Do Air Guns Have Recoil?

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You know your air gun is not a real firearm, but it sure looks like one. If you’re new to air gun ownership and you’ve never fired such a gun before, you may wonder if it operates like a real firearm as well. Namely, will you experience recoil when you shoot?

Do Air Guns Have Recoil? Yes, air guns do have recoil. Depending on the type of air gun you have, with some, the recoil is exceptionally noticeable. With others, you still feel it, but not nearly as much. 

Curious to learn more about air gun recoil? If so, this is the article for you. In it, we’ll explain what causes air gun recoil and how strongly you may feel it. We’ll even include some tips for lessening the recoil if it’s affecting the accuracy of your shot. You won’t want to miss it. 

Do Air Guns Have Recoil

What Causes an Air Gun to recoil?

Air guns fire pellets in one of three ways. The first is using carbon dioxide or another type of compressed gas in a bottle. The second is through pneumatics, and the third is via a spring-piston. You will get recoil with all three types of air guns.

Why is that? We’re glad you asked. Here’s an explanation of how recoil occurs in both CO2/pneumatic air guns and spring-loaded air guns.

CO2 and Pneumatic Air Guns

While CO2 and pneumatic air guns are their own separate animals, their basic functionality is similar enough that they don’t warrant two sections.

With these types of air guns, gas or air pressure propels the pellet with such force that it fires out of the gun quickly. As you shoot, the recoil forces the air gun back. 

Spring Piston Air Guns

What if you have a spring-piston air gun? Yes, you’ll definitely get some recoil with this type as well. The piston contains a spring in front of it and a barrel behind it.

When you cock your air gun, one of two things will happen to the spring. It either compresses or shrinks or it stretches out or grows. 

When you push on the spring and it expands, this in turn pushes the piston back. The piston has a sear, which is a latch that keeps it in place. Well, that is, unless the spring causes the sear to detach.

In that case, the piston is no longer in a locked position and can move. The spring feels no pressure from either expansion or contraction and returns to normal. 

As all this happens, you get some recoil. The piston will jerk ahead due to the force of the spring, which pushes the gun back during recoil. Then, as the piston stops moving, your air gun recoils again thanks to the pressure from the spring.

The piston direction influences the direction of the recoil, so it can be either backward or forward. However, forward recoil is more common here. 

Will You Feel Air Gun Recoil

Will You Feel Air Gun Recoil?

Alright, so we’ve established that air guns will recoil whether yours uses CO2, pneumatics, or a spring-piston.

The question becomes, how much recoil will you feel? Will you even notice the recoil in all instances?

CO2 and Pneumatic Air Guns 

It truly does depend on the type of air gun you’re firing. For instance, let’s take CO2 air guns and pneumatic air guns.

Each time you fire a pellet from your air gun using CO2 or pneumatic air pressure, the air gun recoils in the opposite direction. Since your pellets will always come out of the front of the gun, the pressure will move it backwards. 

Will you feel it? Maybe a little. The heavier your air gun pellets, the stronger the recoil. If your air gun is rated at 20,000 grain and your pellets only 10 grain, what do you think will happen?

You won’t get much recoil at all because the air gun pellet weighs so little compared to the overall weight of the gun. 

That doesn’t mean you’re always in the clear with all CO2 and pneumatic air guns. Should you fire something like a big bore air gun, you’re going to get huge recoil. That’s because the pellets are weightier. In fact, guns like those often shoot steel darts at 550 grain or higher.

Compare that to your 10-grain pellet and there’s a very obvious weight difference. You’ll feel that weight difference when firing, trust us!

Spring Piston Air Guns 

While how much recoil you’ll get when firing a CO2 or pneumatic air gun is negligible, you can’t say as much for spring-piston air guns. Well, you can’t in most cases.

There’s more than one round of recoil with this type of air gun, and the first can pass by without you really feeling much of anything. 

That’s because each time the piston moves, that weight influences your air gun or rifle, causing recoil. Since the gun in question weighs more than the piston, it’d take a lot of piston movement for you to feel recoil in your air gun.

That’s very similar to the reason you don’t feel much recoil with pneumatic and CO2 guns. The pellets weigh so little compared to the air gun. 

Remember, the piston will come to a stop eventually, and that’s when you get to the point where you can feel the second round of recoil. Why do you feel this?

Well, part of it is that the piston ceasing its movement is often a very instant thing. It gets to its destination and then doesn’t move any further. Then there’s the spring. 

If you’ve ever worked on a garage door or anything that’s spring-loaded, there are always warnings about not tampering with the springs, right?

That’s because springs can hold onto energy for a while and then propel at rapid and even dangerous speeds. You could end up getting hit in the face and seriously injured by a rogue spring.

We’re mentioning this for a reason. You see, the spring has momentum stored up within its coils. When you combine that with the unpredictability of the piston, you get more force driven by the weight of the piston’s stoppage.

All this encourages recoil, and often quite strong recoil at that. Even if you missed the first round of recoil before, there’s almost no way you’d miss this. 

As we said in the last section, your air gun can go backwards or forwards depending on the piston and its direction of travel. When the piston goes backward, your air gun recoils backward.

If the piston stops in a forward-facing direction, then your air gun pushes forward as well. 

If your piston takes quite a while to stop, which can happen, then it doesn’t have that push to give to the air gun. This can make even the second round of recoil not that strong.

However, for the most part, you should definitely expect to feel this second round of recoil and perhaps even the first. 

Tips and Tactics for Minimizing Air Gun Recoil

Tips and Tactics for Minimizing Air Gun Recoil

Air gun recoil can be problematic for a few reasons. The sudden jerking of the gun, either forward or backward, can cause you to drop it. You could also end up injured if you’re not expecting the recoil.

Further, recoil can influence your shot accuracy if the force moves your air gun in an unintended direction.

None of that is advantageous to your shooting, so you’re going to want to lessen air gun recoil as best you can. Here are some tips to try.

Readjust Your Trigger Pulling

You might not think that the way you pull your air gun’s trigger could affect how much recoil you get from your air gun, but it does. Get into the habit of going slower when you pull.

This prevents the aim from shifting too much to one side. Change your finger placement as well. You want your index finger in the center of the trigger when firing.

Watch Your Grip

A firm, unyielding grip is ideal when firing an air gun with recoil. You could mess up your shooting accuracy even more by tensing up your hand muscles. 

Keep your thumb relaxed, especially. Then, place it near your grip, either on top of it or to the side of it. Don’t put your thumb near or on the stock, as tempting as this can be. 

Also, although not a tip, we want to discuss scopes. What kind do you use? Hopefully, it’s one designed for air guns. While scopes are very helpful in finding and aiming at long-distance targets, when your gun has recoil, it could be at the expense of your poor scope.

Scopes can lose their settings at best or break at worst. You should either forego a scope altogether or get one made just for an air gun. 


Air guns may not be true firearms, but you still have to worry about recoil. That goes for CO2 guns, pneumatic guns, and spring-piston air guns. While the mechanics that cause recoil vary from CO2/pneumatic guns to spring-piston ones, it’s still something to anticipate. 

Do Air Guns Have Recoil? Well you may feel the recoil, as stronger recoil is a more common trait of spring-piston air guns. By making some alterations to your firing technique, it’s possible to have greater control of the air gun and lessen recoil somewhat. Best of luck! 

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