Optimum Subgauge Skeet Patterns


I like your idea that at any given range, 77% is the optimum pattern density. But that is for 12 gauge. I am a skeet shooter, and would like a nice rule of thumb that would work for other gauges too. I have given some thought as to how one could deduce a similar rule of thumb for the other gauges. I don’t think pro-rating the percentage would be useful, nor would changing the distance. Sooooo….I’m guessing that perhaps it would make sense to pro-rate the size of the pattern. I’ve attached a worksheet for your consideration, comments, and critique. 706.5 Sq Inches in 30″ circle

Gauge Ounce of Shot Pro Ration Sq Inches in Pattern Diameter of Pattern
12 1.125 100.00% 706.5 30″
20 0.875 77.78% 549.5 26.5″
28 0.75 66.67% 471.0 24.5″
410 0.5 44.44% 314.0 20″

So, for the .410; 77% in a 20″ circle at 21 yards would be an optimum
pattern for say station 4 skeet. Make sense?


Dear Tom,

I shoot a bunch of skeet also, so I’m as interested in this stuff as anyone. I’ll tell you right up front that you are going to have to do a bunch of patterning. I can give you the “computed” ivory tower numbers to look for, but you are going to have to do the grunt work to find out exactly what constriction of choke gives you what you need.

I don’t think that “pro-rating” is quite the way to go here. Let me do it another way.

First of all, I’m going to suppose the use of #9 shot using the standard pellet count 585 #9s per ounce.

The formulae I use comes from Ed Lowry’s “Shotshell Ballistics for Windows”. Lowry uses a Gaussian distribution to predict patterns within a 30″ circle. Everything is based on the percentage of strikes within a 30″ circle. Once you know the percentage of hits in the circle, you can calculate the percentage probability of a certain number of hits anywhere within the circle.

I like Warren Johnson’s “Choke Chooser” criterion of a killing pattern being a minimum of a 95% chance of a one pellet strike (statistically equal to an 80% chance of a two pellet strike). That’s what I factor into the Lowry formula.

I also use 6 square inches as the target. That’s the area of an edge-on standard clay and is typical of skeet crossers at 3,4 and 5.

So, here are the numbers generated. Remember, they represent the diameter of a killing pattern given the percentage of #9s in a 30″ circle which, in our case, is placed at 21 yards. The percentages would be the same where ever the 30″ circle were placed, but obviously the choke required to produce them and the pellet size need for adequate pellet energy would change if distance increased.

7/8 oz, 512 count #9

70% pattern equals a 20″ killing circle
75% 21″
80% 22″
85% 22″
90% 22″
95% 21″
3/4 oz, 439 count #9

70% pattern equals a 17″ killing circle
75% 19″
80% 20″
85% 20″
90% 20″
95% 20″
99% 18″
1/2 oz, 292 count #9

70% pattern equals a 5″ killing circle
75% 10″
80% 12″
85% 14″
90% 16″
95% 16.4″
99% 16″
So, if you want the best chance of killing that skeet target you will choke your 20 gauge to produce 80%~90% patterns in a 30″ circle at 21 yards. Your 28 will give you the best chance at 80%~95% and the miserable little 410 will make you a hero if you choke for 90%~99%.

It will be up to you to decide how much choke constriction it will take to produce these pattern percentages in a 30″ circle at 21 yards. That means time spent at the pattern board with a pocket full of screw chokes or different reloading recipes. I never said it was easy. At least each gauge gives you an optimum range.

Warning: expect patterns from a single choke and a single shell to vary at least 10% shot to shot. That’s the nature of shotgunning. It’s a random event that only evens out after a considerable number of iterations. One pattern doesn’t tell you much. Five is better. Ten is quite good. Let’s see: ten patterns per combination, perhaps 5 combinations, three gauges. Do you have a life?

Also, you should bear in mind the criteria I use. You may or may not be satisfied with a 95% chance of a one pellet strike as defining your outer fringe. You may prefer #8-1/2s to #9s, in which case you will lose pellet count, but gain energy. You may not choose to choke for 21 yards.

Ed Scherer once told me, when I asked him how to choke a tube set, that .007″ in all three subgauges wasn’t a bad way to go. Personally, I like a bit more in the .410, say .010″, but I didn’t argue with a man with that much experience.

I don’t know if you would be better served spending all your spare time experimenting with chokes or spending the same amount of time and money actually practicing the game. One thing is for sure. As the shot charge does down, the choke goes up. But you knew that.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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British SxS Shotguns-Westley Richard Ejectors

Larry Potterfield

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8 Petal Vs. 4 Petal Wads


Has there been a report on the advantages/disadvantages of 8 pedal vs 4 pedal wads?



