Having manufactured choke tubes for most of my adult life, it became immediately apparent on how important it is to pattern your shotgun with the ammunition and choke you plan to use. Everyone sights in their rifle whether it has open sights, or they put a scope on it, before going hunting. Yet, most shotgun purchasers never pattern test their
shotguns, ammunition or choke tubes they are going to use. A number higher than 50% of shotguns do not shoot point of aim (POI) at 40 yards. Most shoot very close but if you do not pattern your shotgun, how do you know? You may find out why you miss shots you don't think you should.
Spring Turkey season is just around the corner, so I decided to take out a new O/U 12ga. shotgun that I just purchased and pattern it at 40 yards. Patterning is pretty simple. You need a good rest, eye and ear protection, and targets big enough to catch all of the pellets. The target is a key component to patterning. I always use a piece of butcher block paper or a target at least 30" in diameter. Using smaller targets can be a problem if your shotgun does not shoot POI, you'll lose pellets off the paper and cannot see what your pattern is really doing or where the shotgun really is shooting. For this test, I chose a Carlson's .660 Long Beard Turkey Choke, Winchester 12ga. 13/4-ounce #5 shot Long Beard ammunition in 3" magnum. I set my targets up at 40 yards. I first shot my lower barrel at the right target pictured. Then, I shot my upper barrel at the left target pictured.
You can see by having the larger piece of paper for my lower barrel (on the right target pictured) it caught all of my pellets and that this barrel shoots a little high and a little left of center. There are very few pellets below center of the paper. My upper barrel (left target pictured) looks to shoot low with few pellets over center of the paper. Having now done this pattern test, I now know the results and it shows me how both barrels perform (POI) and how the choke and ammunition work together. More importantly, I know how to hold the barrel on Mr. Tom when he walks in this Spring. Had I not done this, more than likely Tom Turkey would have run away from my lower barrel (first shot) and I would have shot right over the top of him! I would have chalked it up to being excited, when in reality, I did not know where the barrel shot and my shot went right over his head.
Now I know where (POI) is and how (ammunition and choke) this shotgun shoots and it is ready for the field. Once you determine your POI, your gun will always shoot that same place, just more open or tighter depending on choke and ammunition. Having the larger 30" targets is key to catching all of your pellets and determining POI and how your pattern is performing with the choke and ammunition. I challenge you to pattern your shotgun if you never have, or if you have, try a new load and different choke combination. I promise, you will learn something that will make you a better hunter and shooter going forward!!