Law of Inverse Recoil aka: The Law Of Inverse Recoil
The recoil of a real-life projectile weapon on television is inversely related to the recoil it has in real life.
Firearms depicted in films and television seldom (if ever) demonstrate realistic recoil action (ironically, it is usually more realistic in comedies, or when used for comedic effect). The practical reason for this is because blank-firing prop guns have no projectile, meaning very little mass is pushed out of the barrel, hence minimal recoil (Newton's third law) — it is not true that they have none, however, or they would not even be able to cycle their own action. No matter what type of small arms are used in fiction — even fully-automatic, high caliber ordnance and heavy gauge shotguns — the shooter will not so much as flinch.
This often leads to nasty surprises for first-time shooters who expect that the 10-gauge shotgun or .454 Casull revolver they rented at the range will have no discernible "kick", when both actually sport recoil powerful enough to bruise the shoulder or sprain the wrist — possibly even fly back and smack the unprepared shooter in the face- respectively.
Naturally, this makes Guns Akimbo with automatic weapons wholly impractical in real life (of course, impractical never stopped anyone in pursuit of cool).
On the flip side, real shoulder fired rocket launchers have very little to no recoil: They are open at the back and make use of Newtons 3rd law of motion which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (rocket power relies on this law of physics), imparting no momentum ("recoil") on the shooter (sometimes it is augmented with counterbalancing weighted object expelled backwards). There is some recoil, originating from either friction between projectile and tube, compressed-air expulsion system or anything else needed to throw several pounds several feet forward. In fact, they're alternatively called recoilless rifles for this lack of recoil. Grenade launchers, meanwhile, use the same propulsion method as normal firearms, yet have very easily manageable recoil simply because the projectile moves much slower than your typical bullet. Yet, when used by a fictitious character, both of these somehow pack enough force to violently push back the wielder. Presumably, this is due to the erroneous belief that anything that destructive has to have a powerful kick. See Missing Backblast and Blown Across the Room for related misconceptions.
The trick to this trope is finding any film or TV show that doesn't do this. Subversions are much more common outside of live action simply because there are no actors around forgetting to simulate recoil as they fire blanks. Video games tend to be more realistic in regards to firearms, but explosive "launching" weapons still pack monstrously unrealistic recoil (on the other hand, player characters tend to not be blown to smithereens for using such weapons indoors or with their back to a wall, something suicidal with most recoilless weapons). In some video games, you can even use recoil for extra propulsion.
The other side of Blown Across the Room. See also Steel Ear Drums for another ignored part of guns being fired.
In the final chapter of Macross Plus, when struggling against Sharon Apple and other threats, Myung has the common sense to arm herself with the submachine gun of a fallen guard (by itself, quite a rare occurrence) but wastes almost the entire magazine when she tries to use it in full-auto, being overcome by recoil and spraying bullets everywhere. She gets a few shots in the right direction, however...
Seras Victoria in Hellsing notes after becoming a vampire that she barely feels the kick on a huge gun, demonstrating her new super strength. She later gets an even bigger gun and can fire it with ease.
Although when she uses a huge (even by her standards) anti-aircraft gun, she still needs to have it brace itself against the ground to account for the fact that she lacks the sheer mass to avoid being knocked over by the recoil (The gun weighs several times more than she does - when unloaded).
In Gunslinger Girl all the weapons have realistic recoil, including handguns. The only reason that the girls can handle even large weapons, despite their own small size, is that they are cybernetically enhanced.
Cannon God Exaxxion: The manga features guns so powerful that they're just as likely to kill somebody standing several feet behind as well as in front of them unless you're wearing a suit of Powered Armor. This is often a source of dramatic tension, as the main character is trying to be as heroic as possible in a world far into the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism & accidentally vaporizing innocent bystanders isn't exactly the sort of thing heroes do.
Dragon Ball: In Goku's first tournament, Jackie Chun is knocked out of the ring, he manges to get himself back to the ring with the recoil from a Kamehameha. Goku learns from this, and at the next tournament, pulls off a similar trick to defeat Tien while he's busy taunting him about how he can fly and block his Kamehameha. And at the tournament after that, he uses a Kamehameha out of his feet to propel himself.
Negima!: Negi uses the recoil from a magic arrow to avoid a blast by his father during their fight in the Mahora Budokai.
In Cowboy Bebop Spike fires his pistol several times in space, using the recoil to push himself back towards the spaceship to avoid being blown to smithereens. Lacking friction, each shot adds to his speed, which helps explain his rapid movement. Still — it looks like a massive recoil.
Sadly guns don't actually have enough recoil for this to work, the bullet's mass is simply too small.
According to IMFDB, Spike uses a Jericho 941 R chambered in 9x19mm. Assuming a +p+ load, that's a 7.45g projectile at 435m/s. Spike weighs, say, 80kg. Each round fired will accelerate Spike by (7.45g * 435m/s)/80,000g = 0.0405m/s. A full 15 rounds would give him a velocity of 0.6075m/s. Taking into account propellant gases at an alpha of 1.75 (no atmosphere), he should end up at just over 1m/s, or a relaxed walking pace.
The bigger problem of that scene is that he held his breath while unprotected in space.
Batou's anti-tank rifle ("Your standard issue big gun") features a realistic recoil dampener (a device to temporarily store the kinetic energy and then slowly dissipate it, converting the sudden "kick" into more manageable "sliding" action).
In the movie version, most characters are cyborgs, but a mook must brace himself before firing hypervelocity armour-piercing bullets from a submachine gun. Said armour-piercing bullets effectively ruin the gun's accuracy (and the gun itself), leaving him open to summary beatdown shortly afterwards.
