A choke is a device that restricts the spread of a shot as it exits the barrel of a shotgun. Chokes can be interchanged to adjust the pattern of the shot, making them essential for hunters, shooters, and even some competitive shooters. The answer of which shotgun choke is the most open depends a little bit on how you count it.
In this article, we’ll go over the different types of shotgun chokes and their uses, so you can choose the right one for your shotgun. The choke you’ll want will depend on what you’re shooting at, at what distances, and whether you’re shooting lead or steel projectiles.
Answered: Which Shotgun Choke Is the Most Open
One way of looking at this would be to say that no choke at all is the most open choke. In the shotgun world, we call this a “cylinder” choke. A cylinder means no constriction from one end of the choke to the other. If you don’t consider a cylinder choke to be a choke at all, which is reasonable, then an “improved cylinder” would be the most open choke.
Chokes are usually between about 1.5 inches and 3 inches long, but extended chokes can be longer. They are screwed into the end of the shotgun barrel via threads that match the internal barrel threads of the shotgun you’re using. So it’s important that you buy the correct brand of choke to fit with your shotgun and the correct amount of choke.
What Does a Shotgun Choke Do?
A choke controls the spread of the shot as it exits the barrel of a shotgun. It does this by reducing the diameter of the barrel through constriction, so the diameter of the bore at the “business end” of the choke will be smaller than at the beginning of it.
Therefore, the tighter the choke, the tighter and more focused the shot pattern will be; a more open choke will have a wider spread. The choice of choke depends on the type of shooting you will be doing and the range of your target.
Chokes are most often employed when you’re shooting further out. By about 40-50 yards, the spread of the #4 shot will be incredibly wide. Applying a choke can turn “incredibly wide” to just “pretty wide”. Ultimately, you’re still shooting multiple projectiles, sometimes dozens of them in a single shot, so there is definitely going to be some spread.
How to Choose a Choke for Your Shotgun
When choosing a choke, consider the following factors:
- The type of shooting you’ll be doing
- The range of your target
- The size of the shot
- The barrel length of your shotgun
- Types of Shotgun Chokes
The most common chokes that you’ll hear about are cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, and full, but you’ll also see improved modified as a step between modified and full.
Types of Shotgun Chokes
The cylinder choke is the most open choke, with no restriction on the shot as it exits the barrel. This choke is best for close-range shooting, as the shot will spread out widely, making it less and less practical the further the shots travel. That said, the wider your spread, the greater your chances of hitting your target, particularly if your target is flying quickly through the air.
What Cylinder Is Good For
A cylinder is a good option if you plan to be shooting slugs. An improved cylinder will usually give better accuracy, but the cylinder will do fine in many cases. You may also want a cylinder for duck hunting, but that will depend on your own tests with the spread of your particular shotgun. A cylinder is also good for shooting clay pigeons if you want to make it easier to hit them.
Improved Cylinder Choke
The improved cylinder choke is slightly tighter than the cylinder choke, with a slightly more restricted spread of shot. The difference isn’t massive, but it’s enough that a lead slug will have to deform slightly as it travels through. Despite how terrifying that might sound, this makes an improved cylinder the choke-of-choice if you’re going for accuracy and precision with slugs.
What Improved Cylinder Is Good For
As mentioned just now, an improved cylinder is probably the best choice if you’re shooting lead foster-type slugs or if you want a wide spread with just a little bit more placement density at the center of the impact.
You guessed it, a modified choke is tighter than the improved cylinder choke, with a more focused shot pattern. Modified is as middle of the road as you can get, smack dab between a cylinder choke and a full choke.
What Modified Is Good For
Modified is good for shooting steel birdshot. You get a tight group with predictable patterning, but you also get a decent spread if you aim at a flying duck or goose in the sky. A modified choke is likely to give you a pretty good spread between 35-45 yards, but your mileage may vary based on your gun and the load you’re shooting.
Improved Modified Choke
The improved modified choke is slightly tighter than the modified choke, with an even more focused shot pattern. Improved modified is not as common as the others. Buying a three-pack set of chokes will usually have an improved cylinder, modified, and full.
