Shotguns are versatile firearms used by hunting and sporting enthusiasts. They have many parts, and these parts have various functions, irrespective of their size. One of the parts of a shotgun is the choke. You can find many kinds, one of which is an extended choke tube. But is it better to use? Find out here.
What are Chokes?
Chokes weren’t always part of a shotgun. Before chokes were invented in the 19th century, guns were without them. When a shotgun was fired, a column of pellets spread out into a “pattern.” The farther the pellets travel from the gun’s muzzle, the wider the pattern gets. If the target were at a great distance, the pellets would totally miss the target because they would be spread so far apart.
This was a problem, and gun manufacturers came up with a solution in the 19th century. They found out they could constrict, or “choke”, a barrel’s bore to keep the fired pellets in a closer and tighter group. The first choke (a fixed choke) was patented in 1866. The choke could not be changed and was located at the barrel’s end.
An interchangeable choke-tube system was introduced in 1969. This system permitted the changing of a gun’s choke and allowed different chokes to be used for a single shotgun. So, depending on the shooting situation, a gun’s range and pattern may be altered.
By the early 1980s, most gun manufacturers worked on their versions of the screw-in choke system, commonly used today. Many modern guns now come with several screw-in chokes that can easily be changed with the help of a wrench.
Types of Choke Tubes
To a small extent, the type of choke tubes a shotgun uses determines its firing range since the tighter your pellets, the farther your range. The choke controls how tight or spread-out the pellets will be at a particular range. Below are the most commonly used choke tubes.
- Extra full. These chokes are also called “gobble getters.” They have extra tight constriction and the shot holds together long, making them an excellent choice for turkey, squirrels, and other game shot at a 40-yard or longer range. They provide a 73% pattern at 40 yards.
- Full. This choke has tight constriction, and like extra full or super-full chokes, they have a dense pattern. Their shots have an increased constriction, making the pellets travel farther before spreading out. Full chokes are suitable for hunting at longer ranges. You could use this choke at a closer range if you’re a good shot.
- Modified. A modified choke has less constriction than a full choke; its constriction is moderate. It delivers about 60% of the pellets of a shell in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. A full choke delivers about 70%. This choke is excellent for dove hunting and hunting other small game.
- Improved cylinder. Improved cylinder chokes are commonly used in the UK and the US, but they’re not the same. Although the UK and the US improved cylinders have slightly different designs, neither have tight constrictions. Consequently, they are better used at a close range. In the UK designation, 50% of the pellets would be present in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. In the US designation, 55% would be present. The improved cylinder is good for shooting birds such as grouse, quail, or pheasants.
- Cylinder. Cylinder chokes have no constriction and consequently have a wide pattern. The pellets of the shell spread out relatively quickly. Cylinder chokes deliver about 40% of the total pellets of a shot in a circle at 40 yards. They are often used for service shotguns by law enforcement agents. They are also suitable for home defense.
- Skeet. Skeet is only slightly tighter than cylinder chokes. They are ideal for close-range shots. Skeet chokes deliver about 50% of a shell’s total pellets in a 30-inch circle at 25 yards. They are suitable for hunting quail flushing from underfoot.
Flush Choke Tubes Versus Extended Choke Tubes
Screw-in chokes are typically categorized as extended chokes and flushed chokes. A flush-mounted choke is virtually invisible as it installs flat with the barrel’s muzzle. Flush chokes often have notches, which are numbers indicating their constriction. Some shotgun owners prefer these tubes because of the original appearance it gives to their guns. At the same time, others dislike the aesthetics of an extended choke.
Extended chokes protrude from the muzzle. With the added length, they can give a more improved pellet patterning. Their constriction is marked externally either by color coding, a letter, or both.
The flush choke is a “conical” design, while the extended choke is a “conical/parallel” design. In flush chokes, the conical structure eases the transition of the shot from the bore through a tapering cone and finally to the constriction. An extended choke not only eases the transition of the shot from the bore of the shotgun to the construction, the conical/parallel section also gives the shot a moment of stability before exiting the choke.
Pros and Cons of an Extended Choke Tube
As with anything, there are upsides and downsides to using an extended choke tube. Here they are.
- Extended chokes tubes keep the deformation of pellets to a minimum by gradually tapering the shot from the conical section to the parallel section. At the parallel section, the short “dwell time” the shot to redistribute before exiting also minimizes pellet damage.
- The redistribution of the pellets tightens the pellets, resulting in a tighter pattern.
- They are easier to change and you sometimes don’t even need a wrench to do that.
- They protect the muzzle from possible damage.
- They are generally more expensive.
Pros and Cons of a Flush Choke Tube
Here are the ups and downs you can expect with a flush choke tube.
- The shot goes from the bore to the final constriction with no time to “settle in.”
- The expansion of the combustion gases that push the shot column through the choke upsets the shot. This causes some of the pellets to fly off.
- They cost less.
Are Extended Choke Tubes better than Flushed ones?
Extended choke tube manufacturers have propagated and insisted that extended tubes are better than flushed ones. Some users agree with them while others don’t. Everyone agrees extended tubes have more benefits than flushed ones, though.
How good your shot is has little or no correlation with using a flushed choke or an extended one. Using an extended or flushed tube is solely your choice. Your choice should be determined by the kind of performance you want from your choke and from your type of shooting or hunting.
Choke tubes have a way of turning a single gun into several specialized guns. It all depends on the choke tube present in the gun’s barrel. Most chokes pattern more tightly as you increase the size of your shot. The only way to know adequately what your gun is capable of at different ranges is to pattern it with the load and choke you’re planning to use.
Many of us don’t shoot well enough to get the real benefits of chokes. If you’re not a good shot, you may go for a fixed choke or a very open choke. If you know your way around a gun and you’re a perfect shot, the different screw-in chokes can be used to your advantage. Again, good marksmanship is not about your choke but more about good practice and technique.