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Pattern density

To pattern your shotgun:

  • Fire one shot each at the center of three different large 40-inch or larger sheets of paper (old bed sheets work great) placed at the approximate distance plus five yards you expect to shoot from at the game you are going to hunt. (No target should be on the paper, except when patterning for turkey hunting.)
  • Draw a 30-inch circle around the densest part of the shot pattern on each target.
  • Count the number of pellet holes on the line and within the circle. Ideally, the pattern for lead will include 55% to 60% of the total number of pellets in the load. (Many pellet count charts are available online with average pellet counts per load weight.) If patterning with non-toxic shot, refer to Tom Roster's 2013 Nontoxic Shot Lethality Table©.
  • Continue the process, trying different choke, load, or ammunition manufacturer combinations, until you get the recommended pellet count averages.
Desirable and Undesirable Shot Patterns