Rocket Girls In episode 2, the protagonist, a lightly built teenage girl, is given a gun and told to practice firing on a shooting range. She doesn't expect the recoil and falls over backwards.
Darker Than Black: Suou in the second season shoots PTRD antitank rifle from the hip like it's a pop gun, regardless of it being larger than she is, extremely heavy, and having a really mean recoil even despite its huge muzzle brake. Justified by the gun being not real but manifested through her super powers. When her twin brother Shion shoots it, he uses a real rifle with all its drawbacks accounted for.
The Jagd Mirage's main caliber, Twin Towersbuster launchers in The Five Star Stories neatly avert the trope. Jagd, a heavy artillery support MH, generally needed to properly deploy before firing, releasing numerous additional arms and legs to anchor itself in the ground, brace its own structure and deploy special shields to protect itself from the enormous recoil and backblast of its own guns. It was also mentioned that it was almost completely defenseless in the deployed mode, and thus was always accompanied by a squad of other mechas for protection. Due to its impractical nature, only two were ever built.
Played with in Teki wa Kaizoku; the main character jerks his wrists whenever he fires his laser gun like it's recoiling even though laser weapons shouldn't, but immediately after we first see him fire it he's called on that and he admits that pretending his gun recoils is just a hobby of his. Sure enough, if you pay attention in future fight scenes he keeps doing it but nobody else does.
In Zero no Tsukaima, when Saito successfully uses the 'Staff of Destruction' (really a rocket launcher that wound up in their world after a soldier from Earth had been transported there) without any recoil.
In Full Metal Panic!, the Laevatein (the Mid-Season Upgrade to the Arbalest) is equipped with a giant gun called a demolition cannon; when in its Howitzer Mode, the recoil is so great that the Laevatein will be knocked off its feet unless the physics-defying Lambda Driver is active.
In Desert Punk, Kanta's preteen sidekick Kosuna complains almost literally that her small pistol is not cool enough to match her self-persona. Kanta then takes her to an arms dealer, who first forces her to go dig holes for several hours before allowing her to try out an assault rifle. While she exhibits accuracy that astonishes Kanta and the arms dealer, she brings the gun back admitting that firing it is physically punishing for a girl her size and that she'd be completely ineffective in combat with it.
The manga adaptation of James P. Hogan's novel The Two Faces of Tomorrow has a scene where a Space Marine floating outside the space station in a spacesuit fires a particle beam rifle. Small thrusters on his jetpack fire to counter the weapon's recoil.
In Princess Mononoke, a village woman takes a shot at Ashitaka with a newly designed (and still relatively primitive) musket. The recoil blows her off her feet and through the crowd of people standing behind her. Eboshi-sama uses the same musket before and after this with much less recoil, although she is much more skilled in combat.
The undersized, weedy, egotistical villain Odin "Meatman" Quincannon has a suitably oversized weapon (a sodding great magnum — not compensating for anything of course). When he tries to shoot it one-handed, it breaks his arm.
A very young Tulip is carefully taught about guns; a powerful handgun sends her slamming back into a deep snowdrift.
Sin City monologues sometimes refer to the sensation of recoil but it's minimal.
Averted in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, where Shinji while piloting Unit-01 tries to use a High-Velocity Assault Rifle one handed (the other hand was busted) and fail. Being written by the physics student helps.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the midget member of Jack's crew charges out of a cellar wielding what looks to be a cannon over his arm. He shoots it and is blown right back into the cellar.
True Lies, when Jamie Lee Curtis' character attempts to fire a MAC-10 at the terrorists — and completely loses control of the weapon due to its recoil, sending it tumbling down a flight of stairs, firing by itself all the way down. Not only that, she actually killed a bunch of people in the process.
In Toy Soldiers when teenaged preppy Wil Wheaton picks up a full-auto AK and tries to blast the villains with it; about two bullets go in the right direction, the rest of the magazine goes into the ceiling. And he obviously would like to make the gun stop but can't.
On the History Channel series Lock and Load, it's shown to be completely common with the AK-47. Even the trained shooter had trouble keeping it on target at short range.
In Police Academy 4, Tackleberry lets one of the new recruits, an old lady, use his giant .357 Magnum. It sends her flying into the back wall of the shooting range.
During the production of Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood spent time firing a real .44 Magnum revolver so he could accurately portray its recoil. In the sequel Callahan states that he uses a .44 Special load to minimize the recoil (which would mean he's no longer firing "the most powerful handgun in the world" though still powerful enough to "to blow your head clean off").
In the Japanese film version of Hakaider (a Darker and Edgier story starring a villain from tokusatsu series Kikaider), the titular Android uses a custom shotgun that acts more like a handheld cannon. When a mook gets his hands on it and attempts to fire, the recoil literally (and gorily) tears his arm out of its' socket.
Half Past Dead has a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher that pack enough recoil to launch a person back by a considerable distance. The immediate shot after then shows no recoil whatsoever.
In Pineapple Express, two deadbeat stoners without any previous knowledge or experience find AK-47s in the underground lair of the drug lord. Not only do they have all the knowledge necessary to load and use them, they are able to engage in a protracted firefight with the Drug Lord's mooks, while the guns are on full automatic, without reacting to any recoil or blowing out their eardrums.
It gets hilariously averted at one point in climax when Saul is about to deliver the coup de grace to the female officer, shouting "Fuck the Po-Leece!" before emptying the clip... Only for the recoil to kick the rifle up to the ceiling after the first round... In slow motion.
Tiffany Case, when prompted by Bond to fire a machine gun at the Baja California oil rig in Diamonds Are Forever.
Batman: Under the Red Hood averts this when Red Hood fires the rocket launcher at Black Mask's office. There is no recoil, but the backdraft of a recoil-less rocket launcher is correctly shown, and he is sensibly firing from an open rooftop with nothing to his back.
