Guide to Understanding Shotgun Chokes (Cylinder, Modified and More)

Shotgun barrels have a choke which maintains the distribution of the shot when it leaves the firearm. The main purpose of a choke is to maintain the accuracy of the shot. You will select the choke depending on the distance from the target. So when you use a shotgun for hunting or for any other purpose firstly you need to choose the right choke for your shooting.

For understanding shotgun chokes in this article we will discuss different types of choke so that you can choose the right choke for your shotgun shooting. You will get sufficient information in this article.

Why Understanding shotgun chokes are important

Different chokes have a different pattern. The choke you will select will determine the range and accuracy of your shot. So you should have knowledge of different types of choke.

If you are using choke for hunting then you need to choose the choke which is suitable for your hunting. For instance, the modified choke is good for hunting duck and geese whereas improved cylinder choke is used for hunting rabbits and quail. Depending on the distance of your target you have to choose the choke.

Types of choke

Cylinder Choke

Cylinder choke is used for short-distance shooting. Its dimension is the same as those of the gun’s barrel. The shot pattern of this choke is much more spread out and the accuracy is more. It is mainly used for buckshot, birdshot and mostly for self-defense. This choke is used in military shotguns and civilian law enforcement role of tactical shotguns. It will create a widespread shot and so it increases the chances of hitting the target more accurately.

If the target is close, you need not to aim perfectly and so cylinder choke is best for short-distance shooting. Cylinder choke expands about 40 percent of a shell’s total pellets at 40 yards. It gives more uniform pattern under 25 yards. If you are using your shotgun for hunting clay birds, game birds or for self-defense then cylinder choke is the best option.

Improved cylinder choke

Improved cylinder choke gives a minimal restriction and expands about 50 percent of shell’s total pellets in a 30 inches circle at 40 yards. It has an effective range of fewer than 25 yards and so it is mainly used for short-distance shooting. It tightens up the shot column by 0.010 inches and spreads quickly.

For hunting flushing birds or upland birds like quail, grouse and pheasant this choke is a good choice. It is also great for waterfowl hunting and trap shooting. It is good for shooting pheasant, quail at 30 yards distance. The performance of rifled slug is also amazing with this choke. That’s why improved cylinder choke is best shotgun chokes for pheasant hunting.

understanding shotgun chokes
Photo Credit: Hunter-Ed.Com

Modified cylinder choke

Modified cylinder choke has less constriction than a full choke. It is generally an all-around choke. Modified choke mainly offers you a moderate constriction with an average amount of spreading. It allows approximately 60 percent of the pellets in a 30-inch radius of each other to reach 40 yards. This choke is 20 percent more than cylinder choke and 10 percent less than a full choke.

There are different types of chokes like improved modified chokes and lightly modified chokes. When your target is between 30-40 yards then modified choke is recommended. The degree of constriction of modified choke is 0.020 inches. Modified cylinder choke is generally used for trap shooting. It is also an amazing shotgun chokes for waterfowl and flashing of upland birds.

Full cylinder choke

Full cylinder chokes have a tight constriction and dense pattern which deliver 70 percent of the shell’s pellets in a 30-inch radius of 40 yards. It is commonly used for long-range shooting. The lead pellets don’t spread as wide as a cylinder or improved cylinder choke. The constriction is 0.035 inches which good enough to hunt or shoot at long distance.

Full cylinder choke cannot be used for short-distance shooting.  This choke is excellent for shooting above 40 yards. This choke is used for turkey hunting waterfowl pass shooting and amazing shotgun chokes for buckshot loads. For hunting predator this choke is ideal.

Improved modified cylinder choke

Though it has less constriction than modified choke it delivers 50 percent of the pellets in a 30 inch at 40 yards. The degree of constriction is 0.025 inches. For close-range shooting, it is an optimal choice. With more open choke like improved modified, cylinder it is easier to hit birds.

Extra Full cylinder choke

The next tightest constriction after full cylinder choke is extra full cylinder choke. They have the densest pattern and the constriction. They are ideal for headshots and turkey hunting. The bore restriction is 0.040 inches. But sometimes the target misses easily. It allows approximately tight patterns to hit above 40 yards.

Skeet choke

This choke has an effective range over 20 yards. It is slightly wider than the improved cylinder choke. Skeet choke allows about 50 percent of the pellets in a 30-inch radius at 20 yards.

The constriction is 0.005 inches. The skeet choke is commonly used for recreational skeet shooting. For close-range skeet shooting, it allows optimum pattern.

Choosing the Right Shotgun Choke


The constriction of different choke is different which helps in self-defense, hunting birds, shooting competition. Some are ideal for short-distance shooting and others for long-distance shooting. Chokes play an important role in the shooting. It controls how tight or spread out the shot pattern will be.

So if you are using a shotgun for any purpose, the first thing that you will need for a perfect shooting is a suitable choke. Understanding shotgun chokes are very much important if you use the shotgun recoil pad for shooting. We can ensure that you will get sufficient information in this article.

So for your better understanding different shotgun chokes, in this article, we discussed different chokes of shotgun and their spread effect. Good luck and happy shooting. You can check our dove hunting chokes guides to find your best choke for dove hunting.