Picking the Right Choke Tube
March 16, 2004
A camouflage finish; a 12, 10 or even 20 gauge chambering designed to handle heavy magnum loads; a short barrel and a choke tube that delivers remarkably tight patterns are the features that make a shotgun a turkey gun. However, it is the latter option of a choke tube that can sometimes make the difference between a great turkey gun or a scattergun you’d rather just use plinking around the farm.
Wild turkeys are tough animals to harvest and a tight-patterning shot to the head and neck area is required to seal the deal. Many of today’s specialty turkey loads are made to send a swarm of high-velocity shot downrange—make sure your choke is up to the challenge of holding that pattern as tight as it should be at 40 yards—generally regarded as the maximum range for taking a gobbler with a shotgun.
To get the best performance from your gun, you may need to experiment with various choke sizes and loads. However, purchasing a bunch of choke tubes for your shotgun can get quite costly, so choosing the right one the first time is important.
A normal 12 gauge barrel measures about .724 thousands of an inch. By comparison, a factory full choke squeezes down the muzzle to about .700 of an inch. The normal way to get tighter patterns is to reduce the choke size even more. For example, many popular turkey guns come equipped with chokes that measure .665, and shoot turkey loads of No. 5 or 6 shot extremely tight.
National Wild Turkey Federation Special Events Coordinator Rhett Simmons, who runs the NWTF’s annual Turkey Shoot and Outdoor Connection Inc., World Wild Turkey Still Target Championship—one of the biggest sporting clays and still-target competitions in the country—knows how important a proper choke can be. “Be careful not to throw too much choke on your gun. Too much constriction can create ragged patterns that can leave large voids between pellets. Voids in the pattern can lead to shots that miss the vitals.”
A good place to start with a standard size 12-gauge barrel is with a .660 tube. Back-bored barrels usually do well with chokes that measure around .680 thousands of an inch. If you are interested in a particular choke, call the manufacturer or speak to your local gunsmith about their recommendations before making a purchase (NWTF’s Turkey Shoppe at www.nwtf.org or 800-THE-NWTF offers a selection of choke tubes to fit most any shotgun). Then go out and use the choke tube with a variety of load sizes and even brands of shells. Odds are you will find one that makes a good combination for your gun.
On the off chance your shotgun performs poorly with the choke you just purchased, most manufacturers and reputable gun dealers will stand behind the products they sell, and if you have a legitimate problem, will be glad to exchange it for another tube that might offer improved performance. However, always check with a dealer about their return policy before making a purchase.
The NWTF is a great resource for turkey hunting tips and other wild turkey information. Visit the NWTF’s Web site for information or call 800-THE-NWTF to become a NWTF member and receive one of their great magazines filled with turkey hunting tips and stories.