Opening Chokes And Adding Length

Dear Bruce,

I recently purchased about a 30 year old 12 gauge Ithaca M37 that looks like it has hardly been shot. I plan on using it for quail. It is light and balances great. However, it has a solid-choked modified barrel that is patterning too tight for my tastes (figuratively and literally). I really need an improved cylinder. What are my options for obtaining a less dense pattern?

Can I do it with spreader loads; going to 7/8 oz loads and bigger shot (I patterned with 2 3/4-1-8 AA’s); or would you recommend having a gunsmith ream out the barrel? If I go the reaming route, are there any downsides, and should most gunsmiths be able to do it without changing the point-of-impact or anything nasty like that?

Also, the gun has a 14″ length of pull and I really need at least 14.5″. It doesn’t have a recoil pad and without the butte plate, LOP is 13 7/8″ (no cutting is needed). In other words, I need a recoil pad/spacer that takes up 5/8″ to 3/4″. What brands/models of recoil pads/spacers for field use would you recommend that would change the balance the least?

I would prefer not to change anything because the gun balances so nice, but I need some additional space between my glasses and thumb.

Since this probably won’t be the last gun I ever purchase, I guess while I am at it I might as well ask about pad/spacer combinations that take up about 1 1/2″. A lot of guns I see come with pads and have 14″ LOP’s. Most of the Remingtons and Benelli’s I have seen have a 13″ LOP or less without the pad.

Thanks! By the way, I really enjoy your site.

Yours truly,

Dear Ron,

Depending on where you shoot your quail, 12 gauge modified could be a little much. If the gun is to be used solely and exclusively for quail, then I would probably just take it to a “reputable” gunsmith and have him open it up to what you want. 010″ is standard IC dimensions, but you may prefer more or less. A good gunsmith should be able to open the choke without screwing up the point of impact. Of course, a plumber could definitely screw it up.

You also have the option of screw choking it. Briley will install first rate screw chokes for $250, including three chokes.

You could also use spreader wads. The Polywad Spred-R  is the best on the market if you reload. They will open your modified pattern to skeet. They sell two kinds in 12 gauge, one with a solid disk, one with a disk with three holes that doesn’t spread as much. Buy a bag of both and try them to find out what works best. With a spreader load in the chamber and a standard load in the magazine, you would have the equivalent of a skeet/modified SxS. Not a bad way to go with many upland game birds.

As to adjusting your length of pull, it is simply a matter of installing a couple of spacers and a recoil pad. The Brownell’s catalogue carries absolutely ALL the brands. Kickeez and solid hard rubber spacers are the heaviest possible way to go. Terminator and the 100 Straight Products light weight spacers are the lightest way to go. Pachmayr’s pads are in between. A 1/2″ pad with light spacers will weigh less than a 1″ pad with fewer spacers.

If you settle for the hard rubber spacers, you can always skeletonize them to drop weight. The Terminator pad has two drawbacks-

1) it is sticky and stays sticky for its entire life, and

2) the light weight foamed construction of the spacers and pad never shine up right the way the solid rubber spacers do. The thinnest possible Pachmayr Decelerator pad with skeletonized hard rubber spacers is probably a good compromise between utility and looks. Up to you, of course. Any gunsmith should be able to install any of the pad/spacer combinations in half an hour.

If I were you, I would buy the pad you decide on and a bunch of spacers and experiment with stock length a bit before having them cut. Just get two long pad screws and screw on the uncut pad and as many uncut spacers as you wish. It will be heavy, but it will give you an idea of the length. Add and subtract spacers until you get what you want and THEN take it to the gunsmith for gluing, hollowing and grinding. That’s what I do. The length that each gun takes is a little different depending on the shape of its pistol grip and what it is used for, so I do it each time. My gunsmith is used to it and doesn’t give me that funny look any more.

The nice thing about messing around with pads and spacers is that nothing is forever. You can always change it later, just as long as you aren’t cutting any wood. Make sure to save any old pads and spacers. I have three or four cigar boxes full of the junk. Sometimes I can recycle something. It is important to save stuff. You just never know. Besides accumulated stuff in the cellar helps mark territory and keeps the Mrs. off balance- or unbalanced as the case may be.

Best regards,

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

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