What is the purpose of a choke in a shotgun?

The choke in a shotgun is designed to shape how the shot spreads after you pull the trigger. That way you can gain more accuracy with your shots as well as better range. The choke is placed in the bore of the shotgun barrel, which is at the muzzle end. There are a two ways a choke gets installed into a shotgun. The screw-in chokes, which are easily replaceable and there are also fixed chokes that integrated into the shotgun barrel so that it is a part of the bore without being replaceable. So which ones are the best to use? Both are acceptable.

Choke Installed

Choke Installed

You have to understand that a lot of science and mathematics are involved in creating the perfect choke for a shotgun. There are so many factors that go into making good chokes such as the length of the shotgun barrel, the material of the choke, the geometry of the choke, and the finish of the choke.

Now let’s look at different types of chokes. The four main chokes include cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, and full. The cylinder-type choke is basically another way of saying open choke, which allows your shots to spread more openly at a greater diameter. If you want your shots to be more precise with better accuracy then you’ll want a full choke to create a restrictive shot. Full chokes are desirable amongst those who like long distance shooting. But if you are only concerned about up close shooting then the cylinder choke will be fine. Some people like to be closer to their target when they destroy it. With a shotgun, you will definitely destroy your target completely at close range. You can use a full choke at close range as well, but you have to be more precise with your aim.

The choke you end up choosing depends on the specific needs you have for your shotgun. If you are a hunter who likes a challenge then you’ll want a full choke to shoot your prey from far away. On the other hand, if you are only using a shotgun for self defense purposes then an open choke will be fine.

Choke is a constriction

Many shooters are puzzled with Remington shotgun chokes. Choke is a tapered constriction of the gun barrel’s bore at the muzzle end. Some of the shotguns has fixed chokes, some of them can be equipped with a choke. The exit end of the choke is smaller by some dimension than the actual bore of the barrel. Chokes tighten the pattern and enable you to shoot on further distances which is useful for trap or hunting. It is recommended to use Cylinder or Imroved Cylinder for home defense. Shotgun chokes used for slugs are usually Cylinder or Imroved Cylinder too.

Remember that all chokes are different. You cannot install Remington choke on Mossberg shotgun or Ruger choke on Browning shotgun. Some of the Benelli and Beretta chokes are interchangeable but you need to check if it’s true for your particular shotgun.

Choke tube chart

Following illustration shows the difference between chokes and how they control the pattern:

Shotgun Choke Types

Shotgun Choke Types

Remember, choke is located on the end of the barrel, so if you had a Modified choke, for example, and cut the barrel, you have the Cylinder choke now because choke was cut out.

The purpose is to decrease the spread of the shot in order to gain better range and accuracy. Shotgun choke patterns are different and you need to test them.

Shotgun Choke Markings

A shotgun choke is found inside the bore of a shotgun barrel. It basically has a series of markings that helps shape the spread of the shot that is fired as it is coming out of the barrel. The specific choke you use determines the range and accuracy of the shot. Many choke models available have identification markings on the rim of each choke tube. That way the gun owner will know what type of choke is installed in the barrel without having to take it out.

There are generally five choke types that people use in their shotguns: full, improved modified, modified, imp cylinder and cylinder. The cylinder will have five notches on the end of the choke that will indicate it’s a cylinder. The improved cylinder will have four notches, the modified has three notches, the improved modified has two notches and the full has one notch. If you are not an experienced shotgun user then you probably won’t recognize these notches, but the manufacturer’s manual should tell you about them.

The importance of recognizing choke markings is so you’ll know what range and accuracy to expect from your shots. If you want to use slugs and have great accuracy then you’ll use a cylinder, improved cylinder or rifled choke.

As for the modified and improved modified chokes for example, they are used for targets 60 to 65 yards away. Those are better for birdshot or buckshot type ammunition. The full choke will give you the farthest range. All of this is important to know when you go hunting because the choke will determine the outcome of the target that you want to shoot.

