20 Gauge Solid Chokes

Dear Bruce,

I am looking at buying a new side-by-side, two trigger, 20 gauge shotgun which is not available with choke tubes. I am trying figure what is the optimum choke selection. Since the gun will be used to hunt pheasants I want it optimized for that. All the shooting I do is over a flushing dog and with generally 7/8 oz, 7-1/2 loads.

I have two questions. First, what would you recommend for choke on each barrel for this gun? Second, can you tell me all the available chokes (i.e cylinder, improved, light modified, skeet 1, etc.) and provide the “general” constriction for each?

Thanks, you have a great web site!


Dear David,

I am in just about the same boat trying to pick chokes for a solid choke Fabrique Nationale B-25 20 gauge O/U. It currently has .012″ and .026″ (about Light Mod and Full in the 20) and that it too tight for what I want.

Obviously, what is “ideal” depends on how you will use the gun. I am not a big fan of #7-1/2s on pheasants at any distance, but I am sure that you have your reasons. I often hunt preserve pheasants behind labs and have had good luck with #5s.

In picking your solid choke constrictions, it really isn’t much more complicated that deciding at what distance you will take your average first shot and at what distance you will usually take your second. Then just choke for that.

A 20 with 7/8 oz of shot is essentially a short range upland gun. There is just so much that you can expect from a shotload that size. Knocking down a pheasant larger than most ducks is a lot different than shooting quail over pointers or grouse in thick cover. While I generally prefer 12 gauge and #4s and #5s for pheasant, when I use the 20 for them I really think that #6s are useful in striking a nicer balance between bore size, shot load and pattern. To me, #6s in the first barrel and #5s in the second is a good choice for pheasant in the 20. Then again, your dogs may work closer than mine.

Since you are dealing with a two barreled gun, I am a big believer in having a good bit of difference in the chokes. I would look for about a ten yard difference between the two chokes. Since each degree of choke normally gets you another five yards, I would want two degrees of choke difference at the very least. I don’t see any point in choking an upland double barrel gun with chokes that are two close together unless you really know how your birds think or are far more disciplined than I am.

For example, let’s say that you decide that your first shot is often at around 20 yards. That is typical skeet distance and a typical skeet choke in a 20 would be about .005″. Large shot tends to pattern a touch tighter than fine shot, so .005″ ought to give you a nice pheasant killing pattern with #6s in a 7/8 oz load at 20 yards. If someone wanted a bit more choke at that distance for pheasant, I wouldn’t argue, but not too much. I wouldn’t go with anything more open with 7/8 oz.

In a 20 gauge gun with 7/8 oz, I would look for a the second barrel to give me about a 30 yard optimum pattern. I think that something around a typical 20 gauge modified choke of about .015″ should be right. .015″ should pattern #6 very well and might also handle #5s. I really wouldn’t use #7-1/2s on pheasant at 30 yards if I could help it. I would feel more comfortable with a larger pellet unless your really want to exercise your dog. I wouldn’t argue at all if you preferred .020″ in the second barrel as sort of an improved modified, but I don’t know how well that choke would handle the large shot. You would have to do some pattern work.

So, bottom line is that I would set my gun up for a first barrel shot at about 20 yards with a .005″ to a .007″ choke and the second barrel for a 30 to 33 yard shot with .015″ to .020″. I really wouldn’t want to stretch 7/8 oz to much beyond 30-35 yards on a tough bird like a pheasant. A lot of people who are better shots than I am can probably take birds cleanly at greater distance with 7/8 oz, but you asked my opinion and there it is.

As an aside, don’t get too excited about a few thou one way or another. It really doesn’t start to be noticeable on the pattern plate until you are changing things .005″ at a time. You can do a great deal with the shell too. I often use Polywad (tel:912-477-0669) spreader inserts in my 20 with #6s with excellent results. You can open a pattern at least two full degrees with those things. I used them in my .026″ 20 gauge top barrel to give me a skeet performance and then shoot the .012″ lower barrel second with a standard shell to give me almost modified. Worked great.

As to the choke dimensions which give the standard pattern designations in the 20, I’m afraid that I just don’t have those numbers at hand. .005″ in the 20 is a pretty traditional skeet choke, and full in a 20 should be around .030″. I wouldn’t be surprised if .015″ would give you that 60% modified pattern, but I am really just winging it here. Nothing new about that.

Watch out for one thing if you are ordering a custom gun from Spain. Some of the Spanish makers I have seen have been somewhat cavalier about giving you the exact chokes you request. A friend’s Arrieta was ordered 1/4- 3/4 and came through skeet and IC. I have seen this with other guns too. Some people order their Spanish guns full and full. They get them reamed out over here. Also remember that Briley (tel: 800-331-5718) can screw choke just about any SxS and give you your choice of five chokes in the bargain. It’s a thought. That would mean that you have to choose the “ideal 20 gauge chokes” each time you go hunting. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <www.ShotgunReport.com>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to 20 Gauge Solid Chokes

  1. Nsiro says:

    Dear Bruce,

    I enjoyed your answer as usual, very solid advice.
    I would just like to make a few comments based on my experience with a Benelli 201, 20 gauge auto, fixed choke. I have been shooting and testing for the last few years.

    My gun has a 65cm barrel, bore is 15.7mm (0.618″) and it is choked *** / half choke, on the closed side, measured choke is 0,025″.

    Now my experience with this gun is that is shoots best with light loads, 24 to 28gr ( 7/8 to 1 oz ) and relatively small shot (10´s to 7´s).

    If shooting heavier loads (not much point in a 20g, for that I have the 12´s), or bigger sized shot 5´s and 6´s, I see a deterioration of the patterns, with scattered shot and clusters, as well as big voids on the pattern plate.

    When using it for hunting, I have found that I can go down a number in shot size while maintaining the same results as with the 12g, for instance I shoot 7 and 6 for red legged partridge in the 12g, and 8 / 7 in the benelli, with the same results, clean kills at my usual shooting distances
    For pigeons I shoot 6´s ( in the 12g until mid November, when I switch to 5´s) and 7´s in the 20g.

    In my gun at least the 20g choke/caliber combination is almost to full choke performance , I also have found it relatively hard to open up the pattern, much more then it is the case with the 12g, even with spreader shells, it just wants to shoot tight patterns.

    For this, I would make sure that I don´t choose a very tight bore with tight chokes, if the bore dimension is “normal” – 0.626 to 0.630″, a 1/4 (0.008″) and 3/4 (0.02″) combination would make for an almost “do it all gun”, if the barrel bore is on the minimum dimension, 0.614″/0.615″ , I would ease up on the choke a little bit, selecting instead 0.005″ and 0.15″.

    Hope you have a great time hunting with you new 20g.

    PS : David, I have some photos of pattern plate testing with the Benelli, I can send them if you are interested. (But we all know that each gun is different, and you do have to shoot it to see how it patterns)



  2. jon bastable says:

    Interesting discussion about pheasant hunting…my first love. I use improved cyl. and never change, regardless of the time of year. I do use several different shells – 6 and 7.5 early in the season and drop to 5 or 4 later. Seems to get the job done. Most of my misses are due to gun mount, poor lead among others. My go-to gun is a 20 ga. auto.

    I don’t take the long shots, over 40 yards or use any shell over 1 1/8. And I hunt behind a close Golden…


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