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Old July 1, 2002, 05:39 AM   #1
Dave McC
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Join Date: October 13, 1999
Location: Columbia, Md, USA
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The Choke Mythology and Mess...

Besides the plastic hull and wad,to many of us the biggest advance in modern shotgunning is interchangeable choke tubes. These allow us to tailor the pattern to the game and distance.

But, there's a downside.

First,the things are all proprietary. Here at Casa McC, the three screw choked shotguns take three different systems.If I added a Beretta, Browning, Winchester,Ithaca,etc, I'd need another set of chokes.

And some sets have up to ten different contrictions, with down to .004" increments between them. At $15-65, this adds up. And some folks buy them all. Watch Sporting shooters sometimes frantically changing tubes for a shot 4 yards closer or further than the last one,which they smoked.

And you can bet your favorite adult beverage that very few of those folks owning all constrictions have actually patterned with all of them and with their load of choice for the distance shot and game, IE,they pattern with 9s for skeet, 4s for wild and spooky pheasants.It's also rare for all tubes in a set to give the same POI.


First, you can skip the tubes on a dedicated shotgun. My TB is used almost always at 16 yards trap singles, so no advantage occurs if I had the bbl threaded for tubes or got another tubed bbl. My chokeless HD 870, same thing.

Shotguns used at different ranges and targets can benefit, but little good is done most of the time by switching say, from a constriction of .000 to .005.

And of course, I'm talking constriction when choke is actually the percentage of pellets put into that 30" circle at 40 yards. This gives apples to apples conparisons, but using increments of contriction is a nice shorthanded way of classification.

So, how does one determine what chokes to get?

Determine the load needed for the mission, including estimated distance. By patterning, determine what constriction will do the job best at that distance. When in doubt, go tighter for long shots, more open for close.

Remember, the markings on the choke(IC, Full, etc) are just educated guesses by the makers and starting points.

IMO, few of us NEED more than 3 tubes, one for shot, medium and long distance each. But, one particular shot(like from a goose blind one uses year after year with the load of choice) may require another tube.

And,I'd suggest getting 10 Points Of Constriction between the tubes. Smaller increments do not really perform all that much differently in most shotguns.

One set here goes Skeet(.005"),Light Modified (.015"), Full(.030) and Extra Full (.040).

Another starts with Cylinder and ends up around .025".

And of course, other factors like bore diameter, forcing cone length,load choice, and the abilities of the shooter to estimate range enter in here.

Hope this clears up some of the murk, sing out if it's still thick.
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Old July 1, 2002, 06:57 AM   #2
Al Thompson
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Dead on target Dave. As per SOP for you.

When I was shooting a lot of sporting clays, my pardner and I used to get silly grins watching these guys spinning tubes in and out. Never seemed to make much difference.

One other point - check my headspace and timing here - with new folks, I usually explain that there is a (improved cylinder/modified/full) choke tube and (improved cylinder/modified/full) pattern - but - depending on your load, they may not be the same.

The first is the amount of constriction, the second the number of pellets in a 30' circle at (IIRC) 30 yards.
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Old July 1, 2002, 10:37 AM   #3
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Good, but risky, presentation Dave.
Gizmo brings up one of many many many variables involved in the term "choke" The designation of the tube may bear NO relationship to the results of the pattern on paper with a particular load.

My personal feeling is that the person who has a full kit of well used "chokes" does little or no snap shooting with a rifle. And does not spend enough time learning the characteristics of different shot loads in his guns.

Vollumes have been written on the subject of chokes. With many divergent ideas presented as the gospel.

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Old July 1, 2002, 11:26 AM   #4
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Well done, and I agree up to the point of steel shot. I currently own about 20 chokes for 3 different systems. Steel is the one place I have found where the conventional theories of choke may or may not apply. I also handload all of my shotshells and having a couple more chokes can make the load useable where only 3 may not get a suitable pattern. I have developed a load with performance characteristics that I want and found it to pattern poorly with a choke that "should" be perfect. Having more to choose from is essential in this case. A difference of only .004" in large steel shot can make a substantial difference in the pattern, and the higher the velocity the bigger the difference in my experience.

