WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Shotgun Life Women: Shotgun patterning basics

For some reason, we don’t see very many women patterning their shotguns. We find it’s especially important for ladies who attract lots of free advice from men on how to shoot. You really want to determine if misses are attributed to technique or shotgun fit.


Here are the basics for patterning:

  • Find a safe patterning board at your clays facility.
  • Use a tight choke, preferably full. With an over/under or side by side, use the tightest chokes available for the second barrel.
  • You can purchase a clays shooting patterning target or use something like a sheet of butcher paper with a large circle (about 30 inches) that has a horizontal line running through the middle and a “bullseye.”
  • Shoot the shells that you would normally use.
  • Stand 40 yards from the pattern board. Hold the shotgun very still. You may want to breathe deep then exhale to steady the shot. Focus on the pattern board as though it’s a flying clays target. If you can rest on something like a picnic table or if you have a rifle sled to mount the shotgun that would be helpful. Off-hand shooting isn’t ideal because you’ll move the gun, but if you must, then pre-mount.
  • After making the shot, examine the results. Make sure your shotgun is unloaded and pointed in a safe direction. The assumption on shotgun patterning is that you’ll be shooting at rising targets. That means you want the majority of the pellets (target holes) above the horizontal line (60% – 70% of the pellets).

If you find that the pattern skews toward one side or another or shoots way high or low, repeat the process several times until you’re convinced that the problem is with the gun. If your shotgun has an adjustable comb or butt plate, or if it’s a semi-auto with shims, take the opportunity to experiment for satisfactory results.

Assuming you can realize a good pattern, take your gun to a trap range. Stand on the 16-yard line and shoot those outgoers to test the shotgun on live targets.

As your shotgunning skills evolve chances are you’ll need to repeat the process, because it doesn’t really pay to invest in a professional gun fit or even a new gun until you’ve mastered the fundamentals of mount, swing and focus. That said, a properly patterned shotgun will give you a helpful baseline.

Deborah McKown is the Editor of Shotgun Life, an NSCA Level I instructor and an NRA Certified Shotgun Instructor. You can reach her at contact@shotgunlife.com.

  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.