The Best Waterfowl Chokes for Duck Hunters

Gear We Use
The Best Waterfowl Chokes for Duck Hunters

Duck hunters are an opinionated group, especially when they're talking about the best shotgun-ammo combinations. But ask a waterfowler if they have ever patterned their gun on paper, and a majority of them will tell you "no." That's pretty incredible, considering how much pattern testing tells you about the ballistic capability of an auto-loader, pump, or break-action shotgun.

Selecting the best waterfowl choke tube, also makes a marked difference in downrange performance. Many hunters stick with the stock chokes that come standard with their gun, typically improved cylinder, modified, and full. Others look to aftermarket chokes that are engineered for compatibility with specific shotguns or ammunition.

To draw the best patterns from your shotgun, you need to shoot it on paper with the load you’ll be hunting with through multiple chokes. Only then can you optimize the killing power of your duck gun. But that takes time and money you may not have. Luckily, I’ve spent years pattern-testing shotguns. The following are the best waterfowl chokes I’ve seen perform at the range and afield.

How to Pattern-Test a Shotgun

Patterning a shotgun is simple. Start by stapling a large piece of butcher paper (I use 40x40") to a shooting board and draw a dot in the center of it with a felt marker. Use a rangefinder to make sure your shooting position is 40 yards from the target. Screw in the choke and load the shell you will hunt with, aim, and fire. Some hunters will shoot from a lead sled, but I shoot standing (off-hand) because that's how I'll be shooting in the field. Lighter guns can also "jump" out of the sled rest upon shotshell detonation, producing a high pattern. After pulling the trigger, walk up to the target and evaluate the results. I use a pencil affixed to a 15” piece of string, and draw a circle around each pattern, using the core of the pattern as my center point. Repeat the process five times (10 is optimal).

Just for clarification, the reason to shoot at 40 yards is first, it's the industry standard set by SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute), and second, shotshell performance tends to drop off at that distance. But it’s also a good idea to pattern the gun at closer and farther distances. This will give you a more complete idea of what your shotgun, load, and choke are capable of.

Choke to Shotshell Variability

Shotgun shells have hundreds of pellets in their hulls. When that many projectiles are exiting the bore, an incredible amount of variability exists in downrange performance—gravity, wind, temperature, elevation, etc. all factor in. The type of non-toxic shot—steel, bismuth, or tungsten—also matters because they all have varying densities. That means different shotshells perform differently as they pass through a choke tube.

For instance, if you pattern a 3-inch load of Federal Speed Shok No. 4s and Browing BXD in the same offering through the same gun and choke at 40 yards, the pattern results will be different. Why? Because unlike rifles, where you’re shooting a single projectile, a shotshell has many. And it’s simply impossible to get all those pellets to perform the same way every shot, so there is always going to be some variance.

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Waterfowl Chokes We Recommend

Product Notes

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