Improving shotshell patterns?


August 2, 2010, 10:11 PM
hey all,

while im well versed in reloading for my pistols and rifles i am thinking about getting into the 12 ga. arena. my reasoning for this isnt at all about cost savings for shotguns but more that i dont like most of the turkey loads i have tried. i suppose i could run through a few brands of chokes but i figured it would be more fun to come up with a shell that patterns superbly in my shotguns. does one go about improving a shot pattern by reloading? is it increasing or decreasing shot amount? how about powder charge? all of the above? any help would be great!


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Steve C
August 3, 2010, 01:24 AM
The lower the velocity, the tighter the pattern. The harder the shot, the tighter the pattern.

You don't tweek shotgun loads like you do rifle and pistol. You simply pick the load in pellet weight and velocity (dram equivalents) you want from the load data and gather and assemble the exact components to match what the book says. Some wad brands may perform slightly better but hey, its a scatter gun and trying to improve your shooting by ammo selection is rather silly. Shooting at thrown clay targets will do more to improve your shooting than messing with the shells. If you could get the pattern too tight you've defeated the purpose of a scatter gun.

August 3, 2010, 01:52 AM
im all about the tight pattern though. i want to blow up a gobbler head like a balloon at the fair. now ive knocked out tons of birds with my remmy copper plated factory loads but they just dont give what i think they should.

ive just heard that (with effort) one can create a shotgun load far superior to factory stuff. thats what i want!

August 3, 2010, 02:49 AM
Take a close look at VanComp 12 guage barrels. These replacement barrels will print the best of anything out there. I have one on my Remington 870 and the 25 - 40 yard group is just fantastic. Many law enforcement and military units are using them due to the tight pattern.

August 3, 2010, 07:28 AM
Have a look here Use a buffer agent, this keeps the shot from deforming on firing. Hard magnum shot or copper plated will give tighter paterns. The larger the shot, the tighter the pattern. #2 will pattern tighter than #6 shot. Slowing down the velocity helps also. Don't use to much choke, a modified can sometimes pattern bettter than a full or extra full choke.

August 3, 2010, 08:37 AM
The choke on the barrel is the predominant factor in determining the pattern you'll get with any given load. Creating very fast loads tends to "blow" the pattern and create holes in the pattern that allow the game to escape.

First things first, have you patterned your current loads in your gun with your current chokes? At the appropriate distances? What did you find out about those patterns?

If you haven't done that yet, you might want to before you go and invest the money and time for the equipment and components. You do not reload shotgun on a metallic press. If you're not shooting a lot of shotgun, then it will probably be cheaper in the long run to buy some premium factory and use that.

The larger the shot, the tighter the pattern. #2 will pattern tighter than #6 shot

Sorry, I will disagree - shot size has nothing to do with patterning - choke does. Velocity has a somewhat smaller effect. A 1oz load of 9's or 2' will pattern the same when fired through the same choke in the same gun. The advantage of larger shot is that it retains more downrange energy for a longer period of time, due to the mass of the pellets in question

August 3, 2010, 09:01 AM
Speaking of CHOKES, has anyone used a Poly-Choke? If so, how do you like them? Any pattern info on them would be most welcome. I'm thinking about putting one on my Benelli Montefeltro. Fiddling with chokes is my least favourite thing about shotguns and sporting clays.

August 3, 2010, 10:49 AM
If you have tried the different brands of turkey loads and have not found any that pattern to your liking, then I would turn to the choke. There are special turkey chokes that you can purchase that if you can't get a pattern with them you should change guns to may be a cannon. We have gunsmiths here in GA that specializes in turkey chokes and making your gun pattern, their services are expensive $$$ !! You would not believe some of those patterns!

Just my opinion, I don't think you will be able to reload a Turkey load any better than what you can already buy. I think you just need to find the right choke and do some shooting.

Here is a link with lots of choke tubes...

Jimmy K

August 3, 2010, 11:02 AM
how does one go about improving a shot pattern by reloading? is it increasing or decreasing shot amount? how about powder charge? all of the above? As has been mentioned, pattern DENSITY is varied predominantly by changing the choke, with the ability to make subtle differences to the pattern density via altering shot hardness and velocity and wad style. Changes to the shot hardness, the wad style, and the shot velocity are more commonly used to alter pattern QUALITY (i.e. fix 'holes' in the pattern) than to alter the basic pattern density.

Until you can describe the pattern issues that you wish to remediate, I dunno how anyone can tell you the most effective way to fix 'em.

Reloading shotshells is fun, but it does require an investment in kit and materials that you likely do not yet have. A ballpark figure to get started is about $100, to get a low end Lee press and the necessary consumables (wads, hulls, shot).

August 3, 2010, 01:08 PM
JA, here's my experience with loading turkey loads.

I got into turkey hunting about 6 years ago. I used my Beretta 390, and bought a IIRC tru-choke in .690 constriction. It's a extended choke with a built-in muzzle brake. I just bought some 3" copper plated shells and patterned them on a turkey head/neck target. They seemed to do pretty good. Didn't see any birds, but had a few come in a ways, then see something they didn't like, or just maybe my amateurish calling???!:scrutiny::uhoh:

Anyway the following summer was spent trying to come up with a handload that came close to factory stuff. Since I already have a mec 600 Jr. and a Hornady 399 , I could go to 3" without a problem. I had loaded 3" goose loads/with steel shot and also 3.5 inch for my brother's mooseberg.

I sent for some 4's and 6's copper plated and some nickle plated 6's I already had. As 243 said, the BEST place for those components is Ballistic Products, here;

After repeated tests, a lot of shooting heavy loads, I came up with a 3" shell that threw a 1-5/8 oz. load of copper plated 6's at about 1250 fps that looked as good as the factory rem loads.

Bottom line is; it won't be cheap for you to start out buying a loader, and components, then doing a lot of shooting to find a load that works. Forget the lee load-all, it won't do 3" stuff. Your best bet is to try different chokes and different shells to find one that works for you. I might suggest you focus your search on the tungsten shot loads. The harder shot just patterns better, and penetrates better.

August 3, 2010, 01:16 PM
I agree that improving on todays factory turkey loads by handloading is going to be a long expensive road.

I don't see myself even bothering to try.
I don't shoot enough turkey loads in a year to make it worth the expense & effort.

I only shoot one turkey a year, and not many more turkey loads then that.
Truth be known, a #8 AA trap load would have killed every turkey I have shot just as dead.


August 3, 2010, 05:04 PM
Back in the dark ages,:rolleyes: we used flour as a buffering agent. This made tighter patterns, but when the flour got damp, pressure went way up :uhoh: as the plastic wadd grabbed the barrel walls harder. End of using moms baking flour.:( Now we have plastic buffers that work great. :)

August 3, 2010, 07:43 PM
well i was afraid of this. it seems that the people at remington and winchester and federal have done their homework on the factory loads.

like i said, i can always change chokes but just wondered if it was worth setting up a shotgun reload station. sounds to me like its just not worth it since dove and turkey is all the shotgun i shoot. poo!

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