Chokes & Shot ?

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
What choke or chokes are you using in your hunting shotguns? And are you using steel shot or lead or?

My Browning Citori 12 ga has an assortment of choke tubes, and where I hunt I'm limited to non-lead shot only, so I shoot steel. The tubes are labeled with info like "modfied for lead, full for steel" which I find interesting. I guess the steel shot patterns a bit more densely than lead?

This I don't know.

With more time at home lately, I've been giving the guns extra attention. The Browning had been set up with (for steel) a modified choke in the bottom tube and a full choke in the top tube. It shoots the bottom tube first.

I just changed the chokes to improved cylinder for the bottom tube, and put the modified in the top barrel. Perhaps I'll get a little more spread for those tight holding birds. Normally the dog can hold the birds pretty well with his point, then I flush them and shoot them, or at least at them. :grin:

On pheasants I've been using steel 6's, 5's & 4's. A couple of seasons ago all I could find locally were 3" magnum #4 steel - tell ya - that stuff with the full choke was impressive! Whacked those birds right out of the sky!

For quail and chukar I've tried using just #6 steel. That seems to work fine.

I'm not sure my Browning has ever been this clean before! Time on my hands I guess. I've been doing a lot of cleaning and gun-tinkering lately.

The 12 ga Beretta semi-auto has had a "modified" tube in it for 15 or 20 years. I never felt the need to change it out. Do have a box of choke tubes for it someplace.

The little 20 ga Ithaca/SKB double is choked imp-cyl and modified. It is so nice and light to carry.


truck driver

Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
Guy I'm no shot gun expert but did tinker with barrel chokes when I was able to find and hunt birds in my area.
The advent of steel shot really changed the ball game thanks to the Green Weenies who were afraid lead was bad but it was not to protect but to disrupt the shooting and hunting sport.
Now that the rant is over what I know about steel shot is it won't compress in the barrel like lead when forced thru the constricted choke in the barrel so a full choke for steel is less constrictive then a full coke for lead.
One of my choke experiments with a bottle style choke that was reamed in the barrel in front of the choke which created a denser and tighter pattern.
The shot would expand and then be squeezed back into a longer shot column making the pattern tighter. This worked very well for long range shots at water fowl Gray Squirrels and Turkey but for jumped birds it was like shooting a rifle.
I think steel shot would benefit from this type of choke since you could use a modified choke or even a cylinder choke can be made to shoot a tight pattern.
The Bottle choke is also referred to or called back boring the barrel.
I also think a barrel that will except choke tubes could benefit from this so you would only need one barrel for either type of shot, steel or lead.


Dec 26, 2016
I’d tell you for upland hunting with lead or brass coated lead IC and MOd are about right.

A pattern board is a must. Most field guns you cover your target. Most clay guns you see your target(bead is below). If you switch between field and clay guns, you can get really frustrated.

TD called it right on Steel. It’s hard and does not compress. If you run it through a non steel rates choke, the steel might be hard enough to damage the choke. If you over choke steel, the shot will ricochet off other shot and the side walls opening the pattern.

Same is true for overcooked turkey loads. There is an optimum choke limit for a tight pattern. It takes work on a pattern board to get that right.

Now my Mossberg 935 rant. I had two barrels. A turkey barrel 24” and a slug barrel. The choke provide was 0.67”.

Turkey barrel and choke with 6 different brands of turkey loads threw a 4 foot pattern at 25 yards that was high and right of target. I had to reduce the choke to 0.705 to get a 18” pattern at 25yds. I had to her after market sights to be able to line up the pattern where the bead was. It’s a horrible gun for birds in flight. Works great on turkey after I put the heart beats in to figure out all its problems. I expected more from Mossberg.

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Dec 26, 2016
BTW Guy, Citori is a great gun!

I did some of my early bird hunting with a Citori 26” O/U.

The three B’s. Browning, Benelli, and Beretta. There are some other great ones out there.

I’ve shot them all and they are all excellent. I’m probably more a Benelli guy, but my kids are Beretta boys.

I’ve also got some less expensive models. I shot one of my OU’s on the clays course and the action got sloppy. When you break shoot 200 rounds a day on the weekends... you end up at 1600 rounds a month or nearly 20,000 in a year... field guns generally don’t do that in their lifetime. the three B’s can handle that and when they get loose, they are serviceable.

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May 3, 2017
My two shotguns are a Remington O/U and a Browning A5. I have a bunch of factory lead based rounds for quail and pheasant/grouse, but mostly reload now with steel and tungsten (both 15 and 18g/cc).

For goose, I mostly bought BB steel factory loads that I'm still burning through. Goose hand loads are #7 TSS18.
For ducks, I load #2 steel. I also load #9 TSS18 and #7 TS15. I keep #6 steel on hand as swatter loads for any cripples but I don't get many cripples when shooting TSS.
For grouse/pheasant - I usually just use the duck loads these days as I hunt a lot of pheasant release sites in western WA when I can't get a big trip east. Those sites require non-toxic shot.
For quail - #6 steel. Although I have plenty of lead upland loads I'm still burning through too.
For turkey - #7 or #9 TSS18 loads.
For defense in the woods (ie close encounter with bear or mountain lion) - 1B Buckshot TSS18.

