this picture makes me smileI. What is Patterning?
There are all sorts of brands for shotgun ammo out there. It is important to remember that each individual shotgun will have a unique pattern or spread for these at various distances. Even if you & your wife have the same type of gun and ammo, it is likely that their patterns will be different!
The most common ammo type is the "00" buck, pronounced "double ought" buck. These are 2 & 3/4 inches & each of these contain 9 pellets. Since shotguns belch out these out of a smooth bore barrel, they don't travel in a straight line. This is important so you could choose the ammo with a pattern that will suit your lifestyle.
II. Shopping Spree
I purchased stuff that was available in major shopping malls or gun stores. Too bad I could not find any of those low-recoil Federal Premium shells, those are fantastic. My loot bag consisted of a box of 40 rounds from each of these goodies:
- Armscor "00" buck
- Armscor #4 birdshot
- GB "00" buck, made in Spain
- Jethro "00" buck
- Tactical Edge - 2 1/4 Inch bantam, 6 pellets per shell
- RC1 Shotgun Shells, by A-Zone Arms & Ammo
III. Testing Procedure
The ammunition were fired with my Benelli M3T at 5, 7, 10, & 15 meters on a single target board per brand. After each shot, the holes are marked & encircled to indicate the spread since they get bigger the farther I go.
The goal is to help me find the ammo that will have a consistent pattern of pellets. I'm also looking for stuff that's capable of cycling my weapon's semi-auto setting. My gun can do either pump action or semi-auto, but I prefer the latter so I can shoot faster.
Now lets get to the fun part!
IV. The Fun Part
ARMSCOR "00" buckshot
A "doughnut" shape developed as the target became more distant. This is a tendency for some ammo to make a shape similar to Homer Simpson's favorite snack. The pattern looked good because majority of the hits landed in the Alpha zone even at 15m.
RC1 Shotgun Shells
Big surprise: this ammo had really tight patterns! The light recoil must be a contributor to this. At 10 meters, it had an amazingly close grouping of just 5 inches in diameter. That is a lot of stopping power focused on a very small area. Remember that each "00" pellet is equivalent to a .32 caliber bullet. A smallish pistol round, but devastating when 9 of these are flying at you with each blast.
Tactical Edge - 2 1/4 Inch "bantam"
- Upside: I can load 8 of these in my magazine compared to the 7 from the regular size. Lowest recoil.
- Down Side: Pump Action only.
Bonus Stage: Armscor #4 birdshot
As of this test I found that for my particular defense requirements, Armscor's "00" buck works best for me because the patterns held a consistent shape & had a small diameter from 5 to 15 meters. It also cycles my weapon's semi-auto mode. For pump-action only, I'm torn between using Jethro and the Tactical Edge bantam shells because of the tight patterns for the former and the additional round I could carry with the latter.
There are other types of ammo to try later on. I'm looking forward to testing the various magnum (3 inch) and single-slug rounds that I bought from the November 2010 Gun Show.
This is an opportunity for me to contribute to that debate about other buckshot types, especially with "000" and "0" for our next installment of Shotgun Patterning.