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I was reading a question and they mentioned some line about a spells accuracy suffering from some sort of recoil akin to a one-handed pistol shot.

Do spells have recoil that causes them to miss?

  • I feel like there has to be at least one scene in the movie where it shows one of the characters shooting off a spell and having their arm thrown upwards from it shooting out. – FuzzyBoots Mar 31 '16 at 20:52
  • I've just had a look at the first few films. There's no evidence that one-shot spells have recoil. Where we do see wizards struggle is where the spell fires a continuous beam (of some description) or where the wand is damaged and blows backwards. – Valorum Mar 31 '16 at 21:00
  • When Harry connects his wand with Voldemort's in GoF, it definitely describes the wand as vibrating if that counts. – ThruGog Mar 31 '16 at 21:32
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    In the last movie, when Harry is at the entrance door and he 'shoots' a powerfull blast at a Deatheater, there is recoil. But it's in the movie, so... – Stephane Mathis Apr 1 '16 at 13:18
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It depends.

Spells aren't a single thing, nor do they act in a similar manner. They work in various ways that we can recognize, but are not uniform across the board. I go into the metaphysics of magic in THIS answer, but I'll focus on Wand magic here, using videogame/RPG terminology. We see, in the books and movies, that spells work as:

  • Rays- These are shown to be blocked by objects having a line-of-sight component. For example, the Killing Curse, Stunning Charm (Stupefy), and Disarming Charm (Expelliarmus) all are shown with these qualities. The spell we see the most description of this is actually Sectumsempra, Snape's signature spell. As we go through the history in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, we learn that he can't harm James Potter as much as desired without having a 'clear shot', and in the Battle of Seven Potters, he cleaves George Wesley's ear when missing a Death Eater's hand.

  • Point-Area-of-Effects - These spells have some sort of immediate area they effect in relationship to the caster. Side-Along Apparation, the Snake Summoning Charm (Serpensortia), Dumbledore's Firestorm charm, Incorporeal Patronas Charm, and the Avis (Bird) charm also exhibit this style.

  • Channeled abilities - Although there's no such mention of the word "channeling" specifically in the HP universe, these spells have a component that requires concentration to maintain the spell for the duration, stopping the caster from doing almost anything else. Apparation, Horace Slughorn's Destruction/Reconstruction spell, Corporeal Patronas Charm and the Cruciatus curse, as well as the Occlumens and Legilimens spell pairings. Some spells, such as Levicorpus, may have a mental "channel time" component, but we don't see them long enough to make that distinction. The Floo network also requires this to a certain extent, as we can see when HP enters the Floo Network, thinks about going to Diagon Alley, but says "diagonally", He shows up in a fireplace in Knockturn Alley, which is diagonal from Diagon Alley.

  • Set & Forget - These spells require little to no further information after being cast. These include The Portkey Charm (Portus), Lumos/Nox, the Summoning Charm (Accio), and enchanted items in general. The Fiendfyre curse is also this, much to Crabbe/Goyle's demise (depending on the book or movie).

Of these, Rays are the spells which are most likely to be shown as having a "recoil" in the films, although to my knowledge there isn't actual recoil in the books. The main times we see people flinch or twitch is when hit with other spells, when they're physically doing wand movements or when they generate "Priori Incantatem" effects. This is seen much more in the movies, I would assume because the effect looks amazing, but in the books it's only seen when Harry fights Voldemort on several occasions.

  • Well answered with some very logical, canon-based inferences. +1 – Anoplexian Apr 1 '16 at 21:35

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