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Is a Recoil Reducer Right For You?

Firearms harness chemical energy and convert it to the kinetic energy of a fired projectile.  Of course the laws of nature have to be observed, and anything that goes out the front end of a gun imparts an equal amount of energy out the back end of the gun, which is where you are.  That’s called recoil, and it is the bane of shooters.  If it wasn’t for recoil we’d all be great shots, and no one would ever flinch (which is what causes most missed shots).  Also, no shooter would ever get tendentious (if we are talking about a handgun) or a sore shoulder (if we are talking about long guns).

While some might argue that feeling and managing recoil is part of the fun of shooting, as police officers we aren’t concerned with fun – we are concerned with putting accurate rounds into bad guys that are an imminent threat to life and safety.  Fun be damned – you can have fun on your own time. 

While I have often pointed out the differences between competition shooting and survival shooting (which is what we as cops do), they do have some things in common.  Both types of shooters are heavily incentivized to equip their guns with items that produce more accurate fire and make a higher rate of fire possible (if it is justified), and neither would consider such a device if it compromised the reliability of the firearm.  Thus, both types of shooters would like to reduce, as much as possible, the recoil that their firearm produces.  Police officers, of course, don’t want any recoil reducing device to affect the fit of a handgun in a holster, nor to cost too much.

Recoil reducers have been around for quite some time, in many forms.  On handguns they can take the form or porting (which is very much NOT recommended since it sends hot gases into your face during close-in shooting and affects night vision), adding heavy items to the front part of the gun (such as an extra-heavy recoil spring rod) which—duh—add weight to the gun, add-ons which prevent the gun from being used with a standard holster, and other both clever and not-so-clever approaches.  One of the best ways that has no disadvantages is to replace the standard recoil spring and guide rod with a spring/rod system that’s better designed to tame the recoil of the gun.  Why don’t the handgun manufacturers already do this?  Answer: it adds some cost to the gun, which in a very competitive market isn’t advisable, and the market doesn’t demand it enough – there just aren’t THAT many serious shooters.

The leader in this class of product is Sprinco.  The Sprinco Recoil Management Guide Rod System consists of a replacement guide rod that incorporates a secondary spring and a new recoil spring (some pistols also require a separate bushing).  As the slide of the pistol moves rearward, it contacts a sleeve on the rear of the guide rod which engages the secondary (sub) spring contained within it, thus dampening the slide’s rearward energy just prior to its full rearward travel.  Does it work?  It sure does!  Shooting it side by side with a friend’s identical  full-size 9mm S&W M&P with a stock recoil spring and guide, we both thought that it reduced the felt recoil by about 30%, shooting both 115 standard velocity and 124 grain +P rounds.  Going back the next day and shooting another couple hundred rounds with the Sprinco-equipped M&P, I experienced zero failures shooting it two-handed, strong-hand only, and weak-hand only, indicating that the sub-spring didn’t cause any short-stroking of the slide.

No some of you may call me a sissy for wanting a recoil reducer in a 9mm pistol, but in my defense I’ll say 1) I have tendentious in my arms, so this device lets me shoot more than I otherwise could, and 2) anything that increases my potential accuracy in a defensive gun is ipso facto a good thing.  If you are more manly than I am, then my experience, and the experience of everyone I’ve ever talked to who has used a handgun recoil reducer, is that the percentage reduction in felt recoil increases with the power of the cartridge.  That is, in a .40- or .45-chambered pistol I’d fully expect to see closer to a 50% reduction in felt recoil.  (That said, felt recoil is a very subjective thing, so your mileage may vary.)

The unit is top quality; Sprinco's rods are made of 17-4 heat treated stainless steel polished to such a good mirror finish that it is often mistaken for chrome plating.  What about durability?  Here’s Sprinco President Alan Duggar on the subject: You never have to replace the guide rod or the secondary spring. It is not compressed enough to stress the spring, and will never take a set. The 17-4 stainless rod is heat treated and is tougher than most guns (it just won’t stay shiny). We have a lifetime warranty against breakage (and they don’t break). The recoil springs, being made of chrome silicon wirestock (like the subsprings), are also cryogenic processed, which gives them an outrageously long duty cycle. They’ll run for a minimum of 20,000 rounds, and realistically, much longer.  Now I did not shoot 20,000 rounds, but if Alan is willing to put this claim in an email…well, that speaks volumes.  Also, several top-ranked competitive shooters use the Sprinco system, and if you think that you can get a top professional shooter to even slightly risk a match-losing malfunction, then you don’t know them very well.

I have since fired lots of rounds from my Sprinco-equipped pistol, with absolutely no problems of any kind.  The system now lives full-time in my carry gun, so you know how I feel about it.  For the price of a couple boxes of good ammunition, you may want to try it out, too.