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The minimization of the radial release effects in the recovery configurations of plate impact experiments is essential for accurate postmortem microstructural investigations. The present study evaluates the results of several three‐dimensional finite‐element simulations involving different plate geometries. The study examines combinations of circular, square, and star‐shaped plate geometries, with no lateral momentum traps or guard rings. Experiments and simulations are conducted on brittle specimens. A simple, but fairly successful, combination for the pressure–shear recovery experiment is reported, which makes use of a single square and three circular plates. In the case of the normal impact recovery configuration, it is found that the star‐shaped flyer in combination with the square target and momentum trap gives good results at locations away from the axis of the specimen. Crack patterns observed experimentally in the conventional nonrecovery pressure–shear mode, and in recovery pressure–shear and normal impact modes are discussed in relation to the simulation results. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.