All choked up: Improved patterns can yield better results

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal Longer, more exactingly made after-market chokes, top and center, often outperform those supplied for the same purpose by gun manufacturers.

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal
Longer, more exactingly made after-market chokes, top and center, often outperform those supplied for the same purpose by gun manufacturers.

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

Specialized, after-market chokes and close attention to shot patterns have long been a part of the turkey hunting game, but attention to both can be a big boost for wingshooters as well.

Assuming a shooter is already using loads made from consistent, quality components, the most effective way to improve a shotgun’s downrange performance begins with closely checking the density of its patterns.

For the past 30 years or more, most shotguns sold in the U.S. have come with screw-in, interchangeable chokes as standard equipment, which makes changing chokes the easiest way to quickly alter results. The quality and consistency of these chokes and their resulting performance can sometimes vary, though.

Knowing how each choke patterns using the loads you’re most apt to shoot should be the base of knowledge from which any quest for improvement begins. From that point, the investigation can go on to consider better chokes, longer chokes or chokes in constrictions not already supplied.

By using wide sheets of paper and attaching them to a large cardboard box or similar backstop not likely to cause ricochets, test each choke a few times at 20, 30 and 40 yards with the loads you’re most likely to use.

Variable effects

Different shot sizes, as well as shot made of different materials, pattern differently through each choke, so don’t expect to have one box of shells cover every possibility. Further, steel shot, especially, should not be fired through tighter chokes or damage to the gun could result. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations on which chokes to use with steel.

If the chokes supplied with your shotgun deliver patterns that prove to be uneven, a quality after-market choke could prove beneficial.

Typically, after-market chokes are manufactured to slightly more exacting tolerances, which can be of benefit, and they’re frequently longer than the standard issue tubes as well, which can be of much more benefit still.

When a shotgun shell is fired, as the shot leaves the shell it is immediately constricted via forcing cone into the main run of the barrel. Next to affect the shot column is the forcing cone of the choke, followed by the length of the choke’s parallel sides at the choke’s ultimate constriction. Both how abruptly this latter cone does its job and how long the shot column runs at maximum constriction affect the ultimate pattern a great deal. Precise construction and longer parallels both tend to improve results, which is why most after-market chokes extend some distance beyond the end of the barrel.

Additionally, after-market chokes can fill gaps left between the default set of chokes most gunmakers supply. Most shotguns come with screw-in tubes for improved cylinder, modified and full constrictions, but many other commonly-recognized constrictions exist.