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How far do shotgun pellets travel?

It's something every responsible shooter should know

two spaniels in field

Q: Just how far do shotgun pellets travel? I want to carry out some crop protection on a 15-acre field I own. There are public roads on two sides of it.

Obviously I want to keep things safe and stay within the law. I am wondering what is the considered maximum range of a 20-bore shotgun using No6 and No5 shot? Can I undertake crop protection using it in the location or should I use a gas gun? (You might also like to read choosing the right cartridge for your shotgun.)

Calculating how far shotgun pellets travel

A: Shotgun pellet travel can be calculated using Journee’s Formula, which says that if pellet diameter in inches is multiplied by 2,200 then the sum is the theoretical distance of shot travel in yards. 
For example:

  • UK No6 shot: 0.10in diameter 
x 2,200 = 220 yards.
  • UK No5 shot: 0.11in diameter 
x 2,200 = 242 yards.

In reality, shot travel depends on a variety of factors, including the angle at which the gun is fired — about 29° is optimal — wind speed and direction, initial velocity temperature and ballistic air density. A computer model for shot travel suggests that the Journee distance might be enhanced by about 33 per cent in the case of a powerful following wind.

Falling shot may make a noise but it is not dangerous. Be sensible where you shoot, put your back to the road 
if possible and shoot into the air. (Read what is the closest to a footpath or road you can legally use a shotgun?)

Shooting near a neighbour’s property

Q: I am planning a drive near 
a neighbour’s property. I do 
not want spent shot falling on 
their buildings and I understand that this is illegal anyway.

A: Shotgun pellets that fall 
on to another person’s land constitute a constructive trespass rather than a criminal offence. It is 
a criminal offence to allow an airgun pellet to leave your premises. That 
said, falling shotgun pellets, though 
not dangerous, are antisocial and should be avoided for the sake of 
good neighbourliness.

If you can, always stand the Guns with their backs to any buildings. Tell people when you are going to be shooting and be aware of any noise-sensitive issues — horses, children and so on.

Read more on safe garden airgunning here.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.