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Article 1 – 2013

person aiming shotgun at target range

Question: I have read where you state that the effective maximum killing range of a shotgun for clay targets is around 40 metres. I often shoot targets at sporting ranges going away from me like trap targets at a distance of at least 60 metres. Is the fact that I can break them consistently at that distance with my improved cylinder Miroku good luck or am I just a good shooter? The further I am away from the target the better I shoot. Why is that?


Answer: I will assume you are serious so congratulations on being the first shotgun shooter in the history of our sport to get better with distance. I have withheld your name to save you the embarrassment I am about to cause you.

First of all lets deal with the effective range of a shotgun and make the assumption that you are shooting shot size number 7 and a payload of no greater than 28 grams as this is the maximum amount to be used at National competition in major sporting clay competitions in Australia. The single hardest shot I could imagine in clay target shooting would be a “target going away from me at a distance of at least 60 metres”. For the target to be moving away would mean the clay is probably travelling with only the edge or rim facing you. This would mean it would take the most pellets with the greatest amount of penetration to actually bust the target apart. Targets in sporting clays can often be thrown across the face of the shooter with a full faced “belly” presenting itself for the competitor to break. This obviously is a far greater percentage shot than an edge on target, but the target you are describing is hardly that. I actually find it hard to believe that the person setting the targets at the range you are shooting at hasn’t been lynched by an angry mob of frustrated sporting shooters!

The effective range of 40 metres I often refer to is in relation to trap shooting where of course the targets are the same as you describe, travelling away from the shooter. I would stand by this and I would also recommend at this distance the only choke to use is a “full” choke. Trap shooters who have variable screw in chokes available often ask me about what constriction they should use at this distance and beyond. I always tell them if you have the choice and are consistently going to be shooting at these distances then find your full choke, go soak it in the saltiest water you can find and screw it tight into your top barrel. You won’t ever need anything else. For you to constantly break clays going away from you at 60 metres with no more than an improved cylinder choke is nothing short of miraculous.

The other variable at targets that are shot at distances of 60 metres and beyond with shot sizes no larger than number 7 is the amount of elevation your shot pattern will fall over this distance. What I am suggesting here is at 60 metres to hit a target with this size shot you will need to actually shoot over the target to “lob” the shot column on top of the target due to the presence of gravity. Hard to believe? Go to your local gun club and shoot at their pattern board at 60 metres. If you have a standard 1.5 metre by 1.5 metre board and you shoot at the centre of the plate there is a big chance you will miss the aiming surface all together and at best have a smattering of pellets on the very bottom portion of the board. Needless to say this makes judging accuracy very difficult.

In closing I think you need to check a couple facts. First of all measure out the distance you are actually breaking these targets at. If it is in actual fact 60 metres and beyond then go check the Oxford Dictionary definition of “consistently”. Make sure you are not confusing it with the definition of “sometimes”.

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