A Graphic Look at Patterns

By Randy Wakeman

The area of a 30 inch circle is 706.8583470577 square inches; let’s call it 706 square inches. All patterns have hotter cores, or central thickening. Even if there was such a thing as a perfectly distributed pattern (which does not exist), it would take a whopping load of 2-1/4 ounces of #7-1/2 shot to populate that pattern with a tad over 1 pellet per square inch. The German method of patterning used 100 equal areas, those 100 pieces containing just over 7 square inches. A 7 square inch area circle has a radius of 1.4927053303605 inches. As the area of a 3 inch circle is close, let’s envision this as a kill zone. Importantly, we are not allowing for any aiming error nor are we showing worst and best case spread, just a representative pattern.

pattern distribution

This 166 pellet load equates to an "Improved Cylinder" pattern of ¾ oz. of #6 shot at 40 yards. If it looks like a pathetic, ineffective pattern, your vision is perfect. No matter what we blow that ¾’s of an ounce out of lead out of, it is not a realistic hunting load at 40 yards. This would roughly equate to trying to use an IC 28 ga. load on pheasants; not the best choice.

Same way, but now with a 1-1/4 oz. load of #6 shot:

pattern distribution

The heavier payload and resultant higher pellet count has dramatically improved the situation. Yet, it is still easy to find 14 square inches of pattern containing no single pellet. Time to switch chokes, and get the pattern up to 70% at the range we are taking game at; in this case 40 yards.

pattern distribution

Our work had paid off. Now, we have something to work with as far as a hunting load. It would still be a lousy handicap trap load, however.

Here’s a representative prediction of an 80% pattern, using #8 shot, and a lighter (1-1/8 oz.) load:

pattern distribution

The point of all this is that our shotshells, shotgun, and choke all work as a system. We desperately need to pattern our shotguns to find a 100% lethal pattern for our target or game, at the ranges at which we intend to take them.

We need to find a properly populated pattern for our target, but also taking into consideration the use of enough pellet size for adequate penetration. Our three-quarters presentation clay pigeon has been taken care of as shown above, but game requires a look at penetration as well.

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.