Beverly Hills Cop II has Billy firing a LAWS rocket while holding it loosely in front of himself sideways as he reads the directions. "Extend here. Press here." click-Whoosh! It is correctly shown with very little recoil.
Played straight most of the time in The A-Team, but there is one notable aversion when they use recoil to maneuver a parachuting tank (long story).
Similar to the True Lies example, during a gun battle in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Dina picks up an automatic pistol, but ends up shooting in all directions due to recoil, but she took out most of the mooks until stopped by Bruno the robot which he takes care of the rest with his guns.
In The Dead Pool, Clint Eastwood takes a harpoon gun off its deck stanchion and uses it to shoot a villain from the hip. The force launches the villain into the air. Naturally, Eastwood suffers no recoil.
In The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King, a gunman quickly loses control of his heavy automatic weapon while trying to shoot Eddie because he does not expect such a huge recoil. Lampshaded by the narrator's going into some detail about the absurdity of the trope. As King points out, unless the hitman gets Eddie with the first few shots he will probably miss entirely as recoil spins him slowly around, and this is exactly what happens. However, this stands in some contrast to reality, as evidenced here.
In Cell when one of the protagonists is fatally injured by hit-and-run hooligans. Another character had picked up an AKS-47 assault rifle from a gun enthusiast's house, but when he fires 'Sir Speedy' it empties most of the bullets into the air.
There's a non-fiction book in which it's pointed out that Rambo should have two spontaneously-dislocating shoulders due to the abuse they've taken from firing machine guns akimbo (he'd be deaf too, but that's another trope entirely). The fact that Rambo never used Guns Akimbo in any of the films doesn't detract from the author's point.
The novel Gradisil by Adam Roberts plays about with this one a little, in the form of sniper rifles designed for use in space. Because of the whole weightlessness thing, a hugely powerful rifle fired during a space walk would have a tendency to fire the shooter backwards off whatever he was standing on. Instead of the obvious solution (fastening the shooter or gun to the deck) the guns are specifically designed to emit an equal and opposite blast of gas on firing meaning that the net recoil is zero. Unfortunately, Roberts tends to forget that the same implications apply when guns are fired inside space craft.
In Sharpe, the recoil of muskets bruising people's shoulders is repeatedly mentioned, and in particular the seven-volley Nock gun has such a powerful recoil that only exceptionally tall, bulky and strong men like Sergeant Harper can safely fire it. Which was Truth in Television. Also more briefly covered in the TV adaptation.
Sci-fi author Harry Harrison loves averting this trope with 'recoilless' handweapons ranging from a .75 calibre Hand Cannon (see The Stainless Steel Rat) to an underarm-fired .50 calibre BFG in "Starworld". In his story "The Jupiter Plague" Harrison describes the "small tangent flames" that shoot out sideways from the end of the barrel when the weapon is fired. Apparently his 'recoilless' hand weapons work by venting the hot gasses out small holes in the sides of the end of the barrel, and angled toward the back, to counteract the recoil. Ouch!
This is known as a "muzzle brake", and is in fact used in real life to reduce recoil.
True, but they're typically only used on very long-barreled rifles, not on handguns, because the vented gases can be dangerous.
In Daniel Keys Moran's "A.I. War", the as yet unpublished sequel to The Last Dancer (available here), a bounty hunter shoots Trent with both barrels of a shotgun. Unfortunately for the bounty hunter, they happen to be on the surface of Ceres (one of the asteroids in our Asteroid Belt) at the time, which has an escape velocity of far less than the recoil of even one of the barrels of the gun. He is surprised to find himself flying off of Ceres in the direction of Earth at a few tens of meters per second.
In True Grit, 14 year-old Mattie discovers the effects of recoil at the most inopportune time and place.
In World War Z, early on when a doctor is combating a zombie in his clinic during the early stages of the outbreak, he aims a Desert Eagle pistol at the zombie's chest; however, because he wasn't expecting the high recoil, the shot ended up in the zombie's head, which ended up saving his life.
That's some pretty magical recoil, since it wouldn't take effect until after the first shot had been fired, not before.
In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's first Hoka story, The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch, Alexander Jones gets in trouble when he assumes that his skill with a laser pistol will translate into skill with a six-shooter. He's never experienced recoil before.
Pointedly averted in the book Patriot Games Jack Ryan gets his hands on one of the terrorist's submachine guns and fires on them. Before firing he remembers his military training and aims with his target in the upper right part of the sight to account for the recoil and make sure that subsequent rounds will still be on target.
In Un Lun Dun when Deeba first fires the unGun she falls over because of the recoil. She gets better at firing it later on, though.
Justified in the StarCraft I novelization Liberty's Crusade. Jim Raynor teaches protagonist Michael Liberty (a reporter) how to shoot a Marine Gauss rifle while wearing Powered Armor. Mike aims, then stops and asks Raynor how to handle the recoil. Raynor is impressed that he thought to ask, a couple redshirts pass credits around, and Raynor explains that the suit compensates automatically.
Year of the Dragon by Robert Daley. In the opening shootout, one of the Chinese gang members shoots off his own toes after being knocked over by the recoil of his full-auto shotgun.
Live Action TV
In an episode of The West Wing, CJ Cregg's temporarily-assigned Secret Service agent takes her to a firing range. She aims, pulls the trigger... and falls on her ass. Watch it here. It's pretty hilarious, especially if you already know a bit about handguns. Doubly so for anyone who watches NCIS, as her agent is the same actor who plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a Marine corps-trained sniper. Apparently Mark Harmon's characters are very good shots. They even go the extra distance and get the sound of the guns firing correct. Toby also falls on his ass in a later episode while skeet shooting.
