Article 9 – 2014
Question: I just purchased a new shotgun that has adjustable chokes and a barrel selector. When and where they should be used seems to create a fair bit of doubt within my group of shooting friends. Can you give me an idea what each of these chokes are and when they are best used?
Kendall Johnson, Lismore NSW
Answer: These days many gun manufacturers provide five adjustable “screw in” chokes with the purchase of a new shotgun. Unfortunately most companies do not provide a guide as to what they are ideally used for.
I will try and provide a generic guide to help. Let us make the assumption that the shotshell your using is a typical 28 gram target load with number 7 shot.
1) Cylinder or Skeet choke; Cyclinder and Skeet are very close to the same and some manufacturers do not provide both. These are often marked with 5 small cuts or lines on the top of the choke or 5 stars stamped on the side wall of the choke tube. This is ideally used for shots taken up to 20 metres. This choke is perfect for skeet shooting.
2) Improved Cylinder or quarter choke; Marked with four cuts on the choke tube or 4 stars. Perfect for 20 to 25 metre shots. Often used for the skeet or the first barrel in some sporting events where the targets tend to be very close.
3) Modified or half choke; Marked with 3 lines or small cuts on the tube or 3 stars. The most common all round choke in sporting clays or in the field for all types of game. Perfect for 25 to 30 metres.
4) Improved Modified or three quarter choke; Marked with two small cuts or stars. The most common choke world wide for the first barrel in most forms of trap shooting and commonly used as one of the two chokes in many sporting clay shotguns. Ideally used between 30 and 35 metres.
5) Full Choke; Marked with one cut or line on the choke tube or one star. Used for the second barrel in trap and most long range shots in the field such as ducks or geese etc. Perfect for any shots over 35 metres
This is just a guide and should be varied with the type of shot shells that are being used or the type of game you are hunting. The above table would be a good guide at most clay target ranges in Australia where the maximum shot shell used for any competition is 32 grams. The size of the shot being used can make a difference, but not more than one choke size either way. Larger shot will increase your range and the opposite obviously with smaller shot.
Many of the shotguns that are available today also have the option of a barrel selector that can be quite a handy device if used correctly. Generally the bottom barrel is selected to fire first which in most cases will have the most “open” of the two available chokes. By open we are talking about the greatest amount of spread or dispersion of the shot pellets. The barrel selector is advantageous if you are shooting at an incoming clay target or in the field when game is being driven towards you. In either of these two scenarios the barrel selector should be used to engage the top barrel, or the tightest choke first, then the bottom barrel or most open choke second. To put it simply the tighter choke for the longest shot and as the target or game becomes closer then the more open choke is needed.
I hope this helps. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your chokes, but never think a choke will substitute accuracy.