What is a Shotgun Choke – A complete guide

A shotgun choke can make tremendous changes in the performance of a shotgun. If you want to know what is a shotgun choke, how does a shotgun choke work, or how can you use a shotgun choke or how can you maintain one, here is our complete shotgun chokes guide!

What Is A Shotgun Choke? 

Many gun owners are confused about what is a shotgun choke and what does a choke does on a shotgun. A shotgun choke is a narrowing at the muzzle end of a gun that decides the spread of the shots. Its purpose is to provide you with more accuracy and shrink the spread of pellets.

In simpler words, a choke is a constriction that is installed into a gun, and as an effect, the bore of the barrel gets narrowed and the shots are spread into a restricted area. 

For instance, if you shoot without a choke, only less than forty percent of pellets will hit the target placed at 40 yards away from you. While on the other hand, if you use a full choke, the spread of the pellets would be narrow and more than 70% of the pellets would blow the target.

Thus, by using a choke you will hit the target with more accuracy and with more ballistic power. Chokes also increase the range of the shot and let you hit from a longer distance, making it easier while hunting or trapping.

How Does A Shotgun Choke Work?

If you also wonder how does a shotgun choke work, then here is the easy shotgun choke guide for you.

When you fire a shotshell, the shot travels through the bore, leaves the muzzle end, and spreads out to hit the target. When you install a shotgun choke, you narrow the escape path for shells because of the constriction at the muzzle end. Thus, while the shots leave the muzzle with a choke, they spread into a narrower area.

It is similar to what you do while using a water hose in your garden. You narrow down the escaping point of water by putting your thumb on the end, and in return, water goes out as a narrower and faster stream.

A shotgun choke also affects the range of the shot. If the constriction is tight leaving a small opening at the muzzle end, the shots would apparently travel to a longer distance and get a farther range. A full choke can increase the range to up to fifty yards and on the other hand, a cylindrical one can alter it to up to twenty to thirty yards.

There are different types of chokes with varieties of constriction. They come either as fixed chokes or as removable ones. Each choke affects the range and the spread in its particular way. If you are considering getting one, read about all the types and their effects on shooting. 

Types Of Shotgun Chokes

Now you know what is a choke tube on a shotgun and what is a shotgun choke, let’s talk about the varieties of chokes you can use for better performance.

Depending upon the size and shape of the constrictions, there are three types of chokes. Their advantages and limitations are here below –

1. Cylinder Chokes

A cylinder choke is often called a choke but is not an answer to what is a shotgun choke in actuality.

It has no constrictions and the dimensions of the barrel are similar with or without a cylindrical choke.

In a cylindrical choke, pellets are not narrowed in any way, and they leave the barrel with the same intensity and spread as they leave without a choke. This results in a wider spread of pellets and reduces the range of shots. A cylindrical choke can be used to shoot up to a distance of 18 to 25 meters. 

Cylindrical chokes help hit a fast-moving target within a small range. Their extra-wide spread increases the possibilities of hitting a target in a short-range such as for self-defense. If an invader arrives at your home, the possibilities are he’ll be in a close range, and then even if you do not have a super-accurate shot, you might hurt him hard with this choke.

They are also perfect for hunting in densely vegetated jungles where using a long-range barrel isn’t humanly feasible. Their wider spread would elevate the probabilities of hitting the target.

2. Cylinder Modified Choke Or Improved Cylinder Choke

The biggest con of the regular cylinder chokes is that they have a shorter range of impact and a wider spread. This reduces the ballistic performance of the pellets and also decreases the range of the shot.

When a cylinder choke is given constrictions, in order to increase the intensity of a shot and reduce the overall spread of pellets, it is called a modified cylinder choke.

Unlike the cylinder ones, these chokes give you a better range of shots and powerful ballistic strength. These chokes have narrowings at the muzzle ends that are ideal for a medium-range game especially when you’re using larger-than-required pellets.

If you’re using adequate long-range cartridges, these chokes can hit the target up to a distance of 30-32 meters. Plus, they reduce the distribution of pellets in such a way that almost fifty percent of pellets reach the classic thirty inches circle at the distance of forty yards. Thus, you get an unprecedented performance.

