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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I originally posted the comments below on another topic "1 ounce vs 1 1/8 ounce", but decided it should be in a separate topic so here it is.

I guess this is as good a time as any to start an argument...... er, uh, make that a DEBATE. The subject of this debate is how many pellets it takes to break a target. The conventional wisdom which I have heard repeated innumerable times is that it takes at least 3 pellets to break a target. No one seems to know just WHY this is supposedly true. They just accept that it is true.

Well, here's the reason why many people THINK this is true (other than the fact that they just heard someone else repeat it). It seems that quite a few years back, the owner of a shooting range was picking up targets that had landed in the tall grass at his range and had not broken. He observed that it was common to find targets with one pellet hole in them. It was much less common to find a target with two holes in it, but it occurred occasionally. Even more rare was a target with three holes in it. He never found ANY targets with four holes in it.

From this simple exercise, he concluded that a target can survive one pellet hit and often survive two hits, but only on a rare occasion can it survive three hits, and never can it survive four hits. He made his findings known and other shooters bought the idea hook, line, and sinker. The only problem with his little exercise is that it was totally lacking in the evidence that he most wanted to obtain, i.e. how many pellets actually hit the targets that BROKE? He didn't know and no one seems inclined to ask. They just take it as gospel that it must take at least 3 pellets of proper size for the distance and target.

Not surprisingly, I took a different approach to find out the answer. First, I observed that an excellent shooter could break crossing targets consistently at 45 yards with a modified choke if the targets showed a little bit of the top in addition to the rim of the target. Then I took my shotgun and shot several patterns at 45 yards with a modified choke using 1 1/8 ounce of 7.5 shot. Then I cut out a cardboard piece in the shape and size of a clay target turned slightly so as to show a portion of the top. Then I placed the pattern paper on the ground and randomly dropped the paper target cutout onto the pattern paper and observed how many pellets holes were covered by the cutout.

You want to know what I found? I found that in about one-half of the instances, the paper cutout covered only ONE pellet hole. Sometimes there were two or three holes covered and only occasionally were there four or more holes covered. I also found a few instances (about 5%) where NO holes were covered. This would obviously be a miss or lost target (zero on the score card).

So what are my conclusions? I conclude that in the above situation, one pellet will break the target about 85% to 90% of the time. Two pellets will break the target about 98% of the time. Three pellets will break the target in excess of 99% of the time.

I have done similar tests with different chokes and shot sizes at different distances. My findings are that if the shot size, choke, and distance are appropriate for the target presentation, the results are very similar if not identical.
 

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It depends where the shot hits the target. 3-5 normaly will break the target, but don't bet on it. Ask the field chaiman if you can go into the impact area after they close, You WILL find targets that have 3 or more holes through them and did not break. I can provide photos of such targets if your post gets too far out of hand. Targets of today are made harder to prevent breakage durring shipment and do need to be hit,so they fracture, and break.
Rob.
 

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Pellets do not break targets. They only weaken them allowing centrifugal force to tear them apart.

The information I have read says 3 to 5 hits are required to break targets. The range probably has to do with the material making up the target, the temperature of the target, their rotational speed (how worn is the rubber on the throwing arm and whether or not the targets are dry), the distance at which the targets are hit (which affects the energy of each pellet,) the size of the pellets (bigger holes are slightly more effective), and the angle of the target that to an extent, affects where the target is hit by the pellets.

Rollin
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the comments Rapid Rob and Rollin Oswald, but you continue to claim that it takes 3 to 5 hits to break a target while saying absolutely nothing to refute MY findings to the contrary. If you think that my findings are bogus or contrived in some way, then I ask that you conduct the same experiment yourself. There is no way that it can take 3 to 5 pellets to break a target when a shooter can break the same target under actual field conditions 90% of the time with a pattern that can't possibly give 3 to 5 hits on 90% of his targets. :!: :!: Even the center of the pattern at 45 yards will not consistently give you 3 to 5 hits on the target. There simply aren't enough pellets in the pattern to support your claim.

I didn't conduct this little experiment with the intent of proving or disproving any particular theory. I simply wanted to know the pattern density under the conditions I described above. The pattern density clearly shows that when we combine observed target breaking by an excellent shooter with the data from nearly identical patterns on paper that one pellet MUST be breaking the target the majority of the time. It may not break it EVERY time, and I didn't claim that it would, but it clearly does so the overwhelming majority of the time. Has to be!
 

