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GUNS Magazine June 2010 - Page 22
SHOTGUNNER • HOLT BODINSON • POINTING And patterning. ver the years, I’ve developed a healthy level of skepticism about O the out-of-the-box performance of shotguns. My first issue is whether or not the shotgun delivers its payload to the point-of-aim. The second is closely related. What are the densities and locations of the patterns it delivers at selected distances with different loads? The third has to do with the shooter. Have you ever taken the time and made the effort to find the answers to the first two? To most smoothbore users, patterning seems superfluous. A shotgun’s a scattergun, right? It’s a point-and-shoot firearm that throws hundreds of pellets into the target zone. Just consider for a moment a 1-1/8-ounce load of 7-1/2 shot contains approximately 393 individual projectiles and, when we miss, we universally blame our leads or faulty mounting. But what if your shotgun doesn’t deliver its pattern where you’re pointing it? What if your target simply sailed at the range shooting patterns on paper. While patterning and interpreting patterns seem like an arcane science full of techie terms like “pattern performance efficiency” and “pellet distribution factors” coupled with mystical pie chart representations, the patterning process for most of your shooting can be simplified and actually turn out to be as enjoyable as it is informative. through one of the many holes in your shot pattern or was just tagged by a single pellet on the weak outer fringe of your pattern. Suppose the stock of the gun doesn’t fit your anatomy and affects your ability to center your patterns. Suppose your shotgun with its particular chambers, forcing cones, bore size and chokes isn’t compatible with the shot size, factory ammunition or handload it’s being fed? How will you ever know? The answer is you won’t unless you spend some time Get Started The first thing I want to measure is whether the point-of-aim and the pointof-impact of my shotgun coincide. Often they don’t. Some of the worst offenders in my experience have been pumps and automatics with interchangeable barrels and interchangeable choke tubes. On the other hand, a close shooting companion recently bought a very expensive O/U with an elevated rib mounted off center. Similarly, once in a while you will find a bead off center or two beads offset from each other. The barrels of less expensive SxSs are often poorly regulated and either one or both tubes won’t be pointing where you’re looking. The barrel may be bored off center or bent or the choke tube threads may not be concentric with the bore. It’s a jungle out there! The point-of-aim/point-of-impact test is simple and telling. You will be shooting your shotgun off a bench with solid support and aiming it like a rifle. Take a letter size piece of paper or the blank, flip side of a regular target, draw a solid 2" circle in the center of the paper and place the target 15' in front of your bench. If possible, select either a modified or full choke tube. Aiming your shotgun like a rifle and using any load you have handy, take either a center or 6 o’clock hold on that 2" circle and shoot. If you’re shooting a double, test both barrels. At 15', the result will be a ragged shot hole in the target plus one or two holes punched though by the wads. Does the shot hole coincide with the pointof-aim? If not, and your gun accepts interchangeable choke tubes, try another tube and repeat the test. If your gun has Abarrelmustshootwhereyouarelooking. Checkthepoint-of-impactofyourshotgun. Ifyoushootinitiallyatcloserange—15'— youwillseeadense,tightpattern.Ifit’s notinthecenterofthetarget,youmay wanttoinvestigatethecause. 22 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JUNE 2010