A criminal is identified by the characteristic injuries he received from the recoil when he fired a rocket launcher. This is strange in and itself, since a rocket launcher doesn't have that big recoil. An ordinary rifle or shotgun kicks more.
In one episode, a guy ends up fricasseeing himself by firing a bazooka from inside an extremely enclosed area.
In another episode, Deep Freeze, Natalia dislocated her shoulder after doing some shooting practice with a shotgun.
CSI: New York: A killer was identified because they weren't used to recoil of the revolver they used, and left a nice long scrape of knuckle skin on the brick wall they were shooting from behind, as well as a nick on the top of the gun's frame where it hit the attractive concrete handrail at the top.
An episode of Psych has Det. Lassiter training a rookie detective who happens to be completely insane. When he takes her to the firing range, he comments that she isn't bracing herself properly to fire his gun, but she shrugs him off. The recoil from the gun blows it out of her hands.
Young Indiana Jones: Almost echoing a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one episode has Young Indy in a hot air balloon with Remy and a captured German officer being chased by a squadron of fighter planes. Indy tries to fend them off with a machine gun, oblivious to warnings that the gun will "walk up" if he doesn't brace properly, and sure enough, the recoil sends the barrel pointing upwards and punching several nasty holes in the balloon. ("That is walking up.")
In the P90's case, this isn't exactly a bad idea, as its recoil is almost negligible.
The first season finale, where Daniel Jackson of all people actually goes Guns Akimbo with an M9 in one hand and an MP5 in the other. He winds up doing more damage to the walls than anything else.
In "Children of the Gods", they correctly portray a rocket launcher as having next to no recoil.
In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Robin takes Marshall to a shooting range to help him get over Lily leaving him for the summer. He picks up the gun, shoots it, and it recoils to smack him right in the face, knocking him on his ass.
John Crichton uses a pulse rifle to propel himself from one spaceship to another in one episode. Whether an energy weapon would produce enough recoil to do this is another question entirely.
In the Farscape-verse, pulse rifles are actually projectile weapons that fire highly energized pulses of a refined explosive oil (oh, you know what I mean). Guns have been shown to malfunction, sending the pulse a few inches before it nose-dives and makes a hole in the floor.
A somewhat questionable aversion occurs in Quatermass II, when an astronaut fires a submachine gun on an asteroid, and the recoil knocks him off the low gravity surface and out into space.
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye: Averted when a semi-trained sniper killer was identified by a black left eye. They were able to figure out that he was only an amateur copycat (and not the expert killer they were tracking) as he put his face too close to the scope and got smacked in the eye by the recoil, a mistake that real snipers would never make.
Kamen Rider OOO: The Birth Buster used by Kamen Rider Birth actually has a huge recoil, enough to knock an unprepared person flat on their butt. Like any weapon in Real Life, it evidentally takes practice to use it untransformed (and according to its user, even transformed), as while Date (the primary user) has no problems with it, Goto gets thrown off his feet the first time he tries due to not having the proper knowledge of its use.
This was done earlier in Kamen Rider Kiva and mixed with the above Noisy Cricket example from Men in Black.
In a departure from the franchise's usual recoil-less BFGs, the Dual Crusher from GoGo Sentai Boukenger / Drill Blaster from Power Rangers Operation Overdrive knocks the user flat (and that's for morphed Rangers; it could be worse for someone untransformed). A special armored vest had to be developed to disperse the energies.
Season two of the original series had the Power Cannon, a giant bazooka which had recoil enough to make all six Rangers stumble back.
In Power Rangers Wild Force, this became something of a plot point with the Megazords. The first time the Wild Force Megazord used the Bear Blaster, it recoiled noticeably and the energy blasts went wild (still hit the target, though.) It was later revealed that the Bear Brothers were too powerful for the Lion Zord to handle and greatly injured him. The next episodes were then spent finding the Soul Bird (to heal the Lion Zord) and the much stronger Mighty Glacier Gorilla Zord to replace the Jack of All Stats Lion Zord in controlling the Bear Zords and forming the Kongazord (itself a Mighty Glacier compared to the Jack of All Stats Wild Force Megazord.)
The Goodies. Played straight for slapstick comedy in the Pirate Post Office episode. Graeme tries to fire a shotgun from a boat and the recoil knocks him over the side.
Although recoil is generally not addressed, in an episode of The Walking Dead, Carol complains of a sore shoulder due to not being used to the recoil of a rifle she was using.
Warhammer 40,000 goes out of its way to avoid this, in a setting that normally has a total disregard for such details: Imperial Guard rocket launchers are stated to have no recoil when used properly, and a bolter in the hands of a non-Super Soldier has been known to break bones.
And this is despite the fact that Bolter ammunition is explicitly stated in several places to be self propelled. Probably the charge needed to actually get the bolt out of the weapon would not be enough to break somebody's arm..
Bolt rounds are spin-stabilised bi-propellant rounds. They have a conventional "soft launch" charge roughly equivalent to a 10-gauge shotgun (even the bolt pistol uses those), but certain bolters take "Astartes-grade" ammunition, which are far bigger/more powerful. However, since the Astartes are power armouredaugmentedSpace Marines, they can handle it.
The RPG lines, starting with Dark Heresy, don't go into specifics about HOW MUCH recoil there is but firing a single shot gives a small bonus to your shooting roll; firing on semi-automatic reduces or negates the bonus, and firing at full automatic either negates the bonus or instills a penalty (the different lines use slightly different mechanics). Similarly, there's one weapon literally called the Hand Cannon: it's so large and has such recoil that you need to wield it two-handed or suffer a penalty as if it were a rifle. And of course, mostly due to this trope, there is an item called a Recoil Glove that lets you fire two-handed ranged weapons (and the Hand Cannon) single-handedly without penalty.
