Never argue with friends about politics, religion, or shotgun chokes.
Probably the most popular question someone asks after they understand the game we play is “What choke should I use?” This question causes more arguments than politics on a gun range.
The answer: “It depends.”(Your response: “Well, that was a lot of help!)
Shotgun chokes do follow a standard naming scheme of Full, Light Full, Improved Mod, Mod, Light Mod, Improved Cylinder, Skeet, and Cylinder. You may also see names such as Skeet USA, Skeet International, Skeet European, Trap Singles I, Trap Singles II, Trap Doubles, Sporting Clays, etc. These names are relative but not the same across manufacturers.
So, how do you know which one to use? Shoot it and find out—that’s what practice is for.
The basic rule: tighten your choke for further-away targets and open it for closer targets.
For trap, you probably want a Mod or Improved Cylinder. Mod works well for slower athletes and Improved Cylinder is better for faster. For skeet, you want a skeet. (Go figure!) For sporting clays, start with a Mod and go from there. Sporting clays requires a good hunting choke that works for a wide variety of shots.
“I have a young athlete who is slow to pick up the target. Should I switch him to a Mod choke?” No, make him shoot faster.
“I have an athlete who insists on shooting a Full choke and says he can’t hit with anything else.” It is amazing how little coaches know about shooting and how much of an expert our athletes and parents are. Makes you wonder why they even need you. When you have an athlete or parent who won’t listen, you can try to show them in a different way or you can give up. For me, I put them on a lower shooting squad and ignore them. (Tough love.) When they want to hit more targets, they will come and ask. If they get mad and leave, you didn’t need them anyway. (If he really is that good with a Full choke, don’t mess with a good thing.)