Learn What Distance Should Be Used To Pattern A Shotgun?

When you fire a shotgun with a multiple-pellet shell, the pellets start to spread out into a pattern when the shell exits the barrel of the gun. As the distance between the pellets and the shotgun increases so does the diameter of the pattern.

Generally speaking, the pallet pattern differs from shotgun to shotgun. This means that you can never have two shotguns having the same pellet pattern. There are several factors that influence a shotgun’s pellet pattern, and they include-

  • shell brand,
  • choke, and
  • shot size.

That being said, when selecting pellets for your shotgun, you must first know how to pattern it. Towards this end, in this article, I will be tackling the age-old question of what distance should be used to pattern a shotgun.

Understanding Shotgun Patterning

Shotgun patterning refers to the way in which the pellets from your shotgun shell spread out as they leave the barrel. This spread is known as the “shot pattern.” Understanding how your shotgun patterns are crucial to being able to accurately aim and shoot at your target. Patterning your shotgun involves testing different loads, chokes, and shooting distances to determine the best combination for your specific shotgun.

How Does Choke Affect Pellet Pattern?

The one factor that affects a shotgun’s pellet pattern is the choke. The latter is a constriction at the muzzle of a shotgun. This constriction improves a shotgun’s performance and is popular among many hunters. So how does this constriction affect the pellet pattern?

The choke affects how tight and spread out a shotgun’s pattern is. There are essential, five types of choke, full, modified, cylinder, and improved cylinder.

Cylinder Choke

The cylinder choke is the most open of all chokes and does not constrict the shot in any way. It is ideal for shooting at close range and is commonly used for home defense or shooting skeet.

Improved Cylinder Choke

The improved cylinder choke is slightly more constricted than the cylinder choke and is ideal for shooting at medium ranges. A gun with an improved cylinder choke produces a pattern that spreads out fairly quickly It is commonly used for hunting upland game birds such as quail, pheasant, and grouse.

Modified Choke

The modified choke is even more constricted than the improved cylinder choke and is ideal for shooting at longer ranges. It is commonly used for hunting waterfowl such as ducks and geese.

A gun with a modified choke has moderate constriction meaning the pattern stays together and is denser. This kind of choke is ideal for long-range shooting. Thus, a gun with a modified choke will produce a dense pellet pattern.

Full Choke

The full choke is the most constricted of all chokes and thus the pellet pattern stays together. Full choke is ideal for shooting at the longest ranges. It is commonly used for hunting wild turkeys or shooting traps.

When considering the distance for patterning a shotgun, it is important to consider its choke. As seen above, the gun’s choke will have a big influence on the pallet pattern.

How Choke Affects the Shotgun’s Effective Range

The choke also affects the shotgun’s effective range by controlling how far the pellets travel before they start to spread out. A tighter constriction results in a longer effective range, while a looser constriction results in a shorter effective range.

For example, when you shoot with a cylinder choke, the pellets start to spread out rapidly, reducing their effective range to just a few yards. However, when you shoot with a modified choke, the pellets can travel much farther before they start to spread out, making it possible to hit targets at much longer ranges.

Pro Tip: If you want to get succeed in your clay shooting or skeet shooting competition then the best skeet thrower is a must for you. Because practice is the pillar of success and a thrower will be handy for your practice session. Try to get an automated thrower if you are a competitive shooter unless a cheap thrower will be the best 🙂

Which Is The Right Pellet Pattern?

As a shooting enthusiast, you know that achieving the perfect pellet pattern is key to hitting your targets with precision and accuracy. But how do you determine which pellet pattern is best for your shotgun?

The pellet pattern of your shotgun will determine a lot of things including how well it shoots, and the shot distance.

The answer lies in examining the pattern of pellets that hit your target. When you fire your shotgun, you want a pattern that contains a significant number of pellets hitting the target, evenly distributed across the area. A good rule of thumb is that your pattern should include around 55-60% of the pellets that exited your gun’s barrel.

Which Is The Right Pellet Pattern for shotgun

By inspecting the pattern of pellet holes on your target, you can determine whether your shooting is accurate and effective. If the pellet holes are unevenly distributed across the target, then your pattern is not correct, and you may need to make adjustments to your shooting technique or equipment.

Thankfully, examining your pellet pattern is not rocket science and can be done easily with a physical examination. With a little practice and attention to detail, you can hone your shooting skills and achieve the perfect pellet pattern for your shotgun.

What Distance Should Be Used To Pattern A Shotgun?

