View Full Version : What is patterning and how do you do it?

October 29, 2001, 01:08 PM
What exactly does it mean to pattern a SG and how do you do it? Do you have to pattern from one brand ammo to another or from one pellet size to another? Using Rem 12 ga slide action.

October 29, 2001, 03:09 PM
It's easy. Get a big sheet of clean paper, stand a couple of meters away, and shoot using your sights. Look at the pattern the shot made on the paper, particularly on how wide the pattern is from edge to edge, how evenly the shot is distributed (all in a clump with some outliers, or even grid-like dispersal), and how close to your point-of-aim the pattern is centered. Then repeat at several distances, say 5-10-15-20 meters. For man-stopping work, you want 80% of your shot to hit a man shaped target with most in the center of mass. This "pattern" with vary widely depending on what type of shot you use and from what manufacturer you get it from. The idea is that you find out what shot gives you the smallest, most consistent pattern at various ranges and you stick with that type of shot. Kinda like sighting in a scope for specific ammo. For slugs, you can go out to 100-200 meters and see how accurate you are, some slugs are very accurate in YOUR gun, others won't be, but you never know until you do it. Ghost ring sights can eliminate some of the variability since I feel it is more consistent from shot to shot and user to user, while the bead front sight can vary dramatically a range depending on how you present the gun, clothing, etc, and is very different from person to person. Needless to say, this can be time-consuming and expensive if you try a lot of different loads, but it is the best way to get to know how effective your gun is. Most casual shotgunners are very suprised at how close they really need to be to get a good pattern on a man with buckshot. For upping the "wow" factor, let your friends play around, then bust out a shotgun from Vang Comp that can pattern OO buckshot on a dinnerplate from 15 meters. Very nice...... Hope this helps. Later.

-edited for moronic spelling mistakes

Dave R
October 29, 2001, 03:51 PM
If you are patterning for hunting, the principle is the same but the details are a little difference.

Start with big pieces of paper (poster board, butcher paper, even newspaper). It is customary to use a 30" circle (or is that a 36" circle?) You don't have to do that, though. I draw a 30" circle by tying a 15" string to a magic marker and tracing around. I put a big dot in the center of the circle as an aiming point. You could just put a big dot on the paper and forget the circle.

Set the targets at hunting distances. Maybe 25 yards, 35 yards. Maybe more if you use a full choke at longer distances.

Shoot at them using a careful hold, be certain the shotgun is aligned as it would be in a hunting situation, and the front bead is on the aiming point.

Now analyze. At what distance does the pattern get too sparse to put several pellets on the bird? How close is too close for the pattern to be wide enough? That also means you'll be so close you'll ruin the meat. Try different loads (different brands of shells). You should see that your gun has a preference for one or another brand. If you have choke tubes, try this with different chokes. How far can you put a good pattern with a full choke? What distance is too close for a full choke? How much better is an open choke at that distance? If you have a double-barrel, pattern each barrel separately.

The whole idea is to learn what your gun will do with different loads and different chokes/barrels at different distances.

Some things I learned by patterning:

-My pump shotgun throws an effective pattern with a particular load of buckshot out to 35 yards. That's farther than most people would recommend for buckshot. It shoots a tighter pattern with a modified choke than it does with either improved or full chokes. I would not have guessed that if I hadn't patterned.

-I get better patterns from a budget brand than I do from several "premium" loads.

-My double-barreled 20 shoots the modified barrel right to point of aim. The full choked barrel shoots a bit high and to the right. Its not unusual for a double-barrel to have regulation problems (thanks, Dave McC). The pattern from that barrel is TIGHT, even at 40 yards. I harvested a hungarian partridge at about 40 yards this season with that gun. I would not have taken the shot if I hadn't seen the pattern this load throws at 40 yards. I would not have hit the shot if I hadn't altered point of aim low/left to compensate for the regulation issue.

Patterning will let you know what shots you can make, and what loads and chokes you should use. It will make you a better hunter.

October 30, 2001, 11:11 AM
Say you have a couple of Remingtons and one complete set of chokes for the both. Do you pattern the guns and the chokes or just the chokes.

In other words If I were to pattern on gun with each choke would I then need to pattern the other gun with the same chokes.

11-87 Mag 28"bbl
870 Super Mag 26" bbl

Dave McC
October 30, 2001, 12:58 PM
ENC, in a word, yes...

It's wildly improbable that two different shotguns will perform exactly the same with a given load or choke. Hands on testing is the ONLY way to find out what will happen.

One of the reasons old hands like me settle on a couple tried and true loads for a particular shotgun is each and every load needs to be tested when a choke's changed. And maybe the choke will need changing if the load's different.

Those that know this stuff better than I tell me that even going from a load of 7 1/2s to 8s of a particular brand of shell means the pattern and POI can change big time.

Frankenstein shoots one 1 1/4 oz premium load of 6s very well at 35 yards with the Mod tube in, and throws them to heckandgone with the skeet tube in, at 30. Go figure...

October 31, 2001, 02:50 PM
Thanks you all for your well thought out replies. I'll take your notes with me to the range. Hopefully my trap scores will improve.:)