As a hunter, the first thing that you would want from your firearm is accuracy. You will notice that however hard you try, there always seems to be a variation in the level of precision of your weapon. When you shoot, you will also see that the pellets tend to spread outwards, which tends to increase with the length of the shot.
The way the pellets spread out is known as the ‘pattern' and recording the pattern of a particular shotgun is called patterning. One of the main factors that affect patterning is the choke (also known as choke tube) that is used.
So the question which arises here is, “Which shotgun choke has the tightest shot pattern?” We can answer this question by understanding how a good choke can make a shotgun shoot more accurately.
The Dynamics of a Shotgun Choke
First, let us define a shotgun choke. A shotgun choke is a tubular constriction at the end of the barrel of a shotgun which regulates the way the pellets arrange themselves after getting released from the barrel, which creates a tighter pattern.
A shotgun choke works just like the nozzle of a hosepipe where the water jet gets constricted, resulting in a much more accurate aim, without reducing its force. A shotgun choke also behaves in the same way. So contrary to what some people may believe, the choke in a shotgun only improves the accuracy by creating a tighter pattern and does not reduce the power of the shot.
Types of Shotgun Chokes
There are five categories of shotgun chokes:
Cylinder Choke: This is the original barrel, without any constriction. Here the pellets tend to have the widest spread.
Improved Cylinder Choke
There is a slight constriction to the barrel, which improves accuracy slightly but the spread is still rather scattered. This type of choke is useful if you want to hunt quail or rabbits.
There is a moderate constriction which slightly reduces the spread of pellets, making the shotgun useful for hunting geese or ducks with steel pellets. Another variation is the ‘improved modified’ choke which is a bit tighter than a modified choke.
This choke offers the tightest constriction, where the highest accuracy is required at a longer range. A full choke is useful for shooting game like squirrels or turkey. The length of the shot can go up to as much as 40 yards. Some specialized chokes like turkey chokes also known as ‘extra full chokes' are also available which are designed for even higher accuracy at a longer range.
This type of choke is meant for skeet and target shooting. It can have the characteristics of a modified choke or a full choke, depending on the target range.
Selecting your Choke
There are a few basic steps involved in choosing a suitable choke:
Type of Choke
Relate the kind of choke you need to the category of shooting you intend to do. Once you know the different types of chokes and their purpose, this will be relatively straightforward. You will be able to get a suitable one from your local hunting store.
Patterning your Shotgun
You need to determine which choke gives you the best pattern. Patterning your shotgun can be done through a relatively easy procedure. In the long run, a patterned rifle is more efficient.
The way you shoot also determines the type of choke best suited for your gun. If you are an accurate shooter, a narrower choke would be preferable. If you are a newbie, then you probably wouldn’t need a choke at all.
Try Different Chokes
Pattern your shotgun against different chokes. Incorrect pattern sizes and insufficient density denotes that a tighter choke is required. However, if you see uneven patterns, you may need a looser choke.
Use Different Loads
Using the same choke, try shooting with different loads and brands of ammunition. This way, you will be able to match the ammo a particular choke by studying the best pattern achieved. Thus, the overall quality of your shooting should show a marked improvement.
Refer to Technical Data
You can get technical information on choke selection from the internet or your local gun store. You can use this data to determine the type of choke required for the particular type and model of shotgun you use. In fact, you will even understand more about your firearm once you have studied this information carefully.
Fitting a Choke
Up till now whatever we have discussed is purely theoretical. Here’s an interesting video on how to fit a choke in a shotgun barrel. Your local guns store is most likely to offer you services for choke fitting, so once you have selected a suitable choke, you can get it fitted by them as well.
There are two main stages to installing a tube choke. The first process is reaming the barrel with a reamer to match the outer diameter of the choke. Next, the barrel is threaded by using a threading tap, so that the threaded tube choke can be screwed into the barrel of the shotgun.
Today, many shotguns come with threaded barrels, so you would be able to install the chokes yourself. On the other hand, if you have a weapon that needs the barrel modified for installation of a choke, machining would need to be done.
Fitting a tube choke involves some extremely precision machining procedures which require the facilities of a fully-equipped machine shop, so a professional gunsmith is best qualified to undertake the actual fitting of a choke.
Improved Firearm Performance through a Suitable Choke
Once you have identified an appropriate tube choke for your shotgun by using the information provided here, you will:
- Feel the difference with an improved shotgun
- Become a better shooter as your weapon is now more accurate
- Be more knowledgeable about gun performance
- Have access to relevant information on correct use of shotgun chokes.
Whether you are a target shooter, skeet shooter or a hunter, precision shooting is your ultimate aim. Although your shooting will improve with practice, you will be able to get the best out of your shotgun by selecting a suitable tube choke for it.
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