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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There are three schools of thought about patterning shotguns

1. The vast majority of shotgun owners never pattern their shotguns except perhaps turkey loads, and even then the shooter stocks up a commercial turkey head target and expresses satisfaction when his Jellyhead Devastator Super Zombie choke results in several pellets on the head of the turkey.

2. The conscientious, scientific, reliably cautious types such as Randy Wakeman,,,who preach to mostly empty pews the virtues of the time honored patterning methods where each pellet inside of a thirty inch circle at forty yards.

3. The eyeballers who shoot lots of patterns against a plate and by experience learn to grade by sight patterns into a sliding scale between tight and wide open.

If people are paying you for your pattern analysis,,,then by all means do your duty and draw circles and count pellets "the right way".

But if you're trying to enjoy your shotgun I say never count pellets, only eyeball patterns.

The problem with counting pellets is that the standard oatterning methods do not really measure anything worthwhile except for full choke patterns, which only a few shooters ever use today. When considering anything less than 70% patterns the standard American thirty circle has no values for roundness of pattern, smooth transition of the dense core into the wider circle, and how far the pattern core stays intact intil it starts to look like a handful of gravel thrown against the target instead of a real pattern.

There's another reason not to count pellets. All patterns shot at forty yards will have thin areas and holes, and counting pellets at forty yards leads to using too much choke to attempt to close up the holes. The shooter misses at 25 yards as the consequence of too small a pattern at the more common ranges.

Shotguns are effective to thirty five yards using no choke at all. The standard improved cylinder choke makes the gun effective to forty yards and then some, and even an expert shot is hard pressed to shoot better than an improved cylinder choke provides.

A light modified choke is even more effective than an improved cylinder at fifty yards, but at fifty yards even the better shots start missing a LOT of targets and birds.

For those who insist on pellet counting,,,I ask these questions:

1. Take the standard three chokes that come with virtually all new shotguns.

Have you ever seen an IC choke deliver tighter patterns than the MOD, or the MOD tighter patterns than the FULL? I've never seen that happen, and I've eyeballed a great many patterns from my old shotguns.

2. I'll grant there are sometimes differences in full and extra full choke tubes,,,,although not usually much. But have you ever shot three IC or three MOD choke tubes and seen any perceived difference in the tubes? I never have.

3. The average shot wants a wide open choke for skeet and a tight choke for trap and an in between choke for sporting clays. How does he benefit by counting pellets for his three choke tubes? I propose there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between 100 standard factory choke tubes if you went through the labor of patterning them all,,,except for the tightest of turkey chokes,,,,maybe. Why beat yourself up counting pellets when there aren't any real differences between choke tubes?

I have several old smoke pole grade shotguns with Polychokes. Some them required barrel bending to shoot patterns centered on the plate, but once centered each and every Polychoke has ALWAYS produced a tighter pattern at ten yards with each click I tightened down the collet on the choke. Not once did a tighter choke produce a larger pattern with ANY shell.

So why do I pattern shotguns at all?

If you subtract the pellet counting and stand upright and shoot quickly at the center of the plate, you can have fun seeing the differences that more constriction make on pattern performance. Shoot enough patterns and you'll decide that a choke just a bit tighter than Improved Cylinder is the most useful and flexible of chokes for targets from 20-50 yards, and beyond that it's hard to connect anyway.

I only shoot those patterns because our Shooter's Club has a 48" steel plate with a good mix of white grease paint on a roller that makes shooting patterns easy.

I've tried downloading the shotgun oatterning apps and can't get them to work.

So try setting up a good plate with grease paint and forget pellet counting, I say.

But if you just want to count hundreds and hundreds of little holes---have at it---

But I won't.:)

Shotguns shoot hundreds of pellets at fast moving targets and the whole game is to have fun!

To me, counting pellets ain't no fun at all.
 

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Shooting a plate will give an impression, pun intended, of what one might ocassionally expect at a given distance.
It will indicate what might be expected as one moves closer or farther from the plate.
Shooting a plate would be much better, imho, than shooting at one of those old round oil cans tossed in a road ditch.
Shooting a plate is often good enough.

However, were I to ignorantly wonder what choke is in the barrel, possibly a previously fiddled with barrel...would unlikley to be a choke tube, for me...then counting pellet holes will give me a surer idea than shooting a plate.
There would be a scant few other reasons to count holes....aside from the drfeaded curiosity.

I leave the "experienced" eye-baller's, on any subject, opinions to themselves.....just as I leave the bible-waver at Kroger alone.
Sometimes, one discovers it best to decide for themselves what route to take and then adjust as necessary.....rather than adapt to the opinion or definition of fun of others.
Not everyone wishes to be like Mike.
An odd idea, I know.
 

