Long Range Patterns

Dear Bruce:

Here’s a little analysis I did for one of my Choke Chooser customers in response to his interesting question about the relative merits of No. 8s vs No. 7-1/2s for 40-yard targets. I know you like the larger pellets for this range (as do I), so I thought these numbers might interest you.

Best regards,


Hi Bob,

It was nice to talk to you today, and find out that you like your Choke Chooser.

After talking with you, I ran the SPRED model to get effective pattern diameters (hit circles) with a fringe of 80% probability of ONE or more hits, for the following target:

Target size: standard Target orientation: edge-on Target range: 40 yards

The results are shown below. Column A is the effective pattern diameter in inches for 80% probability of TWO or more hits, as used in Choke Chooser. Column B is the same, except for ONE or more hits. The optimum choke is Extra Full (82% pattern percentage) in each case.

Load A B
No. 8 1-1/8 oz. 15.3 23.8
No. 8 1 oz. 13.1 22.5
No. 7 1/2 1-1/8 oz. 12.3 22
No. 7 1/2 1 oz. 9.4 20.5

So if our assumption is correct that with its greater energy one No.7-1/2 pellet will break the target at this distance while one No. 8 pellet will not (reliably), it is clear that you are better off using 7-1/2s, even in a 1-oz loading.


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Rib Confusion

Dear Bruce,

I really look forward to reading your answers.

I shoot a 12 ga. Browning Citori Lightning Sporting Clays with a low rib (28″)in skeet, sporting clays, and hunting. I enjoy shooting this gun and do well. However, when I started shooting trap also I noticed the recoil after 100 plus shots. I bought a Browning Citori Trap Plus, 32″ barrels which I also shoot well. I enjoy the cushioning of the piston in the stock and can shoot this gun all day with no adverse affect from recoil.

My problem is that when I change guns I have trouble adapting to the difference in high vs. low rib, especially when I go from the low rib to the high. I find myself occasionally focusing on the rib/barrel instead of the clay pigeon. This is usually good for dropping at least on bird in a round of 25. If I start to think about not focusing on the rib then I may drop 2-3 birds in a round before relaxing and just shooting naturally.

I have tried to shoot the Trap Plus in skeet and I have trouble hitting the second shot in doubles. I am considering trying to have a low rib put on the Trap Plus but I believe it would be expensive and would ruin the value of the gun. I have considered selling the Trap Plus and buying a 390 with a low rib.

Do you have any suggestions or insights you can share ?

Thank you.


Saginaw, Michigan

Dear R.,

Switching from arched to flat ribs drives me crazy too, but you just have to learn to ignore it. The big advantage of the high rib on the trap gun is that it allows you to see a “normal” figure 8 while still shooting artificially high, as is demanded by American-style trap. If you used a flat rib on that gun, you would have to see a tremendous amount of rib if you continued to shoot that high. Many people find seeing a great deal of rib even more disconcerting that using a high rib gun.

That’s the problem with trap. It has absolutely nothing to do with any other shotgun shooting pursuit. It requires a special gun set up in a special way if you are really going to go at it.

I use a Beretta 303 trap gun with a flat rib for all my clay target shooting. I set the gun up so that when I cheek hard into the bone, I am looking right down the rib. This way, I can never lose the rib no matter how I cheek the gun. When I shoot with normal cheek pressure, I get a nice figure 8 sight picture with the front and middle bead. The sight picture works perfectly for me at sporting clays, skeet, FITASC, wobble (ISU) trap and International Skeet. For American-style trap, I suppose I should really set the gun up to shoot a bit higher to be ideal. As it is, I have to cover the bird and this is never ideal.

In ATA trap, I would prefer to just be able to touch the bottom of the bird so that it always remains visible. If I set my gun up that way, it would not be suitable for any of the other sports. I don’t shoot enough ATA trap to make it worth bothering with a dedicated trap gun. If I did, I would probably set up a Beretta A400 Trap gun with a stepped rib and keep it as a dedicated trap gun.