In the Rifts RPG, the Glitter Boy boom gun (the BFG of all BFGs) requires the wearer of the armour to engage foot anchors and backpack thrusters to absorb the massive recoil.
GURPS, in its relentless pursuit of accuracy, avoids this at every turn and even tries to establish realistic recoil of weapons that don't exist.
In one Call of Cthulhu sourcebook it is stated that while firing both barrels of a large calibre elephant gun might just save your life, it will break your shoulder even so.
The Traveller science-fiction RPG has man-portable energy weapons (the game's BFG) that can only be fired while wearing a suit of Powered Armor that automatically locks your body into one of several safe firing positions.
Justified in Mage: The Awakening; if a Mage has knowledge of the force arcanum, they can enchant a weapon to disperse the opposite reaction of the forces, completely removing any recoil from the gun.
In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater the RPG-7 has minor recoil, allowing Snake all the time he needs to fix another grenade to the end of the weapon and fire again before his target can react. There's also a scene where a character holds their gun gangsta style so that the recoil will drive their aim in a horizontal sweep with minimal effort on their part. It's mentioned later in a radio conversation that it's a Chinesetechnique.
While all of the Resident Evil titles have featured appropriate recoil for small arms and especially shotguns (but pointedly not for rocket and grenade launchers, which kick hardest of all), Resident Evil 5 was the first to introduce muzzle climb on fully automatic weapons. Realistic, but a good example of why its absence is usually considered an Acceptable Break from Reality.
In the Halo series, automatic rifles, submachine guns, and even a semi-automatic shotgun capable of sending a charging Flood zombie flying two feet backwards if hit at close range produce negligible recoil, to the point that you can fire them while in mid-air and not alter your trajectory whatsoever. Admittedly, though, the Master Chief does have superhuman strength and his armor is said to weigh half a ton, so perhaps it's more realistic than it seems.
One oddity about this is that, since the pistol is one of the weakest weapons in the original Halo: Combat Evolved (except when you nail headshots, which are very easy to do), allied NPCs you see using them will fire them one-handed. Background material, however, tells us that those pistols are firing a round just shy of being as large as the real-world .500 S&W Magnum.
Averted in Halo 3: ODST, where automatic and semi-automatic weapons have much more noticeable recoil. For example, rapidly pulling the trigger on a pistol will result in significant muzzle climb, while slowing the rate of fire down will result in much more fire control. This is justified in the story by the player characters not being augmented and power armor-wearing super soldiers, but elite unaugmented soldiers.
Avoided in the Call of Duty games. The rocket launchers have zero recoil, the cannon on the first game's tank will actually make you move back a couple feet and all guns have as realistic recoil as possible. A notable and severe exception is the M240B in Modern Warfare 2 - it's a 7.62mm heavy machine gun that weighs 27 pounds empty. The recoil is severe to the point that the ideal firing position is from a tripod, and if the gunner doesn't have enough time he makes do with the built-in bipod. In the game, however, it has the least recoil of all the machine guns and can be fired easily from the shoulder - and as such, it is also the weakest of the game's machine guns, despite firing the largest bullet among them. The worst part is that they could have done that realistically by using the Mk. 48, a much lighter and smaller version that can be fired from the shoulder. It still has a hefty kick, though.
Mass Effect averts this quite reasonably; high-powered shotguns and sniper rifles have a lot of recoil, and automatic weapons have higher recoil depending on how long the trigger is held down.
Other weapons are described as made for more durable races, like the Claymore or Widow. The tooltips describe how the weapons were remanufactured specifically to avoid breaking the arm of a human wielder.
In Killzone, all the standard rifles, pistols, and grenade launchers have realistic amounts of recoil, the rocket launchers have no recoil at all (which would make the Helghast launcher a bit of a game breaker in multiplayer if ammo wasn't almost nonexistent for it) and the really big guns, the chain gun and squad cannon (an anti-materiel repeater) have such high recoil (excluding the alt fire for the chain gun) and are so bulky that they require a steadycam-esque harness in order to be even wielded effectively.
Avoided in Red Orchestra, where all guns have realistic recoil - line up every shot with your rifle, or you'll be pumping enough lead in the ceiling to make the room a radiation shelter.
An unfortunate side-effect of this in the first game is that every two-handed weapon had the same sort of recoil, regardless of how it was used or what sort of bullet it fired in real life. This resulted in the submachine guns, spitting out five hundred to one thousand bullets per minute as the only handheld full-auto weapons in the game, being completely impossible to control and nearly unusable in any capacity. Heroes of Stalingrad fixed this.
The tank cannon in Grand Theft Auto III causes the vehicle to roll backward slightly if it is stationary when you fire. It's possible, when driving forwards, to rotate the cannon and fire repeatedly behind you, using it as a makeshift booster and accelerating the tank to huge speeds.
It is possible to use the tanks recoil to make the tank fly: turn it around, start firing while driving, go up an incline while constantly firing.
Possible additional subversion in San Andreas — CJ's adjustment to the recoil of a Desert Eagle could be the reason it's not a one-hit kill until "gangster" skill is reached with it, while in the preceding Vice City a .357 Colt Python is.
In Far Cry 2 the PKM has so much recoil that you'd get better range with a shotgun.
Explained with a hand wave in the Hitman series. Forty-Seven, being a peak-human clone, handles any sort of gun with ease, minus the recoil.
Averted in Blood Money, all guns have recoil. His trusted .45 Silverballers can even be upgraded to full-automatic, and are then harder to control...add the "Akimbo" upgrade and say your good bye to your accuracy.
