Sights

How To Sight In A Shotgun With Red Dot (Shooters Guide)

Experienced shooters know the value of having a red dot on their gun, especially when turkey hunting with a shotgun. When you aim a shotgun with a red dot sight, you can immediately feel the improvement from traditional open sights in terms of constant focus on the target, precision, and target acquisition.

However, to sight in your shotgun with a red dot is critically important as it will determine how accurate your pellet placement will be.


Sighting In Your Shotgun Red Dot Sight

Picture of shotgun aimed at a target

Many shooters are familiar with how to sight in a red dot sight. But things get a little tricky when it comes to shotguns. To sight in a shotgun red dot means verifying that the pellets accurately hit close to where you were aiming. In essence, to validate the point of impact.

What you’ll need before sighting in your shotgun red dot sight:

  1. 3-5 sets of one-inch targets
  2. Cardboard, paper, or steel plates, and should be large, at least A3-A2 size
  3. A sturdy bench
  4. Inexpensive lead load ammunition
  5. Your regular shotgun ammunition

How to sight in your shotgun red dot sight:

  1. Place the target on the large paper, cardboard or steel plate, and make sure there is nothing valuable behind your target – putting it against a slope or mound is the safest.
  2. Place your bench between 15 and 30 yards away, as you must shoot from close range. 20 yards is the preferred range, making adjusting the red dot scope easier.
  3. Take and steady your aim from the bench with the inexpensive lead load.
  4. Hit the close-range target and check where the pellets hit. Most pellets should be centered around the one-inch target, with a 6-9-inch pellet grouping.
  5. Repeat the shot on a new target to verify that the shot pattern is at the same spot.
  6. Notice the shot pattern the pellets make when hitting the target and adjust the windage and elevation knobs on your shotgun reflex sight or red dot scope. Remember, at 20 yards, you will need to adjust the dials five times as far compared to 100 yards.

For example: If your red dot scope has one MOA click, then you will have to make five clicks to cause a one-inch move. Remember, even the Best Shotgun Scope needs to be sighted in properly.

 

  1. Shoot again to see if the pellets are hitting more centered.
  2. Next, when the lead load’s accuracy is to your liking, switch to the ammunition you will use when hunting.
  3. Again shooting from the bench on a new target.
  4. Make your final adjustments to the windage and elevation knobs if need be.

How To Pattern A Shotgun

After completing to sight in your shotgun red dot sight, you will need to pattern your shotgun. Grab your Turkey hunting shotgun red dot sight and follow these steps:

  1. Set up a life-size target of the upper part of a turkey, preferably from the neck upwards, at 40 yards away.
  2. Aim and shoot from the bench at the target.
  3. Count the number of pellets hitting within a 10-inch circle surrounding the center of the target or the kill zone. You will want your turkey hunting load to shoot 100 pellets inside or on the circle from 40 yards away. Of these, 18 pellets should have hit the turkey, if not, check step #5.
  4. Repeat at 20, 30, and 60 yards on new targets to give you a general sense of where the pellets hit and the effective maximum range of your hunting shotgun.
  5. If your shotgun cannot produce 18 pellets that hits the turkey target at 40 yards, it means the effective range of your shotgun shell has been exceeded. Don’t worry, you can increase the range by changing your choke or shells.
  6. Increasing your range via shotgun shell can be done by increasing the load of the shells but leaving the numbered shot the same. Doing so will increase the number of pellets and your effective range.
  7. Otherwise, you can opt for a turkey load with a mix of #5, #6, and #7 shot, which will also increase the effective range of your gun.
  8. For extending range via choke, check the “Does My Shotgun Choke Matter?” paragraph.

Does Your Pellet Pattern Matter?

Yes, it does, whether you are shooting a clay target such as clay pigeons, or small game, or even a simple target at longer ranges, you would want your shotguns to be as accurate as possible. Checking and knowing your pellet pattern allows for three things:

  • You have a sense of control over the number of pellets from your slugs hitting the target.
  • You know how what the maximum effective range is before you might wound an animal or not make an ethical kill because of the pellets dropping short.
  • It improves your accuracy when shooting slugs, as you know where to aim at different distances.

Remember, different types of loads will yield different pellet patterns. So best to know your ammunition and where it will hit the target. In the end, it will improve your overall shooting capabilities when shooting a shotgun. In our post about where to shoot coyotes we learned that pellet pattern matters so that you can ensure an ethical kill!


Does My Shotgun Choke Matter?

Yes, as previously mentioned, shotgun choke affects the overall range of shotguns. There are four different choke tubes, each having varying spreads at different distances:

  • Cylinder Choke tube has a 40-inch spread at 25 yards.
  • Improved Cylinder Choke tube has a 40-inch spread at 30 yards.
  • Modified Choke tube has a 40-inch spread at 35 yards.
  • Full choke tube has a 40-inch spread at 40 yards.

How the type of choke tube influences the same spread but at different distances is correlated to the choke tube thickness, with a tighter choke producing a tighter spread for a longer distance, as is the case with the full choke. Also, if you use a scope on shotgun make sure you’re dialed in to the correct distance to get the best performance possible!

By giving it that final choke, the increased range can be attributed to the tighter choke tube influencing the rate at which the wad opens up after leaving the barrel and starts to spray.

Shooting a Slug with a Full Choke

If you want to shoot a slug from a shotgun with a full choke but are worried that it might get stuck in the barrel or blow the barrel up, then you are not alone. However, if the slug can fit through the choke, you can shoot it.

