What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun?

What Distance Should be Used to Pattern a Shotgun?

Two shotguns shooting identical pellet patterns are nearly impossible. There are many factors affecting your shotgun’s pattern. The main one would be the gun’s firing attributes. Other factors may include the brand of the shot shell, the choke of the gun, the shot type and the size of the shot. Your shotgun must be “patterned” so that you can choose the ammunition that can deliver the best performance. One of the questions you would like to ask is: What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun? This article will provide information about shotgun patterning and some relevant content that would be useful to you when the time comes.

Why Bother Patterning?

Is it important even? Yes, that’s it. There are different reasons why your shotgun should be patterned for point of impact. For starters, patterning allows you to define where the shooting manufacturer designed and engineered. You will also know the density of the pattern as one. Simply put, patterning will help you know where the gun should be shot.

What Distance Should be Used to Pattern a Shotgun?

At what distance am I supposed to shoot? There is a general standard for the approximate maximum “killing distance.” This standard is widely accepted among all users and has been used for many years. The standard would still be 40 yards if you were to use your gun for waterfowl or pheasants, or for trap shooting.

Patterning Preparation

It’s not possible to pattern with a shotgun alone. First you have to do some preparations before you can finally do what you want to do. Before you can start patterning, here are the things you should put up.

  • With simple, homemade targets, you can start patterning. A square blank paper with a size of 4x 4 feet would be the ideal material; the paper must be a thick craft paper.
  • You also need to use the same size of a sturdy patterning board–this will hold your square paper blank.
  • With a bull’s eye, you can also use a commercial target. However, from the procedure below, you can not use the bull’s-eye in from the second to the fourth step; as it can only be used for targeting.
  • Make sure the area behind the spot where the patterning board will be placed is a place where there are no people who might be victims of a stray bullet. Make sure the shots fall safely enough without affecting anyone. Just so you can practice with your shotgun, you can’t risk any life.
  • You will also need a steady platform where, along with the blank paper, you will place the patterning board; the latter, of course, faces you. This could be a bench or any kind of bench that could hold the board.

The Procedure of Patterning

So this is how you pattern your shotgun:

  • Try to shoot a single shot at the center of the target. Simply put, your target is “bull’s eye.” Do this from the default distance–40 yards. There are also some professional shooters who advise you to be just 35 yards away from your target; this is if you want to hunt birds after your shotgun pattern.
  • Repeat the process, but with a new target paper sheet this time.
  • Repeat the second step. It means three times you have to do the first phase.
  • Now draw a circle of 30 inches around the densest part of the shot pattern. Note that this must not be the exact center of the paper. Draw on each of the three targets the circle.
  • Determine the load percentage expected to land in the 30-inch circle from shooting at a required standard distance (which is 40 yards as mentioned above). Calculate the average number of pellets in the three circles of 30 inches.
  • All you need to do is add all the shots in all three targets and divide the result by three. The result is your average number of pellets.
  • Now divide the average number of pellets from your ammunition by the original number of pellets. Just count the pellets you’ve been using. Multiply it by 100 once you get the result.

Knowing When a Pattern is Correct

You can be sure that you are going to have a clean kill if the pattern of pellets within the circles looks right with even density. If the pattern contains a sufficient percentage of shots from your original load, you can tell your shooting is good. The ideal percentage ranges from 55% to 60%. With a simple physical inspection, you can also evaluate your pattern. Examine the paper, for example, and see the number of pellets with a perimeter of 30 inches.

A desirable pattern is when the holes within the circle seem to be evenly distributed. On the other hand, when you see the holes were randomly just anywhere on the paper, an undesirable pattern is implying uneven distribution of patterns. The good thing about physical inspection is that to get things done, you don’t have to be a genius.

Selecting Proper Choke

We’ve got an article about selecting the right choke. Shotgun patterning and choke adjustment are interrelated.  You can determine the pattern of each choke adjustment with the knowledge in mind. You can try different chokes and see the difference between their patterns. You may want to check the Selecting Proper Choke article to get a better understanding of the issues at hand.


Know that patterning a shotgun does not involve complicated twists along the way as a form of rocket science. Regardless of the ammunition you use, with little inconsistencies, you will achieve patterns. You need to look for the average pattern that will satisfy you. Remember the distance to be used to pattern a shotgun; the accepted standard is 40 yards. However, some people would recommend 35 yards depending on you. But if you are a beginner, it’s best to follow the standard.

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