Beretta Blog

Shotgun Shells: The Ins and Outs of Selection (Part 2)

Posted by matteo recanatini on Jun 25, 2012 11:30:00 PM

By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

In the last segment we talked briefly about a few different factory loads and hand loading.  We saw a few examples of how different characteristics work in different loads and how those characteristics determine how the load performs when it comes to ballistics. Now let’s tie all this together and find what works best in our guns….

...after the jump.

The very first thing I do when I load a new recipe is load up about 3-5 shells with the recipe and take them out to pattern them.  I take a large piece of paper or cardboard and draw a 30” diameter circle in the middle of it.  I want the highest percentage of pellets I can possibly get in that circle at the range I will be using the shell at.  Now draw a horizontal and vertical line in the circle dividing it into 4 sections and label them 1, 2, 3, and 4 in no certain order.  This will help us understand how well the shot is evenly distributed.  Where the 2 lines cross will be your Point Of Aim (POA).  I then take the setup out to the field, walk off the distance I will be shooting at in real world situations, take aim, and shoot.
It is now time to check your results.  Start counting the holes in each quadrant of the circle and write the number down on a piece of paper for each quadrant.  I will also write down the number of holes OUTSIDE of the circle.  The first thing we are looking for is how well the pattern is spread out within the circle.  If I have 54 pellets in quadrant 1, 60 in 2, 58 in 3 and 40 in 4 then I know my pattern is fairly lopped sided.
The next thing I will do is add up the 4 quadrants and divide that by the known number of pellets in the shell and multiply by 100 to get my percentage.  Shot in a shell is measured by weight and the number of pellets should be fairly consistent as long as the weight and shot size remain the same.  I personally will not settle for anything less than 80% in the circle.
Lastly I look for any “holes” in the pattern.  If I have 90% of the pellets in the circle, but there is an area of 5-10” in diameter that has nothing or 1-2 pellets then that isn’t such a great pattern.
I always run 2 or 3 patterns with the same loads on new sheets of paper for each shot to get a good representation of how that load will perform in the field.  You always need to back up your data with results that are fairly close to each other.
What we are ultimately trying to achieve is the maximum number of pellets in the circle spaced out uniformly throughout the circle.  As I said before in the last segment, this pattern is your key to success!
Now that you have a better understanding of how to figure out what shell works best for you next time we will talk about how we can change the outcome and what effects how the pellets act.
Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

Topics: Hunting, Clay Shooting