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SuperXOne said:
There are three schools of thought about patterning shotguns
No, not really. You either pattern your shotguns, or you don't. It isn't limited to just shotguns, for some hunters never sight in their rifles: if it is bore-sighted, it is good enough. Or, if you can hit a milk jug two out of five time, it is "good enough" to hunt with.

The massive aftermarket choke industry and its continued growth suggests that folks very much do care about pattern quality, happily pay for it, are often not pleased with what comes in the box with the gun, and continually seek to improve it.
 

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Counting pellets is no big deal at all. I pattern on paper with a 30" circle with a red bulls eye in the center. Use a bench rest for the gun and aim for the center. As I count I use a marker to strike across the counted holes so they aren't counted twice. Count holes inside and outside of the circle. This only takes about 5 minutes. Then calculate the % inside and out. That's it! No big deal at all. No drudgery! It's simple, and it is so revealing! Until you do this, you don't really know what your chokes are doing for you.
 

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SuperX, you're just lazy. Until it comes to typing! :lol:

I believe you need to shoot and count, THEN look for pattern quality like even distribution and proper pattern bloom. I count by quadrant of the circle using poi as the center and relate the overall pattern to poa. I like my patterns a bit high at 40 yards.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I admit to laziness when counting holes in a pattern.

We'd never do that, I submit, had it not been for WW Greener and his gun making friends somehow deciding that patterns should be shot at thirty inch circles at forty yards and the winner of the contest the maker of the gun that counted the must pellets in the circle.

Why 30 inches for the circle? Why forty yards? What measurement other than the most pellets in the circle does such oatterning prove?

I probably have too many gun books. The authors of serious shotgun books for almost a century and a half have been obliged to go count the number of pellets in a thirty inch circle at forty yards--when common experience has shown that about forty thousands of choke in 12 gauge produces a very tight pattern that will exceed 70%.

For me, I search for that holy grail of patterns which has been called "quarter choke", Skeet Two, light modified, and I call "improved cylinder plus".

Ignore pellet counts.

What is needed is a choke of about 12-13 thousands in a 12 gauge that accomplishes these goals:

1. Appx ten inch spread at 10 yards.

2. About twenty inch spread at twenty yards.

3. Just less than a thirty inch spread at forty yards with a denser core.

4. Less than a forty inch spread at forty yards.

5. Larger shot patterns tighter

6. There is still a usable but small pattern core at fifty and even sixty yards.

7. Patterns are more or less round

8. In exchange for a slightly smaller twenty yard circle than open cylinder, and a slightly more open forty yard pattern than modified, the compromise IC+ choke is a true all around do everything choke.

It's my belief that there is such a thing as a good all around one choke gun, and that can almost always be achieved by a choke delivering tight improved cylinder performance.

It's the behavior and spread of the shot swarm, not the number of pellets on a pattern plate that determine this.

And, since there are no 12.5 thousands 12 gauge choke tubes sold, the best choice is improved cylinder. Most light mod tubes are too close shooting at 20 yards to be good skeet guns.

And I can't prove any of this pet choke theory of mine, unless I hand you one of my few IC+ choked shotguns and you see for yourself.

I think that a 12.5 thousands choke was the secret of the "Eysterized" custom choke work so many sporting clays gunners had (and some still) done.

Quite a few fixed modified Winchesters have this choke, and I think it can easily be duplicated.

And, for what it's worth, the best Skeet gun has a straight cylinder bore, or perhaps the old Lyman "speader" choke.

For trap guns where all the targets are distant, about thirty thousands (light full) seems best to me.

And, although I may be superstitious, I cannot get around to believing that all chokes deliver the same patterns, just at different ranges. I believe the tighter the choke the denser the core at all ranges until the pattern falls apart.

If you shoot lots of patterns looking at the entire pattern and not counting pellets, at different ranges with different chokes and shot sizes, I think you'll agree.

We make too much over shot percentage, when we should be looking at the spread and core of the entire pattern.
 

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Why 30" at 40 yards? It probably had to do with a reasonable spread would look like for taking a game bird of an average size that was flying near the end of what would be reasonable shot.

Probably the same reason that we sight in our deer rifles at 100 yards for the major part, although real world shots will be from 30 yards to 300 yards.

I agree that looking for eveness and holes is a quick way to look at a given pattern; but irons really wants to get any kind of statistical analysis between two lots of shells, or let's say two different choke tubes, one need to count the pellets. It's not hard to do. One doesn't need to spend an inordinate amount of time not be Rainman to count these up from time to time.

Another thread got out of hand by some who claimed holes in patterns don't matter because of the string effect. I disagree wholeheartedly with that one.

The pellets aren't coming out like some continuous flow of water from a hose that's being waved around. They start as a small compact column with similar velocity. Holes in patterns do matter.

Likewise, if one shell gives you 70% on target with good distribution, and another shell using the same choke gives you 55% on target, it's kind of a no brainer as to which one I'd buy after I've invested a lot of time and money training dogs, making decoys, practicing calling, setting up a pheasant hunt, etc.

Then there are those who also claim this doesn't matter because "you just need to learn how to shoot better and be on the target". Ask Todd Bender or David Radulivich if the elite shooters don't want to have the best possible pattern doe range when a big shoot is on the line.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's difficult to put in words what I have perceived in shooting patterns, but here are my impressions about full choke patterns.

If every target is over forty yards at the break point, then we want a very tight choke.

But, and here's the subjective part, the penalty for a tighter circle is that the outer edges of the circle are patchy and uneven, with more holes and thin spots. As others have described it, "the center is greedy".

I think this "tight core" behavior extends from the muzzle to the point somewhere after sixty yards the pattern becomes just a random flight of pellets---for tighter chokes.

The most even patterns are from cylinder bore guns. But even cylinder bore patterns are slightly center dense.

Gill and Judy Ash did a video showing the different circles patterns made, and their conclusion was the 20 thousands modified choke is the most versatile.

I disagree.

My 12 gauge guns that have 12-13 thousands choke are slightly better at early spreading and still manage to "hold" a pattern from 20-40 yards very well without "trumpeting" like an IC starts to do about forty yards.

And yet all this, even my ideas, are impractical.

The best advice is to have a beginner screw in a standard IC tube and toss his choke wrench in a drawer. He'll lose about two or three inches on either side of his twenty yard pattern to a cylinder bore and in return he'll gain about ten yards from 35-45 yards for the occasional long bird.

When he's an expert shot he can screw in a commercial .015 Light Mod, which will shave another few inches from his close 20 yard pattern and actually increase the center dense core that reliably breaks targets from 35-55 yards, and a bit beyond if he's lucky.

Only a stone cold expert can make use of anything tighter than an improved cylinder choke for hunting and sporting clays.
 

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Serious question: Let's assume we are evaluating patterns for 1 oz. loads of #9 skeet loads. With approx 511 pellets in a shot and all the possible random positioning of those pellets in a skeet choke pattern, how many shots does one have to make to have a statistically valid set of data to evaluate the real differences in the loads to any degree of certainty? I don't know that number, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 3 or 5. Anyone know or wanna give your best quess?

Another question: In evaluating the differences between Brand A and Brand B 1 oz #9 target shotshells, would you think you would get a better idea of any significant difference in performance by shooting them at a stationary piece of paper or by actually shooting them at a target and noting any difference in scores? Let's say we shoot 20 rounds (500 shots) of skeet in practice. What do you think?

Do you think a 14% difference in pattern density would be significant? How about 28%
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
twohigh said:
Serious question: Let's assume we are evaluating patterns for 1 oz. loads of #9 skeet loads. With approx 511 pellets in a shot and all the possible random positioning of those pellets in a skeet choke pattern, how many shots does one have to make to have a statistically valid set of data to evaluate the real differences in the loads to any degree of certainty? I don't know that number, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 3 or 5. Anyone know or wanna give your best quess?

Another question: In evaluating the differences between Brand A and Brand B 1 oz #9 target shotshells, would you think you would get a better idea of any significant difference in performance by shooting them at a stationary piece of paper or by actually shooting them at a target and noting any difference in scores? Let's say we shoot 20 rounds (500 shots) of skeet in practice. What do you think?

Do you think a 14% difference in pattern density would be significant?
To analyze questions on skeet we have over 80 years of good data.

We don't care about shooting patterns for skeet guns. The winners simply use what has been proven to work.

Where patterns count the most is the shooter that gains possession of an old fixed choke field grade repeating shotgun or double gun with modified or full chokes.

Unless he's content to use his gun on long distance doves or trap, he's soon to discover he can't take that shotgun and be competive at skeet with it and for sporting clays he'll miss close targets.

If he has enough old guns to shoot, sooner or later he'll find that a Model 12 or Model 50 or SX1 with about a 12-13 thousands constriction will kill near and far,,,both.

Then he can start having his fixed choke barrels reamed out to provide improved cylinder plus performance and he'll be happier with his gun.

That's my experience, and having a gun opened up to .0125 constriction costs less than a flat of shells.

Try it and you'll like it.
 

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twohigh said:
Serious question: Let's assume we are evaluating patterns for 1 oz. loads of #9 skeet loads. With approx 511 pellets in a shot and all the possible random positioning of those pellets in a skeet choke pattern, how many shots does one have to make to have a statistically valid set of data to evaluate the real differences in the loads to any degree of certainty?
Three.

"Three" as in "3-shot group." Certainly, five yields better data resolution, and ten is better yet. See the one page summary here, by A C Jones: http://www.shotgun-insight.com/ShotgunI ... mmary.html .
 

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SuperXOne said:
...and having a gun opened up to .125 constriction costs less than a flat of shells.
Try it and you'll like it.
I doubt I would like that constriction as .125 would be a bit too tight.....for me.

I think it a good idea that you do not count pellets. {hs#
Stick to the info comparable to photos in books. :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The idea of the perfect compromise choke being tighter than the customary .010 and more open than .020 is not mine. Askins the Elder preferred his 50-55% chokes in the 1920s. Elmer Keith wrote about the "quarter choke". Even the prolific Randy Wakeman wrote a good piece about the "light modified" or "Skeet 2" choke. There are almost countless others in print advocating something on the order of a tighter than normal improved cylinder being "the one true choke" to have when you can only chose one choke.

http://chuckhawks.com/magic_shotgun_choke.htm

What I claim is that the place to grind is at twelve and a half thousands, which is slightly less than the usual fifteen thousands light modified.

And it doesn't make much difference.

I have several .015 light mod chokes, yet I prefer .0125 when I can get it.
 

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Why stop at counting pellets? Why not shoot at a paper marked with a grid so you can assign an x,y coordinate for each hole. Then plot the hits on a graph to get a Gaussian distribution curve with the highest hit density being the middle of the pattern. Then you could compare normal distribution curves of different chokes.
Put the numbers through some standard deviation formulas etc.

Your pattern density should sorta look like this:
 

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Don't think that chart is marked right. Should be "+/- Three Standard Deviations from the mean."

Same plus or minus applies to 2 and 1 std. deviations.

This is that Six Sigma malarkey that so infatuates corporate big-wigs who really have no understanding of it.
 

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Consider that when Consumer Reports evaluates a product, they use only example, whether a toaster, coffee-maker, etc. When automobiles are evaluated, 10 examples are not compared, but only one.

Look the fortunes made on the basis of Neilsen ratings, rating based on a tiny sampling and ratings that fail to account for iTunes, Hulu, YouTube, and streaming on various devices. You can also consider polls that are reported daily, and also consider how little human testing is involved before a drug is prescribed. The drugs your doctor tells you to ingest are more important to your quality of life than cracking a piece of fragile clay as a hobby.

The goal is usable information in your gun, under your ambient conditions, for your applications. SAAMI voluntary standards allow for a #8 pellet to be actually #8-1/2 or #7-1/2. SAAMI voluntary standards also allow for a 180 fps difference vs. is what is printed on a box of shotshells.

Constriction alone ignores shell quality, choke quality, choke geometry, ambient conditions (temperature and elevation), and your individual shotgun.

Chokes were not created merely to crack clays. Consider the story of Fred Kimble: http://www.traphof.org/Inductees/Kimble-Fred.html . "I started experimenting in the gun shop of Charlie Stock in Peoria. At first I used musket barrels, left over from the Civil War, as they were heavy and would stand a lot of boring. Then I procured regulation gun barrels to bore after I had obtained results by repeatedly boring and calipering. After I had finished boring the 6-bore, I found I had a gun up to 80 yards. I used six drams of coarse grain powder and No. 3 shot, 1½ ounces. This gun would shoot through an inch board at 40 yards. The velocity up to 40 yards was very great; at 60 yards it slowed down to one half and at 80 yards it had slowed down to another half." The first gun he bored like this put the entire charge of shot in a 24-inch circle at 40 yards."
 

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B.L.E. said:
Why stop at counting pellets? Why not shoot at a paper marked with a grid so you can assign an x,y coordinate for each hole.
The Germans spent a lot of resources coming up with the "100 Field Target" that was eventually scrapped due to impracticality.

The position of pellets inside a pattern is random, not repeatable, and no two patterns are identical. Optical character readers are nothing new, they are used to score match targets, but plotting what is random serves no purpose.
 

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Randomness is the essence of a Gaussian distribution. Without it, you don't get the classic bell curve.

Plotting lets you determine whether or not the distribution is random, by how closely it forms a bell curve. It takes quite a few samples, 10 usually being given as the minimum, to determine if you have a Gaussian distribution. If you do, you can reliably predict the percentages of your patterns within +/- 3, 2, and 1 standard deviations.

In other words, past performance does indicate future results.
 
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