Remember, there are different types of chokes out there that may not have the same markings on them. That is why you should always look at the manufacturer’s manual so that you know what the markings are supposed to mean on the choke that you purchased. Usually the number of notches mentioned previously determines what choke it is. Overall, you just need to spend some time using the different chokes and getting familiar with how they shoot. Go out target practicing in a wide open area with nobody around and test the range and accuracy of each choke. Pay attention to the markings of the choke before shooting so you can memorize the performance it gives you with the shots fired.

Generally, there are several choke types available: Cylinder, Skeet 1, Improved Cylinder, Skeet 2 (light Mod.), Modified, Improved Modified, Full, Extra Full and Turkey.

Most widely used choke types are: Cylinder, Imp Cylinder, Modified and Full.

Choke Constriction Percent Identification (Notches)
Cylinder .000 40 at 40 yd
70 at 25 yd
IIIII notches
Skeet 1 .005 45 at 40 yd
75 at 25 yd
Improved  Cylinder .010 50 IIII notches
Skeet 2 (light Mod.) .015 55
Modified .020 60 III notches
Improved Modified .025 65 II notches
Full .030 70 I notch
Extra Full .040 73
Turkey .045 plus 75 plus

What is Cylinder Choke

Cylinder Choke Pattern

Cylinder Choke Pattern

Cylinder bore doesn’t have a restriction. Improved Cylinder has a minimal restriction.  Recommended for short distances using birdshot and buckshot (20-30 yards) and self-defense. The shot pattern is much more spread out and your chances of hitting a target are better.
It is recommended to use slugs with Cyl or Imp Cyl for better accuracy.

The two most popular types of chokes are the cylinder choke and the improved cylinder choke. The difference between these two choke types has to do with the level of restriction. The improved cylinder choke has a small amount of restriction while the cylinder choke does not have any restriction.

Cylinder chokes are basically used for shooting targets at short distances. These types of situations would include hunting with buckshot or birdshot since those shell types accommodate distances up to 30 yards away. Cylinder chokes are also great with shotguns that you use for self-defense purposes. If someone breaks into your home or is on your property, chances are you will be shooting at a short range because they are close to you. If they are running away from you then you wouldn’t want to shoot them anyway because it would be illegal to shoot someone while their back is turned.

Short distance chokes like the cylinder choke will create a wide spread shot after the trigger is pulled. This will increase your chances of hitting the target because it is close to you and you don’t have to aim perfectly to hit it. If you were to try and shoot a target that was far away with a cylinder choke shot, then the pellets would spread too far apart by the time they’d reach the target. That is why cylinder chokes should only be used for short distance shooting. You can do a lot more damage to your target that way and your chances of missing the target will decrease tremendously.

If you want to shoot at targets that are far away, try the modified choke or the full choke.

What is Improved Cylinder choke

Improved Cylinder Choke Pattern

A lot of new gun owners get confused when deciding whether or not to use an improved cylinder choke or a regular cylinder choke in their shotgun bore. As you already know, the cylinder choke is known for not giving users any restriction in their shooting. The shots basically spread in all different directions because the pellets weren’t constricted when they came out of the bore. Now there are some gun owners who like to have a little bit of constriction but not enough to choose a modified choke or full choke. In these situations, you would want to go with an improved cylinder choke because it gives users 0.01 inches of constriction versus the 0.00 inches of constriction with the regular cylinder choke. That might not seem like a lot but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the spread capabilities of your shots.

To better understand what an improved cylinder choke can do, you have to look at the percentage of pellets there are within a 30-inch circle at a distance of 40 yards. This is the typical way in which chokes are tested. When you shoot lead pellets from a shotgun with an improved cylinder choke, 50% of the pellets will fall within a 30-inch circle after they’ve reached 40 yards. This means the other 50% of the pellets have spread beyond the 30-inch circle by the time they’ve reached that distance. Now when compared to a regular cylinder choke, only 40% of the pellets would have remained at 40 yards. So the improved cylinder choke provides a 10% increase in the number of pellets there are when shooting at greater distances like that. The reason there’re more pellets is because of the added constriction provided by the improved cylinder choke.

