Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

How To Pattern A Shotgun: Always Count Your Pellets First

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

The Gun Nuts
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

September 09, 2013

How To Pattern A Shotgun: Always Count Your Pellets First

By Phil Bourjaily

During the testing for “The Truth About Shotgun Ammo” I learned it’s important to count pellets in a shotshell before you pattern.

Before we patterned any load we took three shells from the box, cut them open and weighed the payloads and counted the pellets. The results were surprising. Weights were consistent but pellet counts were not. Not all pellets of the same size are the same size.  Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) specs allow variations up to .010” in pellets of the same size.

That small difference in size can add up to a lot. For instance, the pellet counts in a 3 ½-inch, 2 ¼ ounce load of 4 shot and a 3-inch, 2-ounce load of 4 shot were almost identical even though the heavier load should have contained about 35 more pellets. Despite that difference, pellets in both boxes of shells were within spec.

Now, a turkey probably won’t know the difference, but if you are counting holes and figuring pattern percentages when you test and compare loads, you have to know how many pellets you’re starting with or your results will be skewed.

Second, because no two patterns are truly alike, it’s important to shoot more than one to see how a load performs. We shot 10 patterns with every shell we tested. We actually started out shooting 25, but decided that after 10 we had reached a statistical point of diminishing returns and it took a lot less time. We had the advantage of an underground, windless tunnel, and endless roll of paper that automatically gave us a clean sheet of paper after every shot, and a computer that could count and tabulate all the holes in a sheet in three minutes. Without those advantages, patterning is a long, boring process.  You can get away with shooting three patterns with the same load at a bare minimum to see what it does, but is five is better, 10 is best, more than that doesn’t seem to be necessary.

Comments (6)

Top Rated
All Comments
from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

Pattern density, not shot size, kills.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

Phil,
If the shot size can vary, isn't there also the probability that the shot count will vary from shell to shell from the same box?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

NHshtr -- pellet count can vary from shell to shell although when we sampled three from a box we found the counts fairly consistent. I suspect you would see more variation from lot to lot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

Hey Phil, How big of a difference in pellet count are you talking about, 5, 10, 15, or more ? I cannot see much of a differance in a shotshell when the variation is 5 pellets or so. I go thru a lot of butchers wrap paper myself. Looking at the comparison results between 3 inch or 3 1/2 I think I'll stay with 3 inch without the added cost or recoil. So thanks a bunch.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

In the turkey loads we tested the 2 1/4 ounce load of 4 shot contained about 5-6 more pellets than a 2 ounce load of 4s.
It should have contained about 30-33 more 4 pellets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

A friend that used to turkey hunt with me swore by his Mossberg 835, 3.5 inch ammo and #4 shot. The man NEVER killed a turkey with a single shot and lost two or three birds well within range.
I shoot a Rem 870. For turkeys, I shoot Winchester hi brass #7.5 shot.
I have yet to lose a bird I've called within 35 to 40 yards nor have I had to shoot a bird more than once. YET! I know ol Murf's gonna catch me some day, but until then, fat boy ain't shootin' no magnum nothin'!
Tain't necessary!
"The only reason they build magnum shotguns is so the Cajuns in south Louisiana can feel pain and hear noise when they pull the trigger!" - Bill C.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

Pattern density, not shot size, kills.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

Phil,
If the shot size can vary, isn't there also the probability that the shot count will vary from shell to shell from the same box?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

NHshtr -- pellet count can vary from shell to shell although when we sampled three from a box we found the counts fairly consistent. I suspect you would see more variation from lot to lot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

Hey Phil, How big of a difference in pellet count are you talking about, 5, 10, 15, or more ? I cannot see much of a differance in a shotshell when the variation is 5 pellets or so. I go thru a lot of butchers wrap paper myself. Looking at the comparison results between 3 inch or 3 1/2 I think I'll stay with 3 inch without the added cost or recoil. So thanks a bunch.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

In the turkey loads we tested the 2 1/4 ounce load of 4 shot contained about 5-6 more pellets than a 2 ounce load of 4s.
It should have contained about 30-33 more 4 pellets.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 2 days ago

A friend that used to turkey hunt with me swore by his Mossberg 835, 3.5 inch ammo and #4 shot. The man NEVER killed a turkey with a single shot and lost two or three birds well within range.
I shoot a Rem 870. For turkeys, I shoot Winchester hi brass #7.5 shot.
I have yet to lose a bird I've called within 35 to 40 yards nor have I had to shoot a bird more than once. YET! I know ol Murf's gonna catch me some day, but until then, fat boy ain't shootin' no magnum nothin'!
Tain't necessary!
"The only reason they build magnum shotguns is so the Cajuns in south Louisiana can feel pain and hear noise when they pull the trigger!" - Bill C.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment