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Article 5 – 2020 (June)

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 5 – 2020 (June)


Question: I recently bought a Sporting Clays shotgun that came with five interchangeable chokes. I intend to shoot a variety of disciplines from Trap, Sporting and Skeet and of course I want to use it in the field also. Is there a hard and fast rule as to what distance I should use each choke for?

Eli Pazzan, Mornington, VIC


Answer:  I will have to make the assumption that the five chokes you have in your possession are Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified and Full. These are the most common chokes used on a Sporting Clays shotgun. There really is no set rule expect for closer shots you use the ones closer to Cylinder and the further you get away from your target you head towards a Full choke. That is just common sense, but it really depends on what you are using the shotgun for and even what discipline of clay target shooting you intend on participating in.

For Trap shooting you are pretty much shooting at an “edge on” target all the time. By this I mean you never see the whole target because trap targets are spun away from therefore you really only see the width and the height of the target as it cuts through the air, but never the whole face or “belly” of the target as you often see on a Sporting Clays range. So, what does that mean in regard to choke selection? Well edge on targets take more breaking and will require more pellets on the clays surface area to actually pull them apart therefore a target that is edge on at thirty metres in my opinion is ideally suited to an Improved Modified choke as opposed to a target at the same distance with its full belly showing which would be adequately shot with a Modified choke. The full belly target may only need half as many pellets to actually hit the target to fracture it as, first of all, a full faced clay is quite easy to break apart and secondly, and most importantly, the full faced target has a greater surface area to aim at than an edge on clay therefore your more open Modified choke will give you a greater margin for error.

To correctly ascertain what choke is right for your shotgun you need to ascertain the correct distance you are shooting your targets from. Use a pattern board and make sure you pattern your chokes with the exact ammunition and shot size you intend to use when it counts. Fire one shot at the board at the desired distance and simply walk up to the imprint left by your shot pellets on the board and observe the spacing between the pellet strikes. If you are shooting Trap for example take a clay target up to the board with you and see if there are any gaps in the imprints that would fit an edge on target through. If there are then the chances are that you need to screw in a tighter choke. Do the same exercise with the target showing its full face and you might find that the target would not escape. That is the dilemma of a Sporting Clay shooter as often during the same round they will be faced with a variety of edge on and belly faced targets. If in doubt go tighter and if possible, change the chokes to best suit the targets you face on each stand.

Field shooters often make the mistake of going to tight in their choke selection. If the goal is simply to kill something then often this requires a change of shot size also, but again this should be definitely answered by using a pattern board.

Just for your reference the five chokes I mentioned can be called by different names. Cylinder means no constriction, Improved Cylinder is often called a quarter choke, Modified is half, Improved Modified is three quarter and Full is maximum.

Good luck with the new shotgun.

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