I would be grateful for your opinion on aftermarket chokes. I have a Franchi Affinity with Mobil chokes and a Benelli with Optima Plus chokes. I shoot sporting clays here in the UK and generally leave an IC choke in and only occasionally use a Skeet or Mod choke depending on target presentation or whether I am doing a couple of rounds of skeet.
A few questions:
1. The Beretta chokes all seem to leak carbon quite badly up from the bottom seal, do aftermarket chokes seal better?
2. I have assumed the chokes I use are accurate measurements but I don’t have the facility to check. So I am assuming the Beretta SK is .005, IC .010 etc. I have put a laser Arrow in the barrel and it does show that POA and POI are the same, so both shoot where I am looking! Do you think aftermarket chokes are better machined and more accurately dimensioned?
3. Would you recommend flush or extended chokes?
4. Do you have any recommendations on make of choke, here in the UK we usually can get hold of Briley, Carlsons and obviously Teague.
Different guns respond to different chokes differently. No one brand of choke is perfect with everything, though custom Teagues and custom Brileys are first rate. Factory gun barrels will differ barrel to barrel and gun to gun due to production variances. Just because it is the same brand of gun doesn’t mean that the next iteration of the same model will have exactly the same barrel dimensions. Close maybe, but sometimes not. I’ve seen factory screw chokes which were packaged with the gun all over in constrictions. Others are spot on. Briley has a nice chart showing choke constrictions and pattern designations here: https://www.briley.com/c-448-bore-sizes-and-constrictions.aspx
While it would be very convenient to just order a certain size of choke and know that it will deliver the pattern required, that just isn’t the way it works in the real world. The shell you select has as much, or more, influence on the pattern as the choke does. The idea that a choke marked “Modified” will give you a 40 yard 50% pattern with every shell just isn’t reality. Just by switching a shell, you can easily go up or down a full pattern designation.
The ONLY way to really know what you have is to pattern a particular choke with a particular shell. And not just one pattern. That is statistically irrelevant. Averaging five or six patterns of the same combination would be far more reliable. That’s a lot of work and very few shooters will do it. Most shooters just buy a choke marked with a designation and assume that is what they will get. Well, you know what “assume” means. If you really care, you have to do the patterning. If you don’t really care and close enough is close enough, then life is far more simple and you can concentrate on learning to hit targets instead of fussing with patterns.
Some chokes may well work better in your gun than others, but I have no way of knowing which ones. The Beretta Mobile chokes I use in my Berettas do not carbon up badly at all. Just as much depends on your gun’s barrels as on the choke brand being used.
As to extended chokes vs flush ones, I don’t think that there is really a worthwhile pattern difference. But there is a weight and visual difference. That should be your deciding factor. A pair of steel extended chokes will add a bit of weight to your muzzle. Do you want that? Up to you. Theoretically, one disadvantage to screw chokes is that they are all the same length within a product line. That means that the skeet choke and the full choke both have the same length. In fixed chokes, the more open chokes are considerably shorter than the tighter chokes. This allows the fixed choke to slowly squeeze the shot down for less pellet distortion than a more abrupt short taper. Screw chokes don’t have this advantage.
One “advantage” to extended chokes is that they can be inserted and removed by hand. Flush chokes need a wrench. A wrench is less convenient, but MUCH safer. A wrenched choke will not come loose. A hand-tightened choke is far more likely to come loose and you definitely don’t want that. Extended or flush, I wrench all my chokes in place and advise you to do the same.
I wish that there were an easier answer to selecting a choke, but that’s just the way it is. The only way to really know how a particular choke works in your gun with a particular shell is to pattern the combination. No easy way out.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
In addition to protecting the barrel muzzle from dings, extended chokes also allow you to rest a open gun on the hard deck of a shooting station without the concern of marring the muzzle. And for those shooters who use gun slips to case their shotguns when traveling between stations, the extended chokes seem to reduce any bluing wear on the muzzle from the gun going in and out of the slip.
Another advantage of extended chokes is protection of the muzzle. If your shotgun should fall on the muzzle, all you have is a dinged choke, which is easily replaced, instead of a dinged muzzle. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)