Watch: Are better chokes better?
You don’t have to look far in the shooting world to find gun adverts and almost every single one of those gun adverts, when it regards a shotgun, will extol the new and exciting barrel technology that these gunmakers have produced. Better patterns, smoother shooting, less pellet defamation. All to get us to be more interested in their new product.
I for a long time have disputed the fact that we’ve come anywhere in terms of patterning. So we're here today with some targets, and we’re going to shoot these with half chokes through three different guns. I have three Berettas one with a fixed choke half, one with a mobile choke half, and one with an Optima HP half. Three different stages in Beretta’s historical barrel development.
We're going to see what the difference is. We’ll be shooting white gold cartridges, a standard clay load and what we're going to look for is not uniformity of pattern in terms of circle, but uniformity of density because it’s really what matters more providing you're actually on the target. So without further ado: two shots through each barrel, let's go.
Right, we're going to start with a fixed choke, which is a Beretta Silver Pigeon probably from about 2004, 2005 this gun - it’s a fixed choke in the top Barrel and it’s half. Let's go shoot it!
Firstly, don't these look like the most delicious cartridge on the market? That’s most of the reason I shoot them to be honest. So the top barrel is half, that’s two dots. Something you notice about this hot weather is that everything rusts that much quicker and I think it's a mixture of sun cream that contains lots of salt and the fact that everyone just sweats more in this weather. We find that our guns - certainly in the shop - rust so much so we have to oil them about three times a week to make sure they don't rust, because one finger touch and suddenly it's brown.
Okay, ready? Let's go! Left-hand target, half choke choke, top Barrel. Right-hand target. About 35 yards here; I think distance really is actually unimportant as long as it's consistent. So let's go down, change those over and see what happens.
So what are we expecting to find out here, I suppose is what your question is? Well, the answer is nothing particularly conclusive. I've done enough testing now with enough cartridges and enough guns to know that regardless of what your barrel or what your choke is, you actually have to test it with different cartridges to see what happens because it can make such a difference. Anyway, looking at both of these, I'd like to think that both of these would have resulted - at 35 yards with a half choke - in a very broken clay. Both as you can see are very consistently patterned with a very nice good spread throughout.
Let's change them over and have a look, just mark these up with one.
Right, next the mobile choke gun. The Beretta Ultralight Gold. A particular non-favourite of mine actually. The half barrel is a topper once again. Let's go. Top barrel, Ultralight, starting with the right hand Target.
Let's go - have a look.
I mean if you needed more conclusive evidence that you need to go and pattern a gun... this is a half choked Mobile versus a half choke fixed with Beretta. Okay, look how much denser these patterns are. I mean I certainly was aiming a little bit lower and that gun was not a pleasure for me to shoot; it certainly shot a bit lower anyway.
Look how many more pellets are in these middle sections! Anyway, let's go and change these over mark up these with two and shoot our last gun. So you might be wondering why this isn't another Allen Splash Target and that's purely because I don't like waste and I don't want to open another packet and there's only five in the packet and in reality, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to get conclusive evidence off of one - but we’ll also shoot the box that it came in because it comes in this beautiful white cardboard that looks just like a pattern plate, right? So we're going to shoot that because I don't like waste.
We really are blessed. There's so many butterflies about today. And it's sunny. Don’t you just feel privileged to live in the countryside or have access to it? Alright, so now we have the 690 Black and the extended Optima HP chokes. So half is in the bottom barrel right-hand target.
We're done. Let's go have a look at these, then we’re going to bolt them all together, go back and have a little look. So it's not just about performance - we're going to weigh these and sort of have a little look at what they mean over and above what they are.
I mean there's a lot more that goes into this that we're obviously not really taking into account. Barrel bore size being sort of a nominal factor certainly versus the choke, but what you can see is you have another broken clay there, and on here another broken clay, if there was a circle to be seen if you could see it.
Let's go and analyse. Come on.
Came back to the shop and I did weigh all three barrels and then realised that actually the numbers didn't really make a difference because we’ve got two 28’s and we’ve got a 30, we have one with vented rear barrels… it was an unfair comparison to test them by weight.
However as much as I can tell you that obviously the fixed choke was the lightest per inch, and the two multi chokes actually were not dissimilar per inch because this has got vented and this has got solids.
So. What do we conclude from all this? Well, first off is that in terms of weight and handling makes it fairly little difference without weighing the barrels, weighing the stocks and checking the balance on any of these guns. Secondly is that certainly the fixed choke has the nicest barrel profile, because there's no swelling for multi chokes. The mobile choke has a very sharp taper out to these and the Optima HP has a smoother taper. The longer choke also hides it a little bit better to be honest.
What we can tell is what we've been out and shot. This is the Optima HP, this is the mobile choke, and this is the fixed choke. From a very basic counting perspective it went quite interestingly; the fixed choke half is the sparsest, there’s 15 pellets on average in the middle. In fact there was 15 in both. The mobile choke had 19 on average which was a 15 and a 23 as you can see, this one is quite sparse, this one has a very big dead spot in the middle there. And this, the Optima HP, had 21 on average - 17 and 24. Excuse my rough circle!
But look at the bigger picture here and that's what we're here to do really is to look at the bigger picture. So take that centre circle out of context - the real thing you can look at that centre circle and go ‘Yes, I would’ve broken a clay if it was inside of there’ when lets say if you put them in that tiny edge there it might not have broken it, but let's not be too pedantic.
If you look at this half choke it’s a good even spread. In fact, if you look at all of them, it's a good even spread. It's hard to say anything other than: I think a lot of it is down to sales pitch and that's the hardest thing to say out of all of it because actually the fixed choke in my opinion has the most even pattern. In fact it's not even my opinion.
If you look at look at this versus that, versus that, all shot with the same shooter at the same targets. The fixed choke had the most consistent pattern and I can't say anything as to that because actually I've done enough of this to understand that if I put a different cartridge into this test I could walk away with a very different result.
In fact, the only thing that we can conclude is they’re all slightly different and yet all the same, because if I’d picked up this I would’ve broken the clay, if I’d picked up this I would’ve broken the clay and then if I picked up this I would’ve also broken the clay. So essentially what I'm saying is this test was not an entire waste of time.
You can conclude only one thing from it, right and that is that there’s no conclusive evidence, because if you took a different cartridge and went to this test again, you can come up with a completely different result. So the only way to do a conclusive test would be to spend an entire day up there with a lot of targets, big targets as well, so we can measure every little aspect; density throughout the ring, everything and put all of this data into a computer. Different chokes, different barrel lengths with that same choke so you could have these same three choke styles but you could have different barrel lengths through those choke styles, both internal and external.
What you could then do is put different cartridges in and put it all into a big database and then have a look at the averages and see if there's any pattern there. And I haven't got time for that in my life because I know well enough that if you gave me a gun with a half choke, it's going to do pretty much what a half choke does which is similar to everything that we have here on the table.
All I can take from this test is that the Beretta fixed choke gave me the most average patterns over a shop count of two.
So what am I saying? Well unfortunately I think what I'm saying is that actually choke technology is to improve nothing but your psychological state, however the fact that that actually really is important means that it's not to be discounted from being important because we all know the majority of shooting is up there (points to head)!
And there you have it guys. Thank you very much for watching. I’m not really sure whether this was a useful video to you, but it was certainly interesting. Take care. Goodbye, and I'll see you next time!