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I have heard this theory, only slightly different. I heard it as one needing 3 pellets at roughly 1 foot pound of energy to break the typical clay bird reliably, i.e. around 90% of the time, at all target speeds, angles, and distances. As two pellets will do this about 80% or the time, it stands to reason that one pellet will break the target consistantly over 60% of the time. I'm guessing on the single pellet, I've never heard of any other supposition or theory for only one pellet. The misconception is not whether one pellet can break a target, but how often. The 3 pellet crowd want high reliability, higher than one pellet can give. If you are a recreational shooter, losing a couple targets per 100 may not be a big deal. For a competitor, it may be the difference between a prize or just a T-shirt. There is a slide rule type calculator out called the "Choke Chooser" that gives choke suggestions based on the shot size and weight, target size, distance, and attitude to the shooter, and, if I remember correctly, the effective pattern size, based on hit percentage. I could be confusing the hit percentage part to a computer program I have seen. In any case, that 45 yard edge on or slightly canted target really needs at least full choke to provide a good maximum hit/percentage broken ratio. I'm more towards the 3+ hit crowd, a solid hit tells me I'm on, a one pellet chip or a target sawn in half only tells me I got lucky with a pellet, not necessarily what direction I'm off nor if I have adequate pattern density.
 

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Ulysses;

I did not mention your findings because the results were not those of a scientific experiment; they were what is termed, anecdotal or unscientific in nature. It is the best most of us can do at any time.

That is not to say that they are not acurate nor to suggest that your results are not completely honest. I believe completely that you broke the targets as you say.

To make a generalization of the number of pellets required to break targets and to provide useful information for the rest of us would be nearly impossible. We would need information on how your gun patterns, hundreds of trials to learn the consistency of the results, detailed information concerning the targets and the trap machine, weather data, information on the distance between the gun and each broken target, and detailed information regarding the loads and componets used.

Even with all that information made available, the results could not be accurately generalized; it would be demonstratively accurate only under the same exact conditions as the trial.

Rollin
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Uglydog,

All shooters are certainly in favor of getting 3 or more pellet hits on the target each time we pull the trigger. I'm certainly not advocating that we try to get fewer hits. But what patterning have you done to assure that in fact you ARE getting 3 or more pellets hits on your targets? While a full choke will tighten up the pattern a little, it still won't guarantee 3+ hits on a target inside the pattern under the conditions I stated.

Richard,

I don't think it's my pattern testing that has a "fatal flaw". I think it's your lack of understanding of shot strings that has the "fatal flaw". A 2 dimensional pattern is the BEST or IDEAL representation that the pattern could possibly achieve. A 3 dimensional picture would only be worse than the 2 dimensional representation. So, if a 2 dimensional picture won't put 3+ pellets on the target, a 3 dimensional picture would only be worse. A long shot string is certainly not your friend when it comes to breaking targets or killing game. Read Bob Brister's book "Shotgunning, the Art and the Science" and you'll understand it better.

Rollin,

While my experiment may not contain any scientific formulas or calculations to arrive at some theoretical answer, it was, IMO, a valid representation of the number of pellets likely to be put on a target with a certain choke and load at a certain distance. Your results may vary from mine, but I'll bet that the variation is not significant in magnitude. By the way, what WERE your results when you did this same test?
 

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Ulysses;

I made it a point to avoid giving the impression that I had conducted tests; I haven't.

Here's a worthless test that anyone can conduct if they're so inclined. Stand a target on edge facing the shooter at a distance of 35 or 40 yards in an area where targets won't break falling off whatever is used to hold them.

Shoot at them and count the holes in the ones that fall to the ground unbroken. You will be surprised. (Does it being to mind the possibility of a friendly wager along the lines of "I'll pay you $5 for every target you break and you pay me $1 for every one that doesn't."?)

The wager demonstrates the importance of target-rotation when it comes out of the house.

Rollin
 
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I got no data. I have not run any tests. But just from observation, I think 1 #8 pellet will break a target at skeet ranges most of the time. We all know that sometimes it won't, because we see the puff when the pellet goes through and it still flies.
Part of the problem with the patterning approach is that patterns are not uniform from the edge to the center, and that characteristic varies from choke to choke and maybe from gun to gun. There may not be enough pellets on the edge to get consistent mulitple hits, but there certainly are in the center of the pattern where we would ideally like to be working.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I shot in a sporting clays tournament yesterday and one of the stations illustrated perfectly the situation I was referring to in my original post. We had a target coming from right to left at about 42 to 45 yards. At the point where we shot the target, it turned slightly exposing the top at about 45 degrees and began dropping fast. On report, we had a quartering away target that presented nothing but an edge-on profile. This target was usually shot at about 45 yards distance. To make it even tougher, both targets were the "midi" size which is roughly 2/3 the size of a standard target. BTW, my buddy estimated the distance of the targets as 50 yards, but I don't think they were that far away.

