What are the odds you’d buy a brand-new ri­fle, mount a scope on it, and head out to the field with­out ever hav­ing sighted the gun in at the range? It seems like a silly ques­tion, but in essence, that’s what most of us do each time we pick up a new shot­gun. We as­sume that each shot­gun shoots the same way, but noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

A shot­gun’s point of im­pact, or POI, is mea­sured as a ra­tio of the per­cent­age of shot that rises above the line of sight when the gun is mounted to the per­cent­age of the shot charge that re­mains be­low the line of sight. If these two per­cent­ages are roughly equal, then your gun is said to shoot 50/50, or flat. Trap guns usu­ally shoot 70/30, so the bulk of your shot string im­pacts above the rib, which makes sense in a dis­ci­pline where vir­tu­ally ev­ery tar­get is climb­ing away from the shooter. Sport­ing shot­guns that are de­signed for other ap­pli­ca­tions, like sport­ing clays, skeet, and trap, of­ten shoot 60/40. And most guns shoot a 50/50 hor­i­zon­tal pat­tern, mean­ing that half the shot clus­ters to the left of the tar­get and half to the right. But un­for­tu­nately that isn’t al­ways the case.

So whether you’re chas­ing the Grand Amer­i­can ti­tle or doves in a sun­flower field, it makes sense to know your gun’s POI.

Test­ing for POI

Yes, this is yet another shot­gun ar­ti­cle where the au­thor di­rects you to pat­tern your gun. But be­fore you shrug off the idea, un­der­stand that this will make a dif­fer­ence in your long-term shoot­ing suc­cess. In most cases, you don’t re­ally need to count pel­lets—a 30-inch cir­cle tar­get with a dot in the mid­dle will im­me­di­ately give you an idea of where you are pat­tern­ing with­out count­ing each and ev­ery hole. Shoot three or four tar­gets at 25 yards and you’ll have an even clearer idea of ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing. Make sure your mount and sight pic­ture are con­sis­tent. A Full choke will typ­i­cally give you a tighter pat­tern, which makes di­ag­nos­ing POI eas­ier.

Al­ter­ing POI

Some new shot­guns come with shims that can change POI, or you might have a tar­get model that has an ad­justable comb or rib that al­lows you to trans­fer your point of im­pact. Shims also al­low you to ad­just cast if you are shoot­ing to the left or right.

But even if you don’t have a shot­gun with shims, there are op­tions. If you want to raise the point of im­pact, you can raise the comb. Do this by in­stalling an ad­justable comb or adding a prod­uct like a Cheek-eez pad from Kick-eez. You can also raise POI by low­er­ing the front sight.

If you’re try­ing to lower the POI, you’ll need to ei­ther lower the comb or raise the front bead. Adding an af­ter­mar­ket front bead like Hiviz’s Comp­sight can eas­ily ac­com­plish this. And if you have a wood stock, you can sand the comb height and re­fin­ish.

Ex­pe­ri­enced gun­smiths can re­head the stock, ad­just­ing the an­gle at which the stock meets the ac­tion, or bend a wooden stock. Some gun­smiths can also bend the bar­rel of a pump, sin­gle-shot, or au­toloader, but dou­ble-bar­reled guns typ­i­cally re­quire re­lay­ing and resol­der­ing.

Ad­justable buttplates can also change POI. They al­low toe-on, toe-off al­ter­ations to make shoot­ing more com­fort­able.

Lastly, some gun­smiths will hone the muz­zle or choke tube by re­liev­ing it so gasses es­cape sooner from one side. This causes POI to shift in the di­rec­tion of the hon­ing.

Which op­tion you choose de­pends on your taste, bud­get, and ac­cess to a qual­i­fied gun­smith. The good news is that al­ter­ing your shot­gun’s POI can lead to more ac­cu­rate and con­sis­tent shots.

Af­ter in­stalling a cheek­piece, a bird hunter checks his shot­gun’s POI on a range in Ari­zona.

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