Shotgun Shooting – Where Does My Shot Go in Relation to Where I Point?

Those new to the sport of shotgun, clay pigeon and game shooting might perhaps think that the shot from a shotgun would go to exactly where it was pointed. A reasonable assumption, but it’s not quite as simple as that. In fact, there are many variables that can effect where it lands. Here are a few pointers that will help those new to sport of shotgun shooting to understand the mechanics of a shot performance and thereby improve their skills, aim and accuracy.

A shotgun traditionally shoots above its point of aim. Typically, a shotgun will throw a pattern around 65% above the muzzles, thus ensuring you can see your quarry when you take the shot. Being as a shotgun is a smooth-bore weapon, it’s effective range is heavily reliant upon the shell itself, and was never originally designed to kill at extreme range, say beyond 40-50 yards. Clays however, can still be broken at this sort of range and beyond, but will still be reliant upon the shell itself. Furthermore, there are other factors to consider at long range, being the ‘drop’ and ‘drift’ of the shot cloud.

The degree of elevation of the shot can also have some effect, as it would be travelling against the earth’s gravity more so than a more level shot. Shotgun pellets can travel over 200 yards, and with a trailing wind, even further, hence the safety ‘fall-out’ zone of 300+ yards being the ‘norm’. The effective pattern will have long gone at that distance, and will be merely, a falling shower, albeit still dangerous!

Generally, in normal calm weather conditions, most shot from a 28gm (1 ounce) shotgun cartridge, would fall within around 220 metres from the point it was fired, following winds can easily increase this fallout distance, so a minimum safety distance of 300 metres should be declared in any direction in which a shot could be fired. Make sure you do not shoot over bridleways, railways or footpaths, or towards any highway. Remember, even though you may be shooting safely and responsibly, you have a duty as to ‘not cause distress’ to non-shooters, the general public, and domestic animals!

Carry only the correct cartridges for your gun. If you have a 12 gauge gun, do not carry 20 gauge cartridges! If a 20 gauge cartridge were inadvertently put into a 12 gauge gun, it could slide part way down the barrels, lodge, and cause a potentially lethal blockage. Check your barrels before shooting, and regularly whilst shooting, especially if you hear an unfamiliar noise. If you do see a blockage, Do Not Continue to shoot, clear the blockage (ie. Mud, snow, wadding etc.) in a safe location first.

Misfires, Malfunctions or a Hang fire, (a common name for a cartridge that does not fire immediately). In the event of any of these, Do Not open the gun, wait for at least 20 seconds with the gun pointing safely downrange, then open the gun cautiously. Remove the cartridge; if the primer has been struck. Alternative ly, you could try it again in the other barrel, if it still does not fire, then dispose of it safely. If the primer has not been struck, check strikers (firing pins).

Remember that a shotgun is still a lethal weapon and so always take great care and following established safety guidelines. The constant attention to the details of how your gun is performing will keep you safe and enjoying the sport. Churchill shooting