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Article 3 – 2021 (April)

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 3 – 2021 (April)

Question: Please try and settle a debate I was having recently with a group of friends. Is there such a thing as a “shot string” and is a longer shot string beneficial in shotgun shooting?

Chris Mifsud, Keilor Vic

Answer: This is a subject that pops up time to time and is certainly worth revisiting. By definition a shot string is the spread of shot measured from the leading pellets to those at the rear of your shot pattern. Many like to theorize that this shot string looks like a huge cone, similar to something that you would eat ice cream from. Here is my take on it.

I have no doubt that all of your shot pellets do not arrive at the target breaking point at exactly the same time. There have been countless tests over the years to prove this. One famous American shotgun expert many years ago had his wife drive her car at eighty kilometres per hour with a trailer in front of his statically mounted shotgun that contained a long paper pattern board. As the front of the board went past his shotgun, he pulled the trigger and indeed the pellets patterned slightly longer than they would have if he shot at the pattern board that was stationary. The reason this oblong shape occurred is simply not all the pellets hit the paper at exactly the same time therefore the pellets that arrived last hit closer to the centre of the paper. A pretty serious test, however unscientific it was. Don’t try it at home!

Since then, there has been countless super slow-motion tests done undeniably proving that not all pellets arrive at your target at the same time. But is this an advantage? For the life of me I cannot see how? We are taking milli seconds between the first and last pellets arriving. The fastest moving clay target, duck or whatever will hardly have moved any distance in this amount of time.

One of the greatest myths I have heard around the traps over the years is that some shooters gain an advantage from tighter chokes because they get a longer shot string therefore at greater distances they get the benefits of this huge ice cream cone “margin for error” shot string effect therefore gaining an advantage over their competitors that are using more open chokes. These same competitors probably believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa also.

In reality the opposite is true. More open chokes give slightly larger shot strings than tighter chokes. The shot string effect largely occurs due to air resistance caused by the leading shot pellets shielding those behind it. There is no doubt tighter chokes at greater distances coupled with the correct ammunition and shot size choice is an advantage at times, but this has nothing to do with some shot magically arriving into the target zone a couple of seconds after the leading pellets made the journey. Who comes up with this stuff?

The wider the shot pattern the greater the number of pellets are protected from the air thus causing slightly different velocities as the shot travels down range. The emphasis here is on the word slightly. The other major factor that causes this stringing effect is poorly made deformed shot. Perfectly hard round shot will break the air better than those that are less than perfectly round. That is just aeronautical common sense.

So, in saying that if you believe in longer shot strings benefitting your scores then you should use poorly deformed shot. Not in a million years would I recommend you do that. Premium quality shot shells are more expensive for one simple reason. Because they have perfectly round hard shot in them and to make them perfect it costs more.

In answer to your question, yes shot strings do exist. Do they help you break world class scores? No chance. Buy the best ammunition loaded with the best quality hard round shot that you can afford and use it through the size choke applicable to the distance you are trying to break your target at.

I say this phrase time and time again, “there is no substitute for accuracy”. Work on your technique and master the basic fundamentals and your scores will soon reflect this. If you are thinking that a longer shot string will be the difference between you winning or losing, then you are dreaming. Prove me wrong!

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