I think that the best distance would be one that would simulate the distance of whichever game you are playing.
Experiment with different load/choke combinations.
KEEP GOOD NOTES on the results especially if you are reloading your own rounds.
Industry standard for patterning in all but the .410 is 40 yd. You may indeed get a perspective for you gun at any other range you intend to shoot, but comparing data one with another, and choke performance, all such data is based on 40 yd distances.
Do you shoot your birds, clays and bunnies at 40 yards? I think the answer is NO!
As for me, I pattern my chokes at the distance I use them, about 20 yards for woodcock, grouse and skeet targets, 27 yards for IC, 32 yards for modified, pheasants and 16 yard trap, and 40 yards for full and ducks, geese, and handicap trap.
The 40-yard patterns don't give me a clue to practical uses for lesser chokes than full. (And I have performed the 40-yard pattern "exercise"!)
And I know what chokes to put into all my guns for the task at hand, because I patterned every one of 'em, and know what to expect!
I think bob is spot on.
I shoot at 40 because I want to gauge my duck/pheasant, fox/coyote loads at 40 and perhaps beyond.
For rabbits and other close range game I will pattern with i/c choke or cyl choke at 20 to 30 yards, even as close as 10 yards.
Bunnies in the brush don'cha'know, can be pretty darned close.
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