I don’t really have any advice to give you. Dealing with ribs is sort of like the old alchemist’s recipe for turning lead into gold: “Stir the pot of melting lead and don’t think of the word “gold”.” It’s all in the head. Easy to say, hard to do.

Don’t buy any new guns or cut off any ribs. Borrow. That is cheaper and will let you try out more guns.

Best regards,

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

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Trap Gun For The Better Half

Dear Bruce & Lonestar,

The best site anywhere. I hope you can help. I have been shooting skeet for about a year, off and on about once every 3 weeks. Two weeks ago I hit my first straight (mostly 24’s since). Since then, my confidence level has grown dramatically. I credit your articles for much of my improvement. I take friends and family whenever I can. I’ve recruited four or so into the fold, but the most enthusiastic is my nephew (12 years old). On his first time, the kid bagged 8. I’m looking for a recommendation for a gun for the youth shooter. We used a loner in 20ga but it was an adult gun.

For Lonestar, I’m looking for the same recommendation for my wife. She’s 5’4″ but not slight of build. The guns we run into most are for the average shooter of average (male) build. By the way, I have a citori skeet model, but I’m 5’5″. My wife feels this is too heavy for her. Any help appreciated.

Bill McCormick

Dear Bill,

Regardin’ a good scattergun for your better half… as in all things, it really depends on how much of your/her hard-earned dinero you want to spend. And a lot of it depends on how serious your gal is about shooting, and what game(s) she wants to shoot. For a reasonable price, you can get an automatic – Technoid’s gas gun – which will serve her well in almost anything. A Remington 1100 with different barrels for different games is the usual solution for both kids and women – and guys who aren’t hulking bubbas. It’s fine for skeet, for clays, for ZZ-birds, and for live birds if you are so inclined. It’s a crummy solution for trap – as most trapshooters much prefer folks with breakopen guns. That has to do with standin’ next to a gas gun on a trap field not bein’ a real nice experience. Bein’ dinged with ejected hulls all day is a pitiful feeling. But automatics are of course legal for trap, so we sorta have to tolerate ’em. If you want to spend a bit more, consult the Technoid for a Beretta automatic. That’s probably the best all-around solution.

For trap only, I’d go and find an old Belgian Browning over-under, mod and full chokes (or improved-mod and full). Make sure it’s in good shape (some are shot a bit loose in the action and on the rib – but a good gunsmith can check it for you). If you are lucky, you’ll find an old pigeon-grade round-knob model which is drop-dead elegant in anyone’s hands. Now, a Browning of any sort will kick your ears off, so you will also have to install a shock absorbing system like the Soft Touch or the G-Squared ShockMaster. But, you will have to whack the stock off anyway and put in an adjustable comb, so prepare to spend another grand more or less. If your lady wants only to shoot singles trap, then a Browning BT-100 system, or an old BT-99 is good also. She should shoot 30″ barrels on an over/under, 28″ barrels on an automatic, and 32″ barrels on a single-barrel trap gun.

As an aside, the forend on a gun needs to be shaped right for a woman’s smaller hand. Most forends are absolute fat clunks. Made for Bubbas who were ex-linebackers, or steer-wrestlers. Look for a smaller forend design, like the elegant Schnabel or the smaller wood on a pigeon gun or a good clays gun. Part of what makes a gun feel clunky to a woman is a big fat chunk of wood at the forend, and an even bigger clunk of a thing for a stock. Field guns tend to be less clunky and more along the lines of a woman’s hands – which is why I recommend a good Belgian Browning field gun, like a Lightning, if you can find it.

If there are more than just a few gold pieces in your jeans, then look at Beretta over/unders – some gals like ’em, but I don’t myself, they bust me upside the head. And then look at Perazzis. If you shoot very seriously, you will eventually get to one or the other. For some reason, them “spaghetti” guns are just better. They also cost sorta the same as your first ranch (including the cattle), but most of us just save up and get one eventually. Go to a big shoot and look at what the gals shoot who win. Chances are those gals have been shootin’ their rigs for years – unlike the local club Bigshot Bubba, who changes guns every 6 months. Women may changes their minds a lot, but they usually aren’t dumb enough to sell a gun that works for them.

