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All good points. I congratulate you on thinking things through, making informed decisions based on your own situation and likely needs, and acting on them. I wish more people would do the same.
I'm in a situation where my health is dictating what firearms I can handle. After a heart attack in 2009, I ended up with quadruple bypass surgery. With a chest held together by copper wire (not to mention a fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve from an earlier injury), I find that I simply can't shoot a heavy-recoiling weapon for more than a couple of shots at a time without some pretty serious aches and pains cropping up. As a result, I'll be getting rid of most of my shotguns, keeping only a couple of 20ga. weapons that will have to do for times when I need one. I have a bunch of 12ga ammo, including really good stuff like Brenneke slugs and Federal Flite Control buckshot, but if I can't realistically expect to use them, it's time for them to go. I'll use the money I get for them to go towards a FLIR/NOD.
In the same way, I'm cutting back on all my rifles with the exception of those I regard as essential for defensive or hunting use. I'll probably standardize on .30-30 as a hunting round, because it's relatively low recoil and lever-action rifles are relatively light and handy. I have several AR's: I built them all myself, buying a few assembled lowers, buying other stripped lowers and assembling them myself, and putting on quality top ends from Bravo Company, Troy, etc. I have several thousand rounds of 5.56mm to feed them and enough magazines for now. However, I have to seriously think about my heavier-recoiling 7.62x51mm. battle rifle and the 1,500+ rounds of .308 ball I have in stock for it. Given my chest and back issues, should I sell them and apply the money to things I need more urgently? Trade-offs like that are important.
I think you're doing a great job of balancing needs versus wants, and acting accordingly. I'll try to do the same.
Peter, It seems like you are being intentional about things which is always a good start.
You mentioned shotguns. Honestly the 20 gauge will do most everything the 12 gauge does with lower recoil. I stick to the 12 gauge for commonality but well I am a healthy man with enough meat on my shoulder to take the recoil. Going to 20 gauge is a fine call.
As to rifles which are more the point of discussion. You seem to be vested in AR's and the 30-30. Both are fine setups. The AR in 5.56 is plenty for a defensive cartridge and they are darn handy. The 30-30, though I sold mine is a fine short range medium to large game round. It is a fine round roughly equivalent to 7.62x39.
Peter mentioned a 7.62x51/308 rifle. Also if I recall, previously mentioned buying a paid of AR-10's.
My answer to that question would be if you perceive a need for that capability, specifically shooting at longer ranges or at people behind some sort of light to moderate cover.
Without getting into the intermediate vs battle rifle mess 7.62x51 hits hard. I recall a thread where a guy said he experimented with at 5.56 AP ammo, hollow point ammo, bonded ammo and barrier blind ammo then decided to just buy a darn .308 and load it with plain old FMJ ammo. Something to be said for a bigger bullet.
If that is a capability you want to retain the question of whether to keep 7.62x51 rifle(s) on inventory is answered. The new question is how do you temper the recoil of a .308 to comfortable levels to allow a reasonable amount of training and use if needed.
When discussing recoil we have two angles to work from the cartridge and the gun. Since we are talking about 7.62x51 the cartridge angle is pretty much settles.
Though to play devils advocate let us look at other available alternatives. There is stuff like 6.8 SPC and 300 black out that, while they exceed 5.56 stats still do not come close to 7.61x51. That being said they might pass the 'good enough' bar and merit consideration. The downside of these special snowflake cartridges have massive issues with commonality and fail the hardware store test miserably (though I did see 300 blackout at Wally World the other day).
If we are solid on 7.62x51 that leaves us with the gun. I will go point by point on this.
-Weight. Heavier guns have less recoil. Think of it like engines and vehicles. A 454 big block in a corvette is a recipe for speed. 454 in a bus or a dump truck is adequate but not impressive.
We see this all the time with people choosing super light guns for the ladies in their lives. A little polymer .380 like my LCP or an Airweight J frame is going to have some recoil. A steel gun or a larger gun in general is going to be more pleasant to shoot. The recent trend of almost AR-15 weight AR-10's sort of worries me in this regard. A 6 pound M4 style AR-10 is going to have considerably more recoil than a traditional 10-11 pound battle rifle.
Of course weight has its own issues. However depending on your concept of use for a rifle a heavier gun merits consideration. If your concept of use is for a gun for defensive use at a relatively fixed location like a 'retreat' or a check point, which I think are excellent roles for a full powered cartridge, this is an easy decision.
-Muzzle devices. I use this as a generic term for the various breaks/ compensators/ flash hiders that are currently available. A good muzzle device can really do a lot to temper recoil and there are a lot of good ones available these days at all price points. For whatever it is worth my AR has a battle comp.
A limbsaver does a lot to make harder kicking guns more tolerable.
Roll it all together and you will have a milder recoiling rifle. An 11 pound FAL/M1A with a good muzzle device and a limb saver is going to be a lot different than a 7 pound AR-10.
In conclusion I think by intentionally setting up a rifle you can probably have a setup that will work.
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