Article 3 – 2014
Question: I want to get a new shotgun stock made and one of the blank pieces of walnut I am trying to import from the United States has several big knots in it, but it looks fantastic. I was told that these knots in the wood will actually make my under and over shotgun recoil more. Is there any truth in the rumour that wood with a straight grain running through it will give me less recoil?
Answer: I am sure at some stage I have answered this question in ASJ, but I get asked about it enough that it is worth revisiting.
I know I will have the usual “know it alls” at the local clay target ranges argue this, but I will defend this statement until I die. There is no difference in actual recoil whether your stock is covered in knots or if it has straight grain lines perfectly parallel to the barrel. The factors, the only factors, in the recoil equation are the weight of the shotgun, the weight of the payload (grams of shot) and the speed of the payload (velocity of the shot leaving the barrel). NOTHING ELSE IS A VARIABLE IN THIS EQUATION!
I could end it here, but will expand on this a little more. Actual recoil is the mathematical measurement that a shot will equate to which can be easily calculated. “Perceived” recoil is much more subjective and factors such as rubber recoil pads, barrel porting and barrel “over boring” can come into play. Let nobody tell that “Actual” and “Perceived” recoil are mathematically correlated in any way. They are not.
Wood density can certainly be a factor in the recoil equation simply because denser wood will weigh more therefore reducing recoil, but two exact weighted stocks, one with a parallel grain and one with knots all through it will actually recoil the same. There are factors how the stock is made such as pitch and drop which will have a significant impact on perceived recoil, but none on actual recoil.
The one factor to consider about your beautiful piece of walnut with knots all through the grain is that knotted wood can have a tendency to split and as nearly every gun manufacturer or walnut gun stock blank supplier will not cover a warranty for their woodwork then you need to be aware of this. That would be my far greater concern than the perception of recoil caused by the knots in the wood.
There are hundreds of “old wives tales” that are thrown around at gun club bars that relate to reducing the actual amount of recoil. For many years I have heard about super fast shot shells that have little or no recoil because they are loaded with a new plastic wad, a “soft” primer or some special double-based gun powder that was mined by Tibetan Monks under a full moon. There is no doubt that changing powders in your favourite shot shell loads may change actual recoil, but it will only change the “mathematical” recoil if it changes the velocity of the pay load of shot leaving the end of the barrel.
Good luck with your stock, personally I love the look of knots in wood. Bear in mind it won’t make you shoot any straighter.