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Published Apr 4, 2023 7:43 PM
Finding the perfect chokes for duck hunting isn’t all that difficult. It can be a little more involved than using the modified choke that came with your new shotgun. Not to say that choke won’t work just fine, but it is worth considering different choke tubes for different guns and scenarios.
It is important to understand that a choke tube—any choke tube—is just one variable in the whole equation which is the quest for ultimate shotgunning performance. There’s the ammunition, which includes the shot size, shot charge, velocity, and wad design. There’s also how far the target is, the conditions, and even the birds themselves—early season, late season, big ducks, or small ducks.
But again, if you’re willing to devote time at the range, you will be able to narrow down the endless amount of choke tube options on the market. The end goal is to have the best patterning tube for your gun so that when opening day rolls around, you’ll be able to make clean shots. Here are some of the best chokes for duck hunting.
How We Made Our Picks
There was a time not too long ago when the only interchangeable choke tubes available were the ones that came with your shotgun. That’s not the case anymore, as there are literally dozens upon dozens of aftermarket tubes to choose from, many of which are specific to one waterfowling application or another. So how do you narrow down all the options? Here are some of the criteria we used to make our choices.
- Company Reputation: Does the brand have a reliable history of making quality choke tubes?
- Affordability: Is the choke tube worth the money?
- Performance: How well does choke tube ‘A’ perform/pattern, both on paper at the range, as well as in the field under true hunting conditions?
Best Chokes for Duck Hunting: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Mojo Outdoors Fatal Choke
- Computer designed
- No-tool change
- Stainless steel construction
- Offered in Short, Medium, and Long Range options
- Well-established company with a great reputation
- Incredible performance with a variety of shot sizes
- EZ in/out, so it’s convenient to clean properly
- Middle-of-the-road price point at $80
- None that I could think of
Let me be brutally honest here. I resisted going with an aftermarket choke tube for years and years simply because I thought they really weren’t necessary. I have the modified tube that came with Shotgun X; why would I need to spend money on another choke tube?
Then I started patterning my shotguns and I didn’t love what I was seeing. So I picked up a Fatal Choke from Mojo Outdoors. These chokes perform on several different levels. One, they’re from Mojo, a long-standing company I know and trust. Two, Rob Roberts, the ‘godfather of choke tubes,’ had a big hand in their design. Three, they’re consistent. Four, one Fatal Choke costs less than a tank of diesel. And five, they work. Well. Myself, I’m partial to the ‘medium’ range tube due to what I’ll call its versatility; however, ‘short’ and ‘long-range options do exist.
Best Budget/Value: Hevi-Shot Hevi-Chokes
- Available for a variety of makes and models
- Stainless steel construction
- Mid-range and extended-range models
- Made from a reliable company
- Proven consistent performance
- Excellent price point
- Not available for Mossberg SA-20 Mobil thread pattern
I threaded one of Hevi-Shot’s choke tubes into the business end of my Mossberg M500 20 gauge immediately upon taking possession of it a year ago, and I haven’t regretted the decision. Part of the reason behind my favorable review lies in my partiality toward the Hevi-Shot brand as a whole; thus, it only made sense for me to combine Hevi-Shot ammunition with the company’s choke tube. The end result is a lightweight, user-friendly shotgun that’s a joy to carry afield and gets the job done on everything from green-wing teal to smaller Canadas.
Like the Mojo tubes I use, I run a mid-range Hevi-shot choke, whether I’m shooting steel, bismuth, tungsten, or a blend. Though it is worth noting a long gange tube is available for most makes/models of shotguns. Hevi-tubes are inexpensive, which translates into the ability to experiment with both the mid- and long-range chokes in a single shotgun using a variety of shotshell configurations. This allows you to determine the best recipe, per se, for that particular gun.
Best 20 Gauge: PatternMaster Code Black Duck 20 Gauge
- Patented ‘Stud Ring’ technology
- Titanium nitride coating
- Stainless steel constructed
- Heat treated
- Fills a need between short and long-range tubes
- Compatible with a variety of non-toxics
- Optional engraving available
This year, PatternMaster celebrates its third decade serving the shooting and hunting community. They put out an excellent product that fulfills the needs of duck and goose hunters from coast to coast and beyond. The secret to Patternmaster’s success lies in their innovative and interestingly named stud ring. Unlike traditional chokes that squeeze or constrict the shot charge in passing, theoretically keeping it together (pattern density) at a greater distance, Patternmaster’s stud ring stops the wad, again in passing, for a millisecond, thus allowing for clean separation of charge and wad, which in turn puts the bulk of the charge on-target at the same instant. Imagine a point of shot rather than a line of shot. If you have a shotgun and you have a hunting/shooting need in terms of developing the ultimate pattern, Patternmaster has a tube.
