Chokes for gameshooting and clays – what’s best?
We asked some professional shooting instructors for some tips
When you’re out in the field or the clay ground which chokes for gameshooting and clayshooting will give you the best results? (Read what is the best shotgun cartridge and choke combination for pheasant shooting?)
There is a condition called changing choke-itis and most shooters suffer from it from time to time. However good technique and constant practice are the secrets of shotgun marksmanship and consistent clayshooting. Changing chokes rarely helps very much.
Chokes for clayshooting
Tony Bracci advises shooters go with quarter and half chokes for general clayshooting. For longer range clays opt for half and three-quarter. When shooting at close targets go with open chokes such as cylinder and skeet.
David Turner adds: “If I were to shoot on a sporting layout with a lot of closer targets then I would use skeet and skeet or quarter and quarter.”
If you’re encountering clays at average distances use half choke which is not too open and not too tight. Some targets maybe longer and some closer but David says he finds this to be the best compromise.
What about trap disciplines? As these targets are usually going away swiftly they are best tackled with tighter chokes, for example three-quarter and full choke. (Read what is a trap gun and what is trap shooting?)
Question on chokes for English Skeet
Q: I have a Rizzini 12-bore over-and-under, which I primarily use for English Skeet. It didn’t come with any specific Skeet chokes, so I have been using the cylinder and improved cylinder chokes that came with the gun. Would there be any real advantages to buying two new Skeet chokes? If so, what would be the best chokes to buy? (Read more on Skeet shooting here.)
Richard Atkins advises: Two new Skeet chokes would be unlikely to prove particularly advantageous to you. Skeet is fundamentally a short target distance discipline, with gun mount, target line and lead judgement more important than the different chokes you mention. There is no agreed choke constriction for Skeet chokes, with some Skeet choke tubes having little, if any, choke constriction and are much the same as the cylinder as you already have. Before interchangeable chokes came along, there were some ideas as to what form a Skeet choke should take, but that is much less the case today.
Aftermarket choke-makers have different approaches to Skeet chokes. Some will have constriction from as little as 0.002in or 0.003in. Others will be up to 0.005in, and that is pretty much what your improved cylinder choke is likely to be. Don’t get hung up on very small choke increments just yet. Small increments in constriction do make more difference to pattern density than the same increment in a much tighter choke will, but not likely enough to affect your scores at this early stage of the Skeet game.
If you have access to a pattern plate, this will quickly reveal your 20-yard patterns and difference between cylinder and improved cylinder. You can experiment with what you have on various Skeet stations to see how they each work for you. Experiment using the improved cylinder choke on the longer targets and the cylinder for the shorter targets – especially the incomers on stations one and seven! For the time being, put your cash into cartridges and some Skeet coaching for more tangible improved results.
Chokes for gameshooting
The most practical choking for any gun that’s going to be used for a bit of everything is quarter and half. You can half and half choke for all types of quarry, and just use a range of different cartridges. Tony Bracci also suggests three-quarter.
If you have a multichoke it is handy to be able to use the full and three-quarter tubes on the occasional wildfowling trip, but quarter and half is a good general compromise for game, clays and woodpigeons.
The difference between chokes is very marginal and probably imperceivable, but the difference between two increments, say quarter and three-quarter most definitely is. Or indeed quarter and full, even more so. But remember, when thinking about chokes for gameshooting and clayshooting, nothing beats good technique.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.