My Favorite Cartridges for Africa. (Part 3)

by david on October 17, 2012

Felt Recoil

 Yesterday, I mentioned having the shoulder for heavy recoil.  The calculation of felt recoil has a great many variables and I will not try to go into all of them here.  Basically, the bullet, muzzle velocity, rifle weight, type of stock, and type of action all go into a mathematical formula, and a recoil factor is given in foot pounds.  Recoil is something every hunter knows about but never really thinks about when choosing a rifle.  This can be a problem as felt recoil will prohibit many hunters from shooting a hard-recoiling rifle well.  A hard kick in the shoulder every time the rifle is fired will inevitably cause the shooter to develop a flinch.  If you flinch when you pull the trigger, it will decrease your accuracy to where you can’t hit the side of a barn from the inside with the doors and windows shut.  Every shooter has his or her own threshold of what level of felt recoil is acceptable.  This level should be a determining factor in the choosing of a cartridge/caliber for hunting in Africa. 

Most experts agree that 15 ft. lbs. of felt recoil are the upper end of what most people can shoot comfortably.  At 20 ft. lbs., shooters will develop a flinch if they do not take the time to learn to shoot correctly and practice enough to get used to the kick received with every pull of the trigger.  For our first example, let’s start with a 30-06 (my lightest caliber for Africa) and an eight-pound rifle.  Shooting a 180-grain bullet at 2700 fps, the felt recoil of the 30-06 is 20.3 ft. lbs.  This level of recoil is already in the uncomfortable zone for most people.  The .375 Holland and Holland ratchets things up a bit.  An eight-pound rifle shooting a 300-grain bullet at 2530 feet per second generates felt recoil of 37.3 ft. lbs.  If we go a few more rungs up the ladder, we have the .416 Rigby.  Its 400-grain bullet, going 2400 feet per second, generates a whopping 58.1 ft. lbs. of felt recoil, and it is not even at the at the top of the scale.  The simplest way I can say it is, “Think about recoil when you choose a rifle for Africa” period, exclamation point.

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