View Full Version : Understanding chokes

Harry Callahan
February 8, 2011, 10:04 AM

Being fairly new to the shotgun game I found this fascinating. Good stuff for those of us in the early stages of the sport.


February 8, 2011, 10:41 AM
Here's another one that gives good advice for sporting clays targets:


February 8, 2011, 11:28 AM
I think my friend, oneounce, will concur: the tables are a great starting point, but you really have to learn how your gun's chokes perform with the ammo you'll be using. There's no substitute for a patterning board and some serious trigger time. Otherwise, you're just guessing about your gun's performance.

Harry Callahan
February 8, 2011, 11:34 AM
Totally agree. Thanks, guys.

February 8, 2011, 11:40 AM
I'll shoot a gun first before I worry about patterning it on a 2-dimensional surface. The reason being - if I am hitting the targets successfully, not just chipping away, then I really have no need to pattern it. If not, then I'll use the board, mostly for POI/POA. It's hard to look at a 2D pattern when the pellets are traveling in a 3D conical shape and tell much. Now, if you have access to one of those high speed cameras............:D

Harry Callahan
February 8, 2011, 12:23 PM
I'm about to ask what may be a very stupid question but like my 6th grade teacher always said "the only stupid question is the one that's never asked", so here goes. Should you always clean a shot gun barrel with a choke installed to protect the threads and/or will this damage the choke tube?

February 8, 2011, 04:48 PM
It falls a bit short of the whole story though. The table shown is most likely for lead shot. Steel shot is another ballgame all together. Steel does not deform like lead shot and as a result tends to pattern tighter.Other non-toxics may perform different yet. A general comparison is that if you shoot steel through a modified (lead) choke you will achieve a full choke pattern or reasonably close. Now the confusion begins. You will see various chokes labeled steel , lead only, multi metal or other. Some of that labeling is due to the alloy of the metal used for the choke to enable it to stand up to a harder shot or it may be labeled that way to indicate what type of shot will give you the pattern described. in comparing various brands of choke tubes you may see up to .015 difference in what is classified as a modified or whatever particular choke you choose. What that means is if you buy a full choke meant for steel but use lead in it on occasion you are not going to get a full pattern with the lead. Unless you want to buy chokes for each aspect, patterning with whatever shot you choose to use will be more reliable than the "assigned" pattern of the choke. I know that the modified (lead) choke I use for upland game will give me the full choke I want when I switch over to waterfowl (steel). I'm also still not sold that labels like "steel only" are not more than just a marketing tool. Early steel shot loads did not have the quality wads we have now and were subject to shot piercing the wad and scratching barrels and damaging chokes. I'm not saying it can't happen but modern wad design has corrected that. I have a 80's era 870 that has had 1000's of rounds of steel fired through its (lead) choke tube with no evidence of any problems. An extended choke adds another variable to the mix though my experience is that they often result in better distribution of the shot rather than variance in the so called pattern size. Confused yet???????????

Harry it is recomended to clean the barrel with choke in...if for no other reason than to keep debris out of the treads. A bronze brush or cotton mop are both much softer than steel threads.

February 8, 2011, 05:24 PM
Thanks for the links, great thread!

February 8, 2011, 05:51 PM
Harry- take the choke out so you can clean the threads both on the choke AND inside your barrel - otherwise, you can get crud buildup which can lead to corrosion which leads to a gun with a stuck choke tube inside. Brake cleaner or similar will instantly clean those threads, then apply a little oil or grease or "never seize"

Harry Callahan
February 8, 2011, 06:18 PM