It was Newton who observed, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” His third law has implications everywhere, and that includes the world of shooting.
Specifically, the action of igniting the gunpowder in a closed space to propel a bullet at high velocity out of one end of a rifle or shotgun results in an equal force being applied at the other end.
As a result of this law of physics, the shooter feels the force of the fired gun applied on their shoulder.
It may cause them to lose their aim, it may hurt their shoulders, and when the shooter is not particularly an experienced one, it may slip off their shoulders and cause even more serious injuries.
Why risk these, when you can nullify the negative after-effects of shooting a gun by acquiring a great recoil pad?
A recoil pad on the stock of your gun will help you lessen the risk to a great extent, and provide you with better comfort and better aim.
In this article, I recommend the best recoil pads on the market based on a lot of research and my experience with them and answer whatever question you may have about them.
Here's An Absolute Best Recoil Pad
Our Top Picks For Recoil Pads
With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.
Let’s dive into the specifics and review each pad individually. You can use the list below to jump and review specific models, or you can read along and go through all the information.
Best Overall: Recoil Eraser
Gel padding. It’s basically the best thing to ever hit gun gear since I can remember.
Recoil control stocks aren’t just designed to reduce what you feel but also to give you more stabilization and comfort while shooting.
I would say that the Recoil Eraser does more than a fine job at cushioning with its Lycra-covered neoprene cuff.
Using gel technology, it provides up to 70% recoil reduction. This gives you a fair amount of capability when trying to fire shots in succession. To maintain aim with a high level of recoil is difficult – especially when you’re knocking down reactive targets. With this one, it is no problem at all.
It’s also very easy to slip on. No modding, no hassle. The mouth of the pad stretches with just enough elasticity to be easy to put on, but it actually remains on your gun while you’re using it, and thanks to its visco-elastic gel polymer filling, it does wonders to protect your shoulders from sores.
But gel has its weaknesses, too. Over time, the force of recoil will take its toll on it. For now, though, you have nothing to worry about. A gel-filled pad is equipped to last about five years, and as an inexpensive piece of gun equipment, that’s less than five bucks a year for enhanced control during every shot, every time.
- Slips on to most stocks without a problem
- Gel pack padding for additional support and comfort
- Reduces feeling of recoil by roughly 70% on most rifles
- Gel is expendable
Shooterpads Gel Filled Recoil Pads
Like I said, gel is the best. It’s not here forever, but it takes one hell of a beating before getting destroyed.
The gel in Shooterpads is removable through three different cells, each designed to withstand major shock, but they are also moveable so that you can decide where your comfort level lies.
I like the fact that you can customize the feeling, but as it is, the padding is good enough on its own when you slip it over the stock of your rifle.
I’d say it absorbs about half the kickback that you would receive from shooting without one, though it sits at the same price as the Recoil Eraser we reviewed earlier.
I’ve gotten intermediate levels of use out of this one, so I can’t attest to its longevity, but I can say that it’s as good as it was when I first opened the box. From my research, it seems like it lasts about three to five years on average, which is the standard amount of time for most gel recoil pads.
- Highly elastic opening fits on most guns with little to no problem
- Removable miniature cell padding for customizable feel
- Absorbs about half the shock of normal kickback
- Gel is expendable
LimbSaver Grind-to-Fit Recoil Pad
The slip-on pads can look like you decided to get socks for your gun, and it’s just not a look everyone wants. LimbSaver is the low-profile way to augment your gun with a recoil pad, and most folks will be none the wiser.
This sticks on to your stock, so you won’t be able to remove it once you select which gun you want to attach it to. The adhesive bonds it on pretty tightly, adding this to your gun unless you pry it off with a solvent.
Built out of NAVCOM material, it reduces somewhere around 70% to 80% of kick from most rifles.
This thing means business, and because it’s not made from gel, it’s fit to last for as long as your gun will. In the worst-case scenario, I’d say this may start to feel a bit loose after a decade or so.
Low-profile, high durability, and not much more than your standard gel recoil pad. This is something I’ll definitely enjoy every time I go hunting.
- Reduces tons of kickback without being too noticeable
- NAVCOM material dampens vibrations and aftershocks from shooting
- Designed for low-profile stocks
- Doesn’t fit all models
LimbSaver Airtech Slip-On Recoil Pad
LimbSaver is at it again with their proprietary NAVCOM material. It’s the only thing that holds a candle to gel padding, and it works a treat.
The length of this recoil pad, given that it’s a slip-on, is a bit short for me. It feels like it should be coming off the end of my stock when I’m using it.
Thankfully, it doesn’t. The weatherproof finish and sticky feeling to the back means that you won’t have to worry about slipping up while using this.
Overall, I’d have to agree with the claim that it reduces about 70% of incoming recoil.
As one of the best selling recoil pads of all time, I like that it comes in six different sizes (and prices, for that matter) so you can have a LimbSaver for everything in your arsenal.
The most important thing it to be able to center on a target in quick succession after each shot, and with this, that becomes a hell of a lot easier.
