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How to pattern steel shot

Old 07-11-2009, 06:15 PM
Fork Horn
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 413
Default How to pattern steel shot

I got a new gun this year and started the long process of patterning steel shot. I think my experience could help others and we could all kill a few more birds. I got a mossberg 930 semi auto and a briley light modified extended choke. I have a briley improved modified on the way. I think most people underestimate the importance of patterning. From most conversations I have and posts I read on forums, not many people understand the importance of shot charge. Most loads have 3 different shot charges. For 3 inch shells its 1 1/8, 1 1/4, and 1 3/8 oz. From what I have seen they will all shoot totally different. I have a nova/patternmaster combo that loves 1 3/8 oz loads but will not pattern 1 1/8 oz at all. Another thing I've noticed is the bigger shot sizes (bb,bbb,t) are much harder to pattern. To the point that a large majority of the ammo out there will not pattern good out of your gun. Its ashame theres so many people using the wrong loads and injuring birds just because they don't know and they grab any ammo off the shelf because they heard it shoots good. I bought 10 boxes of steel shot. A few at a time until I found out my gun/choke prefers 1 1/4 oz loads. I tried several brands of goose/ duck loads in 1 1/8 and 1 3/8 that would not hold a usable pattern out to 40 yards. 40 yards is my range for the light modified. Its open enough for decoying birds but if they act skittish I can still drop them. I started at 40 yards with brown packing paper. I drew a 30 inch circle. I cut one of each shell open and counted the pellets. I write all the ammo info on the paper so not to get mixed up. I shoot and count the pellets inside the 30 inch circle, divide that number by the number of pellets I counted in the shell. Now I have a percentage. For me less than 65% is unusable. Its good to try it a few times and get an average percentage. Now I can move my target out further until I find my maximum ethical range with at least a 65% pattern. I found with my gun/choke 3" kent 1 1/4 oz #3 for ducks and 3" kent 1 1/4 oz #1 for geese is a good set up. At 40 yards I have 80% for the 3's and 75% for the 1's. Obviously theres no point in doing the math if theres hand sized holes in the pattern. The percentages dropped off drastically at 50 yards but like I said this is a set up for decoying birds and my maximum range is 40 yards. After I figured this out I shot closer ranges just to see what I'm working with. I'm going the pattern heavier loads with the improved modified choke. Ammo is not cheap but we owe it to the birds. You wouldn't rifle hunt deer without spending time at the range grouping ammo. Why do it with waterfowl. I hope this helps some people bag a few more birds. Thanks, Brad
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:21 PM
Nontypical Buck
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: Central Kansas
Posts: 1,289

Thanks for the info!

That is how we do it as well. We just start at 30 yards and if we can get around 100 BB's in a 30" circle we call it good. We use Kent 3" 1/4 #1's for geese and 4's for ducks and have no problems with killing them.
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Old 07-16-2009, 04:26 PM
Fork Horn
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 198

Thanks for the great info. I sort of know which loads work better in my gun, but I need to get to work and do it the right way. Thanks again!!!
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