Patten Board And Plate

Dear Technoid,

I’m an avid shotgunner and member of two active gun clubs at which I shoot twice a week. ( trap and skeet to stay in shape for sporting clays on weekends). However I would like to build a pattern board for one of my club’s members to use.

Should it be a paper type device or a steel plate and grease kind of thing? Are you aware of any articles dealing with making a steel framed unit that could hold a roll of paper to be dispensed for each shot and torn of by the shooter? It would make more sense to take it with you to review later.

We have welding ability and some ingenuity but I see no sense in reinventing the wheel if it’s not required. If you could point me in the right direction I would certainly appreciate it.

Thank you in advance for your help in this matter….

Brentwood, CA.

Dear Marty,

This is a timely letter. My club also needs patterning equipment and I have been asked to come up with some ideas. I intend to design BOTH a patterning plate and a patterning board.

Patterning plate: This is normally a 5′ x 5′ (no smaller) piece of 1/4″ or so mild steel held up by two pipes sunk into the ground. The steel need not be armor plating or anything like that because you are ONLY going to shoot LEAD bird shot (lead only, no steel!). If you shoot slugs or pistol or rifle at the plate it will usually be ruined. If you shoot steel shot at a steel plate YOU will be ruined.

The center of the plate should be at about chest height so that you can easily reach the top edge. For a simple plate, just drill a 1″ aiming hole in the center. More elaborate plates, used for gun fitting, often are larger and have five raised aiming points like a die or domino.

I have found the best stuff to paint plates with to be cheap white paint cut 50/50 with salad oil. The whole key is that you want it to cover, but not dry out. Apply with a roller with an extended handle. That stuff splatters.

Purpose of patterning plate: A patterning plate does not really show you patterns. It shows you point of impact. Point of impact (where you shotgun shoots) is FAR more important than pattern. I don’t have the time to get into the techniques used in testing point of impact right now, but point of impact testing is the FIRST thing that I do when trying out a new gun. It is absolutely vital.

The pattern plate makes testing for point of impact easy to do because you can fire a shot, assess it and then repaint in a moment. The patterning plate is not meant to allow you to count pellet hits. It is a quick and convenient general assessment thing.

Patterning PAPER is an entirely different animal. Here you use a large piece of paper and count the holes using your favorite system. 4’x4′ paper is ideal, but 36″ wide will do in a pinch. I use 36″ wide red resin flooring paper. It comes from the local lumber yard in large rolls and is dirt cheap. I wish that I could find in wider widths than 36″, but so far no luck.

The best set up I have seen for patterning paper was at the US Army Marksmanship Unit at Ft. Benning. They set the roll up like a paper towel dispenser set on top of two steel posts about 6′ off the ground. You simply pulled the paper down, clipped the bottom edge to holders, marked the center and took your shot.

The paper roll was encased in a steel holder that protected it from shot in front and the elements elsewhere. I have seen kitchen waxed paper and plastic wrap dispensers somewhat like this.

The paper was pulled down in front of a chicken wire backing so that it could be clipped in place a bit more if there was wind.

This method seemed to work well, but I don’t know if was really much better than just hacking a piece of paper off the roll and pinning it up to a big plywood board.

One point: I don’t really recommend clipping the paper to the front of the steel pattern plate. Even though the lead pellets squash quite nicely against the steel, some of them do bounce enough to pierce the paper from the back and make pattern assessment more difficult.

I would be very interested in knowing what ideas you come up with in this area. My suggestions are definitely not exhaustive. Though they have exhausted me.

Best regards,

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

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