Chokes And Angels On A Pin

Dear Bruce,

Would you mind clarifying something for me? In a few of your writings you recommend the following choke selection:

0 – 20 yards= Skeet (.005″) and #9 shot 20 – 35 yards= Light Modified (.015″) and #8 shot 35+ yards= Improved Modified (.030″) and #7 1/2 shot

My question is this: .030″ constriction is typically labeled Lite Full (eg. Briley) or Full (eg. Beretta), not Improved Modified. Conversely, .025″ is typically labeled Improved Modified. In the above chart, which specification should be followed: The dimension .030″ or the label Improved Modified (.025″)?

If it matters to your answer, my son and I shoot a sporting model Beretta AL391 and 686 Silver Pigeon respectively.

Thank you very much…I am new to sporting clays but grew up hunting small game and upland birds. I have appreciated finding your web site – – well done!



Dear Joe,

Choke nomenclature varies more than soapsuds ads do. There is nothing really hard and fast about it. No one really agrees exactly on anything. This makes fertile ground for drivel-meisters like myself. There’s so much room for verbiage and so little for fact. My kind of stuff!

American screw choke makers, Briley being the foremost, want to sell as many tubes to each shooter as possible. Makes sense. They figured that they’d market a 12 gauge tube in every .005″ constriction. From .000″ to .045″ that would give them ten tubes to sell. So they had to come up with a name for each tube so it sounded as though each tube made a huge difference in the pattern and you couldn’t live without it. Good marketing. I won’t go through the list here as I’ve done it all before…. OK, I will.

.000″ Cylinder Bore
.005″ Skeet or Skeet 1
.010″ Improved Cylinder or 1/4 choke (English)
.015″ Light Modified
.020″ Modified or 1/2 choke (English)
.025″ Improved Modified
.030″ Light Full or 3/4 choke (English)
.035″ Full
.040″ Extra Full or Full (English)
.045″ Super Full

There’s another choke maker out there that sells their chokes in .003″ increments. I’d LOVE to see what name they give each .003″ gradation. Traditional gun companies, like Browning in Belgium, rate their chokes on the stars and bars principle, with the occasional dollar sign thrown in for good luck:

* Full
*- Improved Modified
** Modified
**- Improved Cylinder
**$ Skeet
*** Cylinder Bore

Note that they only list six chokes vs Briley’s 10. Browning (Belgium) chokes have always had the reputation of being tight, but over the years I’ve owned more than enough of them and found that they were pretty much standard. Nothing excessive at all. Right now I have a Superlight with IC/Mod that mikes .011″ and .018″. Close enough. A favorite FN bunker gun labeled Mod/Full mikes at .021″ and .036″.

My Berettas, all with the short MobileChokes, have also been pretty close to the standard. The only ones that deviate significantly have been the Browning Invector Plus guns from Miroku. These are overbored at around .740″ and tend to run very much more open chokes than traditional designations. This is especially true in the lighter constrictions of IC and Mod.

Does all of this mean anything? Depends. Do you rate a choke on the pattern it produces or on the amount of physical constriction in the choke? That’s the big question. Traditionally 60% has been considered a Modified choke. If you can get a 60% pattern out of a certain tight shooting shell with only .010″ (standard IC), do you call that choke a Modified or an IC? What do you call a .020″ choke that will print 50% with one shell and 70% with another? IC? Mod? Full? It gets really confusing and I’m easily confused.

For the sake of simplicity, the Technoidal battery consists of chokes for Near, Normal and Far. OK, I’m lying. I have every possible choke in the world twice over. It’s just that I try to use Near, Normal and Far as standards. Ideally I’m looking for an 80% to 95% pattern on the clay target at the particular distance at which I am shooting it. I also have to factor in pellet energy at distance. I also give consideration to the angle and exposure of the target. I’m so busy thinking about stuff that I often forget where to point the gun. There’s a lot to be said for just sticking in Modifieds and never changing.

Frankly, I don’t think that .005″ constriction matters much when you start to squeeze things down. .005″ choke difference matters much more at the open end of the spectrum than it does at the Full end. Many guns actually pattern certain loads tighter with .035″ than with .045″. There is such a thing as too much choke with certain shells.

Finally (I’m out of coffee), bottom line: Is there a meaningful difference between .025″ and .030″? Probably not. It really depends on how they pattern the shell that you are using. Oops! I’m suggesting that you actually pattern your gun. Bad Bruce! No one likes to pattern. It’s so much easier just to read a label and take it on faith. I’ve generally had very good luck with many .035″ chokes giving me decent Full choke performance with a wide variety of shells. For me, any edge on bird past 35 yards deserves some squeeze and a dose of all the #7-1/2s that the law allows. So maybe I’ve changed my mind on that .030″ over 35 yard recommendation. That might be due to the fact that I seem to have lost my .030″ choke. It’s some where under all these books…..

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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