What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun?

What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun?

What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun? The simple answer is 40 yards, but it also varies on what you will be using your shotgun for and what bore shotgun you will be using. Here are some recommendations from experts and organizations like the NRA.

  • Pattern distance for .410 shotguns: 25 yards regardless of the intended use for the shotgun
  • Pattern distance for skeet gun: 25 yards
  • Pattern distance for turkey hunting: 50 yards
  • Pattern distance for all other shotgun bores and intended uses:  40 yards historically recommended, but some experts now recommend 35 yards.

What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun?- Outdoor Methods Recommendation

For skeet guns or .410 bore, only pattern out to 25 yards, and it is essential to remember if you use a .410 to hunt. Twenty-five yards and anything below (within reason) is the distance you should use a .410 at due to its ballistics.   

In theory, you can go a few yards past 25 yards, but remember that a shotgun’s pattern decays rapidly.

We recommend performing a pattern test out to 50 yards for turkey hunting.  

For all other shotgun bores and intended uses for your shotgun, we recommend starting at the 35-yard mark. Once you have successfully patterned your shotgun at 35 yards, move your targets back to 45 yards and pattern your shotgun again. 

Wait a minute…are we doing a scientific test? Basically, yes, we are. We also wish these were the types of scientific testing we would have performed in school…sigh. However, just like any scientific testing, we want to keep all variables constant other than the testing variable. 

Why Should You Listen to Us? 

We always start with our mission statement in mind. We use scientific and analytical methods to give people concise high-quality information for their outdoor adventures.

We know how time-consuming it can be to find the correct information when researching products. That is why we do the work for you using a combination of literary research and on-hand testing in our lab. Keep reading below to see how we did this for the most comfortable holsters.

Why Does Distance Matter To Pattern a Shotgun?

Unlike a rifle or pistol, a shotgun typically shoots many pellets per shot. We generally say this because a shotgun slug is a single bullet for shotguns.  

The further away from the point where the pellets leave the shotgun, the other spread out the pellets are.  

Due to air resistance, the pellets are much lighter than a bullet and will not go as far.  

That is why distance matters to pattern a shotgun.

What are the Variables to Consider When Patterning a Shotgun?

The variable we are testing while patterning a shotgun is distance. All other variables need to remain consistent. These variables are

  1. Shotgun 
  2. choke in shotgun
  3. shotgun shells you are using (this includes type and manufacturer)

If you want to be as accurate as possible, you should pattern your shotgun again when changing one of the three variables above. Are we serious? Yes, we are. 

Do we believe you will do this? As a responsible gun owner and hunter, we think you will take the necessary steps to ensure accuracy using your shotgun while maximizing your chances of making a clean kill. Do not let us down. 

Which Shotgun Shell Should You Use to Pattern a Shotgun? 

The shotgun shells you use to pattern your shotgun are determined by what you will be using the gun for. Once you know what you will be using the weapon, answer the following questions:

  1. What is the gauge of your shotgun?
  2. What is the length your shotgun can handle? You can generally find this on the barrel, or a quick internet search with the make and model of your shotgun will tell you.
  3. What shot size do you need? The smaller the number, the larger the pellet. Or if using letters, the more letters used, the larger the pellets. For clays, you are looking for a range between #7-#10. With requirements for hunting, the smaller the game, typically the more significant the shot size you will use. Just remember to check the regulations for the area you will be hunting in before deciding. 

Which Choke Should You Use to Pattern a Shotgun? 

We always get choked up at this part….Again, this will depend on the intended use of your shotgun. Older shotguns have a set choke that cannot be changed, whereas newer shotguns have chokes that change. Here is a good video on how to determine what choke to use

Pattern Density

We could go into the scientific/ mathematical explanation of pattern density, but we like you all, so we won’t. The simplest way to describe the pattern density of a specific shotgun is the spread of the shot at a given distance. So how do you use pattern density to your advantage? Let’s show us show you.

For example, you just got a brand new shotgun for duck hunting. You then pattern your shotgun and notice a good even distribution of pellet holes across your target in the 30-inch circle.  

However, you also notice the center of the pattern distribution is a few inches higher than the center of your 30-inch circle. 

Now say the spread of the pattern density is so vast that most of the pellets are outside of the 30-inch circle. Changing the shotgun shells load and or choke until you get the desired pattern density in your 30-inch is your goal. 

Another critical factor in pattern density is the distance from the shot to the target. Remember this to pattern your shotgun.


What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun? The answer  varies, but you will have a good idea of where to start to pattern your shotgun with the information above. Let us know what distance you pattern your shotgun at below! 

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