Best Recoil Pads

Updated March 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
62 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best recoil pads

Newton's third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every time you fire a rifle or shotgun, you’re going to feel that law right in the shoulder. Each time the trigger is pulled, an explosion occurs inside the weapon that generates an incredible amount of force. Much of this force pushes the projectible forward, but a noticeable percentage is sent to the stock or butt of the firearm, making a tool like a recoil pad all the more necessary.

Recoil pads are generally constructed from rubber polymer, foam, and other soft materials. A recoil pad attaches to the buttstock of a rifle or shotgun, and, as the name implies, helps cushion the recoil of the fired weapon. Another benefit is that the pad’s textured surface prevents slippage when aiming. Some variants attach to the shoulder with straps, allowing the user to switch firearms easily.

Recoil pads come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit different firearms as well as shooters. Some are sold with built-in ammunition holders for added functionality. Which one is right for you? Take a look at our recommendations and buying guide for some help.

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Without a recoil pad, the shock of shooting can result in neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, a sore jaw, and other discomfort. These issues become worse when shooting for extended periods of time.

Key considerations

Mount style

Recoil pads attach to the end of a weapon’s buttstock, or stock, but there’s more variety than you might think. There are three main types: slip-on, precision-fit, and grind-to-fit recoil pads.

Slip-on pads: These do exactly what the name implies and simply slip over the stock. They are available in fairly standard sizes and often leave some wiggle room.

Precision-fit pads: These models are tailored to specific firearms. They often have screw mounts to guarantee a snug, long-lasting fit.

Grind-to-fit pads: These offer shooters much more personalization than the other two types.  Commonly available in screw-on styles, the grind-to-fit pads are shaped and smoothed with a belt grinder to fit flush with the stock for a clean look and smooth feel. You can also grind the pad down to be as thin as you like for a shorter pull length.

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Did You Know?
A common alternative to the recoil pad is a shooting vest. Not only do these feature ammo pouches and other helpful utility, but they also have movable shoulder pads to reduce the amount of felt recoil. The advantage here is you don’t need separate pads for separate firearms, only the vest.
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Features

Vibration dampening

Now that we’ve covered the primary mounting styles of recoil pads, let’s touch on how they reduce the recoil you feel.

Rigid: Some pads are made from rigid rubber polymers. These dampen vibration and recoil naturally, and many feature internal atmospheric chambers to dissipate energy. This type of recoil pad isn’t always comfortable on your shoulder, but it’s sure to last many years thanks to its simplicity.

Gel-filled: There are also gel-filled recoil pads. These neoprene and Lycra pads are filled with thick recoil-reducing gel and stretch over the gun’s stock to guarantee a comfortable shooting experience. Some pads have individual pockets of gel, which allows you to move the material around to conform to your body.

Ammunition holder

Outside of different color choices and proprietary shapes, the only additional feature you’ll find on recoil pads is an ammunition holder. This generally holds four to six shotgun shells or a handful of rifle rounds and makes reloading much faster than reaching into an ammo bag or pocket.

Gel-filled recoil pads are extremely effective at reducing felt recoil, but they won’t last quite as long as rigid rubber polymer units. Thankfully, even high-end recoil pads are fairly inexpensive and can be replaced as needed.

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Recoil pad prices

Recoil pads are available in countless sizes, shapes, and colors, but overall, they’re still a very inexpensive product.

Inexpensive: For about $10, you can expect to find basic rigid rubber recoil pads that slip on the end of your rifle or shotgun stock. These are generally sold in small, medium, and large sizes, and they may not fit perfectly flush with your firearm. There are inexpensive grind-to-fit models at this price point, too.

Mid-range: Spend $20 and you’ll find thicker rubber pads, gel-filled variants, and weapon-specific models that require screws to fit snugly.

Expensive: At the top of the range, expect to pay $30 or more for a thick, well-cushioned pad with atmospheric chambers for greater recoil reduction. High-quality gel-filled pads exist in this bracket, too, and feel exceptionally comfortable on the shoulder. Also, you’ll find pads with built-in ammo holders at this price.

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Did You Know?
Recoil pads are best known for reducing the amount of kick that shooters feel in their shoulders, but they have other benefits as well. Some recoil pads are made with acoustic chambers, and their vibration-control materials can disperse loud gunshot noises more quickly.
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Tips

  • Treat your weapon as if it is loaded and ready to fire, always. Never point your weapon at anything you do not wish to shoot, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Also, always know what is behind your target.
  • Keep both eyes open when aiming. It may feel natural to close one eye when aiming, but keeping both eyes open is paramount to accuracy. With both eyes open and on the target, you can more accurately judge depth and distance and land more shots.
  • Keep pull length in mind when shopping for a recoil pad. Pull length is the distance between the end of the stock and the weapon trigger, and it can greatly influence your grip and aim. Adding a recoil pad to the stock of your gun slightly increases the pull length.
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You’ll feel the benefits of a recoil pad in your shoulder, but you might see them on your targets as well. Recoil pads often incorporate anti-muzzle-jump technology, and the diminished kick can help with quick target reacquisition. In general, recoil pads improve control and stability.

FAQ

Q. Are recoil pads difficult to install?

A. Generally speaking, no, especially when compared to the installation of optics, muzzle brakes, laser sights, grips, and other accessories. The simplest version is obviously the slip-on pad, because it takes no more effort to install than putting on a glove. Screw-on pads are still fairly simple and only require the use of a drill and a keen eye to avoid splintering the stock. Grind-to-fit models are the most complex, but the toughest part is getting the shape of the pad flush with your weapon, not installing the unit for use.

Q. What other products can increase comfort during shooting?

A. First thing’s first. You should always have proper safety gear any time you’re using a firearm. This means eye protection (safety glasses or goggles) and ear protection (earmuffs or earplugs). Outside of that, tactical gloves can offer additional padding and weather protection to keep you comfortable when shooting outdoors. Consider knee and elbow pads as well if you’re shooting in prone or kneeling positions. Finally, noise-reducing attachments such as suppressors can save your ears in the long run.

Q. Are there other ways to reduce the amount of recoil I feel?

A. A recoil pad offers an excellent way to reduce the amount of recoil you feel after pulling the trigger, but it doesn’t actually reduce the kick of the weapon. There are several ways to do that, though, if you find the recoil too harsh even with a pad or shooting vest. The most obvious is to shoot a lighter projectile with less power, although this isn’t always an option. If not, consider a muzzle brake or compensator to use the weapon-discharge gases to your benefit. The idea behind these products is rather than venting these gases normally, you can direct them at an angle that pulls the weapon forward slightly, canceling out some of the recoil. You’ll never mitigate 100% of the energy doing this, but you’ll definitely notice the reduction.

Q. How should I stand when firing a shotgun?

A. A proper stance can greatly reduce the effects of recoil on your body, and, best of all, it’s absolutely free! There are countless shooting stances recommended by professionals, and they can vary depending on the type of firearm you’re using. For a shotgun, stand with your non-firing leg slightly forward and lean your body into the weapon. Bend your knees slightly to maintain balance, and make sure you have a solid grip on the weapon, with the stock fitted snugly into your shoulder.

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