Recoil is the movement of a weapon caused by firing the weapon.
This movement causes the aim of subsequent shots to suffer unless the user pauses between shots to re-aim the weapon.
The Call of Duty series represents recoil in four different ways:
- Spread - Subsequent shots will not hit the center of the cross-hairs. Almost all weapons have quite high spread when hip-firing but no spread when aiming down the sights. Only shotguns have spread when aiming with some exceptions like the Stakeout in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
- Gun Kick - While firing, the weapon moves slightly on the screen. This movement is bi-directional meaning, for example, if the gun moves to the right it will quickly move back to the left if the player keeps firing. If the player stops firing, the weapon will quickly reset back to the original aim point. The gun kick does affect accuracy as rounds fired will always strike where the reticle or front sight post is on the screen. In Modern Warfare 3, when using the Thermal Sight, gun kick is removed completely (since there is no weapon model, only the scope overlay), making weapons with high gun kick like the L86 LSW or MK46 extremely accurate.
- View Kick - While firing, the view will actually move from the original aim point. Most weapons can kick in multiple directions, while some others will always kick in the same. This type of recoil can be countered by manually adjusting the aim through the mouse on PCs or the right stick on consoles. When available, the Grip reduces view kick.
- Visual Recoil - The firing animation of the weapon. As this is only visual, it will never affect actual recoil, but since it will often cause the sights to be misaligned or the barrel to point in another direction, many players try to counter it by adjusting their aim while firing, actually making them miss more shots. Good examples for this are the Desert Eagle, where the barrel will kick up and to right, pointing at the sky, and the AK-47, where it is noticed easily with the Red Dot Sight, since the shots will hit below the red dot while firing.
Some weapons, particularly sniper rifles, exhibit "sway". Sway is very similar to gun kick but since it is not caused by firing the weapon it is not technically recoil. Sway affects every shot, while recoil affects the aim of all shots after the first. In most games, most weapons have sway, but some have different speeds and amount of the sways, and in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sway can be reduced if crouched or prone. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, only sniper rifles, weapons with Thermal Scope and AK-47 with any attachment have sway.
- The Barrett .50cal has both very high spread and view kick. After firing, the view will move to a different aim point. This is view kick. If the user hip-fires the weapon, the shots will not always hit the center of the cross-hairs. This is spread.
- The RPD has high upwards and left/right view kick (it will never kick down like most other weapons) but adding the Grip reduces this. With the grip and fired in automatic mode, the weapon will still shake side to side as well as slightly up, causing a rectangular pattern.
- The results of recoil from most of the weapons in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 can be viewed here. Note that it is not always possible to tell which type of recoil is causing the bullet deviation from the original aim point.
- The ACR in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has almost no recoil. Despite a small visual bounce, the iron sights reset perfectly to their original spot after each shot. However, there is mild kick in all directions, but the grouping of the bullets is very tight. This makes the ACR a very precise and deadly weapon.
Precision versus Accuracy
Some players make the counter-intuitive argument that spread actually helps inaccurate players hit their targets. The simplest explanation is to think of a shotgun: the wider the spread, the more likely a poorly aimed shot will hit. More scientifically, this argument could be compared to the scientific principle of precision versus accuracy . Basically, precision refers to the closeness of grouping of shots where accuracy refers to how many shots actually hit the target. It's easy to see how a high rate of fire weapon that is completely imprecise (spraying bullets everywhere) may occasionally be accurate by pure luck. And an extremely precise weapon, such as the Intervention, could be extremely precise but wholly inaccurate (all the shots miss in the same way.) The more skilled the player, the more precision they should desire.
An interesting example of this is to compare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's M16A4 with both the Red Dot Sight and Holographic Sight. Regardless of sight, the weapon does the same base damage but the Holographic Sight is more precise. However, some players actually find the Red Dot Sight more accurate, as the precision of the Holographic Sight is actually a hindrance to accuracy for some.