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Are You Hitting Where You're Aiming?

Advice for the Shooter

There may be nothing more important to your success in the field than spending a little time at the bench patterning your shotgun.

You need to know how your particular shotgun/choke/shotshell works at various distances.

Think of patterning your gun as just another part of the hunt. It is after all.

Here's what I recommend.

I shoot any new gun/sight/choke tube/shotshell combination at a 1" circle, in the middle of 36" x 36" white butcher paper, at 10 yards. I fire 3 consecutive shots from a rest. I visually observe where the highest concentration of the pattern is and then measure its deviation from point of aim, if any. I'm especially looking for any necessary windage (left-right) adjustment needed but also for elevation (up-down) problems.

I repeat this process at 20 yards, 30 yards and lastly, at 40 yards.

From this process I learn a lot about my gun, my choke tube and my shotshell. I can tell how well it shoots at each distance. I know if I need to make adjustments to my sights (or just use Kentucky windage) and exactly how the pattern differs at 20, 30 and 40 yards. This is where I find out about the gun/choke/shotshell, not my shooting ability. That's a whole different story.

By using this method, I've found that some of my guns shoot high, some low, some right and some left. I have a couple that shoot high/right and a couple than shoot low/left. I have a couple that shoot "just right".

If I did not perform this exercise, I just wouldn't know how my gun shoots at a given distance.

Several years ago, I purchased a new shotgun for some choke tube/ammo testing. I used the procedure that I've outlined above. I found out that this particular gun shot 2.5" low and .5" left at 10 yards. At 20 yards it was 7" low, 30 yards 10.5" low and at 40 yards it was 16" low; all left of point of aim as well.

Needless to say, this shotgun was shooting out of standard and was returned to the manufacturer. The point is, I just wouldn't have known about this problem if I hadn't shot it at all these distances.

(I'd also like to point out that I shoot the factory choke tube(s) and any after-market choke tube(s) whenever I discover a problem like this, to try to make certain that I'm not shooting a choke tube that is out of standard.)

Once you've found out how your particular "combination" shoots at the bench, I recommend that you shoot it from a hunting position at various distances.

When you go through those exercises, you'll know exactly how your gun performs, how you shoot it at various distances and you're ready for the hunt.


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