You Gotta Pattern


Dear Technoid,

I took up sporting clays about 1 year ago. I switched to lefty due to cross dominant vision. Not easy but probably worth it for the long haul. Previous shooting was not frequent.

I purchased a new K-80 this year.The factory chokes have been described to me as being “tighter” than normal. As an example the K-80 Imp. Cyl. is closer to a Lt. Mod. I would appreciate your opinion on this as well as any advise you might offer on the K-80. Your position on chokes in general is really unique but makes sense.

Affirmation from a guy who is a cross shooter and a computer Dinosaur! You guys are doing great work.

Thanks,
Bill

Dear Bill,

I have owned a few Krieghoff Model 32s, but never a screw choke K-80. The people who have them seem to like them, depending on the sport. They are monstrously complicated inside, but so well made that they actually work. Leave it to the German craftsmen. They are also universally soft shooting because

1) they have some interesting design features, and

2) they weigh more than a Buick Electra.

Good move on swapping sides. Everyone can’t do it, but if you really are strongly cross dominant and haven’t yet developed a large shooting “memory bank” right handed, crossing over is the way to go. It took some courage to do and I’ll bet that the results weren’t what you wanted at first, but once you have made the transition you will be a better shooter for it in the long run.

As to K-80 chokes, the same rules apply here as they do to every other choke bored gun- you have to pattern test. No way around it. I wish that there were, but there isn’t if you want to do it right.

Measuring the choke dimension only goes so far. Just because one of your chokes measures .020″ constriction, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will throw the industry standard pattern of a Modified 60% with your favorite shell. Different guns with the same choke constriction will shoot different patterns. You simply HAVE to test IF you really want to know.

That’s a big IF. Lots of shooters don’t want to know. They would rather shoot with blind faith. Although it is heresy from the Technoid, that’s probably not the worst thing for most shooters. You can really get too much caught up in this choke stuff.

There are only three real distances in shooting- near, middling and far. There are also only really three leads- none, normal and a bunch. The game of shotgunning really isn’t a precision game (handicap trap excepted), so you are usually better going with “close enough” and concentrating on follow-through than you are trying to rifle shoot the bird. I am always amazed how much a little extra follow-through can “tighten” a choke and produce a better break. And no, swinging doesn’t spray the pattern around more. A good follow-through just assures that you don’t stop the gun swing prematurely.

Here’s what I would do if I were you. Since you have a nice gun and will undoubtedly keep it for a while, why not invest the time in actually seeing how it patterns? Get a roll of “red resin flooring paper” from your local home supply store. Using the shell you will be using for target shooting, fire three patterns with each choke at a piece of paper with an aiming point Magic Markered on it. The distance is 40 yards (measured) from paper to muzzle. Using a wooden yard stick with some holes in the right places, mark a 15″ radius circle on the paper AFTER YOU HAVE SHOT so as to encompass the most possible pellets. This probably won’t be centered on the aiming point. Note the distance away from the aiming point the center is so that you can adjust for gun fit later.

Now count the pellets in the 30″ circle. Then pull apart three of the cartridges and count the pellets in the shotshells. DO NOT use tables. They aren’t accurate enough. Divide the pellets in the circle by the pellets in the shell to get a percentage. Although the numbers aren’t exact, 40% is Cylinder Bore, 50% is Improved Cylinder, 60% is Modified and 75% is Full. More or less. Regardless of what your choke is marked, what it shoots is what it is.

This is all a pain in the neck, but it is the ONLY way to know what you have. There are a lot of things in my life that I am willing to take on faith, but patterns aren’t one of them. You have to do the work. Three tests of each shell/choke combination is the absolute minimum. If they vary a great deal, then you have to do five. I wish there was a simpler way, but there isn’t.

By the way, the difference between Improved Cylinder (50% pattern in 30″ circle) and a Light Modified (55% pattern) is so slight as almost not to be measurable. You will get that much variation shell to shell. You can change an entire choke designation by changing the brand of cartridge or the size of the pellet. It isn’t an exact science. It isn’t even close to it.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to You Gotta Pattern

  1. G. Barraclough says:

    We have steel pattern boards at our club and I do pattern each shotgun on a yearly basis. Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, but patterning does matter. If you want to know where your shotgun is shooting. If you want to know where you are shooting. If you want to have some additional fun.

    Notwithstanding all that, in my dotage I have come to realize, as with fishing, who you are shooting with matters most of all.

  2. Lary Rand says:

    Technoid:

    Shouldn’t you have doubled Bill’s fun by telling him he had to shoot three patterns with each choke in each barrel to achieve a proper degree of Germanic precision?lk

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