I know you like the Browning O/Us, and I whole-heartedly agree. I have had several Brownings over the years and have very good experience with them. As you know, Browning offers a different line of guns for the European market than they do in the States. I am thinking about getting a European 425 or Ultra. I do not want ports, and I would like to get fixed chokes. What chokes (fixed) would you recommend? I shoot mostly sporting clays and I usually shoot with fairly tight chokes.
Which fixed chokes would I pick for a sporting O/U? I’d pick a PAIR of Modifieds (.020″) and never look back.
Obviously, any single choke selection is a compromise when shooting the variety of presentations on an entire sporting course. Still, if I had to pick one, that’s what I’d choose.
The disadvantages to a solid choke gun are obvious: you don’t get to change chokes with the presentations. That should mean that you are overchoked for some, underchoked for others and spot on for a few. But, on the positive side, you can actually concentrate on studying the target presentation when you get to the stand. You don’t have to spend valuable time fussing and desperately trying to get the exact right choke screwed in by the time it is your turn to shoot. Newer shooters underestimate the value of studying the target. More experienced shooters don’t.
I also prefer “twin” solid chokes to “staggered” solid chokes, IE a pair of identical chokes compared to one more open and one tighter. It takes one more decision out of the picture and lets me get on with the shooting. I don’t have to fuss with barrel selectors. I don’t have to worry which barrel to shoot first. I can just jam in the shells and go. The less time I can spend worrying about the gun means the more time I can spend concentrating on the target.
That said, the one variable I do endorse is a selection of shells. If I were shooting a pair of Mods, I would carry some #9 Polywad spreaders (factory or reloaded) for the close stuff out to 20 yards, a “working” load of #8s out to 35 yards, and some very tight patterning plated #7-1/2s for those looong ones.
Depending on which Polywad insert you use, you can open a load of #9s by either one choke or two. I’ve experimented with these and it’s true. You can definitely open a Mod to Skeet with the solid Polywad inserts, and to IC with the insert with the three holes in it. They do work and the patterns are quite reliable.
Equally, a super premium plated load of #7-1/2s can tighten a Mod choke to almost Full performance.
Most of the courses I shoot on seem to have 80% of their birds in the 20~35 yard area, so the great majority of the shots will be with your working load of #8s.
How can I defend blatant shell swapping while I deny choke swapping? Aren’t they equally complicated? Not quite. When I shoot sporting I ALWAYS carry “near”, “normal” and “far” shells, no matter whether I have a solid choke gun or a screw choke gun. Changing chokes is always in addition to shell selection, not in place of it. If you want to really simplify your life, I suppose you could settle on just one kind of shell and have at it. My shooting vest has four shell pockets, so I feel that it is my duty to fill them up. It’s a Technoid kind of thing.
Why would I pick Modified and not some other choke? First off, I define Modified as whatever constriction it takes to average 60% into a 30″ circle at 40 yards with that #8 working load. With that shell .020″ is the conventional measurement for Modified, but you may get that performance with less or more choke depending on your other barrel dimensions and interior work.
Modified just seems to work well for me in general purpose clay shooting. It’s not ideal for skeet shots, but it’s not too bad either. I feel very confident with it out to 35 yards as do most 16 yard trap shooters who break their birds in the 32~35 yard range. When I shoot FITASC with my Beretta 303 gas gun, I used to tinker around with chokes between parcours. Now I just stick in the Mod and change shells when necessary. I’m well aware that some great shots believe in a bit more solid choke to “make sure”. I hear that a lot of them use Improved Modified (about a 65% pattern and often .025″ constriction). If I shot one ounce loads in the gun, I might consider the I Mod to try to regain some of the pattern density lost to the lower pellet count. But since I don’t shoot one ounce in competition (why on earth would you willingly give up 10% of your pattern if you didn’t have to?), I’d stay with the Mod.
It just so happens that I am currently testing a 34″ Perazzi MX2000 sporter with .020″ and .020″ fixed chokes. That’s the way the owner had it set up when he ordered it and I have to admit that the gun shows remarkable flexibility. For clays, I prefer the identical chokes to the IC/Mod and Mod/Full in two of my FN Superposeds. With my FNs, I am always clicking that selector around to get the barrel that I think I want for a certain presentation. It’s something extra to think about when I should be studying the target. With the Perazzi, I just fill ‘er up and have at it. KISS.
I don’t mean to give the impression that my sporting guns are all solid chokes with paired Mods. They aren’t . My 303 has screw chokes and some of my FNs have had the excellent Briley thinwalls installed. But I don’t think that solid chokes are a bad idea at all and if I went that way it would be Mod/Mod for sporting.
As to a European solid choke Ultra or 425, also consider the Miroku. Same gun and might be easier to get in a certain configuration. The setup you probably want is a 32″ Trap gun with the standard straight trap stock and solid chokes. Naturally, it will be lighter up front than the US-spec Brownings with the flounder weight Invector Plus chokes. That’s the whole point of getting a Euro gun.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)