If you want a flexible firearm, the shotgun is one of the best options you have. You can use such a shotgun for your hunting sessions but also as a self-defense weapon and a weapon for tactical operations. One of the aspects that you need to consider when using a shotgun is patterning. This aspect becomes even more important if you are using such a firearm for hunting and if you use chokes with your shotgun.

Patterning your shotgun the right way is essential for your hunting success and the distance you use is one of the key elements. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about what distance should be used to pattern a shotgun and other important details to help you make the most out of such a weapon!

What is the shotgun patterning

Each shotgun will fire differently which is why such a weapon usually becomes a personal item for its main user. These guns tend to perform in different ways due to the multitude of pallets that are peppering one target every time you use your firearm. This difference is not so easy to notice with rifle arms or other weapons but it is quite obvious if you try two shotguns. But your shotgun will become a lot more predictable in terms of performance if you pattern it the right way.

The patterning procedure helps you know and check the spread of your shotgun at any given distance. In order to pattern your shotgun correctly, you will have to decide what type of target will you go after and what type of hunting environment will you perform in. Once you have these coordinates, you will need to adjust your shotgun to match the hunting scenario as well as possible. This implies a shooting place where you can rehearse until you feel like you can rely on your shotgun. And the distance you use to pattern your shotgun is an essential aspect to consider in this procedure.

What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun

The distance to use when you pattern your shotgun can vary and this is the most common question hunters have. If you intend to use your shotgun for hunting, the best distance to pattern it for is 40 yards. This distance offers you a standard set of benefits such as safety for you and a humane way to take down your target.

For skeet shooting, a recommended distance would be 20 yards. This is ideal for practicing and it will definitely get you ready for the 40 yards hunting distance as well if you do it consistently. The 20-yard distance for skeet shooting will help you establish the POI (Point Of Impact) as well as the POA (Point Of Aim) of your shotgun. When it comes to skeet shooting, you will have to take into account your shooting style as well as your preferences and the skills you want to rehearse in order to be successful.

How to set your distance when you pattern the shotgun

The setup you establish is very important for a successful patterning of your shotgun as well as consistency. Once you establish a setup that works, it is just as important to maintain it for all your shooting sessions until you want to repattern your firearm.

Create the target

Feel free to improvise the target as you feel comfortable but make it visible enough for your eyesight. You will need a stand to put your target on and you can make the target out of paper or any type of board as you have handy. Write on your target, in a corner that will not affect your shooting, basic information such as the distance, the barrel you use if your firearm has more barrels, the chokes as well as the type of load you are shooting with.

Set up the target stand

Set the stand with the target attached to it in front of you, at the distance you want and you can always move it if you need to change the patterning distance as well. When you establish your distance, consider the purpose of your shooting such as hunting or sheet shooting or any other type of shooting you might want to practice.

Start by using a vase

If you are a beginner at shooting your shotgun, it will help you to use a vase for it. Putting your shotgun in a vase will give you stability during shooting as well as consistent results. If you don’t have a proper shotgun vase, you can get by if you use a table as well. When everything is set you can start firing at your target. Keep in mind to unload your shotgun first and analyze your patterning after that.

Analyze your patterning

Setting up your patterning distance will only prove to be successful if you analyze your patterning at the end of your shooting session. During your analysis, you will look at the pellet count and pellet density. Count the pellets that reached the kill zone of your target and write the results down on a piece of paper or on the data legend of your target. You also want to kill your target fast and with no extra suffering which is why pellet density is another important factor to look at during your pattern analysis. A pattern that is scattered will not kill your prey fast so you want one that is more compact. But you don’t want the pattern to be too compact either because it will shatter your prey. Find the right balance between these two factors and you will get the perfect patterning distance for your shooting preferences.

Final thoughts

If a certain patterning distance doesn’t work for you and you don’t get the patterning analysis that you want, you can always modify it according to your needs. Once you find the distance that works for you, you will notice that your shooting style will become more accurate and you will make the most out of your shotgun as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment as much as you want with different loads, chokes and shooting styles until you find the perfect equipment and conditions for you.