LEGO Batman avoids this, as several firearms cause recoil, and shooting things from a small ledge is not recommended. Whether the developers did this to be realistic or simply add more Fake Difficulty is up to the individual.
This is probably done for stylistic reasons. LEGO Star Wars has blasters kick upwards or back from recoil. The recoil from a blaster, which is a plasma weapon, would logically be imperceptible.
Inverted by the Rocket Launcher in Team Fortress 2, which has no recoil at all even though the rockets being stored one in front of the other means the full force of their propulsion would be on the launcher.
Consider the Heavy's case with the lack of visible recoil from his minigun. It is somewhat justifiable by his enormous size and strength. Though we do see the gun jerk around a lot when it is fired.
In Eternal Darkness, recoil is usual shown with at least some realism, with all shotguns and rifles having some recoil, and the Holland & Holland elephant gun literally knocking the character to the floor if they doesn't take a moment to brace themselves (doing so still causes the character to take a long step back).
In Oni the ballistic weapons all have fairly realistic recoil (the energy weapons, on the other hand, have none...). The SCRAM Cannon, Superball gun, and grenade launcher function on the Wave Motion Cannon have little to no recoil. Go full-auto without compensation on the pistol or SMG, and you'll likely wind up shooting the ceiling.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Diddy Kong gets recoil from his Peanut Popgun when he shoots it. He also gets more recoil the more he charges it before firing it.
Lucas' PK Fire has enough recoil to be considered a possible recovery technique when fired in the opposite direction.
Samus' charge beam also has a bigger recoil the more charged it is. Her missiles don't have nearly as much, though.
Despite how quickly he fires subsequent shots, the recoil is enough to make Fox' Blaster point 90 degrees upwards. Falco's, on the other hand, has very little recoil, though he does cross his arms and hold it sideways. Wolf's has very little recoil. They're all energy weapons, however, and should have none.
The laser gun item has the most recoil of all, even though it too fires nothing but energy, every character has to hold it with both hands and it still almost hits them in the face every time they fire. The Super Scope, however, has very little recoil and can fire rapidly, and only a little more when a shot is charged. It still only shoots light, however.
Averted with the Cracker Launcher. As with real life Rocket Launchers, the recoil is insignificantly low, and you have to look real closely to see characters twitch with each shot slightly. This allows the use of rapidly firing it.
In the Half-Life series the .357 magnum has ridiculous recoil and the RPG has very little.
The RPG is launched using compressed gas, then the rocket actually ignites once it is clear.
Then there's the M249 from Opposing Force, which will visibly push you backwards as it fires.
In Earthworm Jim, where at one point when you're hanging from a pully, the only way to move forward is to shoot in the opposite direction.
In Cave Story, a fully-powered-up machine gun has enough recoil to enable you to fly by pointing it downward or crash down by pointing upwards, but there's no recoil in left or right.
Oddworld: Abe's Exodus: A Slig's submachine gun has some recoil, and this is actually a troubling aspect in the game where you have to possess a Slig in order to kill around 50+ Slogs in order to progress, but you have to watch where the Slig is being pushed back, because there's an electrical fence right behind him, and touching those things is instant death.
In Battlefield: Bad Company none of the weapons have discernible muzzle climb in-game (ie. the aim doesn't change). However, if you watch the gun when fired from the shoulder without using the sights, it kicks very aggressively in the shoulder. This is particularly noticeable on the automatic weapons like assault rifles, SMGs and machine guns.
Bad Company 2, however, seems to have fixed the climb issue, so one must be a tad more careful when aiming any automatic weapon. It's particularly noticeable on guns like the MG-3, which fires so freakin' fast that you shouldn't expect to hit much of anything unless you're firing in bursts.
Quake II's submachine gun features muzzle climb as you hold down the trigger. It was usually a good idea to aim slightly below where you wanted the bullets to go, and let the muzzle climb rake gunfire up your target. This is called "walking the burst" and is commonly used with real-life machine guns where the operator will start firing and then use the bullet impacts as a reference point to adjust his aim.
In the 3rd case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the fact that the murder weapon was a .45-caliber revolver is a high point of contention, as the feeling is that it could only be used by someone with a large enough frame to take its recoil. It doesn't prevent the idiots from accusing a blind, frail 14-year old boy in the first place, mind.
In Jak and Daxter, Jak's BFG actually does jerk back after firing. However, that doesn't stop him from running around and shooting everything in sight with a machine gun.
The AVRiL from Unreal Tournament 2004 and Unreal Tournament III pushes the player back several feet, potentially knocking them off a platform. Oddly, the Redeemer, a nuclear cruise missile launcher, and the normal Rocket Launcher, even when firing three rockets at once, have minimum recoil.
A fully charged shot in Mega Man 5 and IV is powerful enough to push the player back by a few pixels.
In Mega Man 9, similar to the Earthworm Jim example, there are some zero-gravity sections in which the normally-negligible recoil from your Arm Cannon becomes your only means of controlling your movement.
In the Mega Man X series, you can see X being pushed slightly back with each shot in the first three games, but it's the same no matter what's being shot, whether it's a small plasma pellet, a huge energy blast or actual solid objects. It's also only noticeable when standing still and shooting. The upgraded normal shots in Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 have no noticeable recoil, X actually moves his arms forward in a punching motion. This is the same with Zero. After the first 3, X suddenly has enough recoil from fully charged shots to push his arms over his head, despite that not being the case before, and Zero gets recoil from firing ANY shot.
In Silent Hill 3 Heather's wrists jerk from the recoil of her initial handgun, and she's thrown completely off-balance from shooting the shotgun. Curiously, the submachine gun's recoil doesn't faze her at all, despite it using the same ammunition as her handgun in real life.
