The Box O’ Truth #44 – Shotgun Chokes and Buckshot

Shotgun barrels have the last few inches of the barrel sized in various diameters to allow the shotgunner to choose a choke, or restriction, which will cause the shot to spread to a desired amount. For instance, when shooting birdshot at birds in flight, it can be helpful to have a slightly larger pattern diameter to help the shooter hit a flying bird.

These chokes are the most common ones, from the largest to the tightest.

Cylinder (also called Open Bore, no restriction)
Skeet
Improved Cylinder
Modified
Full
Extra Full

These chokes allow different pattern densities for different types of game or targets.

Our questions today is: How do chokes effect buckshot?

When using buckshot in home defense, we actually do not want a large diameter spread. Why is this?

It is because we want every buckshot to hit the bad guy so none of them miss. If any buckshot miss the target, they can penetrate several walls and can endanger family members or others. We are responsible for every projectile that goes down range. As Clint Smith says, “Every round that goes down range has a lawyer tied to it.”

Some folks have theorized, “If I want a tighter pattern with buckshot, I will use a tighter choke.” Others have said, “If you use a tighter choke, it will only crush the buckshot and cause even wider patterns.” Which is correct? Today, we will try to find out.

Today I will be using my Remington Special Field 1100 shotgun.

It has a 21 inch barrel, but most importantly, it has interchangeable chokes that will allow us to try the same buckshot loads with different choke sizes.

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We will shoot several different buckshot loads through an Improved Cylinder Choke and then through a Full Choke, and see what happens to the size of the patterns.

The chokes are easy to change in this shotgun.

There is a handy little choke wrench that you use to unscrew the choke and screw in another one.

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The individual chokes are clearly marked with the choke restriction size.

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We will be shooting at 10 yards (30 feet) which is about as far as most of us can shoot inside a normal home.

Actually, most in-home encounters will usually be at closer distances than this.

 

Here it is.

Here it is.

First, let’s try some Wolf 00 Buckshot. This load has 9 pellets, with no shot cup or buffer material.

In each case, the Improved Cylinder is on top and the Full Chock is on the bottom of the pattern board.

The IC pattern was 7 inches wide and the Full was 6 inches wide.

Not much difference, but slightly smaller group with the Full Choke.

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Now let’s try some Remington Low recoil, 8 pellet, 00 Buck.

The IC was 3 ¼ inches and the Full was 1 ¾ inches.

That is an amazingly tight group with either choke.

That is an amazingly tight group with either choke.

Let’s try some Remington #1 Buck, 16 pellet loads.

The IC was an 8 ½ inch pattern and the Full Choke was a 7 inch pattern.

Slightly smaller, but not by much.

By the way, it was about 100 degrees down here in sunny Texas today.

Water was pouring out of me like a waterfall.

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Lastly, let’s try some Federal Premium, 9 pellet, 00 Buck, with the excellent Flight Control Wad.

The Flight Control Wad is well known for giving very tight patterns in most shotguns.

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The IC was a 4 inch group and the Full was a 4 1/2 inch group.

Not really any appreciable difference, but both were very tight patterns, just as expected.

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Conclusions:
  1. In some cases the Full choke tightened up the groups slightly, but not as much as one might expect.
  2. Not only did the Low Recoil Remington shoot a very tight pattern, but the recoil was noticeably lighter on the shoulder.
  3. The Federal Flight Control Wads worked as expected, resulting in very tight patterns.
  4. It seems that the choke is not nearly as important as the different brands and loads tested. If you want tight patterns, it is important to buy a few different brands and shoot them in your shotgun to find which one patterns best for you.
  5. Even when it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s still fun to shoot stuff.

And a special thanks to my buddy Vern for the photo help.