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What Choke Should You Use?


Turkey hunters have debated for decades the best ammunition to use for killing turkeys effectively. Truth be told, they all work if they hit the spot! That aside, we will spend the next several stories looking at chokes and shells to effectively kill turkeys.

When discussion chokes the gauge of the gun is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. Granted I am by no means a ballistic expert. I just use ole tactics to determine what works. It’s called patterning. Shooting a lot of shells through different chokes to determine the best combination. While there in today’s world a lot of variations, of chokes, and shells. We will spend a few minutes looking at the chokes.

To begin with, a “choke” is the constriction at the end of the barrel of a shotgun to control the spread of shot from the barrel. This constriction differs with the different sizes. The most common sizes beginning from most open to most constricted are; Cylinder, Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified, Light Full, Full and Extra Full. Of these even the variances will differ by different manufactures causing a lot of confusion and therefore the need for testing. But at the end of the day, whether you shoot a Briley, Carleson, MAD, Primos, Browning, Beretta, is really a personal choice much like those who prefer Chevrolet over Ford. And while there are different constrictions that are in the thousands of inches, we will discuss the most common constrictions and not brands or their specific differences.

For effectively killing turkey’s most will use nothing smaller than a full choke. The tight constriction will focus the shot in a tight pattern allowing for maximum amount of pellets to hit the turkey in the head, the optimal killing area of a turkey. However, with the advent of the fairly new extra-full chokes with extended tubes and muzzle-brakes built in to the chokes, many prefer to use these when given the chance.

A full choke has an average constriction of .035 in a 12 gauge shotgun. While an extra-full choke has an average constriction of .040. While this may not seem like a lot, when trying to hit the head of a turkey at extended ranges, this difference can indeed make all of the difference. That being said, there can be a problem with using these extremely tight chokes. Many of the extra-full chokes are so good at concentrating the shot, that it can be easier to miss the turkey if he gets too close. The shot string is so close and so narrow, that once slam dunk shots are missed. One hunter I know who loves his extra-full chokes complains that he “cannot call birds in as close” as he used to because of too many misses. Now he is consistently killing turkeys at thirty yards out to fifty yards but does not allow them to get closer.

A word of caution here is that the choke is not a cure all. Too many hunters have used the 12 gauge and the 3 ½ inch shell as excuses for poor calling or woodsmanship. When in fact millions of birds fell victim to the 2 ½ inch and the 2 ¾ inch shell long before the advent of 3 inch or 3 ½ inch shells. While it is true the ammunition and chokes have gotten better it is not a solution to poor calling or hunting tactics. Granted the extended range provided by these chokes has stopped many stubborn birds that hung up at distance.

When it comes to selecting a good choke for your gun, start with a full choke and test your loads, then try an extended tube extra-full choke and see what the difference is. Interestingly in one of the guns I tested, the standard full choke actually put more pellets in the kill zone consistently better than did the extended extra-full choke in that particular gun. While in another gun the opposite was the case.

Whether you are shooting an auto 12 gauge, or a pump .410, check the patterning and make sure your choke is putting the most pellets in the kill zone at moderate ranges.