This is a quick, roll-up-your-sleeves, common sense commentary on choke selection – what really does work in the shooting box – and why. No doubt there’s been at least 500 trillion opinionated words spoken on this subject, in books, magazines, on the net, and on YouTube. Here are the cliff notes.
First and foremost – said very respectfully – while habitually changing chokes may raise hopes for a break – the truth is, no choke will ever make up for swing errors. More about that later.
Even a little bit of choke constriction really does have a positive effect on pattern density at the target. Different chokes will pattern different loads – well, differently. It is a good idea to assemble and test your favorite combinations first – then shoot the match.
Cylinder & Skeet chokes are more forgiving, and still deliver reliable results inside 35 yards. Truly wonderful choices for Skeet and entry-level Sporting Clays shooters. Provided the target shows some face or bottom – the effective ranges of open chokes can be extended considerably on rabbits, battues and chandelles in general.
Middle of the road chokes, IC and Light Mod are very likely the 2 most commonly used – popular – and effective chokes you can use. They are the very definition of dependable – from novice up to and including advanced skill levels.
Tighter chokes have their advantages, especially on mid-range and longer presentations – 40 yards and beyond. Much needed pattern density is up and that really counts at these ranges.
Those who are accomplished agree, Modified choke is "the" workhorse choke. Ruthlessly effective says Bob Lockett, Paragon Senior Instructor (RIP). Bob said, unlike much tighter chokes, with Modified there's little if any shot deformation causing unwanted decreases in pattern density – making it trustworthy at 15 yards to well beyond 50 yards.
Changing chokes can be an advantage but far too often ends up distracting the shooter when his attention is critically needed elsewhere. Fixed chokes = 1 less (serious) distraction.
Keeping all of the above in mind – always give swing (gun) control a higher priority than choke selection. The best choke – and best choke selection in the world – will never, ever compensate for an inconsistent, faulty swing. An incredibly good pattern won't deliver the X if that pattern is 3 feet behind / over / under / or in front of the target. Swing “precision” is King!
And last but not least, there's more to choke selection than matching pattern size to target presentation. Choosing open or tight all too often overlooks the "confidence factor." We can legitimately point out that a particular choke might be too open or too tight for a target presentation, but let’s not forget, confidence in our choke is priority 1 in choke selection. That confidence will more than make up for whatever handicap there might be with the choke selection – whether it be perceived or real. Yes, physics and ballistics do matter – but never underestimate the confidence factor in choosing a tight or open choke. Personally, I'll take the confident shooter with the wrong choke over the indecisive shooter with a faulty swing and perfect choke – every time.
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Dan Schindler is one of only 60 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses, and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes!
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