Article 7 – 2010
Question: I recently bought a new shotgun after years of buying second hand older models. I have never patterned a gun before, but was convinced to do this by several people who said it would help me set the shotgun up with the correct stock height position as it has an adjustable comb. I did this at 30 metres because I thought this is the average distance where clays would be broken. I got the shock of my life when I found both barrels patterned well to right hand side of where I was aiming. I had a few experienced shooters with me and they all have said I should return it to the shop where I bought the firearm. I did this and the company said they would check the gun. They have now sent it back to me saying that the barrel was tested by them and it is fine. I have since patterned it again and I am finding it still shoots to the right. Can you explain if I did the barrel testing correctly or how I can conduct my own test to prove them wrong?
Answer: First of all if you are patterning a shotgun solely to ascertain if the barrels shoot straight then you need to get yourself a rest such as a bench with a sandbag so the gun can sit solid. For this test forget the firearm is a shotgun, pretend it is a rifle. Once you have a solid foundation, and a relatively calm windless day, place the pattern board at no more than 18 metres back from your shooting position. I find that anything as close as 12 metres for this exercise is fine. What you are trying to eliminate is any movement what so ever when you pull the trigger. Place a small cross on the pattern board and carefully aim the front sight at the middle of the cross with your eyes looking as flat and as straight as possible down along the rib of the barrel and slowly pull the trigger. My experience of helping shooters patterning thousands of shotguns tells me that clay target shooters have the worst trigger control when shooting at a static object such as a pattern board. Their habit of slapping the trigger instead of squeezing it often causes the shot to be pulled off centre. If you are free standing at 30 metres back from the pattern board and even a slight jerk on the trigger will cause the shot to be pulled to the right and catastrophically misleading results will occur. I have witnessed this time and time again.
In the last twenty five years I would be able to count the barrels on one hand that genuinely did not shoot straight either left or right or up and down. Don’t get too concerned if your shot pattern is not looking exactly the same with both the top and bottom barrel. At thirty metres I would be happy with any shotgun that had barrels that hit within 15 centimetres of each other. This is more than acceptable when you consider the size of shot patterns at this distance and the accuracy required to hit a 10 centimetre clay disc being hurled through space at 100 kilometres per hour.
If you try this method to pattern the barrels and are still unhappy with the results it may be worth actually patterning the shots on paper and sending the results back to where you purchased the shotgun for proof. The last thing any manufacturer wants is an unhappy customer running around with a shotgun that doesn’t shoot straight especially if you have the pattern sheets to prove it.