Winchester Brings Patterning
Dope to Your Computer Screen.
By Holt Bodinson
Patterning is commonly regarded as a tedious aspect of shotgun management, but there’s simply no other way to truly understand how well your gun fits you and how well your gun-choke-ammunition choice will perform in the game fields “on the average.”
How many sportsmen pattern their shotguns? Look around at your fellow shooters. The answer is “darn few.” That’s why I was intrigued by a new patterning “app” on the Winchester Ammunition website. It’s called the “Pattern Board,” and here’s how it works for turkey hunters at present.
Winchester ballisticians rounded up some Winchester Super X3 shotguns, Carlson choke tubes and a variety of Winchester Long Beard XR, Double X Magnum, Double X High Velocity and Super X Turkey loads. They shot over 3,000 patterns from a variety of fixed distances, choke restrictions, ammunition types and shot sizes. More specifically, patterns at seven distances—from 10 to 70 yards—were shot. Six different choke restrictions were factored into the test, running from 0.655- to 0.710-inch.
At a minimum, three shots were fired with each combination of distance, choke restriction, ammunition type and shot size “to ensure consistency and repeatability of the load.” That’s an interesting statement. As George Oberfell and Charles Thompson pointed out in their monumental The Mysteries of Shotgun Patterns, “The distribution of pellets over the pattern area is governed by the theory of probability, sometimes called the doctrine or rule of chance.”
Oberfell’s and Thompson’s minimum number of patterning targets shot to establish data was five (and, better yet, 10), but they were analyzing the whole 30-inch pattern for evenness and lack of holes where game could—and does—slip through.
Here’s the opening screen of Winchester’s Pattern Board program (above). Once you’ve entered
your data (below), just press the “Shoot” button for a display of the results. The Pattern
Board screen enables you to compare up to four saved patterns. “Trending Patterns” were
the most lethal. Clicking on them brings up the details of the shot.
The Winchester testers on the other hand were concentrating on the core area of the pattern, highlighted by 3- and 10-inch circles, essential to hammering Old Tom in the vital neck and head area. Given the sophistication of instrumentation in a modern ballistics lab, their job was a bit simpler, but the data saved and now shared via Winchester’s Pattern Board app is invaluable for giving us some insight into how a specific 10-, 12- or 20-gauge Winchester load—with a specific choke restriction, at a specific distance—will perform on average.
Your search begins at Winchester’s website, where you can immediately click on “Go To Pattern Board.” Once there, you’ll find drop-down menus permitting you to select your desired gauge and choke. Other specifics to personally narrow your research include 3- or 3.5-inch shell length, No. 4, 5 or 6 shot, your choice of Super X, Long Beard XR or Double X brand shotshells and, of course, distances from 10 to 70 yards.
Once those selections have been made, you click on the “Shoot” button and up come the resulting patterns overlaid on a good-looking Tom. You can then test out variables and compare the resulting patterns, which are saved in memory until you clear them.
On the other hand, if you make a selection of gauge, shell length and shot size that does not conform to an existing load in the Winchester stable, a little red circle with a slash across it appears when you try to click on the “Shoot” button. Don’t think the program isn’t working properly. It’s just that it’s a Winchester-specific program restricted to the loads they currently offer.
Holt hoists the payoff for paying attention to patterning.
Nevertheless, the results can be extrapolated to similar loads offered by other companies, with the exception of Winchester’s Long Beard XR (Extended Range) load. The Long Beard load stands alone in the Winchester stable. Its shot charge is encased in a matrix, which concentrates the spread of the shot. In my tests, which were covered in the October 2014 issue and the patterns generated by the Pattern Board, clearly show the deadly effect of this load on Old Tom’s neck and head. If your turkey gun hits where it’s pointed, the Long Beard XR load shoots like a laser and hits like the Hammer of Thor.
Winchester’s Pattern Board database is a great tool for removing some vagaries in the probability theories surrounding shot patterns. It will be interesting to see if they generate a database for upland and waterfowl-specific patterns in the future. We desperately need better computerized shotgun ballistics programs.
Ten years ago, ballistician Ed Lowry developed a groundbreaking program for Windows entitled Shotshell Ballistics, but it’s no longer available. In the meantime, if you’re a turkey hunter, you’re in luck. Winchester’s Pattern Board is a terrific resource.
Winchester Pattern Board