For reference, I shoot a ten-year old Perazzi with 30″ trap barrels, improved-mod and full, for American trap (singles, doubles, and mid-yardage handicap), wobble trap, Olympic trench, and ZZ-birds. I do have a second set of 27 1/2″ barrels with screw chokes for formal social occasions, like sporting clays and skeet, but I can’t hit my hat with ’em – and I have a big hat. This rig has a ShockMaster recoil reduction system, a Fightin’ Texas Aggie Maroon stock, and a trailer hitch.

Remember – no woman (or mostly no women) can shoot an out-of-the-box shotgun. You *must* put in an adequate recoil reduction system (except gas guns, which don’t need one), whack the stock off some, and raise the comb up. Gunfit is EVERYTHING. If it don’t fit, ‘ya can whistle Dixie all ‘ya want, but ‘ya won’t hit the fat side of the barn.

Break ’em all, and God bless Texas….


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Hartmann’s Hint #77: Another Safety Item

Source: Hartmann’s Hint #77: Another Safety Item

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Yildiz Wildfowler 3.5″

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Guns For Kids

Dear Bruce:

In that letter that R sent regarding a gun for his wife and a 12 year-old kid, I would like to offer the following. We ran a youth-parent day at our club this summer where kids and their parents could try shooting targets with shotguns, air rifles and bows. Most of these people had never seen or shot a gun, so we spent a lot of time on safety and mechanics. As an aside, it was mostly mothers who showed up with their sons AND daughters. Very few fathers from this upscale/yuppie area.

Anyhow, we started the kids and their mothers out shooting .410 single shots, but mothers found the guns a little short. We had 20’s and 12’s available O/U in both. Mothers and older kids preferred the 12’s since they had less “kick”. I have seen several fathers buy 20’s for their kids and watched as the welts formed from the fact that the 20’s are generally lighter. The range of loads available in a 12 ga can be adjusted such that kids will want to do it again (along with their mothers and/or fathers.

Just my two cents Bruce, thanks.

Dear Bill,

The biggest complaint about 12 gauge O/Us that I hear from women and children is that they are too heavy, not that they kick too much. The complaint that I hear about O/U 20s is just what you observed- that they kick too much, not that they are too heavy. The 410 may be light weight and have low recoil, but I really feel that the 410 shell is for experts only. I mean, who would want to start a kid on something called “the idiot stick”. Personally, I find shooting the 410 humbling, humiliating and frustrating. The fact that I continue to shoot the 410 merely means that I am not as smart as the average 12 year old kid. True enough, at least according to my wife.

To me the ideal beginners’ or smaller persons’ gun is still the 20 gauge gas operated semi-auto or the 28 gauge O/U. Beretta and Remington make sweetheart 20 gauge gas guns, while the Beretta 686 and Browning Citori 28 gauge O/Us are tough to beat.

Best regards,

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

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Low Shooting Gun

Dear Bruce,

I appreciate all of your expert advice. My question is quite simple. What adjustments would you make if you had a shotgun whose point of impact was low. That is the impact point has the top of the spread 3 inches below the aiming point. I thank you in advance for your advice.


Dear Richard:

Dunno how expert I am. SR readers are always quick to point it out when I screw up. I have learned more from my mistakes than I have from my successes.

Nothing simpler to fix than a gun that shoots low. Just get some tape (masking, duct, electricians, adhesive) and start layering it onto the top of the comb until the gun shoots as high as you want it to. Just put it on the top. Don’t let it droop over the sides as that will decrease cast off and change the left to right impact. Someone or other makes stick on vinyl pads that do the same thing, but I don’t like them much. Tape is better and cheaper.

Once you get it where you want it, you can either leave the tape on or take it to a gunsmith and have the stock moved up by bending or reinletting.

Best regards,

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

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Top Barrel First?