I put a modified choke in my autoloader and used one ounce of #7.5 shot. I broke 7 out of 8 targets on that station. There is no way that I can "prove" how many pellets actually hit the targets that broke, but I've shot enough patterns on paper with that load at that distance to know that there isn't one chance in one million that all seven of the targets I broke had 3 or more pellet hits.

Once again, I acknowledge that this is not scientific "proof" that what I'm saying is correct. But if I'm wrong and it actually takes 3 or more hits to break a target, then I'd better go buy me a lottery ticket because I've got to be the luckiest shooter in the world to put 3 or more hits on 7 out of 8 midi targets at 42 to 45 yards. :lol:

I'm not asking you to take my word for it. The solution is simple. Do as I did. Pattern your gun at 45 yards with a modified choke and 7.5 shot and then randomly select locations in the pattern to represent the profile of a target. You'll see that there are very few places where you will have 3 or more hits on that target. If you're not interested in doing this, then you really don't want to know the truth about how many pellet hits it takes to break a target. Suit yourself. I'm trying to enlighten you, but if you don't want to learn, that's your business. :lol:
 

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Rollin Oswald my fellow cheesehead and neighbor. I have to disagree with your statement "Pellets do not break targets. They only weaken them allowing centrifugal force to tear them apart."
When I am teaching a new shotgunner to shoot a shotgun I hang clays from a tree. They shoot the clays and they break. No centrifugal force at all. Some have broke with 1 bb. You can tell because it usually splits it in 2, and the 4 ft drop will not damage the rest of the clay so it is easy to rebuild. Sometimes they end up with several holes in them without shattering. I think you need to look at energy transferred to the target, if in in material if that energy is from one bb or 20. That transfer will depend on angle, shot speed, shot density, target density, target structural integrity, temp of target, and the list goes on. Not only that many of these factors will change with each target and each shell shot. This is a debate left to science and a few million bucks!
 

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I think dwelling on how many pellets it takes is taking the wrong approach. Yes pattern your loads and see if there are holes in the pattern is very important. Tuning your load to make sure it shoots well out of your gun is important. But being overly concerned about the golden pellet you have misssed the point. If all it really took to break a target is 10 pellets you would not need more then a 410 to shoot all displines. The reality is we are not that good so we need 1 oz or more to be able to shoot a moving target consistantly and "break" it to mark an X on the score sheet. Even the best shooter miss some. If you are consistantly just splitting the target in two then your really almost missing them. You need to adjust and get the target in the middle of the shot, not on the fringe. Yes, a chipped target is an X but knowing that a target can be broken with as few as 1 pellet and not broken with as few as 5 should tell you something. If you are splitting targets you are almost splitting some as well! You need to adjust your sight picture and put the target in the middle of the shot pattern not on the fringe. for everyone you split I'm sure there is a miss that almost broke as well. Next time you shoot count your split targets and add that same amount to your score and see what you could of had if you had only centered a few more targets a little better ! I have picked up rabbit targets with 5 holes in them and Helice (ZZ birds) with 8 pellet marks on them that did not break. If you break a target with 3 pellets , just wasted 347 pellets (350 #7 1/2 pellets to a oz). Smoke ball as many as you can and stop wasting pellets!

It's not how many pellets does it take to break the target but how many pellets missed that could have broken the target !
Target Philosophy 101 by APEXDUCK

:D :D :D
 

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Ulysses,

I am confused, yes I know easy to do to me :lol:

I know you do not think that 3 bb's will break a clay, but...

Are you saying that 1, 2 or 3 bb's will break a clay ? OR

Are you saying it takes 10's of bb's to break a clay?

Roger
 

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Ulysses,
I don't know what happened to my last response but upon further thinking, I think we are misunderstanding each other and everyone else. I agree with you that only one pellet can break a target, just not reliably enough for me to depend on. I don't believe one pellet can break a target consistantly, look at how many targets are dusted and lie on the ground unbroken. I do believe that a centered target can recieve multiple hits quite readily, your own test proves that (see the part where about 45% of the time the cutout covered that many holes). As stated, one pellet may possibly break a target, multiple hits increase the probability. Modified choke and 7 1/2s are actually not the best combo for that range. The effective pattern area, which is the area two or more pellets are expected to strike the target, is approximately 12" with this combo. Tightening up to full or tighter, the effective area actually increases to 18". Again, this is only applicable if the target is centered. I, and most other studies, base their conclusions on a centered target. Otherwise, everyone would shoot cylinder choke and 9s for all targets as this will break targets at 50 yards if everything is just perfect. You asked how many patterns I've shot and I'd have to guess no more than you. I have read studies by Bindle, Lowry, and JournCe and have shot enough patterns to establish them correct in my eyes. I don't believe in trusting to the lucky pellet, I prefer to optimize my chances for multiple hits.
 
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