Best Long Range: Carlson’s Cremator Two-Choke Set
- Two pack that includes mid-range and long-range tubes
- Ported and non-ported models
- Heat-treated stainless construction
- Features Triple Shot Technology (TST)
- Less pellet deformation due to the gradual (three-ring) constriction process
- Fewer flyers and improved pattern density
- Good price point on two-pack
- Excellent reputation
- Great price at 2/$100
- Shot (pellet) size limitations with some tubes may turn folks off
The Carlson’s Cremator Two-Pack offers the best value for duck hunting chokes.
The company holds an excellent reputation for performance and service after the sale. With the company’s Cregmator two-pack, waterfowlers get a mid-range (.715) and a Long Range (.705) tube, both of which feature Carlson’s triple shot technology—a three-ring system inside the tube that steps down the shot charge gradually as opposed to abruptly, resulting in fewer blown patterns, less pellet deformation, and much improved shot-to-shot pattern consistency.
Things to Consider When Buying a Choke Tube
You can purchase the very first choke tube that appears in your browser or the one with the coolest artwork on the packaging. However, it’s probably best if you put a little thought into your next tube. Here are a handful of factors worth considering:
Twenty yards in the timber? Thirty over decoys? Forty or more on the firing line? The shooting distances you commonly encounter in the field will play into the style of choke you buy.
Is it possible to shoot #1 steel at sea ducks and #6 steel at September blue-wing teal without switching out choke tubes? Absolutely, but is Choke Tube ‘A’ going to handle both big and small pellets similarly? It may not. So you should consider the type of ammunition you most often use as much as shooting distance.
Gauge, Make & Model
What gauge shotgun do you shoot? You will find the most choke tube options for 12 gauges versus anything else. But there are still plenty of options for other gauges.
Does the choke tube you’re considering come with a warranty? Many companies, like Trulock, offer a lifetime warranty, usually replacement, on their tubes should the equipment fail. However, some, again like Trulock, spell out an ‘if you’re not satisfied with the tube within ‘X’ number of days, you can return it for an exchange or refund of the purchase price’ clause.
Q: What is a shotgun choke?
Think of a shotgun choke like the nozzle on the end of a garden hose. Tighten the nozzle, and you get a narrow stream of water that reaches out some distance. Loosen it, and the stream widens and doesn’t go nearly as far. Same with a shotgun choke. A choke constricts (tightens) the shot charge immediately prior to the charge leaving the muzzle. A tight choke, like a full choke, helps hold the pattern together farther away; a less tight choke, like improved or modified, allows the pattern to widen or spread for shooting at moderate distances.
Q: Do I need a choke for duck hunting?
Not necessary; however, most shotguns will perform better with some type of adjustable choke system in place. A fixed (non-adjustable) choke like that found in many older shotguns can work just fine, but the ability to change the choke constriction based on variables such as type of hunting situation, distance, and ammunition choice can be advantageous.
Q: What are the four primary types of chokes?
Today, there’s a wide variety of choke constrictions available; however, the four most commonly found are Improved, Modified, Full, and Extra Full.
Q: What size steel shot is best for duck hunting?
This depends on several variables, including the ducks themselves—small (teal); medium (wood ducks or widgeon); or big (mallards or black ducks)—and the distances you’re going to be shooting, such as 25 yards over decoys or pass shooting at 45 yards. Steel shot selection, then, may range from #6 or #7 for teal to #1 or #2 for something like sea ducks or tough divers.
Q: There are notches on my choke tubes. What do they mean?
These notches indicate which choke tube is currently installed in the shotgun without having to remove it. For example, four (4) notches may, depending on the manufacturer’s marking system, may indicate an Improved Cylinder choke, while a single (1) notch would translate into Full.
Best Chokes for Duck Hunting: Final Thoughts
I’ve always been of the mind that the modified choke tube included with any of today’s shotguns will work just fine in a duck hunting application, and I stand by that statement. However, given the advancements in modern non-toxic duck hunting ammunition, it is possible to custom fit a shotgun with an aftermarket choke tube and specific brand/shot size of ammunition in order to wring the very best in-the-field performance out of the combination.
Is an aftermarket choke tube an absolute necessity for developing and/or determining an effective shot pattern for the purposes of duck hunting? No, it’s not. But such an aftermarket choke tube can well improve the comparable performance of your duck gun.
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