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Shotgun Sights and Buckshot Patterning

There are basically three types of shotgun sights. (I won’t be going into various optics in this post)
1) Bead sites
2) Rifle sights
3) Ghost ring sights

Bead Sights –
The bead sight is the most common sight found on the shotgun. It was designed to be used following the aiming concepts and applications of the bird hunting shotgun. Its primary function allows the shooter to select a general area on the target for buckshot application.

bead sight

Typical bead style front sight on a Remington 870

The bead site can be used to deliver slug rounds; however, accurate shot placement quickly diminishes once target engagement exceeds 25 yards and with some shotguns, even shorter.


This police officer is using barrel mounted rifle type sights on his duty weapon. This setup offers the most versatility and is the setup preferred by the author.

Rifle Sights –
Rifle sights have begun to quickly replace bead sights on most shotguns that are set up for serious defensive work.
A sight blade replaces the bead and a basic rear sight assembly is added with both sites mounted on the barrel. Factory rifle sights are zeroed at the factory and in most cases do not allow for windage adjustment.
The rear sight has a step mount assembly that allows for elevation adjustments. A relatively short sight radius was established, which allows the shooter to apply slug rounds accurately beyond 50 yards.
The uniqueness of having the rifle sights mounted on the barrel allows the shooter the versatility to remove the rifle sighted barrel and interchange barrels without disturbing zero. The shooter can swap back and forth between bead sighted and rifle sighted barrels.

Ghost Ring Sights –
The ghost ring sight system is the most advanced sight system currently on shotguns today. ghostring
They provide the shooter with a sighting system that can be used to consistently and accurately apply buckshot and slug rounds at various distances.
A taller and thicker the front sight blade is mounted at the end of the barrel, with the rear sight assembly mounted on top of the shotguns receiver toward the back of the receiver. This sight system set up provides the shooter with a longer sight radius and allows the shooter to take accurate, long range shots with slug rounds beyond 100 yards! Most ghost ring rear sight assemblies allow for windage and elevation adjustment.

Buckshot Patterning
Understanding how your shotgun patterns buckshot plays a very important role when liability issues are taken into consideration. Every shooter should know how their shotgun patterns buckshot and all shotguns should be patterned tested using the buckshot that is used for duty carry.

The four most common distances used to test pattern buckshot are 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards. But for familiarization purposes, the shooter should pattern the shotgun at 25 yards as well.
By patterning the shotgun, the shooter will understand the capabilities and limitations of the buckshot that is used in that specific shotgun.3in-magnum-buckshot

The information will allow the shooter to understand at what range buckshot will become “ineffective” and require other actions to neutralize an active threat, such as making a decision to apply a slug rounds.

Patterning is accomplished by applying buckshot on target said various distances until the reliability and consistency to keep the buckshot pellets on the target is compromised.

NOTE: Be aware that if you have a tritium dot insert on the front sight blade, your daylight point of aim / point of impact will be different than your low light conditions point of aim / point of impact. tritiumYour shots will impact high when used during low light conditions.