One of the most important questions in shotgun patterning is what distance to use for the best results. The answer to this question largely depends on the purpose of your shotgun, as well as the standard kill range for the game you’ll be hunting or shooting

For trap shooting and hunting of pheasants and waterfowl, the standard kill range is 40 yards. On the other hand, for competitive skeet shooters, this range drops to 25 yards. According to me the answer to this question is 40 yards, the reason being that most people use shotguns for hunting. Therefore, the recommended distance for patterning a shotgun is 40 yards.

trap shooting tips

However, as I shall explain below, when patterning a shotgun, try and shoot from different distances. Ideally, you should begin shooting from the 25-yard range and work your way to 40 yards.

What To Use To Pattern A Shotgun?

Knowing the right distance to pattern a shotgun is not enough to get you on course to pattern your shotgun. Thus, you will need to know what else is required, since you cannot pattern a shotgun using the shotgun only. There are several things you will need when preparing to pattern a shotgun, and they are;

  • A square blank of paper measuring 4 by 4 feet
  • A sturdy patterning board also measuring 4 by 4 feet
  • An open area that is free from human traffic
  • A platform where to place the patterning board, it can be a bench
Distance of cylinder and full choke Should Be Used To Pattern A Shotgun


Some people use commercial targets with a bull’s eye at the center. While this can be a nice alternative to blank paper, it has its limitation. The main limitation is that you cannot use it for the entire patterning procedure. Therefore, I recommend going for a blank piece of paper attached to a patterning board.

How To Pattern A Shotgun?

Now that you know from what distance you should pattern a shotgun and what to use, let’s get to the actual process of patterning a shotgun. The procedure is fairly simple and can be achieved without any problems.

The first step will be to set up the patterning board with the blank paper. Once you have set the target, try shooting the target from a distance of 40 yards. If you are thinking of going bird hunting immediately after patterning, then aim from 35 yards. Try to aim at the center of the square paper target.

Repeat the first step with a new piece of blank paper two times. Essentially, you should shoot at three different pieces of paper. Once you have shot at all three blank papers, draw a thirty-inch circle on all of them. Draw the circle around the area of the pattern that is most dense. This should be done on all three paper targets.

The next step is the most crucial and will entail you doing some calculations. In this step, you will have to determine the percentage of load that will land on the target for 40 yards. To count the number of shots that have hit all three targets. Once you have gotten the result, divide it by three. The result you get will be your pellet count average.

Divide this average by the number of pellets you had originally. When doing this calculation, include the pellets that you have used. Multiply that number by 100, and the result you get is your load percentage. Ideally, the load percentage should be between 55 and 60%.

Do You Really Need To Pattern Your Shotgun?

By now you must probably be wondering whether there is a need to pattern your shotgun. Well, if you want your shooting to yield the desired results, then shotgun patterning is a must. And the reason is that patterning helps you know where to shoot the gun.

Thus, as a hunter patterning will help you know which prey to shoot at using your shotgun. This is the main reason why patterning is so important to hunters in particular. Patterning will help you know the density or the impact delivered by the shotgun.

pellets spread pattern

Another important reason to pattern a shotgun is to check for voids. A void is an area on the target that has not been hit by the pellet. If your pattern has a void, then your chances of killing a waterfowl are greatly reduced. Because as a hunter you will most likely be aiming at the waterfowl’s head, and a void in the pellet pattern will result in a miss.


Patterning a shotgun is a crucial step in ensuring that your shotgun is accurate and suitable for your hunting or shooting needs. One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to patterning a shotgun is what distance to use. The answer is not difficult to find, but it largely depends on the purpose of your shotgun and the game you’ll be hunting or shooting.

However, the process of patterning a shotgun is not difficult, and it’s something that you can do at home. To ensure safety, make sure that there’s nobody near the target area. Although you may experience some inconsistencies with your pellet pattern, always pick the most suitable pattern for your needs.

If you notice that the pellets are unevenly distributed on the target, consider using another shell to achieve a better pattern. This may involve testing different shells with varying shot sizes, shot types, and choke tubes to find the best combination for your shotgun.

In summary, patterning a shotgun is a straightforward process that can significantly improve your accuracy and success when hunting or shooting. By choosing the right distance, using a square blank of paper attached to a patterning board, and ensuring safety, you can accurately evaluate your shotgun’s performance and make necessary adjustments. With these tips in mind, you no longer need to shy away from patterning your shotgun and can confidently use it for your favorite outdoor activities.

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