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Choked up: how do you know when your gobbler gun is being performance-restricted?


CHOOSING THE CORRECT amount of choke for a turkey gun is less complicated than it is for a wingshooting gun because the head and neck of a gobbler represent a very small target that is usually still when the trigger is pulled. These factors allow a turkey hunter to get by with a lot more choke than a quail hunter.

More gobblers are killed inside forty yards than outside that range, and I get far more enjoyment from the challenge of coaxing one in close before taking a shot than I do shooting at great distance. Still, many hunters prefer to be prepared to reach out farther, and this is why so many extremely tight chokes are available. Before getting into how much choke is enough or even too much, let's take a look at what it takes to kill a turkey and how the amount of choke constriction in a shotgun is measured.


* Some hunters are not satisfied unless they turn a gobbler's head to jelly with a pocketful of shot. The truth of the matter is, if the head/neck area is struck by as few as a dozen No. 4, 5 or 6 pellets, that bird is likely destined for that great roost in the sky. To be on the conservative side, let's up the ante a bit in our favor by saying that the maximum range for any choke/load combination is whatever distance it will place twenty pellets into the head and neck of a turkey.

* Choke constriction is determined by measuring the inside diameter of the choke at its smallest point and subtracting what you get from the bore diameter of a barrel. If bore diameter is .730 inch and choke diameter is .690 inch, the amount of constriction is .040 inch, which is usually classified as Extra Full.

The tool required to precisely measure bore diameter is quite expensive, but gunsmiths who specialize in shotgun work usually have one and will only charge a few dollars to measure a barrel for you. You can also contact the customer service department of the manufacturer of your shotgun for the information, but since actual bore diameters can vary considerably among various models from the same company, be specific about the gun you have. Due to dimensional tolerances allowed in manufacturing, the "nominal diameter" you receive may differ slightly from the actual bore diameter of your barrel, but it should be close enough for government work.

Turkey chokes are usually stamped with their bore diameters, which is not the same as "choke constriction"

Grounding A Gobbler

Back when shotshells contained only relatively soft lead shot and the shot charge was not enclosed in a protective wrapper, .040 inch was usually considered about all the choke that could be used, and the use of anything tighter could result in blown patterns. Today lead shot is made much harder, as it contains antimony, and along with the plastic shot wrapper and plastic buffer material, it became possible to shoot excellent pat terns with tighter chokes. During a recent conversation with one of my friends at Briley Manufacturing about lead shot, I was told that most turkey loads deliver the most uniform patterns with chokes ranging from .050 inch to .060 inch in constriction, although as much as .070 inch can be used with some of the premium-grade loads.

Soon after nontoxic shot with densities as high as, and even higher than, lead shot were developed for waterfowl hunting, it was discovered that their extreme hardness allowed them to be squeezed through even tighter chokes as long as smaller shot sizes were used. Hevi-Shot, Wingmaster HD, HeavyWeight and Xtended Range HD are all current examples of this type of shot.

Back when Hevi-Shot was all the rage, Remington technicians recommended .060 inch of choke for it, and since its hardness compares quite closely to that of Wingmaster HD, one has to assume the same amount of constriction would work for it. This is also what is recommended by Federal for HeavyWeight, but as you can see in the chart included in this report, extensive testing by Winchester technicians revealed that Xtended Range HD delivers its densest patterns when even more choke is used. I test a lot of turkey loads so quite some time back I ordered from Briley a set of five chokes for my Remington 870 with constrictions ranging from .060 to .100 inch in .010-inch increments. My testing also revealed that .060- to .080-inch tube diameters proved optimum for )(tended Range HD in my gun.

Everything you have just read about choke-constriction dimensions applies to 16-, 12- and 10-gauge guns, and since the 20 gauge is growing in popularity among turkey hunters, I'll mention that when constriction percentages are the same, actual constriction dimensions will be slightly less for it. All of this is meant to get you close; the final determination of optimum gun/choke/load combination can be found only by rounding up a supply of ammunition and several choke tubes, then trying them out at the pattern board before the season opens this spring.

Choke Tube Resource

Benelli USA

(301) 283-6981

Briley Mfg.

(713) 932-6998


(641) 623-5401


(801) 876-2711

Remington Arms

(336) 548-8700

Hunter's Specialties

(319) 395-0321


(972) 774-0300
Winchester Xtended Range HD Forty-Yard Constriction Results

CHOKE               PELLETS          PELLETS          PELLETS
CONSTRICTION       IN 10-in.        IN 20-in.        IN 30-in.
(inches)            CIRCLE *         CIRCLE *         CIRCLE *

WXR HD 3-in. 1 3/4-oz. (298) No. 5 Pellets

.081               126 (42%)        238 (80%)        281 (94%)
.067               116 (39%)        226 (76%)        279 (93%)
.057               101 (34%)        226 (75%)        280 (94%)
.051                97 (33%)        224 (74%)        281 (94%)

WXR HD 3-in. 1 3/4-oz. (298) No. 6 Pellets

.081               153 (39%)        307 (79%)        363 (94%)
.067               160 (41%)        307 (79%)        366 (94%)
.057               145 (37%)        291 (75%)        365 (94%)
.051               129 (33%)        279 (72%)        358 (92%)

Results provided by Winchester Ammunition. Browning Gold
(741-inch bore diameter) and Remington Model 870 (.727-inch
bore diameter) used during testing. * Average number of
pellets in corresponding circle.
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Title Annotation:Shotgunning
Author:Simpson, Layne
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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