If you’re considering duck hunting with a full choke, it’s important to know how it can affect your pattern and your shotgun. In this guide we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of using a full choke on your next duck hunt and why you may consider switching to a more open choke.
Chokes tubes come in a wide range of constrictions from cylinder (open) to extra full (tight). Shotguns equipped with removable chokes systems make switching choke tubes easy, but fixed choked shotguns cannot be changed without reworking the barrel. Fixed chokes can be good for duck hunting, but can cause barrel damage with large steel shot, especially on older guns.
In this review we’ll discuss some of the issues with using a full choke for ducks and how to make sure your shotgun performs the best it can without any issues.
Is a full choke good for duck hunting?
Fixed chokes can be good duck hunting chokes with a modern shotgun and small steel shot (#2 shot or smaller). Full chokes hold pattern density together for longer ranges which can be great for shots over 40 yards. However, never shoot steel shot out of a choke tube that isn’t designed for it.
The typical constriction for a 12 gauge full choke is 0.035”. A choke this tight can cause patterning issues with large steel shot due to shot compaction. An over-choked shotgun usually produces poor patterns with many flyer pellets and holes in the pattern.
The majority of duck hunting is conducted over decoys which reduces the need for using a full choke. A modified choke or light modified is ideal for these situations since the pattern opens up more and it’s easier to hit ducks in the air.
Can you shoot steel shot through a full choke?
Steel shot should not be used in chokes that are not designed for it. With the advent of steel shot for waterfowl in the 1980’s and 90’s, many hunters tried to shoot large steel shot (BB, BBB, T) through older shotguns with fixed full barrels. This resulted in barrel bulging as the shot column passed through the choke and forced the barrel wall outward.
While barrel bulging happens less frequently now, it’s still a concern with shooting large steel shot through a full choke tube. Most modern shotguns are equipped with interchangeable choke systems with stronger barrels which can be customized for hunting with large steel shot.
For duck hunting with small steel shot (#6 – #2), barrel bulging is not a great concern with a full choke, but it should be examined frequently for signs of damage. Premium aftermarket full chokes are even less of a concern with small steel shot since it’s designed for it.
Full or Modified Choke for Duck Hunting?
A modified choke tube (0.020”) is the best choke size for duck hunting. It allows for all-around performance for both decoying and passing shots. All types of shot and shot sizes can be put through a modified choke tube with no issues.
Full chokes are specialized chokes for long distance shots only. The pattern is so tight in close that decoying ducks are hard to hit. And even if you do hit them, their meat is often ruined. The only reason to shoot a full choke at ducks is if you are pass shooting or you own a fixed full gun that can’t be modified.
As will all shotguns and chokes, it’s best to pattern them with the ammo you will be using at the distances you plan to shoot before you head out into the field. This will let you see just how tight a full choke is and why it may hurt your success compared to a modified choke tube.
What is the best choke for duck hunting?
One of the best chokes for duck hunting is the Patternmaster Code Black Duck choke tube. This ported extended choke delivers consistent downrange patterns with a shorter shot string. The ports help reduce felt recoil and muzzle jump for quick follow up shots. Patternmaster extended range chokes are available in Modified.
- Effective range out to 60 yards
- Not for use with ammunition containing flight control wad or slug ammunition
- Non-Reflective Bronze titanium coating and are ported
- Made of Carpenter Custom 630 (aircraft quality) 17-4ph stainless steel
- 70% shot string reduction
Carlson’s sporting clay chokes offer a wide range of constrictions from cylinder to xtra-full at an affordable price. If you need to ditch your full choke and open it up a bit, this is your budget option.
- Fits Browning Invector, Mossberg 29774 500, Winchester, Weatherby and Savage 12 Gauge choke Systems
- Modified/.710 constriction
- Made from 17-4 heat-treated stainless steel with non-glaze matte finish
- Lifetime Warranty. Made in the USA
- Choke wrench included
Tips for Using a Full Choke for Duck Hunting
- Inspect your choke and barrel after each hunt to look for signs of bulging or swelling.
- When in doubt, open the choke to a modified or light modified for better results in the field.
- Never use a choke with ammo or shot sizes it wasn’t designed for.
- Never shoot large shot sizes (BB, BBB, T) through a fixed full choke tube.
- Always pattern your shotgun with the choke and ammo you plan to use to identify any issues before you go hunting.
- Using a full choke for decoying ducks will result in more misses and inedible ducks if you do manage to hit them.
- Stick to small shot sizes like #6, #4, and #2 if you must hunt ducks with a full choke.
A full choke can be good for duck hunting if you have the right setup. A modern shotgun with a full choke for pass shooting or longer shots is the ideal situation where a full choke can come in handy.
Full chokes should be avoided for shotguns that are not designed for steel shot or large shot sizes. Shooting steel shot through a fixed full choke can be unsafe and cause barrel damage or bulging.
Always stick to small shot sizes (#6-#2) when using full chokes for ducks. Smaller shot will compact easier through restrictive choke systems and pattern more consistent. The modified choke tube is one of the best all-around choke tubes for duck hunting because it works well for both decoying birds and passing shots.
If you’re looking to ditch the full choke and get something that works better with all types of shot sizes, check out the Patternmaster Code Black Duck extended range and the Carlson’s sporting clay’s choke in modified.
Wondering what diameter or choke constriction you need? Check out the table here.
Last update on 2020-02-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API