I have a chance to by Merkel 147E 20 g side by side for a steel of a price. ($1200 brand new in box) The gun is approx. 15 years old and is choked full and modified. I will be using this gun for upland only.
I currently use a Browning Citori over/under choked improved & modified. My concern is the Chokes on the Merkel. Will I be disappointed with the full choke for upland? Can I have a Gunsmith rechoke the gun? will this de value it? What are my options? If I am stuck with the existing chokes is the gun then a collectors item instead of a viable Pheasant (Upland) gun?
I am in exactly the same situation with a 20 FN O/U I want to use for upland. My gun has about Mod and Full. The Mod is fine, but the Full is far more than I want.
As I see it, you and I have three choices:
1) Leave the chokes as they are and use spreader loads. I have had excellent 20 gauge results using the Polywad Spred-R wad insert. The company is at 912-477-0669, but many suppliers carry the inserts. It will open your pattern about two degrees (from Full to Improved Cylinder, for example) and has proven extremely reliable for me. I recommend them highly if you reload. They also sell factory loaded spreader shells if you want to go that route.
2) The second approach would be to have a gunsmith open your chokes. My personal preference for an upland 20 would be to open them to .005″ for the first barrel (about Skeet or the old fashioned Skeet One). Expect around a 45 to 50% pattern with this choke in a 30″ circle at 40 yards. I would open the second barrel to .015″ (about 20 gauge Modified). Expect about 60% to a bit more for this constriction with a standard shell. I felt that this would give me a first barrel good to a max of about 25 yards on grouse and a second barrel good to about 35 yards. This is plenty for the kind of shooting I will use the gun for. You can vary these yardages a bit by pellet selection and can, of course, open things up considerably for quail and wood cock with the spreader load mentioned above. Expect to pay somewhere around $100 to $150 for the gunsmithing to open two chokes. Make SURE to get someone who really knows choke work! Don’t mess around with this. You don’t want a botched job on this. No, I don’t think that a proper rechoking job, especially to useful constrictions, would affect the value of your gun. The 147E is a nice working gun, but not a collector’s item. At least, not yet anyway.
3) The third alternative would be to send the gun to Briley and have them screw choke it for you. They do absolutely superlative thin wall screw choke work in guns like the Merkel. The job will cost around $375 depending on postage. You will get five chokes of your choice. If I do it with my FN, I would pick .005″, 010″, .015″, .020″ and .025. I might spring for a .000″ choke also, depending on how the .005″ patterns. You can always order or exchange chokes later. Some guns can’t be screw choked, even by the Briley Thin Wall method. They can’t tell until they see your gun. I have never had them turn one of my guns down. Again, as your gun is a working gun, I don’t think that a proper, high quality, screw choke job would hurt the value in the slightest. That said, you don’t usually get the money back for modifications like rechoking or screw choking when you sell the gun. I have found that solid choke guns like your Merkel, when converted to a high quality screw choke system (almost everyone uses Briley) may not sell for more than an untouched gun, but they will sell faster. This may differ in other parts of the country, but that’s what I have seen in my travels.
So those are the choices-spreader load, recut solid chokes or screw chokes. I still haven’t figured out what to do with my FN.
The Technoid at <www.ShotgunReport.com>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)