.

1) When you trigger the shotgun you use the same trigger control/staging as you do on a pistol or rifle. There really isn’t a need to tune a shotgun trigger as the marksmanship isn’t required to be as fine just based on the capabilities of the platform. The key here is to use your non-shooting or support hand to apply pressure to seat the butt tightly in the shoulder pocket. Your shooting hand only needs a light touch, and I like to put my thumb on the top of the grip rather than wrapped around it (excepting those with a pistol grip). On a PGO only shotgun the function is the same but instead of pulling into your shoulder pocket you need to lock your shooting arm and pull the gun into your shooting hand.

2) Once you trigger the shotgun the muzzle will naturally rise due to recoil. Due to the pressure you are applying with your non-shooting hand the recoil should cause the action to cycle to the rear, ejecting the spent shell and feeding the next round loosely into the chamber. The main point to mention is that the reward pressure continues and will naturally pull the muzzle back into place, you don’t want to pull down with your support had as this can cause over travel that you will need to recover from. The rearward pressure alone will bring the muzzle back to mostly on target.

3) As the muzzle comes back on target the trigger should be released as you press the action out to its mechanical limit. Here you need to apply the reward pressure with the shooting hand to ensure that it either stays locked in position with a PGO only or seated in the shoulder with a stocked shotgun. Pushing to the stop of the action ensures that you don’t short stroke the action keeping your weapon out of battery. The forward press should be thumb forward and will more finely tune your return to target and will be the moment you re-establish your site picture.

4) Lastly, to ensure you are in battery and that the weapon is seated in your shooting hand or shoulder pocket you will again apply rearward pressure with the support hand and trigger finger to either fire again or stage to fire again. This will also be the time to fine tune your sight picture if the situation calls for it.

Shotgun function

The real trick to firing the shotgun over other weapon platforms is the rhythm of the function, it’s almost like a dance, once you get the beat and the footwork (hand work) it becomes easy and comfortable and you can do it no matter how fast the beat gets. The smoother the action the better, just like dancing is easier in leather soled footwear than it is in tennis shoes, the smoother the action is (like an AT treated action) the smoother you can be in the manipulation.

Get yours here: Suarez Stakeout 12ga Shotgun

Come see it in action here: Suarez Shotgun Gunfighting, Sep 9-10, 2017 - Prescott, AZ

Example video of Gabe and Myself here