For the average shotgun owner, they aren’t going to care too much about this 10% different in the number of pellets there are. If you are hunting or shooting at short distances, then both a cylinder choke and improved cylinder choke would be just fine. However, if you want to add a little bit of extra firepower and create more damage to your target when you shoot it at a short distance then go with the improved cylinder choke. You can determine whether or not you have an improved cylinder choke by looking at the number of notches on its rim. You should see four slim cut notches on the rim which mean it is an improved cylinder choke.

When to use Modified Choke

Modified Choke Pattern

Modified Choke with moderate constriction. Good for medium distances of 30-40 yards.

A modified choke is a suitable choke for shotgun users who don’t want the openness of a cylinder choke or the heavy constriction of a full choke. Modified chokes basically provide moderate constriction in your shots so that you can have better accuracy and a decent amount of spreading at the same time. You should consider modified chokes as the “medium” chokes because they give you the best of both worlds. They are best used when shooting at medium distances which are about 30 to 40 yards away. In addition, they give you medium constriction and medium accuracy as well.

The constriction size of the modified choke is 0.02 inches. This is 0.01 inches more than the improved cylinder choke and 0.02 inches more than the cylinder choke. However, it is 0.01 inches less than the full choke. Now, what does all this mean for shooting through the choke? Well just look at how many pellets there are within a 30-inch radius when shooting at 40 yards away. The modified choke will allow 60% of the pellets from the shell to reach 40 yards within a 30-inch radius of each other. This is 10% more than the improved cylinder choke and 20% more than the regular cylinder choke, but 10% less than the full choke. This means the modified choke will give you a little bit more firepower when shooting within 30 to 40 yards away. Basically, the more constriction there is the farther away you can shoot accurately. With the modified choke, 30 to 40 yards is the recommended distance for shooting. It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting, target shooting, or using it for self-defense purposes. The modified choke is bound to destroy whatever you are shooting at no matter what it is.

Modified chokes can be recognized by the three notches it has on its rim. This is the symbol for a modified choke. Usually, people use these chokes with shells filled with lead pellets. If you have slugs, then it is okay to use them with a modified choke but it is not recommended. Gun experts will tell you that slugs are better used with chokes that have less constriction. If your chokes have too much constriction and you shoot a slug out of it then it can damage the weapon. You don’t want to risk doing that so if you aren’t sure then just go to your local gunsmith and get their advice about using slugs with modified chokes.

Full Choke

Full Choke Pattern

Full Choke has the tightest constriction. For distances beyond 40 yards.

The full choke will give a shotgun user the most accuracy out of any other choke. The reason for this is because it constricts the shots very tightly when they come out of the barrel. That means the lead pellets won’t spread as wide as they would with less constrictive chokes like the cylinder choke or improved cylinder choke. Furthermore, the tight constriction of the full choke allows more of the pellets to stay closer together at greater distances. To measure this more accurately, we’ll look at the percentage of lead pellets there are within a 30-inch radius after the pellets have traveled 40 yards. A full choke would allow 70% of the lead pellets to remain within this radius at 40 yards. That is quite a majority of the original pellets, especially when you consider the cylinder choke only allows 40% of the pellets to remain at this distance. Therefore, the full choke maintains almost twice as many pellets within a short radius than the cylinder choke.

But hey, don’t limit yourself to just 40 yards. All chokes are calculated at this distance in order to give an honest comparison between them. A full choke, however, can still travel much farther than 40 yards and still be quite accurate. Some gun owners praise the full chokes for giving them great accuracy at targets up to 60 yards away. It all depends on the number of pellets you have in your shells. But the bottom line is if you want to do some longer range shooting with birdshot or buckshot then a full choke is definitely what you would want to have attached to your shotgun.

The full choke has a constriction of 0.03 inches. The only other chokes that have more constriction than that are the extra full chokes and the turkey chokes. They provide 0.01 to 0.015 inches of additional constriction to what you would find in a normal full choke. But for most people, that is too much constriction for most circumstances. A constriction of 0.03 inches should be good enough to hunt and shoot targets with.

