The Box O’ Truth #20 – Buckshot Patterns

On a recent post about sight off-set, we discussed using 00 Buckshot at close range.

My friend dport wrote me and said, “I believe that the new “Reduced recoil” loads will pattern smaller than what you shot. Also, I’ve heard that they pattern smaller at longer ranges. If I sent you some ammo, could you test it and see?”

My answer: Sure!

So, we compiled some different 00 Buckshot.

We tried the following:
Remington Managed Recoil Buckshot, 8- 00 pellets.
Hornady 00 Buckshot LM.
Estate S.W.A.T., 9 pellets of 00 Buckshot.
Remington Premier, 3″ Magnum, 15 nickeled-plated pellets.

Before we start, let’s agree to some things.

There are a lot of “what-ifs” when shooting a shotgun.

What if you used a longer barrel?

What if you used a tighter choke?

There are many others.

I used my Mossberg 12 gauge Maverick, cylinder bore, no choke.

This is a typical “Combat” or “Tactical” shotgun.

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First we will try at 12 feet, the normal across-the-room distance.

I shot all four on one sheet of butcher paper.

Looks awfully close, doesn't it.

Looks awfully close, doesn’t it?

Here I am shooting the 3" Magnum load. Tman caught me in full recoil. "Kills on one end, wounds on the other."

Here I am shooting the 3″ Magnum load. Tman caught me in full recoil. “Kills on one end, wounds on the other.”

The smallest group was the Hornady at 1 3/4 inch.

The largest was the 3″ Magnum at 4″.

It seems we see that dport heard correctly.

The reduced loads did indeed shoot a smaller group at close range.

This might make precision hits easier than the heavy hitter magnum.

These are the results on the paper.

These are the results on the paper.

Let’s move the target out to 20 yards.

Even 20 yards is a ways away.

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First, the Remington Managed Recoil.

It shot into a 10 inch pattern.

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Then the Hornady.

It shot into a 9 inch pattern.

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How about the Estate SWAT load?

It shot into a 13 inch pattern.

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Finally the Remington Premier 3″ Magnum.

It shot into a 17 inch pattern, but it also had 15 pellets.

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It was time to move it out to 45 yards.

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Many people will be surprised at how far 45 yards really is.

Here I am standing next to the target.

Here I am standing next to the target.

That’s a long ways away.

We were running out of butcher paper and decided to test the smallest patterning load first, the Hornady 00 Buckshot.

As you can see, it made a 27 inch spread.

If you were centering a human torso on the group, only about 3 pellets would even hit the torso.

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Finally, I tried the 3 inch Magnum load.

It made a 33 inch pattern.

If shot at a torso, about 7 or 8 pellets would have hit.

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Lessons learned:
  1. At close range, reduced recoil loads seem to shoot a tighter pattern. But the difference is small, i.e., 1 3/4 to 4 inches. As always, you have to aim a shotgun at close range. The patterns are tight.
  2. At moderate ranges (20 yards), the loads had an average spread of around 9 to 17 inches. This is getting big enough that, unless carefully aimed, many pellets will miss a bad guy.
  3. 3. At long ranges, even 45 yards, you will miss with more pellets that you will hit with. The question might be, “Why would you shoot at someone at 45 yards?” Well, if he is at 45 yards and shooting at me, I will return fire. If a shotgun is all I have, I will use that. But understand that you will have a lot of missed pellets.
  4. Reduced recoil loads are easier on the shoulder to shoot. But, you don’t get something for nothing. That also means that they will not have the total energy that a heavier load will have. You have to make a choice and go with it.

Thanks to dport for the ammo and thanks to Tman for the photo help.