Modified cylinder chokes are perfect for shooting in close-in game shooting, bird hunting (grouse, quail, or pheasant). They are also ideal for hunting waterfowls or other animals if there is a visible space in the area of about  30 meters.

3. Full Choke

Full chokes are the best answers to what is a shotgun choke and what do shotgun chokes do.

If you’re competing in a long-range event or hunting where your target is more than 30-40 meters away, then a full choke is exactly what you’re going to need. 

Full chokes have maximum constrictions that produce centralized and highly powerful shots. They decrease the spread and delay the dispersion with their effective narrowings. You can calculate their efficiency by the simple fact that a full choke shot can hit the target up to forty-five or fifty meters of distance. 

Hitting a target from less mere 20 meters without a choke to more than 50 meters with a choke! That’s the exact reason why they are so popular among shooters!

They might even reduce the spread to such an intensity that more than 90% of pellets reach the 30” circle at the distance of thirty-six meters. This virtue of hitting distant targets makes the full chokes ideal for hunting waterfowls wood pigeons, wild turkeys, and in long-range shooting competitions.

4. Other Types Of Chokes

In the past two decades, there has been a lot of innovation and work on the formation of chokes. Depending upon the potency of narrowing, there are other types of chokes along with the ones mentioned above. Some of them are as follows

  1. Extra full chokes– They are the most extreme chokes that are ideal for turkey or goose huntings. They have the longest range and the tightest constrictions. Fun fact, they are particularly famous for turkey headshots – thus they are also known as “turkey chokes”.
  2. Modified chokes – These are the most popular chokes because of the intermediate-range and strength they provide to the shooters. Their spread isn’t limited like full chokes or extra wide regular cylinder ones. For a 25-35 meter range, these cakes are perfect for deadly shots.

They have a spread density of 50-60 % in the classic 30” plate up to 30-40 meters. This feature makes them highly versatile and recommended chokes.

5. Interchangeable And Fixed Chokes

Based on their removability, chokes come in two different variants. i.e., fixed and interchangeable chokes.

Fixed chokes are just like guns with a certain non-changeable range and spread. They are permanently attached to guns and if you have to change the choke, you have to get a new gun.

On the other hand, if you use interchangeable chokes, you can change the spread of the firearm according to your requirements and use it in a much more efficient manner. Interchangeable chokes can be unscrewed using a wrench, and need frequent cleanings and lubrication for better use.

Effects Of Chokes On Ballistic Performance Of A Shotgun

If you think that chokes are used only to reduce the overall spread of pellets and increase the range of shots, think again! There is one more feature of gun chokes that you must know as a gun owner.

This feature is the effect on the ballistic power of a gun.

When you use a shotgun without a choke, or with a cylinder choke, the two respective forces act on the pellets

  1. The force caused by the expansion of gases is due to the explosion of gun powder. This explosion launches the pellets out of the barrel. This is the general mechanism that makes a gun functional.
  2. The next force is the resistance caused by air that prevents pellets from moving in the given direction. It opposes the movement of the pellets or whatever ammunition you use in your gun.

Due to these forces, the pellets leave the barrel, and a shot takes place. During a shot, the pellets in the center of the stack, leave in the exact direction of the gun whereas the pellets at the end of the pattern or at the edges of the pellet-stack start moving in an outward direction. Hence, the pellets are spread, and a dispersion takes place.

When you use a choke, it limits this scattering of the pellets. For doing so, a choke performs the following functions.

  1. Gives a triangular and narrow opening to the pellets to leave the gun. Earlier they were leaving from a cylindrical barrel; now they have to pass through a cone.
  2. The conical formation of the pellets passes through the air with less friction and leaves as a compact set of pellets instead of a scattered mass.

These two effects cause the pellets to travel at a high speed for a longer distance and reach the target with greater momentum. Plus, the dynamic fluid effect also increases the velocity of the pellets. On top of that, less friction and less delay also leads to a higher velocity.

Thus, the pellets hit the target with superior ballistic power and cause a greater impact.

Factors To Consider While Choosing The Best Shotgun Choke

Now that you know that what are shotgun chokes and what does a shotgun choke do, you must be wondering about how to choose the best one for your firearm.

Several factors determine the best shotgun choke for you. Before buying one, the first thing that you should do is to do a firearm-test.

