I’m still surprised sometimes to get feedback about shooting large calibers, such as .500 Magnum, from males and females who are uncomfortable with the idea of shooting something like the Smith and Wesson Model 500. Large caliber handguns definitely offer a strong recoil experience, but with the right measures, it’s possible to fire them without endangering one’s self or others.
I’d be lying if I said .500 Magnum didn’t kick something fierce; it does. Firing it reminds me of hitting a punching bag. When striking a sandbag, the force of the impact isn’t felt just in the fist, but throughout the arm, and into the shoulder. The recoil of the .500 S&W is similar. I felt the kick throughout my arms. I felt the muscles of my upper back engage while working to keep the gun on target during firing. With this firearm, making mistakes with grip could be costly. However, taking certain precautions can help manage the recoil (and reduce the chance of facial injury).
For those new to shooting the S&W Model 500, chambered in fierce.500 Magnum, it may be advisable to load only one round at a time. One of the tendencies of first time large caliber shooters is to, upon the surprise of firing the first round, clench up and accidentally pull the trigger a second (or even third) time. Loading only one round at a time can remove this risk entirely until the shooter is prepared for the recoil.
Arguably, the most important element necessary to successfully firing large caliber handguns is ensuring proper grip. The gun must be secured in the hands, but that’s only part of strong grip. The body’s larger muscles, such as the lats and the trapezius in the back have greater contractile force than the fine controller muscles in the hands and forearms. Enacting a grip that activates the shoulder and back muscles, as well as the muscles along the arms helps to manage the backward force of the .500’s recoil. One of the tips I received by several .500 Magnum shooters before I first fired the beastly Model 500 was to imagine I was “pushing” the gun forward as though I was pushing against a brick wall. That caused me to tense up my arms up to the shoulder and engage the muscles in my upper back.
Lastly, a stable stance can make the difference between managing large caliber recoil and being knocked backward. Avoiding the “chick lean,” as some call the stance effected by some new shooters (namely females wanting to put distance between their face and their firearms) is important when shooting large caliber handguns. A stance that balances one’s weight between both feet (shoulder’s length apart generally does that well) helps to stabilize the shooter. Leaning forward also helps to manage recoil by engaging the large muscles of the back (as mentioned earlier) and is easier to keep anchored when recoil “pushes” backward into the shooter.
Preparing a shooter to handle large caliber handguns, like the hand cannon that is the S&W Model 500 can make shooting larger rounds a fun and safe experience. While “practical” isn’t the first word that comes to mind about the Model 500, it is a party a minute to fire. The wheelgun’s loud report, fiery muzzle flash, and sizable recoil combine to make a great novelty shooting experience. And, the techniques that can help someone shoot it successfully can be applied to enjoying large caliber handguns of all kinds.