Played straight in many arcade light-gun shooter games, but averted in a few games (such as Time Crisis) that have devices in the guns that produce some blowback. Then again, played straight in Time Crisis 3 and onwards when the same amount of blowback occurs with each usable weapon - be it handgun, machine gun, or shotgun (or if the mechanism breaks and the cheapskate arcade owner won't fix it, or if you turn off recoil in Time Crisis 4's hidden options screens).
S4 League has the Gauss Rifle, one of the more powerful automatic weapons. Firing it continuously causes your aim to move slightly upwards, making less effective at long range. However, it's subverted if you only fire one or two shots at a time, in which case your shots won't fire the wrong way, making the Gauss Rifle a mild case of Difficult but Awesome.
All guns in Spelunky push the player back a few pixels, which can easily drop one off the edge on the slippy ice surface.
Usually played straight in Borderlands, but Midget Shotgunners subvert it to humorous effect. When they shoot at you they frequently get knocked flat on their backs.
Averted with the Unforgiven, the most powerful revolver in the game, which has recoil just shy of smacking the shooter in the face.
In the second game, Salvador, "The Gunzerker," has the ability to go Guns Akimbo with any two weapons the player desires, be it machine guns, shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, or rocket launchers. Naturally, The Big Guy has no issues with recoil, but seeing as he's spent most of his life abusing steroids, it's probably justified.note We're being figurative with the "Big Guy" label as Salvador is actually the shortest member of the cast (barely above 5 feet) due to the aforementioned drug abuse.
Using any assault or battle rifle in Killing Floor when not playing as a Commando (a class that has a recoil reduction bonus) will tilt your aim a good thirty degrees upwards after even a moderate burst.
Redneck Rampage is among the first — if not the first — FPS to have recoil from an automatic weapon, namely the AK-style assault rifle, which will have you shooting the sky or ceiling after the first five rounds or so.
In the PS2 remake of the original Wild ARMs, Rudy Roughknight displays this trope. While he's the youngest member of the cast, he uses a large Hand Cannon (with some magical properties) called an ARM◊ as his main weapon, and despite his small frame, he wields it with one hand.note the only time he grips the gun with both hands is for his ultimate attack However, this unusual strength is actually a plot point instead of a case of Muscles Are Meaninglessas it's later revealed that Rudy isn't human, but an artificial construct (called a "Holmcross" in game, though it's probably meant to be "Homunculus") that were, quite literally, built to wield such weapons.
In Girl Genius, when three Jaegermonsters attempt to fire a Clankgun, which sound effects indicate is meant to act like a machinegun, the one holding the weapon from behind is realistically enough slammed into the wall behind him.
Of course, Jagers being Jagers, the one who did the firing recovered in short order with nothing more than a broken nose ("Oooh! Lemme see!").
Possibly a different model of same gun. The one in the first example is so big it takes all three of the Jaegers to hold it up. While Klaus is so massive that he's very nearly as large as his own Clanks, the gun appears to be slightly smaller than it ought to (although it's otherwise identical, right down to the detailing).
Averted in New York Magician; Michel mentions at least once that firing his Desert Eagle, despite his extensive training with it, has still made his wrist hurt.
The Boondocks: In the first episode, "The Garden Party", Ed Wuncler III asks Riley (an 8-year old) to shoot him with his SPAS-12 combat shotgun to prove his bullet-proof armor works. Riley gladly obliges, and while the armor works, the force of the gun knocks Ed over and out a second-story window, and causes Riley to fall over and suffer an injured wrist.
When Bart and Lisa are shipped off to a military school, the instructor gives them submachine guns when they train on the firing range. ("As you've transferred here from a public school, you should already have experience with smaller arms.") Whereas Bart does quite well, Lisa's gun gets stuck on autofire, the uncontrollable recoil pushing her every which way — including up off the ground when the gun is pointing downward.
Bart does quite well because he isn't given an SMG, but a multiple grenade launcher, a weapon with limited recoil (though how he adjusted for the grenade arc is another matter, especially the shot that destroyed Skinner's car when it was a several hour car ride away. Additionally, Lisa was given an M16 pattern assault rifle, and a full sized one at that, thus her difficulty controlling an extremely unwieldy weapon for an eight year old girl with, as shown in a later episode, the physique of a gymnast (small, with the weight of her head off-setting her balance point to her torso rather than her lower body, meaning a much higher center of gravity than most of the recruits, especially Bart who has always had a gut reminiscent of Homer's (though no way near as flanderised, ironically, excluding the episodes when he was rendered obese via snack foods.)
In an episode of Transformers Heavy Metal War, Wheeljack tries his new "shock blast cannon", a shoulder-mounted bazooka-like weapon, out on an incoming Megatron - only to knock himself to the floor with the quip, "That's a shock, alright..." Kind of a justification, as Wheeljack built the thing himself, and as a Mad Scientist, it probably wouldn't be the first time he'd forgotten to take into account something as simple as recoil.
The recoil from Yosemite Sam's six shooters is strong enough to make him airborn when firing downward.
Seen in a number of Porky Pig shorts, particularly "The Phony Express Rider" where Porky is fighting Indians on horseback, and every time he fires his gun, he's knocked off screen until the seemingly elastic reins pull him back into his saddle.
From World War II and on, anti-tank weaponry were referred to as "recoilless rifles" since the traditional anti-tank rifle had so much recoil that it was impractical. While almost Exactly What It Says on the Tin, recoilless rifles fire normal artillery shells from a rifled barrel, but use special perforated cartridges and a Venturi chamber to propel the combustion gases out the back at a high velocity canceling out the recoil force. They are a modern evolution of the old back-to-back recoilless cannons of the 10th century.
