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Shotgun Chokes Explained

Shotgun Chokes Explained

In firearms, a choke is a tapered constriction of a shotgun barrel’s bore at the muzzle end. Chokes are almost always used with modern hunting and Clay pigeon shooting shotguns, to improve performance. Its purpose is to shape the spread of the shot to gain better range and accuracy.
Some obsess over it, some ignore it. What should you do? Ultimately, confidence and technique is what results in the most shot targets but using the correct choke in the right situation can give you an edge.

At the most basic level, a choke constricts the lead (or lead alternative) shot as it exits the barrel of the shotgun. This constriction makes the shot pattern tighter than what it would be if there was no choke used at all.

So why you would want to tighten your shot pattern, wouldn’t that make targets harder to hit? Well yes, and no…

The tighter your choke, the further your pattern will travel so if you’re shooting high pheasants or partridges, your choke requirements would be very different to shooting skeet clays for example.

Shotguns come in two formats – fixed choke and multi choke. It goes without saying that a multi choke gun will give you much more flexibility if you practise different types of shooting as you can swap and change the chokes as you wish. With a fixed choke gun, you need to have physical alterations made to your barrels by a professional gunsmith.

Choke Sizes

There are 6 common choke sizes. Confusingly, the names differ in the UK and US so both are detailed below. All are in order from the least to the most choke so for example, Improved Cylinder in the UK corresponds with Skeet in the US as both are second on the list.

UK

  • True Cylinder
  • Improved Cylinder
  • Quarter
  • Half
  • Three-quarters
  • Full

US

  • Cylinder
  • Skeet
  • Improved Cylinder
  • Modified
  • Improved Modified
  • Full

There are other choke sizes but the are less common. They include:

  • 3/8 (US Light Modified)
  • 5/8 (US Light Improved Modified)
  • Super Full (UK and US)

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