The improved cylinder choke is the best choice for using slugs as your ammunition. This particular choke will give you the best performance in terms of accuracy as it squeezes the slug before exiting the barrel.


How To Aim Shotgun

Shotguns have considerable recoil, and if you are not holding your shotgun right when pulling the trigger, it can leave quite a bruise on your shoulder. After you zero your EOTech, Trijicon, or another red dot sight…you need to learn how to aim! Here is how to aim your shotgun correctly:

  1. Shouldering Your Shotgun
    • Bring the shotgun stock to your cheek first and, after that, your shoulder, not the other way around.
    • Doing it in the correct sequence will ensure that the gun butt rests comfortably in your shoulder pocket. Take care not to lower your head and cheek to the stock instead of raising the stock to your cheek.
  1. Pointing/ Aiming Your Shotgun
    • Shooting with a shotgun requires a quick reaction time, and most often you won’t have time to aim your shotgun. Instead, you will have to point at your target along the top of the barrel or rib. Luckily, the clear red dot sight picture enables faster pointing and, ultimately, faster accurate shooting.
    • If you do not have a red dot sight on your shotgun and instead makes use of iron or open sights for your shotguns, then you should do the following:
    • The sight will ultimately be a bead on the front sight and rear sight.
    • When aiming/ pointing, line your eye with the barrel.
    • Then eye evenly between the gap in the middle of the rear sights to see the front sight so that it is centerline between the gap. Make sure your head is resting comfortably on the stock in the process to avoid possible injury from the intense recoil of the shotgun.
  1. Pulling the Trigger/ Shooting
    • Shooting with shotguns is all about accurate shooting while being lightning fast, unlike when shooting with rifles, where you need to have controlled breathing and make 100% sure of your shot for an ethical kill.
    • When a target is spotted and the shotgun butt is already in your shoulder pocket, pull the gun straight rearwards while keeping a firm grip and applying pressure to the trigger to fire the shotgun, all in one motion.
    • Remember to match the motion of your shotgun swing with the moving target, preventing shooting behind the target.

Pros & Cons Of Red Dot Sights On Shotguns

Having a red dot sight on your shotgun has its benefits, such as increased accuracy, but it also has its downsides, a simple example is your red dot sight’s battery suddenly failing when aiming your shotgun at a target.

Pros

1) Accuracy

Red dot sights have an immense impact on your rifle, pistol, and shotgun accuracy. The isolated dot you use to focus on your target makes it much easier for most shooters to hit their target accurately.

Especially if you are using slugs instead of pellets for ammo, as is the case for hunting larger game, you can hit your targets accurately at a considerable distance. There are actually several different shotgun ammo types you can use. This holds true for other types of firearms, like handguns as well. That’s why I always tell shooters to consider this list of the best pistol red dots to improve their shooting performance.

2) Vision

With the added benefit of increased accuracy also comes improved vision. You can more easily locate and shoot your target by having both eyes open.

With red dot sights, you do not have to close one eye to increase focus on the other eye, as with front and rear sights used in traditional open and iron sights. Thus expanding your peripheral vision while shooting making it easier for you to locate, point and shoot other possible targets.

It also enables a more upright position when aiming a shotgun, as you do not need to force your cheek tightly to the gun when looking through the red dot in the case of traditional iron sights.

Cons

1) Electronic Failure

With any electronic device, the possibility of electronic failure is always present. Although companies like Leupold and Trijicon have made their respective Deltapoint Pro and RMR red dot sights as rugged as possible, it can still be knocked out of zero if you fall.

Even if you have a front sight, it will not help as the red dot sight will obstruct your vision between the rear and front sight.

2) Glaring light

Glaring light is a big con, especially when turkey hunting. When the sun is just at the right angle, or you have dust on your sight, it can render it almost impossible to see through the sight—possibly leading to you not being able to take a shot.

A hunting tip: Make sure your sight is always clean before embarking on a shooting expedition, and take a soft cloth with you to clean it.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you bore sight a red dot on a shotgun?

Yes, you can bore sight a shotgun. A great product you can use is the Wheeler Professional Laser Bore Sight. You will still need to check your shot pattern made by the pellets.

Where should I aim my red dot sight?

Exactly where you want to hit the target when you take your shot, but when you aim a shotgun, keep both eyes open to help you judge the distance between you and your target.

Are red dots easy to sight in?

Yes, as it is primarily a close-range sight for guns, it is relatively easy to sight in. Some great tools help you sight in your gun's red dot even without firing a single shot, which is excellent as ammunition is expensive. However, it is still recommended to shoot at least once to get a feel of the scope and the gun.

Is a red dot on a shotgun worth it?

Yes, it makes it easier to point, adjust and fire your gun than open sights. It also helps with vision in low-lit areas found in dense wood areas. Your aim will be better when using slugs, it will almost feel like a hunting rifle with the added range. A tip: If you want to experiment first, then a reflex sight might be your best option because they are relatively cheap.

What MOA is best for shotgun?

For Hunting: 3-5 MOA, will give an optimal combination of accuracy and target acquisition speed. It will also aid you if you want to shoot bigger game with rifled slugs or sabot slugs, depending if have a smoothbore barrel or a rifled barrel, respectively. For Sports Shooting and Defensive Use: 4-6 MOA, predominantly close range, you want a sight that works best for these distances.

The Bottom Line

Having a sight on your shotgun can be beneficial, especially with slugs and shooting targets that move fast and are 30 yards and more. However, it is vital that you sight in your shotgun diligently. After sighting in your shotgun, you must also check the pellet pattern at different ranges. If not, you can expect inaccuracy that can lead to wounded animals or missing your target.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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