Confession. Until recently, I didn’t completely understand the different chokes for different types of hunting. For example, I KNEW I needed a full choke for turkey hunting. But I never really questioned why. I knew it was more effective. But I never really questioned why.
I am going to step out on a limb here and venture to say that if I didn’t necessarily have a full grasp of chokes then certainly others perhaps did not fully understand either. However, I am also guessing that those people are still reading this blog. Here is the very basic down and dirty about shotgun chokes. I hope this helps!
What is a choke?
A choke is the tapered constriction of a shotgun barrel’s bore at the muzzle end. The purpose of a choke is to alter the distribution of the shot as it leaves the firearm. The various size chokes constrict the barrel thus tightening the spread of the shot. Thus, the thicker the choke, the further and tighter the shot will travel. The choice of choke will depend on what game bird you are choosing to hunt.
Okay, I admit... I already knew this. But I needed to know more.
A shotgun will place 70% of the shot in a 30” circle at various yardages. 30” is considered the ideal kill zone to avoid wounding a bird but to also avoid over-kill meat damage. Choosing the proper choke will help you achieve the desired 70% shot delivery at the range you desire for the bird you are hunting. Please note that ammo selection aids in this process, but that will be a separate story.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
five essential chokes used for bird hunting
While there are more chokes available, these are the chokes more commonly referred to for hunting purposes.
I came across this chart that I have used on numerous occasions to decide what choke may be best utilized for what I would be hunting.
To illustrate the different diameters and shapes of chokes, note the images below showing the varying diameters of modified, full, and turkey chokes. You will see a significant difference from the modified to the turkey choke which will keep the shot more compressed for a longer distance.
Diameter of Chokes (Left-to-right): Modified, Full, and Turkey
(Left-to-right): Modified, Full, and Turkey
To take it one step further, I have taken grouping shots from 2 different chokes at the same distance using the same loads.
I chose the 40-yard distance for the modified vs the full choke. While a modified choke is best at 35-yards, you can see that the shot had significant disseminated at 40-yards. The pattern for the full choke was still concentrated at 40-yards.
40-yard pattern with Full choke
40-yard pattern with Modified choke
That is the down and dirty of how the various chokes adjust the shot dispersal at varying distances.
So how does this apply to hunting?
- Turkey Hunting: Full Choke or Turkey Choke (you may also see Super-Full/Extra-Full for turkeys). You may be shooting at further distances, especially if you are not hunting from a blind.
- Waterfowl Pass Shooting: Full Choke. You will need that additional distance to provide a good knockdown pattern at that 40-yard stretch.
- Goose: Modified as you will most likely be at a closer distance.
- Pheasants: Modified for distant flushing birds, or Improved Cylinder for close-quarters birds.
- General Waterfowl: Modified.
- Waterfowl Over Close Decoys: Improved Cylinder.
- Quail: Improved Cylinder.
- Grouse: Improved Cylinder.
- Dove: Modified or Improved Cylinder.
It really must be mentioned here that all gun owners should be knowledgeable about their shotguns and if they are built to accommodate interchangeable chokes or not.
Hopefully this breaks shotgun chokes down into a format that is quick and easy to use. I for one have a much clearer understanding of chokes and how to determine my choices based on what I hunt.