Other factors that are going to affect your shooting are your cartridges, barrels, gun, ammo, and your technique. To check all these factors, go to a safe place, take a good amount of the most suitable ammunition. Place a large sheet on a wooden frame, mark the center, and start the test.

To ensure higher reliability, use the same type of ammunition throughout the test. Note down every conclusion on paper or click images with your smartphone or camera. If you are using a metal board, click pictures after every shot and note down the distance and other essentials with it.

Now, depending on your gun and the discipline you are interested in, start shooting from a suitable range. For example – if you use your gun for hunting, the classic 36-meter distance is ideal. Start from a close range and keep increasing the distance to 40 to 45 meters.

While performing the test, keep shooting and noting down the conclusions for a minimum of five rounds. Notice everything – from the effect of distance on the spread of pellets to the ballistic performance of the gun from various ranges.

To measure ballistic differences, keep shooting from different ranges and using the same combination of guns, ammo, and chokes.

Whenever you find that the shot could get better or you can hit the target in a better way, change one thing at a time. Change cartridges, choke and keep trying till you get the best results.

The test would consume your time and energy but it would give you the best details about your requirements, efficiency, and ballistic power. Noting down the results on paper would help you in long run and would give you the best assessment of your skills and power.

This test would decide the nature of the choke you are going to buy. Your careful observations would describe you what is a shotgun choke and tell you the requirements you are lacking as a shooter. You can improvise all these settings by using a better choke.

How To Choose The Best Choke For You?

Now that you know what is a shotgun choke and what does a shotgun choke do, the next step is to choose the suitable choke for your firearm.

Choosing the ideal choke for you is mainly a matter of self-assessment. To find the best shotgun choke, first of all, answer these three questions.

  1. What are your shooting abilities? What kind of a shooter are you and what is your accuracy? Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced?

If you honestly answer this question, half of your work is already done. Nobody knows your skills better than you. If you have great shooting skills, you might increase your efficiency by using the full chokes. On the other hand, if you are a beginner in shooting and do not have enough knowledge and skills, you should consider focusing on elevating your shooting qualities first or use wide-open chokes.

  1. What sports are you interested in? What is your discipline?

This question simply means, what do you do with your shotgun and what kind of discipline your practice.

For example- flush choke tubes with an aperture range of 0.60 to 0.80 are ideal for trap shooting while flush choke (internal) with a 0.30 to 0.50 range is perfect for double trap shooting.

After choosing your discipline and interests you can move ahead to get the finest choke for you.

  1. Where are you going to screw the choke?

A crucial factor while choosing the right choke for you is the attachment of the choke. You can attach a choke on the first barrel (which shoots closer objects) or the second barrel (generally used to shoot for long-range).

Attaching a similar choke on the different barrels can create a lot of difference in your shooting and accuracy. So choose the choke according to your comfort and ease in replacing the choke while you need it.

Next, you have to choose the correct choke for you in terms of choke functions and differences. Generally, chokes are available in three different varieties. Their qualities and differences are as follows – 

  1. Flush (internal choke tubes) – These kinds of chokes are attached inside the barrel. They are lightweight and do not affect your shooting style.
  2. Ported +20 mm – These chokes are connected to the barrel and still have a 20mm part outside the barrel. They are a bit heavier than the flush chokes and if you do not have any problems with the weight of a choke while shooting, they are highly recommended.

Ported chokes are the most efficient and reliable chokes. They have great performance, however, they require frequent care and maintenance. If you are comfortable with regular maintenance and thorough cleaning from time to time, then you can go for these cakes.

  1. Extended +20 mm – These chokes are similar to ported chokes in terms of application. The only major difference is that you have to offer normal maintenance to them and need not worry about frequent cleanings.

Next, if you care about the weight of the gun and accuracy of your shots then Titanium chokes are your best bet. They are lighter than stainless steel ones in terms of weight, as much as by 40%. They also do not cause any unnecessary weight on your barrel. If you like lightweight shooting, Titanium ones are the best for you.

To sum up, choosing the right choke is a matter of honest internal assessment. If you have honestly answered these questions, the next step is choosing the high-quality and durable choke for you. The market is loaded with varieties of chokes and you can easily choose the one according to your requirements.

How To Measure Shotgun Choke Size?

