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Picking the Best Shot Size For Pheasant

What is the best shot size for pheasant shooting? We all wait with baited breath for the opening of the Pheasant season and the excitement it brings. But with all the excitement, you are then baffled by all the cartridges on offer; which load is best at what ranges? Which shot size will kill more efficiently?

Whether you’re an experienced shot or a new game shooter there is always something new on the market that will try and steer you towards something different, so do you change or not?

When it comes down to what is the best shot size for pheasant shooting, it all comes down to personal preference, the best option is to choose something that gives you confidence when you are shooting. Shooting is a mental game and it is important that you find something that you trust and this will help you more than ever.

How does it pattern?

The most important thing to remember is that the pattern does the killing so it may be necessary to put your gun through its paces on a pattern plate with your favoured cartridge to see exactly how it performs. A consistent pattern is key and to find a cartridge that gives you that later will be something of a Godsend and something in which you rely on to shoot well.

Which load will I need?

The most popular load at the start of the season is 30g 6 and this kind of load will give you the killing power needed for what would be said as a mid-range pheasant at around  30-40 yards. As the season progresses, the pheasant becomes older, stronger and savvier. In turn, a larger shot size will be required such as a 30g 5 and rolling into January it is advisable to increase to a preferred 32gram for the strength of those later birds.

What about high range birds?

For those high bird shoots typically found in the west country such as Wales, the Scottish borders and North Yorkshire and elsewhere the recommended shot would be a 5 or even a 4 shot in a 32g and that is considered more than ample. A good compromise of weight in a cartridge for most lighter English game guns would be that of a 30g 4 which would be suited to the higher more extreme ranges of birds as few old English side by sides will be able to handle any heavier loads.

Smaller calibre cartridges such as a 20 gauge offer a little less choice for game shooting than the 12 bore. A popular choice of cartridge would be a load of 25g 6 for the early season quarry followed by a 28g 6 shot or a 5. You will find this will be a universal load in which will kill cleanly.

At the end of the day, it is best to try different cartridge sizes to see what suits you best and gives you the confidence to shoot effectively in the field.


If you would like to discuss any potential Pheasant shooting trip that you have in mind, you can contact our fantastic shooting expert, Peter Collingsworth, on 01603 407596 or by emailing him directly at If you would like to view all of the shooting tours we have on offer, you can find the full list of destinations here.

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