If you are specifically looking for something to go with a wooden shotgun stock, though,
I can also recommend LimbSaver Airtech Precision-Fit Recoil Pad
- Non-slip surface holds onto your shirt/jacket material perfectly well
- Reduces roughly 70% of all incoming recoil
- NAVCOM material lasts for ages
- A bit short
Pachmayr Decelerator Slip On Recoil Pad
Last on the list, I always like to include a budget-friendly item that met or exceeded my expectations.
This inexpensive stock comes in black or brown, so you can match it to your stock for discretion, and comes with a fair amount of shock resistance. Look at those link-like indents on the back of the stock—that’s where it absorbs the shock, and you can feel it.
In my opinion, it takes about half the shock out of each individual shot. If you fire in succession and keep pinning down reactive targets, it retains about 50% absorption the whole way through.
If you’re looking to save some money and you have a smaller rifle, choose from one of the three sizes, where they prorate the price accordingly.
In short, it fits on easily enough, and may even outlast gel padding based on how rugged the construction is. That doesn’t make it the best solution, but an inexpensive one that will stand the test of time.
In my book, that’s good enough to stock my rifles with while still being conscious of my budget.
- Extremely affordable
- Designed to replace factory issue padding on gun stocks
- Slips over your stock in about ten seconds tops
- Not suitable for longer rifles
Why Should You Use Recoil Pad?
Anyone interested in gunsmithing will be able to tell you that, without a proper buttpad, you always run the risk of a sore shoulder, if not a more serious injury due to slips caused by the felt recoil. But that’s not the only benefit of a recoil pad.
As I said in the reviews above, they provide a more comfortable shooting experience. Some of them even offer a better target re-acquisition. So if you want to have more comfort and accuracy, and face considerably less risk while hunting or shooting just for the fun of it, you should definitely use one.
Recoil Pads FAQ
HOW TO INSTALL A RECOIL PAD?
Almost all recoil pads are made to just slip over the back of your stock.
Pads made from nylon, polyester, rubber, and other similar materials are very easy to just mount on your gun. Only leather can sometimes create difficulties.
Slide the pad over the bottom of the stock first, then pull the top section up. It’s like a reverse bottleneck: it’s going to get easier as it goes.
You may have to sneak your finger between the stock and pad to ensure it’s going on smoothly and doesn’t roll-up.
Then just gently guide it down the remaining portion of your stock. It will have a few air bubbles in the bottom, so move the stock around and smooth it out. Voila—you’re done.
HOW TO FIT A RECOIL PAD?
They come in different types in terms of fitting. Some are snap-on, some are pre-fit, but most of them will just slip on over the buttstock of your gun. In rare cases, some leather ones (usually older shoulder pads) will require a lace-up with leather strips.
You treat those like a shoe: undo the laces, fit it, retighten them.
Once it’s on, you have to account for the padding in the back. It’s going to mess with where your center of gravity was when you didn’t have a stock on.
They can add a 1-3” of LOP onto the back end of your stock, which can really mess with your aiming and shooting.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF RECOIL PADS?
Basically, they help reduce possible injuries and physical strains caused by firing a gun.
They come specifically designed for different stocks, but each is equipped to reduce the impact of the stock pressing against your shoulder while firing.
Putting one on your gun, you’re preventing the possibility of getting injuries, even mild ones.
When your stock comes slamming backwards, it can cause mild fractures (especially if you’re an inexperienced shooter), which could carry on as long-term injury and lead to future problems.
On top of that, they are just more comfortable. When you use a shoulder pad, your gun feels better on your shoulder.
If you’re comfortable in your shot, you’ll be able to hold your aim better.
WHAT IS THE BEST MATERIAL FOR THE RECOIL PAD?
It’s up for discussion, and some of it comes down to preference.
The two main materials are leather and rubber, which are polar opposites of one another. Leather is a naturally-occurring polymer, and rubber is an artificially-created polymer.
Genuine leather is arguably more comfortable and will definitely last longer, but rubber is often regarded to be better at absorbing shock.
Rubber also tends to be cheaper. Leather will fit a bit tighter around your gun stock, so it’s harder to put on and harder to get off.
Rubber is easier to work with – you can start to use it right out of the package. We’ll let you decide on how to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.
Choosing The Right Recoil Pad
A good recoil pad should be able to take the brunt of the damage that comes from firing your weapon repeatedly.
It should sit comfortably against your shoulder, while also adding some distance between you and the stock of your weapon.
Some of the most high-quality products offer balancing capabilities that help make sure there is not too much drift in your shots from one to another, allowing you to be more accurate in the long run.
However, these more complicated pads are made to be used in tandem with top tier weapons, and as such, they may not be what you are looking for when it comes to outfitting your basic hunting rifle.
Additionally, a good pad should be able to protect your shoulder from the prolonged wear-and-tear of rifle kickback, while also fitting comfortably on to the stock of your gun.
The kind you are looking for depends on the amount of kickback that you are looking to reduce, as many other types offer a kickback reduction of 20-70%.
When you are looking for a specific one for your hunting rifle, do your research to see what other people have purchased for your particular rifle, as they might have more hands-on experience with the product.
If you have a wide range of guns with interchangeable stocks, you may consider investing in a higher quality product in order to use it across your entire hunting arsenal. You may also consider investing in more than one for each of your hunting rifles.
Recoil Pads Video
Here is a video discussing installation of Recoil Pads: