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The GunGoddess Guide to Shotgun Chokes

The GunGoddess Guide to Shotgun Chokes

If you're not a shotgun expert (and most of us aren't), you might be mystified by shotgun chokes - what exactly are those metal tube things and how do you choose the right one?

We've got your answers in our GunGoddess Guide to Shotgun Chokes, so read on!

What are Shotgun Chokes?

Shotgun chokes, also called shotgun choke tubes, are threaded tubes that fit inside the end of your barrel that modify the direction of the shot pellets. Their purpose is to "squeeze down", or constrict the pattern of the shot pellets, giving you more control over the pattern the shot makes when it comes out of the barrel.

shotgun choke tube extendedThere are two main types of chokes - flush/fitted and extended. A flush choke will fit completely inside your barrel once installed, while an extended shotgun choke has some type of band (often marked or color coded) that sticks out of the barrel just a bit. Extended chokes can be easier to use, as the band on some of them can be used to screw the choke on and off.

Why Would you Want to Use Different Chokes?

When you fire a shell from a shotgun, the shot pellets scatter the instant they leave the barrel. Depending on the type of shooting you're doing, a wide open (no restrictions) pattern may not be the most efficient.

For example, if you're shooting in a 3-Gun competition and you have a no-shoot target in close proximity to another target, you don't want any stray shot hitting that no-shoot. Installing a shotgun choke with a more restricted pattern will keep your shot away from that pesky no-shoot.

The thicker and tighter the choke, the farther the shot pattern will travel. This makes some choke types very popular for hunting. It's common to see IC or Modified chokes for hunting at short to mid-range distances and Full chokes for longer ranges.

What are the Different Types of Choke Patterns?

While there are a lot of different choke patterns out there, the most common are the cylinder, improved cylinder (IC), modified, and full choke patterns.

Your shotgun probably came with the cylinder choke installed - that's the choke with the least restricted pattern. An IC choke has a slight constriction, a Modified choke has moderate constriction, and a Full choke is very restricted.

Here's a chart to help you visualize the differences:

shotgun choke chart

Do You Need to Use a Choke in Your Shotgun?

Not all shotguns use removable chokes, but if your gun has interchangeable, removable chokes (most modern shotguns use them), then you NEED to have one installed when shooting it. Firing your shotgun without a choke installed could cause damage to your barrel.

Multi-choke shotguns will usually come with a set of standard sizes and also include some type of key or wrench to get in and out of the shotgun.

Is it Hard to Install a Different Choke?

Nope! You just unscrew the choke in your shotgun, then screw the new one in. If your chokes are flush, you'll need to use the tool that came with your gun (or buy a new one if you can't find it - it happens). If you have extended chokes, you can use the external band to unscrew the choke. If the choke has been inside the shotgun for a while, it may take some extra elbow grease to get it out.

If you're still confused about choke tubes or you have any other shooting-related questions, feel free to get in touch with us!


Shotgun choke pattern image: hunter-ed.com

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