We are all aware that the popularity of hunting seems to be diminishing year to year. Even though we do see growth in some demographics, unfortunately, the general trend seems to be on the decline. A lot of the time, we tend to focus our efforts on getting new hunters and shooters by concentrating on the kids. I consider myself very lucky that all of my kids have expressed an early interest in hunting. I have also had the privilege of having all three of my children take their first game animal while I was present. While visiting friends overseas this spring, my two youngest, aged six and eight (legal where we were) both had the opportunity to shoot some animals that we later ate for various meals on the trip. It was a great experience for them, seeing the whole process firsthand and being able to share it with their classmates after, although many do not share the same enthusiasm as they do.
Knowing that there was a good chance of them getting some hunting in while we were on this trip, I spent several range sessions trying to get my kids proficient enough to ethically take game. This process is one of the major hurdles for young hunters/shooters when getting started. Many firearms and other shooting equipment that is suitable/powerful enough to be efficient are simply too big and heavy for the young shooter. Although the heavier gun does help to mitigate the recoil problem, it becomes a moot point. Many people try to help with this by letting new/young shooters use lighter rifles, both in calibre and weight. While this may help with one of the hurdles, it can lead to compounding problems as well. A lot of these light, small rifles are not adequate to cleanly take larger game, just due to the bullet construction design. There are some great lighter rifles out there that can cleanly take big game, but the margin of error on shot placement is critical. I would say they are really more of an expert’s rifle than a beginner rifle.
So what options are out there? Shooting full-power loads is generally out of the question, just due to recoil. I know grown men who have trouble with recoil and shy away from what many consider some of the most popular deer cartridges. Recoil can be managed, but for a new hunter/shooter it just isn’t possible.
One of the options that I found to work is reduced recoil loads. A few of the manufacturers produce these reduced recoil offerings in calibres ranging from .243 Winchester up to the .300 Winchester Mag. These offerings have light-for-calibre bullets, with much lower muzzle velocities thanks to the use of special blended powder charges to reduce felt recoil by almost 50 per cent in some cases. The bullets are also designed to perform at the lower velocity. With the reduced velocity and energies, on both ends of the rifle, the effective range is also reduced. But these loads still have ample power to take game within reasonable ranges. It will vary depending on the actual cartridge used.
Hornady produces their Custom Lite line and Remington makes their Managed Recoil for their reduced recoil options. While I have mentioned these lines in regard to the young shooter, these are also very viable for new hunters and shooters of any. Recoil does really scare some of the new shooters, and this gives the option of using an existing rifle in your battery and getting a recoil-sensitive shooter comfortable with the rifle. My son was able to gain confidence in his shooting with the reduced recoil loads to be able to shoot well beyond 150 yards consistently. Not long range by any means, but as a new shooter he was very proud of his newly acquired skill set. He would never have been able to shoot with confidence if he had concerns over recoil every time he pulled the trigger while practicing.
When we arrived for our hunt, we had to use rifles that were there, but because of the confidence he gained with the lower recoil loads, he was still successful. With all the practice he was able to do prior to our trip, when we got the opportunity to hunt he didn’t even think of the recoil. Allowing a shooter/hunter the opportunity to build some confidence and experience is money well spent. The option of using this reduced recoil ammunition does just that, without the expense of another rifle.
Even if you are an experienced shooter but for one reason or another have developed a flinch, the use of the reduced recoil loads may be exactly what you need to get your confidence back at the range. Check your ego at the door and get back to the basics. Buy a few boxes to get your technique back, and then switch back to your favourite hunting load when you are comfortable.
Novice or experienced, this ammunition may have benefits for you.