For those who just want a shotgun for self-defense, you could still use a full choke and destroy your enemy at closer range. You just have to make sure your aim is a little more accurate since the spread is not as wide up close. The best advice for new gun owners is to experiment with the different chokes and see for yourself how well they shoot at various distances.

What is Skeet choke?

Shotgun owners who like to shoot at targets will typically love to go skeet shooting. This is a competitive and recreational shooting activity where competitors use their shotguns to shoot at clay targets that are projected into the air at high speed by a machine. The targets will often get flung into varying directions, making it more challenging for the competitors. Those who break the most clay targets with their shots will score the most points.

Skeet Choke for Shotguns

Skeet Choke for Shotguns

The way to increase your chances of successfully shooting these clay targets is to set up your shotgun’s choke properly. For skeet shooting, there are actually chokes called skeet chokes which are designed specifically for the purpose of shooting at clay targets in the air. Since these clay targets are moving fast in the air and are at a great distance away, you’ll want to have a choke with very little constriction to it. The skeet choke has a .005-inch constriction to it, which is just a little bit more than the cylinder choke that has no constriction at all. Due to this minor constriction, the skeet choke will give your shots a wide-open pattern that travels fast toward the target. This wideness allows the pellets to spread wider while increasing your chances of hitting the target. Skeet chokes are also good for shooting at birds in the air as well.

At a range of 25 yards, approximately 50% of the pellets from your shotshell will be distributed within a 30-inch radius if you are using a skeet choke. Although skeet chokes can be used for long distances, a lot of shooters like to do skeet shooting at close range because of these shot patterns. However, the one convenient thing about skeet chokes is that you can screw them right into the bore of the shotgun’s barrel. In competitions, shooters often like to switch between different chokes because of the various distances they’ll have to shoot their targets at. So, it helps when they can just screw and unscrew different choke tubes in order to accommodate the type of shooting they’ll be doing next.

What is Rifled choke?

Rifled chokes provide a light constriction to your shotgun. Since they have rifling inside of them, these chokes will spin the slugs and provide the shooter with better accuracy. You’ll get the most rotational stability if you’re using sabot slugs or Foster-type slugs in your shotgun. Just make sure you have smooth bore barrels that are compatible with your rifled choke tubes, those that screw into the bore.

Rifled Choke for Shotguns

Rifled Choke for Shotguns

A lot of rifled choke tubes are just extension tubes that go onto the bore. Not only does the tube stabilize the slug as it leaves the barrel, but it gives protection to the end of the barrel as well. Choke tubes may protrude anywhere from .625 inches to 1.3 inches out of the barrel, starting from the end of it. Of course, the exact number of inches will depend on the type of firearm in which your choke tube was manufactured for. Most choke tubes have a 1 to 35 right-hand rifle twist and a .730-inch groove diameter, if it’s for a 12-gauge shotgun. If you’re using a shotgun barrel with a smooth bore, the twist rate of 1 to 35 will enhance your groups significantly.

Rifled choke tubes are typically manufactured out of stainless steel with a different finish. This will enable the choke tubes to have a long lifespan because they’re resistant to corrosion and can sustain a lot of wear and tear put on it from consistent use. Traditional slugs should work fine with these types of rifled choke tubes also, but sabot slugs and rifled slugs are the preferred ammunition to use with them.

A lot of people find that rifled chokes are best used when hunting deer, but you could use them for target practice as well. It all depends on what you’re most comfortable shooting at. The best rifled choke brand to purchase is one that matches the brand of your shotgun. Remington, for example, creates rifled chokes that are specifically designed for their 12-gauge shotguns, such as the Remington 870. The great thing about these chokes is that they’re interchangeable. That way, if the hunting conditions of your environment change, then you can quickly change the rifled choke to another size choke. Also, they’re priced at around $50 each so it won’t hurt your wallet that much and they can last you for many years.

Chokes and Slugs

Cylinder and Improved Cylinder are recommended for use with a slugs for better accuracy.

