Sometimes your Mahatma of Machinery and Guru of Gunning Gear just plain runs out of things to talk about. NOOOTTTT! Don’t you worry. It will be a cold day in a warm place before that happens. Cows don’t run out of methane either.
As you stretch out on the chaise lounge on the Technoid’s sun porch, unwrap your Spam and Velveeta luncheon sandwich and listen up.
We constantly talk about patterning, but it generally falls on deaf ears. No one wants to spend time patterning when they could be whacking dem birdies.
Well, what if there were an easier way of doing things? It isn’t perfect and it certainly isn’t as anal retentive as most of the comments in this column, but like Mercutio’s wound, ‘twill suffice.
Set your chokes up so that they put 75% of the shot into a 30″ circle at the distance at which you are going to use them. That’s it. Well, if you insist on using one ounce loads, maybe 80%. That’s really it.
Of course, this refers to edge-on or slightly turned birds, but you know enough to open up your choke and use the right size pellet when the situation calls for it. You know this because you have read and memorized every Technoidal Truism uttered over the past six years! Of course you have.
Right around 75% seems to be the magic number according to the ballisticians. That also happens to be more or less, sort of, about the number that a Cylinder Bore tosses at 20 yards and a Full choke has at 40. We often forget that the entire range of chokes only covers 20 yards. Anything on either end of that is less than optimal and there is little that we can do about it- short of turkey chokes and spreaders both of which have their problems. A shotgun is not a tool of infinite range. When someone whacks a 60 yard edge-on crosser, he is not only a good shot, he is a little lucky too.
Let’s say that you have had real good luck shooting most of your birds with .015″ Light Modified. Count the pellets in one of your shells, put an aiming point on a piece of paper 30 yards from the muzzle, fire a shot , draw a 30’ circle around the most pellets possible and count ‘em. You might be getting 75% of your pellets in the circle. If so, you have a fairly tight LM. Now try it at 35 yards. Each 5 yards should open your patterns by about 10% when the shot column really starts to blossom. Remember, the optimum is about 75%. You will find yourself going to Full choke at around 40 yards. LM will certainly break an edge-on 40 yard crosser, but Full will do it more consistently because it has a larger killing pattern. It has a larger effective killing pattern because it comes closer to putting 75% of its 1-1/8 oz pellet load into that 30″ circle. Remember, if you use a lighter load, you will have to obtain a higher percentage to get the same pattern density. Don’t ever assume that simply reducing your pellet count will magically tighten up your patterns. Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.
None of this is really brain surgery, but it does require that you put in a little time and do some patterning. If you were to go through your sporting clays career using only 1-1/8 oz loads of #9s with Cylinder Bore to 20 yards, #8s with Light Modified to 35 yards and #7.5s with Full over 35 yards, you wouldn’t be losing many birds due to the wrong choke or shell.
Of course, you might not be having as much Technoidal amusement either. Let’s see. If you drop that Light Modified and go with an IC and also a Modified, you could fine tune it a bit. Maybe some #8.5s with that IC. Also, there is a rifled choke for the real close stuff, and a turkey choke and …