While selecting a quality shotshell is critical to getting top performance from your shotgun, to get the most out of that ammunition, choosing the right choke is critical.
Most shotguns today utilize screw-in choke tubes to change the constriction at the muzzle end of the barrel. The purpose of the choke is to improve the pattern of shot delivered when fired from the shotgun—primarily through achieving better range and pattern density.
The most common types of choke tubes that come with modern shotguns are cylinder bore, skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full. Cylinder bore is simply the same constriction as the full length of the barrel and doesn’t tighten the shot pattern at all. Shot exits the muzzle and spreads faster than from any other size of choke and also has the least amount of accurate range. Following are the optimal distances for each main type of choke used by hunters and recreational shooters today.
Skeet – Just slightly tighter than cylinder bore, skeet choke tubes are made to get a quick spread on shot while providing slightly more range. Ideal for the close shots common on a skeet range or when shooting other clays. Can also be good for hunting quail flushing from underfoot. The ideal range for this choke constriction is 15 to 25 yards.
Improved Cylinder – The ideal range for improved cylinder choke tubes is 20 to 30 yards.
Modified – Sitting at the middle of the pack, modified choke tubes are a good general choke size to use when not sure whether shots will be close or far. Their ideal pattern is found at 30 to 40 yards.
Improved Modified – Not always commonly found as part of the basic choke tubes offered with today’s production shotguns, IM chokes offer little performance difference over Modified and Full but can offer a sweet spot of pattern density out between 45 to 55 yards.
Full – For delivering maximum patterns at distance, go with the full choke, which depending on the load, can deliver an ideal range between 55 to 65 yards.
While these ranges can be general suggestions depending on the size and even brand of shot you using. Remember, you owe it to the game you hunt to make sure you no matter what load and choke combination you select, that it will deliver dense patterns without ragged holes or gaps and know how far out that pattern will hold up with sufficient energy to take down game.