Low recoil loads or sometimes called “managed recoil target loads” are ideal for practice shooting, skeet and trap. Some manufactures claim that the recoil is reduced up to 40 percent in some 12-gauge loads.

Low Recoil Ammunition

Low Recoil Ammunition

Typically, the shot pattern is the same, and the shells can be reused for loading at home. The shells are made of plastic and assumedly because of the lower recoil; the hulls would have more longevity. Low recoil loads are ideal for new shooters or those that simply cannot handle the recoil of a 12-gauge with standard sized loads. The shells are relatively inexpensive and many shooters use them specifically for target practice where they expect to do a lot of shooting in one day, and of course, the low recoil allows them to shoot for longer periods
where otherwise with heavier loads they could not.

Over time, some shooters can develop a flinch and by using the low recoil loads, they can train themselves out of this habit. Older shotguns can benefit from lighter loads because many of the older guns were not designed to take the stress of heavier loads such as magnum shells. Using the low recoil loads makes some of the older weapons safer to use in some cases. Lighter loads are available in slug and buckshot, as well. The buckshot will still have the typical nine pellets.

The standard load in ounces for a 12-gauge would be 1 ¼ at 1,250 feet per second (fps), whereas a low recoil load would be around 1,125-1,200 fps at approximately 7/8 ounces. Certain other shells are loaded so the fps is between 900 and 980. The recoil is light to non-existent. The low recoil can be used for certain birds but do not expect the effective range to be beyond 25 yards and are typically used for hunting quail or dove. The fps and recoil figures are estimations only and the actual figures are dependent on the load in ounces, manufacturer and shot used.

Low Recoil Rounds and Semi-Automatics

Testing the low recoil rounds is really the only way to tell if the propellant/charge is enough to cycle the action. The action on semi-automatics relies on the energy from the shell’s charge to eject the spent shell and to chamber another. Low recoil loads obviously produce less energy and
can cause a “short stroke” where shell is ejected and yet there is not enough force to chamber the next round causing it to jam. Each shotgun will be different and some of the same models may cycle perfectly while another of the same model may fail to when using low recoil shells.

You can of course load your own shells, take the manufacturer’s recommendation for standard shells, and reduce the charge incrementally to find the balance between less recoil and yet will still cycle a semi-automatic.

Low recoil rounds of course have no effect on a pump action because all of the work is accomplished by the shooter. Carefully consider all options and experiment so when the times
comes in a home defense situation, for example, you know exactly what your weapon and rounds are capable of doing.