Patterning Your Predator Shotgun in Ten Steps

November 8, 2010

10. Now is not the time to get fancy. That old shotgun you have been using for ducks and dove for years is probably your best bet for predators. You want to use a shotgun that is comfortable to you. Provided it has the ability to change choke tubes. Once you have picked your firearm you need to determine what type of choke tube you need. Tighter constrictions are not always better for hunting situations. Take into consideration where you are hunting. Are you in heavy cover where your shots may be under twenty yards? If thats the case you will want to use a fairly open choke tube. Like a Modified or Improved Cylinder. Or, are you hunting fields where you need the ability to reach out to the fifty-yard mark and beyond? In that case you will need to tighten up your chokes quite a bit. Here is a list of some chokes and the constrictions they represent. Keep in mind this is a general idea and there are many more available.

Improved Cylinder Very wide pattern good for snap shooting

Modified Mid-range patterning for medium distance

Improved Modified Tighter patterns for mid to long range shooting

Full Good all around long range choke

Super Full Very tight constriction may be too tight for close range

I recommend using at least three chokes for your pattern testing to get a better idea of what your gun is capable of.

9. Set your targets up in a safe area for shooting and prepare to have your shoulder beaten to a pulp. I recommend the use of shooting bags or a gun vise when patterning your shotgun. After repeated shots, "flinching" is almost inevidable. For this test I am using ten-inch circles which represent a good coyote pattern target. Start your patterning where you think your close shot may be. For me this is roughly fifteen to twenty yards. For the sake of argument I will place the target at eighteen yards and start there.

8. I have placed three targets out at a distance of eighteen yards and will fire one shot at each target with each choke. After my initial shots I will remove each target and check my pellet count.

7. For this demonstration I am patterning my shotgun for coyotes. I am using T shot and am looking to get at least nine pellets in a ten inch circle. This for me represents a good clean kill shot on a coyote. This type of a pattern will offer a quick clean kill for your quarry. And a lot less tracking on your part. Remove your targets and count your pellet hits. Once again I am looking for a minimum of nine pellets in a ten-inch circle.

6. It is now time to move your targets out to a mid range shooting area. For this I am moving my targets out to thirty yards. Set up all three targets once again and make sure to use fresh targets. Do not change ammo brands or shot size during your patterning. This will result in skewed information that will be useless. This is the most critical distance for me. A choke tube that performs perfect at close distance will probably not perform well at a long distance. The same can be said for the reverse. If you can find a choke that offers a great pattern at thirty yards and acceptable patterns at close and long distance that would be a true winner.

5. Fire at your thirty-yard targets using your sand bags or gun vise. Remove your targets and check your pellet count. By now you should be seeing a pattern (pun intended) of what choke your gun likes. As long as your still getting your nine pellets in a ten-inch circle then it is time to move your targets downrange.

4. Let's start to reach out to the long-range stuff. I will now move my target out to forty-five yards. Once again, setting up all three stands with clean targets. By now your shoulder will probably be a little numb, but, don't worry, the feeling will come back real soon. Again, fire a shot with each of your choke tubes. Take care on this step to notice how your pattern looks. Do you have gaps in the pattern or holes where no shot it present? If so this may not be the choke for you. Good uniform coverage is what we are looking for.

3. Provided you still have our magic nine pellets in your target, we can now begin to move out even further. However after forty five yards I will start moving out much slower. Five-yard increments will be more that sufficient for long range testing. Repeat the above steps firing one shot at each target. Then counting your shot, replacing your target and moving your stand back.

2. By now you should have found out what your shotgun is capable of and what your maximum distance truly is. Keep in mind not all choke tubes are created equal. Just because they have the same constriction does not mean they will pattern the same. If you found a good choke tube for your gun. You might want to look into the same constiction in a different brand. I have had it work both ways good and bad. But you never know until you try.

1. You are now ready to confidently take on any predator with your shotgun.