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Shotgun chokes are an essential part of various styles of hunting, as well as trap/skeet shooting.
If you're just getting into trap & skeet, or if you're looking to get out in the woods for the first time and you want to better understand shotgun chokes, this is the guide for you!
I'm going to walk you though the most important things to keep in mind and consider when evaluating your next choke purchase. And I'm also giving you a simple guide that showcases what all these constrictions are best for.
A shotgun choke is a steel cylinder device that sits inside the end of a shotgun barrel.
These are used to constrict the shot pattern of the pellets as a way to adjust the density at different distances. This helps both hunters and targets shooters improve the accuracy and effectiveness of their shot.
Chokes allow individuals to increase or decrease the spread at their desired distance to improve shot performance.
By expanding or constricting the trajectory of pellets, you're able to adjust the number of pellets that hit the target.
If target distances or the type of animal you're hunting changes, you can utilize chokes to improve the effectiveness of your shot.
Here are a few of the most popular shotgun choke constrictions.
You can think of these as the "wide-eyed wonder" of chokes. They create a loose, scattered pattern, ideal for close-range situations like flushing birds or fast-moving targets.
These chokes are perfect for hunting birds like grouse, quail, and pheasants when they're close and unpredictable. They're also great for clay pigeon shooting at short distances.
In the end, a cylinder choke will give you nearly a 40 inch spread at about 25 yards.
The next level is going to be improved cylinder, and these chokes offer a bit more focus to the shot pattern. Think of them as the "catch-all" of chokes – not too tight, not too loose, just right for medium-range situations.
The spread tightens up a bit more, making these chokes suitable for hunting rabbits, turkeys at moderate distances, and ducks closer to the blind.
In the end, an improved cylinder choke will give you nearly a 40 inch spread at about 30 yards.
A modified choke is a versatile friend in the shotgun world, offering a happy medium between open and tight patterns.
These are great for a variety of mid-range game, including ducks, geese, turkeys at moderate distances, pheasants, and partridges.
In the end, a modified choke will give you nearly a 40 inch spread at about 35 yards.
A full choke shines in the spotlight of long-range precision, squeezing the shot pattern into a tight, laser-like focus. Think of it as a sharpshooter for your shotgun, ideal for situations where every pellet needs to hit its mark from afar. Here's where it thrives.
These are great for geese soaring high in the sky, turkeys at the edge of your range, or any situation where distance demands pinpoint accuracy.
In the end, a full choke will give you nearly a 40 inch spread at about 40 yards.
Ideal Hunting Situation
|Close-range clays, fast-moving birds, birds flying in unpredictable directions.
|Close-range clays, flushing pheasants and partridges.
|Improved Cylinder (IC)
|Flushing turkeys, close to medium range hunting for rabbits and grouse.
|Light Modified (IM)
|Medium-range hunting for turkeys, geese, ducks, and other upland game.
|General purpose choke for medium-range hunting of waterfowl, gamebirds, and some larger animals.
|Improved Modified (IM)
|Long-range hunting for waterfowl, turkeys, and other larger game.
|Long-range hunting for waterfowl, turkeys, and other large game in predictable flight patterns.
|Extra Full (XF)
|Specialized choke for dense patterning at extreme distances, mainly for geese and turkeys.
When it comes to chokes, most modern day guns are going to have threads placed in the inside of the barrel so gun owners can adjust their chokes. In other words, they can take out a choke and replace it with another one.
Before the 1950s or so, most guns had a choke fixed to the inside of the barrel. What's known as a pre-choked barrel. This did not allow the individual to change out their chokes. They were stuck with one and only option.
Nowadays, adjustable chokes come in both a flushed and extended option. A flushed chokes sits entirely on the inside of the barrel and a tool is required to loosen and tighten it. As pictured below on the right, there's also an extended option which allows the user to tighten and loosen the choke with just your hands.
Do not shoot a shogun without a choke if it's threaded for a choke.
Also, make sure your choke can shoot steel shot. This should indicated by the manufacturer.
And lastly, do not shoot steel shot out of choked (pre-choked) barrel.
Cylinder, Modified, and Full are the three main types of shotgun chokes.
While it's not an exact date, shotgun chokes were invented some time during the 17th century.
Unfortunately, the style of adjustable chokes many hunters use today were not truly perfect until the mid 20th century.
All shotguns do not have chokes.
Flushed chokes sit entirely within the inside of the barrel, while extended chokes protrude outside of the barrel - enabling users to easily tighten and loosen the choke with just the use of their hands.