Your Guide to Shotgun Chokes

Your Guide to Shotgun Chokes


Mathew R Reed
August 19, 2021

There are many parts at work in your shotgun that helps it achieve the shot, and one of the most daunting to discover for newcomers is the choke.

Shotgun chokes play an integral role in determining the final pattern of the shot which makes them a pretty big deal, and the more you can learn about them, the better equipped you’ll be to choose the right one.

What does a shotgun choke do? The choke of a shotgun is a constricting mechanism that tightens the pattern of the pellets that are shot out of it.

If a shotgun has no choke, the pattern of these pellets is usually much wider, and by applying a choke you can make it much more controlled.

If you’ve never owned a shotgun before or haven’t given much thought to the role of a choke, this guide is for you.

We cover the basics of this important shotgun part and help distinguish between the different types of chokes, so your shot can go off exactly as you’d hoped it to.

What Is a Shotgun Choke?

What Is a Shotgun Choke?

The choke in a shotgun is a mechanism that constricts the muzzle end of the barrel and is always located in the bore.

The purpose of the choke is to define the shape and size of the shot once it’s been fired and how far and where the pellets spread.

There are a few reasons why you might want a choke installed on a shotgun, the most important being that they give you more accuracy.

However, they can also help you achieve better range with the pellets as they’re constricted and have a tighter spread pattern that they travel in.

The choke may be part of the shotgun when you purchase it, as it was installed to be a part of the barrel once the end of the bore is squeezed over it.

Otherwise, they can be formed after the fact by being screwed into the barrel for those wanting an aftermarket choke added to their firearm, and these types are replaceable as well.

To locate the choke on your shotgun, look inside the bore of the barrel and see if you can find any markings on it.

These markings are the objects that will dictate the spread pattern of the shot, and each one is unique in how much accuracy and extra range it’s able to give the shot.

The Different Types of Chokes

The Different Types of Chokes

A shotgun choke is a constriction that impacts how the pellets are spread when they fire from the muzzle.

However, beyond this simple explanation, there are some of the different types of chokes that each has a purpose and will lead to a unique result when attached to a shotgun.

Full Choke

A full choke on a shotgun is the best fit for heightened accuracy and it allows you to shoot precisely at up to 40 yards, and often more than that.

The measurement of restriction in these chokes is 0.03 inches and is considered the tightest of the more common types, not including a turkey or extra full choke.

As these chokes can provide up to 0.015 inches more constriction, they can be too heavy for most purposes.

When one of these chokes is fitted to the bore, you’ll notice a much smaller spread pattern of the pellets. However, as they stay closer together, they can also travel further.

Using a full choke, you will find that around 70 percent of the pellets stay in this tight group at 40 yards, and can travel up to 60 yards with this accuracy, in the right setting.

Modified Choke

A modified shotgun choke is a good in-between if you prefer not to have the full freedom of a cylinder choke or something as restrictive as the full choke.

The purpose of these chokes is to give your pellets a mid-range boost in accuracy and range, but keep their spread to a medium amount as well.

The modified choke is suited to distances between 30 and 40 yards, and the size of the constriction is 0.02 inches.

These types of shotguns are more versatile and considered the middle ground, so they can be used for hunting, target practice, and home defense.

For those wanting a good in-between with just a little improvement in accuracy and range, but a tighter spread, the modified choke is it.

Cylinder Choke

A cylinder choke is a bore without any restriction and measuring 0 inches, and it’s one of the most common types of choke.

The ideal gun for this setup is likely one that shoots targets at close range and short distance, up to around 30 yards, including some types of hunting and home defense where an attack is up close and personal to you.

When a shot is fired from this type of choke, the pellets can spread out further which means you’re more likely to hit the target, as long as the distance is right.

However, you’re better off using birdshot and buckshot as these were made for this specific setting and a widespread.

Improved Cylinder Choke

An improved cylinder choke is also popular in these types of guns and it offers minimal restriction at around 0.01 inches, but more than the standard cylinder choke.

As with cylinder chokes, the improved style is best for short-range distances between 20 to 30 yards, and when using birdshot and bucket, or for home defense.

As the improved cylinder choke allows the pellets to spread a little further than a standard one, it might not be as easy to hit your target with just one shot.

However, the constriction does help the pellets travel further so you may have better success using them from further away.

Choosing The Right One

Choosing The Right One

A good choke is one that works for you and suits your style of shooting, which is why there’s no single solution for every shooter.

If your firearm already comes with a choke then you’ll have a good idea of where it’s suited to best, but if you’re adding one after the fact, give some thought to the impact it will make.

Although there’s no need to have a choke on a shotgun, it can make a difference where it matters, and give your shotgun new life.

Whether you want to shoot further or would like to tighten up the spread pattern, there’s a lot of impact that this one simple part can have.

The general consensus is that if you’re using your shotgun for hunting, you’ll likely want to utilize a full choke that will give you better range and improved accuracy.

However, those using their shotguns for self and home defense might prefer to use an open or cylinder choke as there’s not as much need for range and precision, but it all depends on the individual and their firearm.

Better Control With a Choke

The shotgun choke will always be regarded as one of the biggest improvements to these firearms in history, even if they don’t get the recognition they deserve today.

A well-fitted choke in the right style can make all the difference to your shotgun and give you the control that you didn’t know your shot was missing.

Shotguns are fairly standard firearms in the grand scheme of things but to be a responsible and efficient shot, you need an understanding of their inner parts and mechanisms.

If you want to learn more about the basics of shotguns and don’t know where to start, we’ve got some FAQs that might be able to help.

Can I Use a Rifle Case for A Shotgun?

In most cases, a hard rifle case will be able to house a shotgun, or any other type of long gun inside if they’re roughly the same size.

However, you should ensure that the firearm fits inside and that the latches or closing mechanisms are able to close securely so the gun is store correctly.

Does a Shotgun Need a Scope?

Although traditionally shotguns didn’t use scopes, today’s shotguns have improved in range and accuracy which makes these optics advantageous sometimes.

To determine whether your shotgun needs a scope, you’ll have to consider its purpose and the target you’re aiming at to see if it would be beneficial.

The Remington 870 is considered one of the most widely used shotguns for hunting and has been since it was released in the 1950s.

The pump-action shotgun is also a popular choice for home defense or self-defense firearm and is considered a multipurpose weapon because of its versatility.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.