Choke size has a remarkable impact on the overall performance of your shooting. When you increase the size of the choke, you increase the recoil or “kick” of a shotgun. It will tremendously affect the shape and pattern of the pellets released from the gun. 

If you want to know how to measure shotgun choke size, you will need these three objects.

  1. A tool for removing choke such as a wrench
  2. A choke gauge
  3. 30” paper sheet or target material

Now, follow the given steps.

  1. If your gun has a fixed built-in choke, there must be some stamping done on the barrel. Look for the chamber on the outside of the barrel or the point where the round is chambered.
  2. If you have a removable choke, use the wrench or tool to unscrew the choke. Now, look for the stamping on the choke and you will find the correct size over there.
  3. To get more details, aim at the target and shoot from  40 yards away. Make sure that you’re using a shell with a known number of pellets. Now, calculate the number of pellets that hit the target.

If 75% of the pellets or more have hit the target it means there are higher constrictions and it is a full choke. If 73% of pellets have hit, it is an improved modified choke. 67% indicates a modified cylinder choke, and 57% of pellets noted means less modified cylinder choke.

If you notice only 53% pellets on the target sheet, it is a skeet choke and lastly, if there are just 40% pellets, it is a cylinder choke.

  1. Now, take a choke gauge and insert it into the barrel of the shotgun. The length of the gauge inserted would determine the size of the choke. Read the numbers on the outer side of the gauge and you will get the size of the choke.

Now that you know how to measure shotgun choke size, you must know that choke size does not have any impact on the speed or force of the shot. The speed of a shot can only be changed by altering the type of choke.

How To Maintain Your Shotgun Chokes?

Just like your gun, interchangeable chokes also require maintenance and care. Chokes are generally made of stainless steel and rust-proof materials. You should always ensure that they do not catch any rust or else they would adversely affect your shooting.

For cleaning chokes, use the same equipment you use for cleaning your guns such as cleaning rods or brushes.

Lubricating chokes is also a mandatory action as it protects them from rusting and makes them smooth for use. Use lubricants such as Teflon, Copper, or grease coating for maintenance of chokes. If you leave chokes on your gun, make sure that you use a wrench to attach or detach the choke.

Chokes are like small tubes that fit into a gun’s barrel with either screws or external rings. They are prone to breakage and you must protect these tubes from falling, knocking, or dropping. 

In any case, if a gun choke gets a dent, it might cause a lot of trouble for you. If the mouth of a choke gets any kind of bend or dent, it might not release the pellets adequately and thus cause an explosion in the barrel itself. So, you must keep an eye on their shape and form.

In order to keep them efficient and safe, keep lubricating and cleaning the chokes often. 

What is a Shotgun Choke – Conclusion

Our shotgun chokes guide has answered your every query – from what is a choke on a shotgun, how to measure a shotgun size, to what do shotgun chokes do, how you should choose the right one for your gun, and more.

Using a choke fully depends on your assessment and efficiency. If you are a frequent shooter and have not tried a choke, then it is highly recommended to use one for better results. 

If you are a beginner, use the basic cylinder chokes and keep mastering the art of shooting.

FAQs on Shotgun Chokes

Q1. Can A Choke Improve Accuracy?

What is a shotgun choke? A provider of constrictions at the muzzle end.

They can concentrate the pellets and fire them in a less scattered manner. Hence, if you shoot accurately in the direction of a target and use the right shooting technique, chances are you might hit the target. 

But in order to increase your accuracy, you must focus on other factors such as cartridges, barrels, and lastly, your shooting technique.

Q2. Can A Choke Damage My Gun?

A choke is a handy accessory that increases the efficiency of a gun. In case you put it wrong or use one with a bent, they can certainly cause problems.

If they are not screwed well or have dents, they might explode the barrel and hurt you along with the gun.

Q3. Can I Use Chokes With Slugs?

Yes, you can use modified chokes, but it is recommended to use chokes with fewer constrictions if you use slugs. If you fire slugs with constricted chokes it might harm your firearm in a long run.

Q4. What Are Five Stars And Two Stars Chokes?

Five-star chokes are cylindrical bore barrels that are not actual chokes as they do not have constrictions.

Two starred chokes are modified chokes that are designed to increase the range of the shot but do not narrow the spread of pellets. They are highly efficient and effective chokes and ideal for 32-40 meters range.