Choosing Shot Size

When hunting waterfowl you need to choose the shotgun size that fits your needs perfectly to get the perfect shot. This takes a balance between pellet energy and pallet density. You want your shell to put enough shot in the air to get multiple hits on one bird. Then you want each of those pellets to carry plenty of energy to reach the vital organs.

You can select from a range of sizes that will work on any bird. You can find on the side of ammo boxes that there are charts that make recommendations for different sizes. If you choose a size that is too small, you will get plenty of pattern density, but not enough pellet energy to make a clean kill. If you select a size that’s too big you’ll get the opposite.


Smaller shots give you more pellets. The more pellets that you have in your pattern gives you a greater chance of an instant fatal neck or head shot. You can bag more birds because more pellets will help fill out the spaces in the pattern. These denser patterns are better to help you finish off injured ones on the water when you only have the neck and head to shoot for.


When using tighter chokes, larger pellets make sense. The denser patterns can put enough pellets on the target. That is provided that you have the skill to consistently hit the birds with the center of the shot swarm. These pellet-choke combinations can be effective on birds that are flying straight away.

Larger shots also carry more energy. You need that extra energy when birds flare up or slip away. This is even more vital on windy days. On windy days ducks can put a lot of distance between them and you in the same amount of time that it takes you to stand up and shoot.


You must take your gun to the patterning board before you make your final choice. Remember that pellet counts provide a better way to measure a pattern’s effectiveness rather than percentages. Ultimately, the patterning process will help make you a better shot and help you find the best load for your needs.

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