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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Perfecting Your Pattern

Things to consider when patterning your shotgun
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  • photo by Chris Jennings
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  • A basic understanding of choke tube and load interaction is essential to getting the right pattern
  • Do your research to find the best choke and load for your shotgun
  • You may benefit from a professional choke fitting

Load selection

The load also has an effect on the pattern of your gun. Within any cloud of shot, individual pellet placement is entirely random, and no given pellet or group of pellets can be precisely directed. However, if this scatter of pellets is dense enough, the sheer number defeats random positioning and can produce multiple pellet strikes to down the bird.

Choke tubes are essential in this regard, but without a satisfactory load to allow the choke to do its job, you won't see improvement. So how do you find a load to match your choke? According to Roberts, it's a trial-and-error process.

"If you don't feel like getting it professionally done, which I would recommend, the easiest thing to do is to go out and buy a couple of different boxes of shells that you would want to use during the season and go to work," says Roberts. "Find out which type of shell patterns best."

The professional pattern

Even though it is feasible for a hunter to generate a good pattern with basic knowledge of how it works, it's also important to understand that it's not as simple as buying an aftermarket choke tube. Do your research to see which choke best matches your gun.

In many cases, it would be a good idea to have a professional modify and outfit your gun with a choke tube. Roberts suggests a precision custom choke installation and individually fit choke tubes, which will have none of the limitations present in mass-produced or aftermarket choke tubes.

A custom choke will be more likely to be in line with the point of aim when the tube is in alignment with the shotgun bore. The patterns are likely to be more uniform when the shot is constricted evenly through the entire choking action. An off-center choke, which can be found in some factory or aftermarket choke tubes, will have the shot strike first on one side of the choke and have an uneven action.

"Nothing could be more detrimental to one's hunting experience than blatantly overlooking the importance of your shotgun's performance, especially that of the gun's patterning ability with respect to choke tubes and load selection," Roberts concludes.

However, none of this is to say that some quality time with your favorite shotgun can't produce nearly professional results.

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