Choke Selection


Hi Bruce,

I’ve read all of your material on the Shotgun Report site and I find all of your writings very informative and interesting.

I would like your opinion on choke selection when using a single barrel gas gun. When pairs are presented with one target at longish range and one target at short range do you choke for the long one and wind up over choked for the short bird or do you compromise and pick something in between? In 5 Stand one choke is required of course.

I really like to try to shoot a course without a lot of choke changing if any at all. If I have too many choices of shells and chokes I find myself thinking about my selection when I should be thinking about the target. I’m not a highly experienced Clays shooter so my current theory on learning is to keep it simple. I want to see what I can accomplish with the simplest and most basic approach and only then will I try to improve on things. For instance I might shoot a whole course with an IC choke and #8 shot. This will work for all the closer stuff and some of the longer ones. When I try to tweak up my selection for the longer shots I wind up dropping a few closer targets so it never really helps my score.

I like Over/Under guns but I find the recoil too punishing so I usually shoot my 11-87. When I shoot my O/U I reload low recoil shells but with my Remington I just shoot factory stuff. This is in line with my keep it simple routine. Reloading is just one more thing to do and think about.

Soooo, if you were to suggest the simplest approach to choke selection for a single barrel gun what would you suggest? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Jeff K.

Dear Jeff,

You read ALL my pointless drivel? Wow! You ought to get the medal for perseverance. I don’t even read all of it. Some of the articles are generated by a machine, just like today’s rap music. There’s no human input at all.

So you are looking for the “Golden Mean” of shotgunning- that perfect shell/choke relationship that will work for everything. Well, as a newer clays shooter you are right about wanting to spend your time looking at the targets and not fussing with chokes, shells and other peripheral stuff. There is enough distraction as there is just trying to figure out what the target is doing. You are definitely on the right approach. Later on, the right choke/shell might pick up an extra bird or two. That’s very important for an experienced shooter who may win or lose by just one bird. For the newer shooter, it pays to be more concerned with the big picture. Newer shooters lose birds by fives and tens, not by ones or twos. Sometimes I think that screw chokes have caused more angst than the IRS.

If you have to pick one choke/shell, where do you go? Obviously, that differs with the courses in your particular locality. I don’t know if you shoot skeet in the woods or long crossers on the windswept plains. My personal gas gun favorite for one choke/one shell is Modified (.020″) and 1-1/8 oz of #7-1/2s. In my area of Florida, we get a lot of longer presentations and not so many short ones. This combination also works well for me at FITASC. If you find that you have more shots under 30 than over 30, then you might consider Light Modified (.015″) and #8s. IC (.010″) is a touch more open than our local courses need, but your area could be different. Try the various combinations for one full round of sporting clays each. You’ll soon come up with a favorite of your own for the places you shoot.

If I am changing chokes and get a near and far pair of equal difficulty, I choke a single barrel gun with the minimum choke required for the longer bird. Or I choke up for the long and use spreaders for the short. I do confess that I violate one of your rules in that I use spreader loads (not for FITASC) for the in-your-face stuff or for any full-belly overhead, but I don’t think that it would matter a great deal for you at first. You are right to KISS.

One thing on a near/far combination- if the near bird is relatively easy and the far one is really tough, if possible make SURE of the near bird. The hard far bird is going to be iffy no matter what you do. Put the easy bird in the bank. No point in missing both. So often on an easy/hard pair, I see people concentrate so much on killing the hard bird that they miss both. So do what you have to do to get the easy one in the bank and then worry about the long one. Of course, real nasty designers give you the hard bird of the report pair first, so that you have no option. Bless their little black hearts.

One thing to remember while we are at it- a larger pattern doesn’t always mean a larger effective pattern. The size of the “effective” pattern is all we really care about. When you look at effective pattern size, say by consulting Warren Johnson’s “Choke Chooser”, you’ll see that open chokes often give less advantage in effective pattern size than they first appear. Remember too, the change of a full degree of choke (Cylinder to IC to Mod to Imp Mod to Full) is worth only about 5 yards a click.

I wish I had more definitive answers, but there is no one universal best.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)
<http://www.ShotgunReport.com&gt;

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