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Old July 29, 2000, 01:30 PM   #1
Dave McC
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Join Date: October 13, 1999
Location: Columbia, Md, USA
Posts: 8,812
I've been,among others,preaching the bennies of patterning one's shotgun and load. This ensures effectiveness of the shot. But it occurs to me that some folks may not know what patterning is(Thanks, Pat).

Patterning is the testing of the gun/load setup to perform a specified mission. It can be used to check the Point of Impact,or the spread of the shot column.

So,here's some methods and ideas...
Think safety, of course, and then...

The first thing to do is locate a proper area for shooting. Once this is done, measure
off the distance.

And what distance is good for______?

HD, no more than 25 yards, and maybe the greatest distance one may have to shoot inside the home + one yard would be better.Being the cautious type, I do both.

Birds and clays, 25 to 40 yards depending on game sought or game played. A woodcock and grouse enthusiast might want to pattern at 20 yards, a SD Pheasant specialist at 40.

I like to use a 3'X 3' piece of butcher's paper, others may want to use silohuettes or whatever. Newpaper will work for patterning Buck, but it's hard to see little holes among the print. A big cardboard box makes a nice holder.

Set up the target and mark an aiming point in the center. Using your best form, mount your shotgun and shoot WITHOUT aiming if it's wingshooting you're testing for, WITH if it's HD. To even out discrepancies, repeat a few times with new paper.

Now, if it's wing shooting, connect two pencils with 15" of string. Setting one pencil at the aiming point use the other like a compass and draw a circle of 30" diameter. Note where the shot hit, where the most and least holes are. Remember, many folks like a pattern hitting a little high for rising game.

Count hits if you want, but looking over the area hit can tell you most of what anyone needs to know.If there's LOTS of hits outside the circle but the pattern seems centered, your choke is too open for that load, at that range.

For HD, see where the shot hit and use a template or eyeball how CNS hits would be.

Let's critique.If POI is different than POA,or where you want it to be, stock work is probably called for. You may not need a smith for this,some varieties of pump and semi auto can be shimmed with foil between the stock and receiver.Go easy, a 1/16" difference here can be a coupla inches at 25 yards.Slow careful work can dial in a pattern just like adjustable sights.

Other shotguns AND shooters may need the ministrations of a good stock fitter to get things right,but the chances are the gun/load is pretty close.

Hope this explains this important subject satisfactorily, if not sing out...
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Old July 30, 2000, 09:43 AM   #2
Patrick Graham
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Join Date: January 18, 1999
Location: Kokomo, Indiana USA
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I've done some patterning. I used some big furniture and appliance cardbord boxes for the task.

I wish I could remember the exact name of the round but.. it was Hi-dollar Remington 2 3/4 inch #4 shot (not buck) - copper plated I believe. This round had a very good pattern out of my 870 with a modified choke at 25 yards. There were no dense clusters of shot and there were no large gaps in the pattern.

I wonder if the fact that this round had "buffering" in it made a difference in the pattern.

I did some buckshot patterning of winchester "non" - hi dollar, just plain old Super X, and the Federal equivalant, non-magnum buckshot. All using an 18 inch Bbl Mossberg. The 00, #1 and #4 buck all had clustering and gaps... Yuk... The #4 had the smallest gaps, I guess because there were more pellets.

I wish I had some hi dollar magnum buckshot, I would like to know if the patterns would have been better. I have a sneaky feeling that you get what you pay for in shotgun ammo.
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Old July 30, 2000, 09:00 PM   #3
Dave McC
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Posts: 8,812
Sometimes you get what you pay for, Pat, sometimes...

A coupla years ago, when I set up my bird 870,I patterned turkey loads.These barnburners ran up to 1 7/8 oz, and kicked like h*ll. One of the best patterns came from an 1 1/4 oz of #5s, in a 2 3/4" case.

Generic, duty style buck,specifically Winchester 9 pellet loads, pattern well and evenly in my HD 870. The Premium stuff,with the buffering and plating, MOSTLY patterns tighter, but the occasional round has a flyer in the outfield. Go figure....
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Old July 31, 2000, 08:14 PM   #4
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Thanks again for the info, Dave.


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Old August 1, 2000, 07:46 AM   #5
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Always a pleaseure reading your posts Dave.



NRA? Good. Now join the GOA!

The NRA is our shield, the GOA will be our sword.
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Old August 1, 2000, 06:44 PM   #6
Dave McC
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You're very welcome, guys...
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Old August 30, 2002, 07:09 PM   #7
Dave McC
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Join Date: October 13, 1999
Location: Columbia, Md, USA
Posts: 8,812
Up for the newbies....
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Old August 30, 2002, 10:30 PM   #8
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Good, as usual, Dave.

Would like to add...
Identical guns, with same nominal choke, may prefer different loads. Pays to try a bunch of different brands and grades to see what your individual gun likes best.

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Old August 30, 2002, 10:39 PM   #9
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I don't disagree with any of your methods but mine differ a little.
I like to get a few large appliance boxes and stick those 2-3" glo orange target dots on the side. I measure off 20 yrds and "snap shoot" to the aiming dot 3 or 4 shots without changing targets. The overlying patterns give a clear picture of how I'm centering under realistic hunting type firing and allow me to see if stock tuning is required. I still single shot pattern test for choke and load evaluation.
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