All that said, for sporting I screw in an aftermarket IC (in both barrels if shooting a double) and shoot the course. VERY seldom do you see a target that the IC will not handle and I have NEVER missed a close target with IC that a cylinder choke would have hit. Golden BB theory is complete BS IMO, if you do your part they will break. For trap an IM or full, for skeet a cyl or skeet.

Most guys have never patterned thier guns and never will. They buy chokes and change them hoping that it is the right one for the job. Most guys would also be really surprised to see the quality of the chokes from they bought, from being eccentric or not round to several constrictions from the markings. I have another 15 chokes that are junk, mostly remington. The average guy never knows.
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Old July 1, 2002, 02:35 PM   #5
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Excellent post Dave and one topical for me as I recently had a over/under threaded for Briley choke tubes. This gun is meant to shoot all the clay games so I chose 2 cylinder, 2 improved cylinder, 1 modified and 1 improved mod. With this selection I can shoot just about anything.

Your point about 10 points of constriction between chokes is right on. I tend to shake my head as I see a shooter debating whether to use skeet at .005" or IC at .010 on a station. 10 points however does make a difference.

The issue with choke is not whether your chokes are tight enough but whether you a getting the largest and yet dense enough pattern on the target at the distance in question.

After pattening my gun and loads, my rule of thumb on whether to change chokes at a sporting station depends on the target distance. Here's my formula: For edge on targets using 1-1/8 of lead shot, begin with 25 yards as a base. My gun will reliably kill targets at this distance with cylinder choke. Thus 25 yards is the maximum distance for cylinder choke using a good load with premium shot.

I then add one yard for each point of constriction. If the target is under 35 yards, I choose an IC (25 yards plus 10 points of constriction for a total of 35). With good shot, this puts enough pellets on the target without large holes developing in the pattern. For 35 to 45 yard targets, modified choke is my choice and so on.

This formula works for me although the variables of shot weight, speed, quality and target presentation can change the formula. You can hit a full face target at 40 yards with a cylinder choke. If I'm shooting one ounce loads or loads I haven't patterned, I pull the base yardage back to 20.

The result is the largest, effective pattern on the target. No, I'd don't smoke many targets but the X on the scorecard looks the same either way. The other result is that I rarely use a full choke even for handicap.

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Old July 1, 2002, 02:52 PM   #6
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No No NO!!!

You have this all wrong!

Use the K80 method, no boring patterning and piles of shot up paper!

Buy every choke constriction made and shoot all of them and constantly tinker with the different chokes. Change regularly and often, every stand if possible.

After a couple of years of this check as to which chokes are dirtiest. These are the chokes that work for your gun. Keep them and sell the rest

All that patterning shooting holes in paper tells you nothing and will give you a headache.

Besides, changing tubes all the time drives old timers crazy and intimidates new shooters.

Buy a nice bright red plastic ammo box from MTM and label it with the name of your gun. Put all the tubes you can find in it (even if you never use them) and get a fancy choke tube wrench. Take it out constantly and change chokes, even if you put the same choke back in, just to drive other shooters nuts.

It's all part of the game
I am no longer a member of this forum. Bye!
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Old July 1, 2002, 03:09 PM   #7
Dave McC
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Thanks, folks, it's a morass, isn't it? Let me expand a bit...

Some folks who have made more scientific studies of this tell us that an optimum pattern has one or more pellet(s) in every two square inches of the target,and that pellet is of a size with enough energy to break the clay or penetrate to the vitals on game. The kicker is matching the pattern, velocity and pellet size to the distance and target.Three 7 1/2s in the vitals will take down a dove or quail, three 6s will do for grouse and pheasant. Naturally we'd like a few more for insurance.

Besides choke, quality of the payload can alter the results tremendously. I can switch from my favorite trap loads to a generic "Field" load and get similar results to popping in a tube one increment of choke more open. Same other way, my favorite AA load of 7 1/2s is deasdly on quail out to 25 yards with a Skeet choke, but if I were using a generic, I'd either limit myself to 20 yard shots or screw in an IC choke. That's one that produces ACTUAL IC patterns, not just marked as such.

Unless a hunter actually tests his/her loads with the choke and weapon thay use for hunting,at the typical ranges they take their shots at, they're almost guaranteed to not be killing critters as well as they should. More misses, and worse, more cripples.

Smitty, thanks for pointing out both Steel loads and doubles. If I ever get an O/U (after various McCs finish school and get good jobs), it'll have about the same tube setup.

