The introduction of “modern” shotgun shells, about 1860, allowed for much more and faster shooting than in the earlier muzzleloading era. Since that time, firearms designers have tried to reduce the felt recoil by placing some type of pad on the butt end of the stock. Innovation came first from the driven bird shoots in England, with the first such recoil taming device patented there in 1874. It was called an “Anti-Recoil Heel Plate”; today, we simply call it a Recoil Pad.
H. A. Silver Company of England was the original inventor. Their recoil pad featured a thin, hard rubber base, vulcanized to a thick, solid rubber “cushion”. The “unit” was attached to the end of the buttstock with two screws, and the edges were ground down to continue the lines of the stock. The Silver’s pad is still made in England today, pretty much the same way it was made in 1874, and is most often seen today on fine English guns.
In the United States, likely the introduction of the single barrel trap guns by the Baker Gun & Forging Company in 1909 created an increased awareness of recoil – and a desire to tame it. Many of
the early recoil pads had direct ties to trap shooters. The single barrel guns are lighter than their double barrel counterparts, of course; also, the popularity of repeating shotguns, like the Winchester 1897 and Model 12 pumps and the Remington Model 11 semi-automatic, likely facilitated more shooting and more awareness of recoil.
Recoil pad development activity began here in the early part of the 20th century; the first patent I’ve found was #1,123,180, issued to Mr. James Day, on 29 December 1914, assigned to the Jostam Manufacturing Company of Chicago. Soon after that, Mr. Frank Hawkins of South Dakota (a trapshooter) patented The Hawkins pad, # 1,325,152 on 16 December 1919. Both pads were thought to be an improvement over the solid Silvers pad, in that the styles of openings on the sides were claimed to reduce the felt recoil.
One of the last major developments in recoil pads came about in the early 1930s, at which time Mershon Co., Inc. entered the recoil pad market, later to become the Pachmayr pad. It featured an integral white line and more openings in the side of the pad, called “multiple-x”. Today, Pachmayr, owned by Lyman, is the marked leader in recoil pads.