Patterning Your Shotgun

Learn Choke Tube Basics with Scott Carlson

Scott Carlson and Keith Mark of MRA Hunting Talk
About Patterning Shotguns


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Scott Carlson and Ron Shara Show You
Why It's Important to Pattern Your Shotgun


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Patterning your shotgun is extremely important. You wouldn’t go deer hunting without sighting in your rifle. Your shotgun deserves at least the same amount of attention before you head to the field or range.
The first thing that needs to be established is your shotgun’s true point of impact, or POI. Many people assume all shotguns will shoot where they are pointed. The truth is that few guns do, and most vary wildly up to 9” in any direction from where they are aimed. If your gun shoots 5” high at 40 yards, you will obviously want to aim 5” low at the next turkey that comes in at that range.
Every gun is a unique machine. You should not assume you will get similar results from one to another, even if they are the same model and you are using the same choke and load.


The following tips will help you with the process of patterning your shotgun:

  1. Have a good stable rest. This is a mandatory element of proper patterning, and helps eliminate flinching or pulling the shot out of POI, just like sighting in your rifle. A stable shooting rest, shooting sticks, or sand bags are good ways of getting a solid base when shooting.
  2. Have a large target area to shoot at. We suggest a 3’x3’ area; the reason for such a large area is so if the pattern is not dead on, then you can still see where the center mass of the pattern is. Imagine shooting at a small turkey head target that is only 10”x10”. If your shotgun shoots 6” to the right, then most of the pattern will not hit the target.
  3. Pattern with the load and choke you plan on using. Patterning with a trap load for a waterfowl hunting situation would not give the shooter much useful information.
  4. Make sure the load can be used in the choke you plan on shooting. Some chokes are not rated for steel shot, and other chokes have restrictions on shot size and speed.
  5. Know the pellet count in the load you are patterning. Open up a shell and count them yourself, or get pellet counts from the ammunition manufacturer. This is essential to effectively analyzing and making good evaluations of the target.
  6. Pattern at appropriate distances. The patterning scenario information below will help with this.

Patterning Scenarios:

  • Turkey: We suggest patterning your turkey loads and chokes at 40yards. Even though you will focus on a 10”-15” circle you still want a target area that is at least 2’x2’. We suggest having a 3’x3’ area. As mentioned earlier this gives you the ability to see the entire pattern in case the pattern is not dead on.
  • Waterfowl: For close range situations or timbered areas, we suggest patterning your gun at 25-30 yards. Generally a 30” circle is recommended to focus on. We suggest shooting at 40 yards for mid to Long
  • Range Shooting a 30” circle is suggested.
  • Trap/Sporting Clay: Patterning from 25-40 yards can be beneficial to the shooter depending on the course or range. We suggest patterning at 40 yards for Trap shooting. In any of these patterning situations the shooter will want to focus on a 30” circle.
  • Skeet: For Skeet shooters we suggest patterning your shotgun at 25-30 yards using a 30” circle.
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