With good quality shot in one's hunting loads, a Cylinder bore choke is deadly out to 20-25 yards. This range fits a lot of quail, grouse, woodcock and even some pheasant hunting.

Steel and very large lead pellets are more sensitive to small changes in choke. The BBBs I use in Frankenstein for snows want a particular Modified choke, anything tighter causes flyers and anything looser gives holes past 30 yards or so.

Turkey loads are both deeply researched and debated. Many of these have heavy payloads that are more than can be easily squeezed through an overtight choke. The big 1 7/8 oz and up loads often give better hits through a slightly more open choke.

Same time, I've a box of old Remington 1 1/2 oz "Short Magnums" with 4 shot that do nicely through Frank's .045" choked Extra Full tube, and the Remington Duplex 6X4 loads do better with that tube.

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Old August 30, 2011, 05:31 PM   #8
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Dave, I'm a novice trap shooter, and am looking to get a new 12gauge for trap shooting. Currently I use a the shotgun my grandfather left to me, a Winchester Model 12 (manufactured in 1925) with a 30" barrel and a full choke. At least, I am assuming it's a full choke, it has "FULL" stamped on the side of the barrel. (see pic below)

Anyway, the old girl shoots like a dream, but she's heavy. I normally shoot somewhere between a 20 & 23, with the occasional 24. By the end of 4 rounds of trap, the weight starts to get to be a bit much. Also, I want to retire the old girl and keep her in good shape, instead of continuing to use her.

So I'm planning on buying a Remington 870. In my price range, I cannot afford the "Classic Trap" model with the 30" barrel. I'm looking more at a 870 Express with a 28" barrel. I shoot from the 16 yard line, and I shoot Federal Target Loads (1 1/8 ounce shot, #8 shot, 1145 FPS muzzle velocity) because they're the cheapest.

My questions are two fold.
1) Does the loss of 2" of barrel length really make a difference? I have read that it really doesn't in shotguns since the shot already reaches max velocity before leaving the barrel, and that the choke is what is "setting" the pattern. Would you agree with that, or in your opinion does that 2" make a difference?
2) What choke would you recommend for the barrel? Some folks have told me to stick with the "Full", and others have said to do "Modified". I even had one person tell me to go "IC" and enjoy the spread. With the information I have provided, could you make a recommendation?

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Old August 30, 2011, 06:21 PM   #9
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I had (and still have) an old Remington Model 11 on the Browning Patent. When I bought it, it had a 30 inch barrel with a full choke. I had always been a fan of Modified chokes, so I took the gun to Briley Chokes in Houston and had them cut the barrel to 27 inches and provide me with two screw-in chokes. One was an Improved Modified and one was a Light Modified, which put the two chokes on either side of Modified. I was beyond happy with the results. I picked it up on Friday and won a trap shoot on Saturday. The point is that you don't have to go with the standard chokes, and my choice of Modified Plus and Modified Minus worked great for me.
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Old August 30, 2011, 06:34 PM   #10
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EGYAS - see my response on your other thread
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Old August 30, 2011, 07:00 PM   #11
Dave McC
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Welcome aboard, Egyas. You could have started a new thread instead of exhuming this 9 year old one, but what's done is done.

Re 2" of barrel, no sweat on velocity or spread. Balance is critical in all the clay sports, and trap junkies lean towards long barrels for that "Swinging a wrecking ball" feel. 28" shall work for you,though.

The Express will come with a single tube, Modified. A good starting point. With the load you mention, probably close to optimum.

Here's a quick diagnostic as to whether your load and choke combo are optimum for a given presentation....

If some,up to 50%, of your hits smoke them, and the others are often just chips, you need LESS choke. Excess smoke means limited spread, and you're giving up too much.

If you rarely see smoke, but your hits are solid and few large pieces fly off, you're close to ideal for that presentation and THAT load/choke.

I shoot little trap these days, but for my tight patterning reloads, LM or IC often gets the nod for singles. Olympic trap with its screaming birds and second shot opps, I use more choke but not more load.

HTH, sing out if I missed something....
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Old August 31, 2011, 06:52 AM   #12
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TWO chokes will handle most field and clay games with a 12 gauge.
Skeet will handle everything out to 35 yds and Modified will handle everything beyond.
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