Dear Bruce,

Please settle a dispute between two hunting buddies……

My friend says that by firing the top barrel first on an over/under shotgun causes severe stress on the firing mechanism and can eventually lead to spring and or firing pin breakage. I say it’s a matter of preference – that the stress is the same regardless as to which barrel is fired first.

What does the Technoid say?



Dear Jim,

Well, you are both wrong, but you are less wrong than your pal. (Remember, the guy who is telling you this has “Often in error, never in doubt” as his tag line.) Firing the upper barrel first does put a bit more stress on the action, but it really doesn’t affect the pins and springs.

Much of action stress depends on the design of the O/U- whether it uses a full hinge pin (Browning) or bifurcated lumps (like Beretta and Boss) and also whether or not it uses some top latching mechanism (shroud, cones or cross bolt). The further away the top barrel is from the hinge pin, the more stress it will put on the locking mechanism.

That said, the Belgian Browning is considered by many to be the longest lived O/U ever made. It has a low hinge pin and an equally low locking bolt. Beretta’s system with hinge points almost between the barrels and locking cones near the top of the breech has a theoretical mechanical advantage. In practice, it doesn’t seem to be any stronger than the Browning.

As to spring and firing pin breakage, I really don’t see how that would be affected by which barrel is fired first. Any trigger plate lock gun like an O/U is going to have more trouble with the lower firing pin due to the angle required by the design. That’s just built in.

Most O/U shooters prefer to fire the lower barrel first because it keeps the first barrel recoil lower in the gun’s axis and there is less resultant muzzle jump.

Best regards,

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

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Cross Dominance

Dear Technoid,

I am in trouble since I heard rumors saying that if your right eye is dominant (my case) you should shoot right-handed (Not my case). It feels extremely uncomfortable bringing my gun on my right shoulder. But, I have been missing for years the same shots: When birds are crossing from right to left and when teals go straight up over my head (after a first shot has been fired). This last one is so frustrating, as it looks like the bird is almost not moving.

So, always hoping for better, I am now considering shooting right-handed. Is it worth the trouble, could it improve my shooting capabilities and how to proceed to get my gun on my right shoulder without feeling like I am holding a violin.


Dear Francois,

Yup. You are in trouble shooting lefty with a dominant right eye. Your analysis of your misses is accurate. Fortunately, you are not alone in this problem. Many shooters share your cross dominance and have overcome it. You have two choices:

1) switch sides and shoot righty; or

2) force your left eye to be dominant.

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Ideally, you should switch sides. This will permit you to shoot with both eyes open and retain full depth perception. You lose depth perception when one eye is closed. Learning to shoot from the “other” side is harder for some people than others. Only you can be the judge. It is certainly worth a serious attempt though. If you choose to try it, give it at least an entire month. Practice raising and swinging your gun at home in between shooting sessions. It can be done. Virtually all lacrosse players learn to play from both sides.

The easier way is to keep shooting off the left shoulder, but “defeat” the right eye somehow and force the left eye to be the dominant one. Naturally, this presupposes that the left eye has good visual acuity. If your left eye is not only weaker, but inferior, to the right eye, and this cannot be corrected by glasses, you are in trouble. This method also sacrifices depth perception when the off eye is blocked. This really isn’t as bad as it seems though as you can judge distance before the shot with both eyes open.

There are basically four ways to force your brain to use the left eye. 1) Close the right eye and keep it closed while shooting; 2) keep both eyes open until the gun touches your cheek and then blink the right eye closed until you fire; 3) pus a dime-sized dot of translucent cellophane tape on the right lens so that it obscures the front bead when the gun is mounted. This gives you some peripheral vision, but forces left eye dominance when looking down the barrel; 4) use a darker lens on the right side of your shooting glasses. #3, the dot, seems to be the most popular.

That about covers it for your choices. Your road is a rocky one, but it can be done. Anything is better than continuing shooting as you are. It must be terribly frustrating to do everything right, but have your eyes deceive you. Pick one of the above solutions. I just know that your scores will improve.

Best regards,

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

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Over Reliance On Technique?

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