If you are a shotgun owner, then you probably know the different between slugs and pellet shots like birdshot and buckshot. Pellets are much safer for a gun user because they spread in multiple directions after they are shot. On the other hand, slugs are basically lead projectiles similar to bullets. Rather than spreading like pellets, a slug does not spread. It just creates a powerful impact to whatever it is shot at.

The whole concept of choosing chokes has to do with how you want your pellets to spread. So if you are using slugs, you aren’t going to have to worry about that. But what you have to worry about is how constricted the choke is on your weapon. If you choose a choke that is very constricted, such as a full choke, and try to shoot a slug out of it, you could end up hurting yourself and permanently damaging your shotgun. The reason being is the diameter of the slug is likely bigger than the diameter of the choke. The more constricted your choke is, the smaller the diameter is on the inside. So if you attempt to shoot a slug through that tiny space, it isn’t going to turn out too well for you or the shotgun.

Therefore, what you want to do is choose a choke that has little to no constriction whatsoever. In this case, you will want to go with either the cylinder choke or the improved cylinder choke. These have a wide enough diameter to where slugs can shoot through it without damaging the weapon or the person firing it. If you currently have another type of choke on your weapon, then you can easily replace it with a cylinder choke tube. Then just switch back and forth between tubes whenever you want to shoot pellets or slugs.

The purpose of shooting slugs is accuracy and damage. It may be harder to hit your target with a slug, but if you aim properly and end up hitting it then it will have a deadlier impact than pellets would. Many people like to use slugs for home defense more than anything else. For hunters, it may provide a greater challenge when trying to shoot prey at a longer distance with your shotgun. Either way, just ensure you don’t have a constricted cylinder on your weapon when you shoot the slugs. Otherwise, it could be a mistake that you won’t walk away from.

Chokes for Slugs

Rifled chokes are designed specially for sabot slugs. In theory they should sping slugs for increased accuracy but this is no clear evidence that they really work. Some shooters believe that rifled choke really gives improved accuracy and better stability some don’t. So you will need to check it yourself.

Many gun owners would rather use a rifled choke tube for long distance shots because they are made to accommodate sabot slugs more than any other choke. It all depends on what you feel more comfortable with. If the cylinder choke gives you the kind of accuracy you need then use that instead.

When used with birdshot rifled choke makes patter wider.

Purpose of chokes

A choke is designed to alter the distribution of the shot as it leaves the firearm. For shooting most game birds and clay pigeons, a desirable pattern is one that is as large as possible while being dense enough to ensure multiple hits on the target. Shotguns intended for defensive use often have cylinder or improved cylinder chokes for the widest shot pattern at typically short defensive range.

Shotgun Chokes

Shotgun Chokes

Interchangable chokes

Shooter is able to change chokes on some of the shotguns. Remember to check chokes often because they can get loose.

Vang Comp System

This choke system is designed specially for combat and home defense shotguns.

Differences between chokes

Remember that all chokes are different. Each manufacturer has their own size and threads. Remington, Benelli, Browning, Beretta, Ruger, Mossberg, Stoeger chokes are all different and can be installed only on particula shotgun.

Shotgun choke patterns

Always check pattern of your shotgun with ammunition you plan to use. All shotguns are different and choke pattern depends on type of your shotgun, length of your barrel. Also, there are many types of ammunition which also influences choke pattern. So make sure that you check pattern of your choke with ammunition you plan to use. Test it on paper on different distances and remember or even make photos.

Where to buy chokes

It is easy to find chokes for sale. I recommend Brownelss because they have wide selection of chokes for different shotguns, good prices, ship orders fast.

Click here to visit Brownells for wide selection of chokes for many shotguns (Remington, Beretta, Benelli, Mossberg).

Shotgun Chokes for Remington, Benelli, Beretta, Mossberg, Ruger, Browning, Stoeger

Shotgun Chokes for Remington, Benelli, Beretta, Mossberg, Ruger, Browning, Stoeger

Understanding Shotgun Chokes – Video:

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