I’ve not seen any reliable report which was backed up by competent testing that showed there to be a consistent difference between eight petal and four petal wads. I’ve seen individual comments that the eight petal wads produced both more open and tighter patterns. In theory, the eight petals should open slightly faster than the heavier and stiffer four petals, but I don’t know if the theoretical difference is practical.

I can’t think of any major shell manufacturer who uses an eight petal wad. That might be because they are touchier to load because the petals are less rigid and are more likely to be bent by the wad ram.

Like you, I’d like to see the results of proper testing. Until then, I’ll remain sceptical of any meaningful difference.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Orphaned Brands


I saw a Bernadelli Sporting Clays over and under the other day for a nice price. The gun is brand new and seemed to fit me quite nicely. The trigger was overly heavy, but I liked the way the gun swung and mounted more than the Browning 425 Sporting Clays and Beretta 682 Sporting Clays I also looked at.

I did a little searching of Usenet, the Web, and used gun price books for the model in question. The only reviews I found where of the side by sides guns Bernadelli built, however those reviews were quite positive. The only used price I found for the model I saw was actually more than the dealer wanted for the new gun. This seemed a little strange until I learned the dealer was actually the original importer of the gun and has had it on his shelf since mid 1995.

My questions are: 1) Would you consider a gun purchase where you know the manufacturer is out of business already? I believe Bernadelli went out of business some time ago and parts are hard to come by 2) How important is a nice light crisp trigger on a target shotgun? The Browning 725 and a Beretta 682 Gold E I felt for comparison were much lighter.

Thanks in advance,

Dear James,

There are Bernadellis and there are Bernadellis. The name “Bernadelli” must be like “Rizzini” in Italy. Either it’s very common or everyone in the family went into the gun business. According to the most excellent Fjestad’s “Blue Book of Gun Values” (from whom I constantly plagiarize) there were three Bernadelli makers imported into the US- Pietro, Vincenzo and Santini. Fjestad’s says that in the ’80s there were quite a number of Pietro Bernadelli guns “dumped” on the US market and that these guns were not up to the same quality level as the Vincenzo B’s.

I do remember looking over a number of V. Bernadelli SxS guns, especially some higher end Romas, and felt that they were very nice indeed. I handled a V.B Holland model that was just exquisite. I just don’t remember the V. Bernadelli model 115 and 190 Target O/Us that you may be looking at.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the trigger crispness. That can always be stoned crisp by any good gunsmith. What I would worry about would be replacement parts for a discontinued gun. Hunters don’t usually wear their guns out mechanically, but clay target shooters do. Spare parts are a fact of life. You can usually get spare parts for current or recent Berettas and Brownings.

A good clay target gun is a tool. It has to be reliable and repairable. Both the Beretta 682 and any Browning Citori have enviable track records of reliability. If you could possibly shoot one of these brands for your target gun, you would be wise to do so. If you don’t like the lighter barreled Beretta 682 Gold E or the Browning Citori 725 or 625, then you have my permission to look at a less well-known discontinued orphaned brand. Just don’t go asking for trouble. Look at it like buying a car. Would you buy a car you couldn’t get serviced just because it was a better deal up front?

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go tinker with my Cosmi and Baikal MU-8.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Have you ever evaluated Kemen shotguns, specifically the sporting models? They seem to be increasing in popularity in the US and I handled one the other day and the balance was an improvement over the 682 I currently use. Thanks for your time I’m in no hurry.


Dear John,

As you no doubt know, the Kemen is an almost exact Spanish copy of the Perazzi. It’s made today up in Elgoibar along with most of the other Spanish guns. The Kemen has always been a good gun, though I doubt it anyone would claim it superior to the Perazzi. I’ve shot the guns and they looked, felt, handled and shot like a Perazzi. The guns have been around forever. I seem to remember Derek Partridge, an expatriate British trench shooter, pushing them in the late 70s, early 80s. They have had three or four different distributors within in the past few years.

The problem with the Kemen is price. For a while the Kemens were just about as expensive as the Perazzi. You’d have to have your head examined to buy the copy when you could get the original for not much more. Resale value of a Perazzi Mirage is one thing. Of a Kemen, it’s quite another.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Reloading Accident, Happy Ending

Reloading Accident, Happy Ending


I had a new and exciting reloading experience tonight. I had a primer go off in my reloader (Mec 650). Other than a loud pop when detonated, there was no damage.

