I had a muzzle brake
on my first .300 WM, a Savage 110 with factory porting, I bought in '95. When shooting at a range one day, I noticed everyone else had stopped shooting, and they were all looking at me wondering what sort of cannon I was firing. The blast from that thing would blow light weight objects off neighboring shooting tables. I had bought that gun new because it was a great price, and I'd always wanted a .300 WM, not because of the porting. I used to have to wear ear plugs and muffs together to get full relief from the noise of that thing. I realized if I ever shot it even once in a hunting situation, without ear protection, it would probably do ear damage, if only for a day or two (which probably means long-term cumulative ear damage too). I was so relieved a couple of years later when I found a gun shop that gave me an even swap for a new Savage 111 with no porting/break. I'd much rather have the recoil of a .458 Lott than those loud blasts! My 111 .300 prints clover leaves with cheap, Federal Power Shok 180 gr. loads. I'll never get another gun with a brake/porting.
I grew up shooting 12 gauge slugs for deer from the time I was 12, from an 870 with no recoil pad. I had thought that kind of recoil was just the way guns were. I remember the first time shooting a friend's .30-'06 when I was a teen. He said, "Watch out. It kicks real hard." I just laughed with much relief after I shot it.