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Patterning can be done with simple, homemade targets—sheets of blank paper about 4 x 4 feet in size. A commercial target with a bull’s-eye also can be used, but the bull’s-eye is used only to aim at—it is not used in steps 2-4 below. To pattern your shotgun, follow these steps:

Pattern density
  1. Fire one shot at the center of the target (or bull’s-eye) from the distance that you expect to be from your quarry (for example, 35 yards if hunting game birds). Repeat this two more times, each time with a new sheet of target paper.
  2. On each of the three targets, draw a 30-inch circle around the densest part of the shot pattern. (This is not necessarily the center of the paper.)
  3. On each of the three targets, count the number of pellet holes that fall within the 30-inch circle, marking them with the marker as you count each one.
  4. Calculate the percentage of the load that is expected to land in a 30-inch circle at the distance that you expect to be from your quarry.
    • Average the pellet counts within the 30-inch circles (add the three counts from the previous step and divide the sum by three).
    • Then divide the average pellet count by the number of pellets in the load for the ammunition you are using, and multiply this result by 100.