I took the advice you gave me in November last year and it has definitely made a difference – my Sporting Clays scores (and confidence!) are improving all the time. Many thanks again for the help.
I have a question on chokes for you. Most of the guys I shoot with are very accomplished shottists, and generally use Modified/modified or Improved Modified / modified choke combinations. I have been using the mod/mod combination, but would like to know if there is any reason why Skeet or Improved Cylinder chokes shouldn’t be used in Sporting Clays? The longest bird we shoot is probably a 60 yard teal or tower bird, and as I mentioned before I am using an Ultra and No.8 32 gram loads. Over these sort of distances what is the “spread difference” between a Skeet and a modified choke? Or is it so insignificant as to not make much of a difference?
Are there any combinations you recommend as a good all rounder? I don’t want to get too involved and start changing chokes at every stand, but would have thought that there would be an advantage to using more open chokes if it does not retard one’s ability to break clays at longer distances.
Choke selection really depends on target presentation and shot selection. Warren Johnson’s “Choke Chooser” covers EXACTLY what you are looking for. Warren has used computer modeling of real world data to come up with a little slip card arrangement which will tell you what the optimum choke is for 6 different shot loads, 3 different target sizes, 6 target ranges (20 to 45 yards) and 4 target orientations (edge-on, quarter turned-trap, half turned, face on).
It’s easy to use. Example: Let’s say you have a chandelle consisting of a half-turned standard at 35 yards. You want to know what the best choke is for your 32 gram (1-1/8 oz ) load of #8s. Just slide the marker on the card to “Standard half turned” and “1-1/8 x 8″ for the load. Then read the answer above the 35 yard slot. It tells you to use a modified choke and that this will give you a 25″ killing pattern. At 40 yards on the same bird, the optimal choke would be Full for a 25” killing pattern.
Warren has done all the calculations as to pellet energy and percentage possibilities of strikes too. He uses an 80% chance of a two pellet strike as his minimal number. This is the same as a 95% chance of a one pellet hit. Statistically, this is a good fringe number in the real world.
I don’t know how convenient it is for you to order things from the US, but the Choke Chooser really doesn’t cost much and does give some very practical advice. It’s a neat gizmo to fool with, though it shouldn’t rule your life. I agree with you that constant choke changing can take your attention away from the bird. Still, Choke Chooser will tell you what you are giving up by not changing. I have spent a lot of time comparing Choke Chooser’s answers to my real world experience and have found it to be remarkably good.
As to which set of chokes I would pick if I were to “set it and forget it”, I would probably go with a pair of Mods (60% pattern), but I’d probably use #7-1/2s instead of #8s on the long stuff. Andy Duffy won our USA National Championships one year using only a pair of .015″ Light Mods. His chokes are custom Ken Eyster work and pattern more like regular Mods (60%) than Light Mods (55%).
What makes choke choice so confusing in sporting clays is that you can break some incredibly long shots with cylinder bore or skeet. This gives some people the impression that those open chokes are ideal for that kind of long shot. They aren’t. You would get a larger EFFECTIVE pattern with a tighter choke. The skeet choke is bigger at distance, but the fringe is so thin that to get a reliable break you have to be dead on perfect and hit the bird right in the center of the pattern where the pellet count if denser. The Full choke at long range actually has a larger effective pattern, though it may be smaller overall. Effective pattern is what counts.
Of course “effective” pattern is relative. Sometimes I think that there is no such thing as an effective pattern when I am shooting. Some days it’s all ineffective, that’s for sure.
One little bit of advice which you might consider as shooter on the way up- there is a lot to be said for just picking one set of chokes and staying with it. If you don’t worry about chokes, you will spend more time concentrating on analyzing the presentation. I can’t tell you how many new shooters I see madly fooling with chokes and not paying attention to the birds. I fool with my chokes because I enjoy doing it (this Technoid stuff may be genetic), not because it is required. Go slow on the choke changing as you are on the left side of the learning curve.
That said, you only win or lose a shoot by one bird. Once you get the hang of sporting clays and learn most of the presentations, a little fine tuning of choke and shell can build your confidence and perhaps give you that one bird edge you need to win. It’s all a question of balance.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC