Skip to Content

Does an AR-15 Kick? The Recoil of Common AR Rounds

Recoil is the by-product of rifle firing. The backward motion of the weapon throws off the aim and creates jarring in the shoulder. The AR-15 is a rifle frame that can accommodate many different caliber barrels. So nailing down one amount of recoil for several different types is tough. So does an AR-15 kick?

The AR-15 will produce recoil that kicks. The amount of pressure in the kick is determined by which type of barrel the rifle has. You can expect under 4 ft/lbs of force if you have the standard .223/5.56 barrel. The higher end of recoil levels could see almost 100 ft/lbs of recoil.

Recoil can be controlled and lessened in several ways, but those methods can degrade the quality of the shot and see shots miss their targets. So don’t let a little recoil scare you off! Read on and learn all you need to know about the AR-15 and its kick.

The Recoil of the AR-15

One of the most popular sporting rifles around is the AR-15. It is the rifle used by the United States Army and the highest-selling rifle model for the last few years. They can be decked out with tons of tactical gear to make them look slick, and there are even a few ways to cut down on recoil.

Here’s a quick clip showing a first person view or AR-15 recoil:

Rifle Size is a Big Factor in Recoil

The size of the rifle is one of the most obvious things to impact recoil. The larger the projectile, the larger the recoil when it is driven from the barrel. Likewise, extra weight on the inside of the firearm will produce a higher impact on the shoulder when fired.

A few examples of rifle size affecting recoil are:

  • .223/5.56 – The most common rifle barrel attached to the AR-15 is the .223. It is a smaller caliber round that doesn’t produce tremendous recoil. However, the barrel’s weight is important because the backward force, controlled by a spring, is lessened when there is a lighter barrel.
  • .50 Cal – Fifty caliber rifles are the kinds used by long-range Special Operations snipers, and having one mounted to AR-15 sounds insane, but there are models out there. Furthermore, the recoil from these rifles could measure close to 100 foot-pounds of pressure, which is like taking a shot from a heavyweight boxer.
  • 7.62 – One of the most used upgrades for the AR is to use the 7.62 round used in the AK-47. This round delivers quite a bit more energy than the .223, and for some having more power down range is more important than some pain in the shoulder.

The barrel size in the rifle is often the most critical factor involving recoil. The weight used to create the barrel creates a large portion of the momentum that goes back into the shoulder.

The extra weight from the larger-sized barrels is an advantage and a disadvantage. Take your game and terrain into account when choosing barrel size.

Here’s a video showing a 7 year old shooting an AR, the recoil isn’t that bad:

Rifle Makeup Contributes To Recoil

If your rifle is made from carbon fiber or aluminum, you will have a difference in the recoil. Denser materials will create a much higher recoil than ones designed to reduce shock.

Light materials can force recoil levels down, but they often require attachments to the muzzle. Attachments can decrease the power and reduce the potency of shots.

Some popular materials to make AR-15s from are:

  • Aluminum – Aluminum has become one of the most popular choices for creating the AR frame. It is so popular because it is light and can handle a ton of weight. Also, the recoil is lessened because the frame is much more durable than the steel stamped models.
  • Carbon Fiber – The high-end combatant of recoil is the carbon fiber frame. It feels like a feather in your hands and has lower kickback force than the other frames. The biggest hurdle is cost. The carbon fiber framed rifle will set you back $10k or more.

How rifles are made will always affect the recoil. Choose something light but durable, and you can expect to lessen the effects. Otherwise, choose the gun for the situation in which you are going as too much power can be dangerous.

Does it Hurt to Shoot an AR-15?

Pain, like music taste, is subjective.

When it comes to pain in the shoulder when shooting an AR-15, the output is always on the low end of the pain scale. If you measure pain on a scale of 1 – 10, shooting for most folks would be around a three. It has less than four pounds of force placed back on the shoulder, which is like a light slap.

Does an AR or AK Have More Recoil?

The AK has more recoil than the AR. The more considerable 7.62 firing AK is known for having powerful recoil, which makes it inaccurate when firing on auto or burst.

On the other hand, the AR is known for being more accurate as a single-shot rifle and having much less recoil.

How Hard Does a .223 Rifle Kick?

A .223 rifle has a reverse pressure of 3.5 ft-lbs of force. The pressure resembles a hand pressing back on the shoulder. However, it is minimal compared with other recoils like a .50 cal sniper rifle or a 12 gauge shotgun.


Depending on several factors, the AR-15 could have a slight or a massive kick. The average .223 version of the rifle has a little kick that some people handle with ease. Other ARs beefed up with .308 or 7.62 caliber barrels could have a much higher recoil. On the max end, a .50 cal barrel in an AR platform isn’t an uncommon sight.

The larger the projectile, the larger the rifle. With size comes a commitment to power. Going bigger is always going to increase the recoil. Remember that larger rifles come with increased range and the ability to knock down targets, but those capabilities come with increased recoil.