When it comes to wing and clays shooting, recoil gets a bad rap — especially when it comes to new shooters.

The experience goes something like this: someone hands them a shotgun with little to no instructions, gets them ready to shoot a clay target, and when "pull" is called and the trigger is pulled, some poor soul gets smacked mightily in the jaw and shoulder. They put down the shotgun and immediately lose interest for the rest of their lives.

There’s no getting around the causes of recoil. It comes down to immutable physics. When a shotgun shell is discharged in the chamber, it creates an explosion of back-pressure that travels right through the gun into the stock and into the shooter’s body.

So while recoil can’t be eliminated it can certainly be managed for a much more enjoyable and comfortable shooting experience.

Here are some tips to follow that help ensure a low-recoil experience:

1. Make sure that the first time you shoot, you receive instructions. You need to know how to hold and mount the shotgun to minimize recoil and maintain gun safety.

This shotgun stock shows both the adjustable comb and add-on adjustable recoil pad. These types of adjustable recoil pads have hydraulic pistons that mitigate recoil. The adjustable stock and recoil combined, provide an almost infinite level of adjustability to find the perfect gun fit that in turns helps lower recoil.

2. If the shotgun doesn’t fit, don’t shoot it. Fit pertains to the length of the shotgun, the height of the stock where it meets your face and your ability to safely reach the trigger.

The shotgun should fit snugly to your body. Some shotguns are available with an adjustable comb. This lets you adjust the top of the stock for horizontal and vertical fit. You may also want to look into extendable recoil pads.

3. Hold the shotgun tight without choking it. By contrast, too many people think that if they hold the shotgun away from their body it won’t kick.

Just the opposite is true. Without having the support of your body, a loosely held shotgun becomes somewhat uncontrollable — slamming into you after the shot is triggered, and it will hurt.

Winchester and other major shotgun shell manufacturers offer low-recoil ammunition with velocities under 1,000 FPS. The lower the velocity, the lower your recoil. Image: Winchester

4. Check the velocity of your ammunition. The feet-per-second (FPS) rating is often on the box of shells. The faster the velocity, the more it kicks.

Stay away from an FPS rating of more than 1,200, although the ideal speed should be around 1,150. If someone hands you a box of 1,300 FPS shotgun shells, expect to get whacked by recoil. Some shotshell companies such as Winchester and Federal sell low-recoil ammunition with a velocity rating of under 1,000 FPS. Check them out.

5. The big myth that can work against you is the notion that a smaller 20-gauge shotgun kicks less than a bigger 12-gauge. This is not necessarily true.

Because a 20-gauge shotgun is smaller than a 12-gauge, it has less physical mass to absorb the recoil that travels through the gun. Remember, a heavier shotgun can transmit lower recoil even though its ammunition is more powerful than a 20-gauge.

If you’re looking for a smaller shotgun as a solution against recoil, try a 28-gauge. You probably won’t feel a thing but the diminutive shells can make it more difficult to hit a moving target such as a clay or game bird.

Aftermarket recoil pads such as this padded leather one from Orvis can be easily slipped on over the recoil pad on your shotgun to reduce felt recoil and add some extra length if required. The extra length could cut the amount of recoil you feel in your shoulder. Image: Orvis

6. Check the thickness of the rubber recoil pad on the butt of the shotgun stock. Some recoil pads are made from high-tech, shock-absorbent rubber. If the shotgun you’re using has a thin recoil bad, or a so-called butt plate made of wood, look for a shotgun with a thicker recoil pad. Otherwise, you can buy aftermarket slip-on recoil pads that provide another layer of shock absorption.

7. Consider a gas-powered, semi-automatic sporting shotgun. The operative word here is "gas."

There are two types of semi-automatic shotgun actions. An inertia semi-automatic cycles the next shell through the kinetic energy of the shell traveling backwards prior to ejection — very similar to the cylinder rising toward the cylinder head of a car engine. A gas-powered, semi-automatic shotgun captures the expelled gases after the shot is fired to cycle the next shot for a softer shooting experience. They are available in 12-gauge and 20-gauge.

Gas-powered, semi-automatic shotguns like this Beretta A400 Xplor use a type of internal action that cycles the shotgun shells to reduce recoil. By contrast, inertia-driven semi-automatic shotguns can increase the kick you feel after making a shot. Image: Beretta

Don’t be casual about picking up a shotgun and giving it a try. The recoil can actually bruise your face and shoulder, and you may never pick up another sporting shotgun again. Start right and you’ll enjoy one of the most satisfying sports available to you.