I had removed one shell to weigh the charge and the powder drop, and set the primed hull with primer aside with the intention of running it thru when I finished the other 99. I apparently miscounted, because when I ran this primed hull through, there was (unknown to me) a live primer in the priming station. When I lowered the handle, the primer in the hull went off. The pressure required to cause the detonation was much less than expected. Certainly no more that pressure required for a normal loading sequence. Other than the pop at detonation, nothing else happened. Much to my good fortune, the powder in the powder bottle did not ignite.

Very exciting none the less.


Dear T,

This just goes to show that an accident can happen to anyone, even the most careful and meticulous reloader. The new carousel reloaders are so good and so fast that it’s easy to make a mistake. I’m publishing this just to sort of remind everyone to be as careful as possible. Reloading is generally a very safe endeavor, but Murphy’s Law is always lurking. You just can’t be too careful.

I know that when I break my reloading routine to pull a hull out to weigh things or to fix a primer jam, I always take just an extra moment to think about what I have done and what I have to do to get going again. It only takes a second and every now and then I catch an error I was about to make. How many times have we all removed a damaged hull from our machine and pulled the handle with an empty slot only to spill shot all over? Personally, I’ve worn out a Shop-Vac.

And, of course, we all DO wear glasses when reloading, right?

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Super Low Recoil For A Lady

Hi, Bruce:

First, thanks for all the great advice you have given to me and others. I’m not asking a question this time, believe it or not!

Since you are also a fan of the 303’s, I just wanted to let you know what I’ve done to my latest 303. Being a woman with a long neck and high cheekbones it is very difficult for me to get a gun that fits. Recoil is also a problem due to a whiplash injury. I shoot 1 oz loads, use a Kickeez Pad, have a ported, backbored barrel and have lengthened the forcing cones (and the recoil was still killing me). Forget about picking anything off the rack and shooting it, even the highest trap stock is not high enough.

Being a true believer in the 303, mainly because it is so light and thin, I was determined to alter it to fit me. After a visit with Wenig for a stock (I picked the highest one he had in a birdseye maple, and he still had to build it up with Bondo), and consulting with Larry Feland (gunsmith/gunfitter) and Mr. Wenig we determined the correct length of pull, drop and cast. Whew!

I then turned over the gun to Bruce Ney for the installation of a countercoil and a sliding comb. The wood was history after the Bondo, and I didn’t want to go to even more expense by having another one make, so Bruce painted it a reddish-wine metalflake (sort of looks like a bass boat).

Unbelievable! I never knew that shooting could be like this. Painfree! No recoil, none, zero, nadda. My head didn’t bounce off the gun after the first shot, and I can actually see over the receiver!. It is a joy to shoot and very forgiving. It cost a bit of money, but was worth every penny. I would recommend the countercoil to anyone that is recoil sensitive. By the way, I shot it in a tournament after practicing with it only one time and shot my highest tournament score ever (83).

I really don’t have any questions at this point, just wanted to let you know the trials and tribulations of a woman shooter and a 303 fan!

Good shooting,

Dear Melita,

Thanks so much for the feedback. I store all this information away for future use. I’m always particularly interested in the problems lady shooters face as I coach a lot of women.

As you may (or may not) know, I also shoot 303s for almost all my clay target shooting. I have a pair of 303 trap guns. They aren’t light weight though. My guns come in at 8#4oz. The trap 303s were heavier than other 303s. The #1 gun has about 70,000 through it. The #2 gun is still new in the box with the tags on the barrel. Thje first gun has been so good that I’ve never had to get into the second. I’ve also owned 302s, 390s and 391s, but I stick with the 303s. I do recommend an Allan Timney trigger job and also his monster-strong link and hammer struts or the new factory hardened links and struts (from our ShotgunReport Store). Then you can just forget about those parts for the rest of your life.

As to Ney’s hydraulic stocks, aren’t they nice! I shot G-Squared and Soft Touch also. They all do a great job on O/Us. I’ve shot FNs and K-80s with these stocks and felt that they kicked less than my gas gun. The only gas gun I shot with a hydraulic stock (a Soft Touch on that one) was a 390. It didn’t do a darn thing as far as I could tell, but the stock was far too short for me being made for a smaller shooter. Short stocks always kick more than stocks of a proper length, so it wasn’t a fair trial. A short stock doesn’t seat hard enough against the shoulder to properly activate the hydraulic mechanism, so you don’t get the benefit of the design. With a stock of the correct length, the tricks stocks are marvels.

Obviously, things are properly fit for you. You have a great setup and I wish you the best with it. Thanks for keeping me up to date.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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