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When a shotshell is fired from a shotgun, the pellets leave the barrel and begin to spread or scatter. The farther the pellets travel, the greater the spread of the group of pellets (shot) both in length and diameter. This spread is called the shot string. To control the shot string, shotgun barrels have a choke that will affect the shot pattern when the shot string hits the target.

Shot strings
The illustrations of shot strings represent the full load of pellets at a particular instant in time after a shotshell is fired.