TurboTarget: A Better Way to Pattern your Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

For countless years, shotgun enthusiasts have mused about shotshell patterns, shotgun shell performance and choke performance, largely to no avail. You've heard it all before: the good pattern, the pattern that really crushes clays, the pattern that drops birds like rain, the pattern that hits like a ton of bricks, the pattern that traumatizes game birds.

Very few folks properly pattern their shotguns, for understandable reasons: it is a drag. It is horribly time consuming, boring and tedious. Therefore, instead of gaining any actual understanding of what shotshell / choke combinations actually do, the generally worthless practice of reading breaks, shooting at snow, water, or popping a round into a grease-plate is a more popular path.

We like to eyeball things, then bicker about what we only guessed at. We waste money, thinking that back-boring, porting, longer forcing cones and cryogenically treated barrels actually do something, other than emptying out our wallets.

Standards for shotshell/choke pattern performance have long been in place: the percentage of pellets in a 30 inch circle at 40 yards. That standard applies to all gauges (except .410), all shotguns. Yet, it is largely ignored.

Here is a simple, direct question. In your gun, with the choke you are using and the shell you are shooting, how many pellets are you putting in a 30 inch circle? Not one in a thousand shotgun enthusiasts have any clue, for properly patterning shotguns is a royal pain in the rump roast.

An outfit called Target Telemetrics (www.targettelemetrics.com) has changed all that. They have developed and patented 42x48 inch targets that can be quickly read and analyzed by their software, yielding fast and precise pattern information like never before.

I have some of the targets here, with more on the way. The latest software version is set for release in a few days. Here is how it works.

You set up a Turbo Target at 40 yards, fire your pattern and take a picture of it with a digital camera, while the target is still standing. The JPEG image from your point and shoot camera is read by the software and you get precise pattern info. The output from the program looks likes this:

TurboTarget on computer

Apparently, what they call accuracy is actually pattern offset, as indicated by the red line starting in the center of the image. In the example image, you know that you just put 365 pellets in a 30 inch circle and that your point of impact is 2.1 inches to the left and 1.7 inches low. If fired very carefully from a bench rest to eliminate all shooter error, this will prove to be an easy way to check barrel regulation on your O/U or SxS shotgun.

Using this software with the patented Turbo Targets is claimed to read down to size #9 shot. Manually grading a pattern with 1-1/8 ounces of #8 shot is a time-consuming pain, for that is about 461 pellet holes to count.

This product will not be for everyone, for the proprietary targets themselves are expensive to produce and ship. However, for the better full-service gun clubs, it is going to be something they will want to have. Anyone who wants to get the most out of their shotgun (and has endured pellet-counting) will want to have it. It means precise information, relatively quickly, without guesswork.

It helps report with exactitude on whether chokes marked Modified actually are, whether barrels shoot to point of aim, whether the premium shotshell actually is, whether all the gizmos promised to put more pellets in the kill zone actually do.

An approach like this is as unbiased as you can get. How bad are promo loads? How good are premium loads? How do your reloads compare? Who makes the best turkey load, the best turkey choke? What shotguns pattern the worst out of the box, what shotguns pattern the best and how much difference is there?

To get results that are accurate and shareable, you need a couple of basic things: better than 5 megapixel images (the iPhone 5, introduced in 2012, has an 8MP camera) and the images need to be in focus. Inexpensive pocket cameras have been at 10, 12 and up to 18MP for a good long while. In this application, zoom range is unimportant and most folks already have suitable pocket cameras or smartphones.

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Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.