What Improved Modified Is Good For
Truthfully, from what I’ve seen, there are very few situations in which an improved modified choke is the best choice. In any of the situations where it’s good, either a full choke or a modified choke performs better. That said, if you want a choke that will perform passably well in both full and modified choke scenarios, then perhaps improved modified is the one for you.
The full choke is the tightest common choke, with the smallest spread of shot. With a full choke, you want to largely avoid shooting steel shot of any kind.
Most of the time, shooting steel #4s or #2s will just slowly damage and bulge the end of the barrel as you keep shooting, but the larger the projectiles, the greater the danger that they will jam up against each other as they’re constricted and refuse to exit the barrel.
This is bad and could result in the end of the barrel exploding.
What Full Choke Is Good For
Full choke is good for long distances (which, for a shotgun, means 50 yards). Consequently, full chokes are fairly popular when you’re shooting at a turkey or other game that might be 40-50 yards away.
Markings For Different Shotgun Chokes
The business end of the choke should have slots cut into it based on how tight the choke is. I think the meaning of cuts might change from brand to brand, but the ones I’ve seen have 5 cuts for a cylinder choke, four for improved cylinder, three for modified, two for improved modified, and one for full.
A turkey choke may have its own markings, but if you’re not sure what choke you’re looking at, you can ask the owner of the shotgun or take it to a gunsmith if you purchased it used or inherited it.
Choosing a Shotgun Choke
The best place to start is by considering what type of shooting you’ll be doing, then doing some research on forums to see what choke others have success with. Purchase a set of chokes that are compatible with your shotgun, head to the range to test out the shot pattern, and see which choke gets your specific shotgun the ideal pattern for your use case.
Extended Chokes vs. Flush
Extended chokes are all the rage these days. They supposedly help make tighter patterns without adding more constriction. The tests I’ve seen show that they indeed have tighter patterns, but not significantly enough to justify paying a much larger price for them. If the extended versions are competitive in price to the flush chokes you’re looking at, they are worth considering.
Steel Projectiles and Choke
Don’t go above a modified choke when you’re using steel projectiles until you know what you’re doing. Steel doesn’t squish nearly as easily as lead does, so when you fire steel pellets into a constricted space, they don’t conform to it nearly as neatly. When you’re constricting tighter than modified, at best, this will start to dimple and groove the choke, and at worst, you could have a catastrophic malfunction.
Can You Shoot Slugs Out of a Full Choke?
No, but sometimes yes. My rule on this is, ‘when in doubt, don’t do it’. There are plenty of demonstrations on YouTube where shooters have shot slugs out of full chokes with no problem. I have never seen one of these where they didn’t use a lead, Foster-type slug, and either the slug or the choke was rifled.
Benefits of a Shotgun Choke
The benefits of a shotgun choke include the following:
- The ability to adjust the spread of shot for different types of shooting.
- The ability to fine-tune the pattern for better accuracy.
- The ability to change chokes quickly and easily for different shooting scenarios.
Do you wish to know how to rifle a barrel? Go through this article where we have discussed everything in detail.
An extra-full choke, often called a turkey choke, has no notches since a full choke has a single notch. This may be counterintuitive to many people, but the most open choke (cylinder) has five notches, and a notch is removed for every step up in constriction.
Cylinder chokes offer the widest spread because they don’t provide any constriction as the pellets exit the barrel. The more constriction you add, the tighter the spread will be.
Anything but full or extra-full. There’s not really an overall best choke for buckshot because it depends on what you’re shooting at and what distance you’re shooting from. Buckshot pellets are larger than birdshot, and can have a similar problem to steel as they pass through a full choke – damaging the barrel or forcing it to bulge to make room for them.
Shotgun chokes are an essential tool for hunters, shooters, and competitive shooters, allowing them to fine-tune the spread of shot for different shooting scenarios. When choosing a choke, consider the type of shooting you’ll be doing, the range of your target, the size of the shot, and the type of shotgun you have.
With the right choke, you can improve your accuracy and make your next hunting or shooting trip a success. As a reminder: don’t use anything tighter than a modified choke if you want to shoot steel pellets, and don’t go up to full choke if you’re shooting buckshot.