What Distance Should Be Used To Pattern A Shotgun ?

The main benefit of using a shotgun is the number of projectiles that can be fired with a single shot. A single load of double lot buckshot carries the same punch as a nine-round burst from an MP five submachine gun. Civilian legal, and often the cheapest type of firearm, shotguns are wonderful things to have.

However, they are certainly expert’s guns. You need to know exactly what you’re doing when you shoulder shotgun and part of your responsibility as a shooter with a scattergun is making sure you have the correct pattern when you step a field.

What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun is going to be determined by the task at hand and the type of gun you are using, along with a few other factors that are a mixture of personal preference and ability. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but we can give general guidelines as to what you are going to need to look out for and some tips and tricks for determining what distance you should be using to pattern a shotgun.

What is a Shotgun Pattern?

A shotgun pattern is the number of projectiles that fit inside a predetermined space at a predetermined distance. In other words, a shocking pattern is simply how a certain type of ammo before or shotgun and choke set up.

The pattern of your shotgun is extremely important because the coverage and number of projectiles to get inside a target area will determine how effective your shotgun is. For example, in a home defense situation, you want your shotgun to be performing much like a rifle. That will keep most of the pallets where you want them.

However, on a trapper steed field, you want a white even pattern with no distortions or holes to increase your chances of hitting the clay. It all depends on what you are doing, and the distance you are going to be doing that.

Does My Barrel Matter?

In general, for every yard, a shotgun load travels it will spread 1 inch from a smooth bore choke. The larger the ammunition, the less it is going to spread. For example, 00 buckshot is going to spread less than birdshot at the same distance. Shotgun chokes manipulate this 1 inch per yard guideline to get better performance at long-range.

You may think that a shotgun’s barrel determines the pattern. For many years this myth persisted, but the only two factors that affect a shotgun's pattern is the type of ammunition and the type of choke screwed into the end of the barrel. You must be sure you are using the correct choke to get the optimal performance for the task you have at hand.

Distances You Should Pattern Your Shotgun

  • Trap - Shooting trap involves hitting a clay pigeon in a straight-line distance out as far as you can see your target before it sinks behind the trap House. The ideal range to determine your point of impact is 30-35 yards depending on the gauge shocking you are using and your personal preference.
    Smaller gauges are going to need to be pattern a closer range, regardless you are going to want an even pattern with no stringing or aberrations that all could allow a clay to slip through without at least two or three pellets in it.
  • Skeet - Skeet shooting needs an even pattern as far as you can get it, with the point of impact of about 25-35 yards. Look for an even pattern across with no significant holes or areas where a clay could slip through. Remember to make sure the point of aim is dead on at 25-35 yards. Without it being accurate, hitting the laterally moving clays will be nearly impossible.
  • Dove - Doves are the most hunted species in North America. Doves are great fun to hunt because of their aerobatic performances and delicious tender meat. To bag your limit choose a good patterning birdshot that points your aim at 40 yards with a 12ga shotgun. For small statured hunters, or experts looking for a challenge, consider a 20 ga. However, with the limited shot payload and tendencies to string shot out, consider a point of aim of 30 yards with a 20ga shotgun.
  • Waterfowl - Water-fowling is where the shotgun shines. Shoving heavy loads of big pellets long distances is where the big 12ga and behemoth 10ga made their name. Weather duck or goose, standard or magnum loads, look for a point of impact of 50 yards. This gives you ample distance without spreading out the typical duck or goose load too much to limit killing power.
  • Turkey - Turkey hunting has become an extreme sport! Hunter is heading afield with specialized guns that are capable of cleanly killing a bird out to 100 yards! I say, and the majority of hunter will agree, you should be looking for a maximum of 40 yards for your point of impact and shot pattern.
    Any further out and you risk shooting over the bird or not getting enough pellets for a quick kill. Turkeys have been known to take the full blast of a magnum shotgun shell and then fly off to die later that day. Make sure you get at least 10-15 pellets in the size of a disposable water bottle at 40 yards and you’ll be good to go! 
  • Home Defense - When patterning a home defense shot gun, you’re really looking to make sure you’re not spraying pellets at the neighbor’s house. Look for a tight, fist sized pattern at 5 yards with a dead-on point of aim.
    Don’t lure yourself into thinking you need a choke or birdshot for your home defense shotgun. You need a cylinder bore with 00 or No. 4 Buckshot that’ll punch through furniture and interior walls with relative ease. 


Every sportsman needs to be an expert when it comes to pattern a shotgun. Ethical hunters, and responsible gun owners, always know what is coming out of their gun. Depending on what gun you have and what you plan on sing it for, yo may need to search for what distance should be used to pattern your shotgun.

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