Gaussian distributions, Bernoulli venturi effects, sectional density, random sampling, sines, cosines? Yuk! What does all that junk have to do with going out to “whack dem birdies”? The bird flies. You point the gun. You pull the trigger. If the red gods smile, you woof it and write an “X”. Anything more than that is just the tassel on a Bass Weejun kiltie moc.
Yeah, but… Some of this stuff you gotta know because it’s going to do you some good. You don’t all have to be Junior Technoids, enlarging your brains on a diet of Spam and Velveeta sandwiches, Jolt Cola and Twinkies, to appreciate the fact that science is, well, science. It probably does someone some good somewhere.
One of the Technoid’s internet consultants is mathematics Ph.D. Warren Johnson. Warren cooked up the “Choke Chooser”, a computer generated slide-card pocket reference showing the maximum effective pattern you can expect when you vary choke, load, distance and target size and angle. We have mentioned and recommended it here before. It’s a neat gizmo and will absolutely open your eyes.
In order to determine an effective pattern size, you have to stipulate a minimally acceptable density for the fringe and work from there. Warren decided upon a fringe with an 85% probability of a two pellet hit. Statistically, this also means a 95% chance of a one pellet strike or about a 50% chance of three pellets hitting the bird. They are all the same in the mathematics world of probability theory. Both Johnson’s experience and ours have indicated that this criteria for a pattern fringe is reasonable.
Since we know that ALL patterns are denser in the middle than at the edge (this is immutable bell-curve stuff), if an 85% chance of a two pellet strike is what you have at the acceptable edge of your pattern, it HAS to be more than that in the center. Has to be. Got to be.
OK, if the outer fringe of your acceptable working pattern has enough pellets to just about ensure a two pellet hit on the target, how many will the hotter center of the pattern have? Warren says it would have about a nine pellet hit on the bird. Nine pellets! That’s definitely enough to make the bird smoke a bit when the bird is perfectly centered.
What does this show? It shows that if you have optimized your pattern size by the proper selection of choke and shell, you will “crinkle” birds hit on the fringe, but smoke ones that are centered. If you center a bird and it doesn’t smoke or at least break real hard, you know that your choke is being stretched past its optimum distance and that you should have choked up a bit more.
Of course, the problem in sporting clays is knowing when you center a bird and when you just fringe it. If you break the bird into a few pieces, you usually don’t know if you were on the edge of an optimal pattern or in the center of an anemic pattern. Unlike trap and skeet, sporting doesn’t usually offer the opportunity to go to school on a particular bird to zero in and find out. A few trys and you are out of there.
Still, when you do smoke a bird, you shouldn’t automatically assume that you were choked too tight and have a pattern that is too small. You may have choked perfectly and just centered the thing with those nine pellets. The ideal pattern of two strikes at the edge and nine in the center will do that. What you see isn’t always what you get when you do the math.
Boots off. Beer open.