For chokes:
O/U - for tungsten you have to run a very open choke. So first barrel is open cylinder, second is IC. For steel, usually the Modified steel choke for first barrel, and full for second as I'm usually shooting a flying away bird

Browning A5 - they don't make an Invector DS in Open cylinder, so IC for tungsten and Modified for steel. If going goose, I have the Invector DS Goose Band extended choke for it.

I pattern any new loads that I try. But have done enough pattern work that I've settled on load choices and just load all new shells to those known recipes.

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
kselkhunter - thank you - I don't handload shotgun shells, not sure I ever will.

But... I do love upland bird hunting! I use steel shot exclusively anymore, for hunting. I simply don't hunt anywhere that I can use lead shot, or I would.

Regards, Guy


Dec 16, 2009
I'll stick to hunting guns. My primary waterfowl gun, a Stoeger 3" semi auto, carries one of 3 tubes depending on the day. For close shooting on smaller birds, as when I'm hunting small water with timber where the majority of my birds are teal and wood ducks and I'm slinging HV #4 steel, I use a Skeet #2 choke. I've found this extremely effective with light (1 1/16oz 4 2 3/4" steel) to 35 yards or so. If I'm getting some mallards in or the birds are ranging just a tad farther, I'll switch to 3" 1 1/8 #3 HV steel. I also use this choke and the #3 load for close worked pheasants in heavy cover. If I were forced to use steel for grouse, I would probably use the light #4 load in this choke.

For heavier birds and shooting over decoys where shots still tend to run close but can range out a touch farther, I use the #3 or same #2 load with a Carlsons "decoy" tube. I find with these loads it throws a roughly "modified" pattern. This is also my bread and butter pheasant choke. Murder on ducks and pheasants to 35 yards, getting a little thin at 40.

For geese, heavy ducks and divers, and fencerow open country pheasants, I up the artillery a bit. Heavy Kent FS 1 1/4" #2 (BB Black Cloud for geese) through a Carlson's "pass" tube. Throws roughly a full choke pattern.
Solid on good hits to 45 yards, anything farther is sketchy with steel shot in general.


Oct 28, 2008
I might know a little about lead.... but I have zero experience with steel shot.

Despite always having an excellent place to do it.... the bug for waterfowl hunting never bit me, and that's the only thing that requires steel shot here (TN).

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Sep 25, 2005
I have a good bit of experience with steel shoot. Use 1375-1425fps #3 steel where you would have used #6 lead at 1250-1330fps. Modified chokes will give different patterns with different steel shot sizes. An example 1400fps 1 1/8oz 12ga 2 3/4" steel #3 will give nice even modified type patterns at 40 yards. About where the #3 pellets start to fade fast. Same load with #2 steel will start to fade in the 45 yard area and give Full patterns at 40 yards in the mod choke. Same load with #1 steel will start fading at 50 yards and give extra full patterns at 40 yards in the mod choke. same load with BB will likely give modified to full patterns and the pellets fade at the 55 yard range. Faster loads can alter this choke progression for better or worse. Heavier loads can alter this choke progression for better or worse. Lighter loads tend to pattern tighter. It takes larger steel pellets to get complete pass through compared to lead. 3 size up for steel and 100-400fps faster is what I use as a general rule.

1100 Remington Man

May 1, 2007
Chokes & Shot Sizes I have used. I use Lead shot where I can Steel Shot for waterfowl and Pheasants when required. I have also used Hevi shot and Bismuth and Kents Tungsten Matrix till they just got crazy expensive waterfowl hunting.
Pheasant hunting If I were forced to have only one choke with Lead shot it would be Modifed and Remington Nitro Pheasant 12ga 2 3/4 inch 1 1/4oz at 1400 FPS in 5 shot. But over a good Pointing Dog 6 shot is great and Imp choke. In Steel shot I like .015 choke Light Modifed 12ga Remington Nitro Steel 3 inch 1 1/4oz 3 shot.

Quail Bobwhite in 12 & 20ga I like Lead shot and 7 1/2 shot in case a Pheasant also gets up and Imp choke. if no chance of Pheasants I will go to 8 shot.

For Waterfowl out of my Boat Blind over Water.
First half of the season I like 12ga Remington Nitro Steel 3inch 1 1/4oz, 4 shot because of the mixed size of Ducks, Mallards, Teal, Wood ducks, Gadwalls. Choke .015 Light Mod.
Second half of season 12ga Remington Nitro Steel 3inch 1 1/4 oz, 3 shot as all the Blue wing teal are gone as well as the Wood ducks. Choke .015 Light Mod
Last couple weeks of season 12ga Remington Nitro Steel 3inch 1 1/4oz, 2 shot and Modifed choke .018 and 95% of the Ducks bagged are Mallards.
Greater Canada Geese I use mostly BBB in Steel shot. Same as my Duck Hunting depending which part of season.