Though technically recoilless, many anti-tank weapons still have some recoil — in some that are fired from the shoulder (like the Swedish Carl Gustav) it can be severe enough to loosen the gunner's teeth if firing several shots in rapid succession. Another exception was the British PIAT system. This was a shoulder-fired spigot mortar that used a heavy spring to launch its anti-tank bomb. The spring delivered a punishing kick to the operator's shoulder, which was just one of the reasons the PIAT was disliked by British troops. Another reason was that the projectile was held in the tube by gravity. That's right: if you aimed it so the muzzle wasn't at least horizontal, the projectile would slide out of the tube. Yet another was that the heavy spring used to launch the projectile meant that it was extremely difficult to reload once it had been fired; it was supposed to re-cock itself using the force of the recoil, but since there was so much recoil, most of the time the weapon itself undid that by knocking the user flat on his ass.
In the "Ammo" episode of the History series "Lock 'n Load", R. Lee Ermey points out the effects of recoil when shooting a Barret .50 cal sniper rifle - he hadn't allowed for it properly, and the scope hit him in the face and cut him on the bridge of his nose. This, or the black eye mentioned above, frequently accompanied by a nasty arc-shaped cut right below the eyebrow, was a common injury suffered by first-time big-game hunters on safari in Kenya "back in the day", due to using big-bore, hard-recoiling bolt-action rifles like the .375 Holland & Holland or .458 Winchester Model 70 African with a telescopic sight with insufficient "eye relief" (the distance between your eye and the eyepiece when you are "locked in" to the 'scope and have the correct field of view through it). According to the late Col. Jeff Cooper, the professional hunters who led the safaris referred to this as "Kaibab eye", and few people who ended up needing stitches for the cut made the same mistake twice (most often, they took the 'scope off and used the rifle's iron sights exclusively after such an experience). The professional hunters, by comparison, rarely bothered with telescopic sights on their "working rifles" in these heavy calibers, as they would (a) usually only shoot to "finish off" an animal that had only been wounded, not killed, by the client's shot and (b) most shooting at heavy game such as rhino, Cape buffalo, etc., was done at ranges under 50 yards, where a telescopic sight was more of a hindrance than a help anyway. This is known as "scope bite".
In basic rifle training it's not uncommon for a drill or other training cadre to demonstrate the M16's lack of recoil by firing it off their nuts. Yes, you can place the stock in your crotch and fire full auto downrange without injuring yourself. Note: this is due to M16 using relatively small 5.56 mm cartridge and being designed to have an easily-controllable recoil during full-auto fire, as well as allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition due to its lower weight. Crotch-firing with firearms using bigger 7.62 mm cartridges (like the FAL) should be reserved for people aiming for Darwin awards. Sometimes replaced by the Drill Sergeant volunteering a Private to stand still while the Drill Sergeant jams the buttstock of the weapon against his nose and fires. Civilian rifles designed for large cartridges (.308, .30-06, .45-70, 9.3x74) and then re-chambered by the factory in .223 Remington (civilian version of the 5.56mm NATO) or .243 Winchester calibers may even dispense the recoil pad altogether and still not generate enough recoil to feel a distinctive kick, due to the gun's heavy weight made for the larger cartridges dampening the recoil. This can occasionally lead to situations where people with military training end up suffering some of the already mentioned injuries when they try to use a rifle that does produce a significant kick without specific instruction.
In the days of frontloaders, cannons really did have a harsh recoil (they still do; it's rocket launchers that don't), meaning that every time you used one, it rolled back. This made it a great retreating tactic occasionally used in the American Civil War, where retreating Union soldiers often took their cannons with them by firing them at the Confederates because they didn't have the manpower to move them otherwise. Of course, if the ground was soft and/or wet the guns had a tendency bury themselves up to their spokes if they weren't wheeled forward after each recoil. On the other hand, it's annoying to have to wheel the thing back each time, so prepared artillery positions usually had shallow pits dug underneath the cannon so that they would roll-back after firing. This characteristic makes cannons easier to reload on ships and fortifications. Mounted on a carriage, the cannon would slam back against its rigging, be reloaded, and then be lugged back out the gunport to fire again reducing the workload for the guncrew by half. Usually this is depicted correctly because it's awesome. This was one of the major advances in World War I, the development of recoil-compensation mechanisms for artillery allowed for fast, accurate fire, greatly improving the effectiveness of artillery.
The AA-12 automatic shotgun was specifically designed to absorb most of its own recoil. Given the amount of recoil a shotgun produces from only one shot, this was necessary to begin with just to make it a practical weapon, but it would be a welcome feature on any gun, much less one as scary-powerful as this one. See it in action here◊.
The American-180 has little to no recoil despite its very high rate of fire (1,200 rounds per minute), though perhaps justified that it uses .22 LR rounds.
While not 100% this trope, there's a bit of this in handguns. Small, low caliber guns can often have more felt recoil than bigger, larger caliber guns even though you're dealing with more energy in the latter case. This is because the less mass also means less inertia to overcome and therefore more energy transmitted to the shooter (and that most small pistols use simple "blowback" operation that absorbs less recoil than the more common locked-breech system). This fact is often a surprise to new shooters who assume that a smaller pistol will be easier to handle. This often leads to tragedy when parents give their children 'low power' pistol as starter guns. What begins as a well intentioned attempt to teach their children respect and safety in regards to firearms can quickly lead to severe injuries or, in some cases, the death of the firing individual.
The High Impulse Weapon System is a recoil damped shoulder-fired weapon, approximately equivalent to a mortar round. The video notable includes both someone firing it who is used to the recoil, and someone who isn't.
The Nock Gun, a seven barrelled flintlock musket which turned out to be Awesome, but Impractical. The recoil was so great that people frequently wound up with broken shoulders after firing.