A shotgun is a firearm that fires a projectile, or bullet, called a shot. Shotguns have a longer barrel than rifles and can fire either single or multiple projectiles, also known as shells.
With modern technology making most things simpler, the question of how to pattern your shotgun has become more difficult.
The best way to determine how your shotgun shoots is to shoot at a paper target that has a thirty-inch circle in the middle. By counting the pellets in the circle and dividing that number by the total number of pellets shot, you get your percentage.
The 30-inch circle test
In order to pattern a shotgun, you must first know what a sufficient percentage of pellets within a 30-inch circle is. This is because you want all of your pellets to land anywhere within a 30-inch circle at twenty yards.
If you shot a shotgun at twenty yards and there was only one pellet that landed anywhere in the circle, then your gun does not pass the test. It has to have at least six pellets that land anywhere within the circle for it to pass.
It is hard to gauge how many pellets will land in the circle based on how many lands outside of the circle. There is not a set number of pellets that must land outside of the circle in order for it to pass. It all depends on how accurate your gun is and how accurate the test is.
What is meant by patterning a shotgun?
When patterning a shotgun, you are testing the shooting capability of the gun. You are firing a few shots to see how many pellets strike a 30-inch circle at various distances.
This is done at twenty, twenty-five, and thirty yards to see how the gun performs at short, medium, and long range. You also check to see if there is any lateral drift of the shot due to poor fit or improper loading of the shell.
Many hunters have their own minimum requirement for the number of pellets within a certain area for their hunting needs. Some require at least eighty percent accuracy for short range hunting, for example. Others require ninety percent accuracy for long range hunting.
These requirements are set based on what kind of game will be taken and how far away it will be.
Shotguns come in a variety of types, and this patterning rule applies to all of them. Although some shotgun types have only a single barrel, they all have two separate chambers.
The first chamber is called the magazine and it holds several shells, or pellets. The second chamber is called the barrel and it is where the shot pellets are propelled out of the gun.
Shotguns can be categorized into over and unders, pump or semi-automatic, and double or single barreled. Regardless of type, all shotguns require a sufficient percentage of pellets in a 30-inch circle to be legal for hunting in the United States.
Over and under shotguns typically have two separate barrels that intersect at one point. One barrel lies above the other, making an upper and lower barrel. These must have enough pellet distribution within a 30-inch circle to be legal for hunting.
Shotguns fire a wide spread of shot, or pellets. The wider the spread, the more difficult it is to pattern the gun. The term “patterning” refers to how many pellets land in a 30-inch circle at 25 yards.
Most hunters want at least 80 percent of the pellets in the circle. This makes for a lethal shot on game and limits wasting ammunition. A tighter pattern also increases the gun’s effectiveness at longer distances.
To pattern your shotgun, you must first clean and lube your barrel. Then, you must load some shells and go to an outdoor range with a shooting bench that is at least 25 yards away. Aim down range and fire several shots to see where they land.
Patterning the shotgun
In order to pattern a shotgun, you need to shoot a few test shots with the ammunition you plan to use and then count how many pellets land in a 30-inch circle at 10 yards.
The wider the spread of the shot at this distance, the more corrections will need to be made when aiming at a target. This could lead to missed targets completely!
Very tight grouping means less chance of hitting the target due to lack of spread. Having some spread is important for preventing misses.
The industry standard for average grouping is eight inches across for ten rounds fired. This needs to be measured using a measuring device such as a ruler. Measuring with your eye can sometimes lead to inaccurate results.
Practice with the shotgun
A shotgun is a fun firearm to use, and it can be even more fun to pattern it. Patterning a shotgun means that you test how evenly the pellets disperse from the barrel.
This is done by shooting at a paper target that has circles drawn on it. You then count how many pellets land in a 30-inch circle and within that circle, how many land within a 12-inch diameter circle.
How far away you shoot the gun does not matter, as the distance is measured from the end of the barrel. The distance you shoot the target does matter, however! You want to make sure that you are shooting far enough to get an accurate reading.
There are many ways to pattern a shotgun, and there are many websites that tell you how to do it.
Ranges for shotgun shooting
After determining the range, the next step is to pattern your shotgun. Patterning a shotgun means to shoot a few shells through it at a paper target to see how many pellets strike within a 30-inch circle.
Most shooters consider 80% of pellets in a 30-inch circle sufficient for shooting pests and birds. This does not apply to game, however, as many states have regulations on what size shot is allowed.
Patterning your shotgun can be done at the gun range or in your own yard or field if you have a safe backstop. It is recommended to use medium weight ammunition when patterning your shotgun to get the most accurate results.
Make sure to check your gun after shooting it at the range to see if there are any abnormal signs of wear or damage.
Tips for improving your pattern with a shotgun
A good way to start is by looking at the number of pellet holes in a 30-inch circle. If there are nine or more holes, then you are shooting a sufficient percentage of pellets within a 30-inch circle.
However, if there are eight holes, then you need to adjust your gun so that it shoots higher than it does now. If there are ten holes, then you need to adjust your gun so that it shoots lower.
Once you make these adjustments, try shooting some more targets to see if your pattern has improved. If not, try talking to someone who knows about guns and shooting and asking them for help. They may be able to pinpoint the problem and fix it for you!
When patterning your own gun, making sure that the barrel is clean and that there is no damage to it is very important as well.