Shotgun Chokes Explained | Types, Patterns, Functions, Size Chart

Shotgun Chokes Explained

Your gun can turn into multiple specialized guns by efficient use of different types of choke tubes. If you use shotguns for hunting, the shotgun chokes explained here will ultimately enhance your hunting skills by helping you choose the best choke tube for your gun.

Many of you may not give much thought to it, but a choke tube is a significant invention for hunters who prefer to hunt with shotguns. This little device can make a huge difference to your shooting and hunting. Read on to know more about how it works, how many types of choke tubes are there, how it benefits you, and how it can affect your shooting.

How Shotgun Choke Tubes Work

Different hunters use choke tubes in different ways for different situations. Using the appropriate choke for any given situation gives you an extra edge.

At basic level, the choke constricts a lead shot when it comes out of the shotgun’s barrel. The pattern of the shot gets tighter with this constriction. With a tighter shot pattern, your shot will travel further.

Shotguns are found in two formats: multi choke and fixed choke. Multi chokes offer you more flexibility than the fixed ones. With such chokes, you can easily change and swap your choke according to your shooting types and needs. On the other hand, you’ll be required to make physical alterations by any professional gunsmith if you need to swap chokes in a fixed choke gun. You must remember that once you open up a choke, you can’t close it back down and it is gone forever.

Multi-choke guns come with multiple standard sized choke tubes and a choke wrench/key to insert and remove them. These choke tubes can either be extended or flush fitting. Extended chokes are color coded, so you easily identify which choke you’re using. Rest of the features are the same in extended and flush fitting choke tube. It all comes down to your personal aesthetic preference.

Types of Shotgun Chokes

Shotgun Chokes Explained

The most common and popular choke tubes are described below:

Extra-Full: These chokes are ideal for headshots. If you want to hunt turkey, extra-full chokes will be the most suitable option for you. They offer the densest patterns and tightest constrictions.

Full: A full choke has a dense pattern and tight constriction, delivering almost 70% shell pellets at 40-yards. It’s great for waterfowl shooting, trap shooting, buckshot loads, and turkey hunting.

Modified: Modified chokes come with less constriction compared to a full choke. It delivers approximately 60% shell pellets at 40-yards. It’s good for hunting upland birds, small-game animals like rabbits and pheasants, and general waterfowl shooting.

Improved Cylinder: It has lesser constriction than a modified choke and it delivers approximately 50% shell pellets at 40-yards. Most hunters choose it for close-over decoys, waterfowl shooting and close-quarters upland birds. This choke goes extremely well with rifled slugs.

Cylinder: This choke has no constriction, yet distributes about 40% shell pellets at 40-yards. It’s mostly used for service shotguns by law enforcement.
Skeet: This choke delivers approximately 50% shell pellets at 25-yards. It’s the best choke for close-range shooting.

Benefits of Shotgun Choke Tubes

You can use screw-in chokes inexpensively and conveniently by trying different loads with different constrictions. When you hunt rabbits or quail at a 20-yards range, you would need your gun to maintain enough pellet density and have the largest pattern. If the shot-shells deliver extra-tight patterns under such conditions, simply unscrew your improved-cylinder or modified choke to screw it in a cylinder or skeet choke.

On the other hand, if your shot-shell doesn’t deliver enough dense pattern at 30-yards for consistent pellet strikes, replace your modified choke tube with a full or extra-full choke tube. However, be cautious when you’re using an extremely tight choke because when the optimum pattern is reached at a specific load, an extra increase in the choke constriction can have a very adverse effect on the quality of the pattern.

Shotgun Choke Size Chart


Choke Size 12-Bore Constriction 20-Bore Constriction Shot Percentage in 30-inch circle at 40-yards
Full 0.040″ 0.027″ 70%
Modified 0.020″ 0.014″ 60%
Improved Modified 0.030″ 0.021″ 65%
Cylinder 0.000″ 0.000″ 40%
Improved Cylinder 0.010″ 0.007″ 55%
Skeet 0.005″ 0.004″ 50%

Choke Tube Patterns & Load Combination

Since each type of gun patterns differently, even when you use the same choke and load, you may know how a load combination/choke tube will perform by only doing a pattern-test on paper.

It’s also important for hunting waterfowl as steel-shot patterns differently compared to a lead shot. To get the same density of pattern like a lead shot at any given range, you should use an extra open choke for steel shot. There are some other variations which can affect the performance, such as straight lead versus copper-plated.

Depending on your type of shooting, obtain the compatible choke tubes. Pattern the chokes with the required load. For this purpose, shoot off at the center mark of a 30″ circle at 40-yards. You should put 70% shots in the circle for a full choke, 60% for modified, 45% for improved cylinder, and 25%-35% for cylinder choke.

To get the best knowledge about your gun’s performance, shoot five or more patterns at a similar load and then average all the results. If the result is not satisfactory for your shooting type, try some different loads. If that also doesn’t work, use another new choke and loosen or tighten it one size. Eventually you’ll find the perfect combination for your shotgun.

There is another effective way to check the performance of your gun. Just draw a critter picture on any target and then shoot it from your favorite range. See whether the pattern would work on your target animal. Check for holes and if different chokes and loads will deliver better patterns.


The best thing about using various shotgun chokes is it lets you turn your single shotgun into several guns with special features. For every shotgun shooting style, you will find one type of choke that perfectly fits that style. The right choke will greatly increase your marksmanship. So get your perfect shotgun choke tube today and use it in the right way (hopefully this article will help you with that) to get your best shot!

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