Monday, February 21, 2011

shotgun chokes

Well, two months have passed thinking of how a fellow would create an essay that gun enthusiasts would like to read. If you consider that I read the same magazines, books and web crap as you do, written by self proclaimed experts - working for one publication or another and never wishing to offend any of their advertisers, or pissing off their editor, I felt this was an opportunity to call a spade a spade.  So, I thought I would start with the popular phrase "myth busting" and apply my time earned and extensive knowledge to just gun related issues.  The difference being, I will not spend an hour a month blowing up things, just for the sake of entertainment.  Feel welcome to respond regarding any topic that I write about or with any topics you would like to know my opinion on and I will try to incorporate my comments in a future blog.
So, here goes, to whet your appetites, chokes and steel shot.  When shooting steel shot with interchangeable chokes designed to shoot lead, do not use full or improved modified restrictions!  The belief is, modified is full, imp. cyl is modified and skeet and cyl are considered the same as each other.  BULLSHIT.
Not even close to the truth.  The real truth is, that theory evolved because the best choke shape internally was developed over many decades for use with lead shot.  As cartridges got better, so did mobile chokes.  American mobile choke manufactures soon realized by following a tapered section with a parallel section would produce adequate shot patterns with lead shot and in some cases very good shot patterns which was copied by most but not all European gun makers, with none of them knowing at the time that steel shot was around the corner.  None of the mobile choke manufacturers did any experimentation that I know of, other than myself.  They quickly discovered their chokes, especially in the threaded area were expanding, they consider that to be the result of excessive pressure, in actual fact, it's the result of kinetic energy because there is no forgiveness in steel shot as a choke is attempting to squeeze it.  The easiest and least expensive way for them to remedy this was to suggest that you use a more open choke and suggested that a modified would substitute a full if it were shooting steel, which it does not.  The magazine writers all picked up on this information and it fixed the problem for a short time but them, what came next is the hunting fraternity complained that steel shot would not kill anything, only wound ducks and geese if you shot them outside of 20-25 yards.  The shell manufacturers along with their competitive nature, felt they needed to correct that problem so they suggested larger size shot by at least 2 numbers over what your experience would have told you to use if you were using lead, for example, if you used #6 with lead, use #4 with steel.  This also created more problems, now there is less pellets and they damaged chokes to an even greater extent.  They attempted to correct that problem by making heavier and thicker walled wads and at the same time the fact that steel is considerably lighter than lead for any given size, decided they would counter act that problem by making shells that produced shot speeds and pressures in excess of what a conventional shotgun was ever designed to tolerate.  It cured nothing, it just made the problem greater.  Consequently, today's shotgun chokes and barrels that are going to be used with steel shot have to be substantially stronger and heavier.  Some manufacturers of shotgun shells took a much more innovative approach and designed soft (like lead) plyable shot, without a doubt that achievement was only really successful with the Tungsten Matrix made by the famous Kent Cartridge company.  Larger and possibly more recognized shell manufacturers developed heavier shot to try to replicate lead, weight wise for the same equal size.  That also compounded the problem because making steel heavier, really can only be done by adding elements that make it even harder.  Because I am running out of room, in short - choke restrictions for steel shot must be tapered from beginning to the muzzle with no parallel section.  In the right hands, a combination of the right shaped chokes and good quality steel shot shells can result in a good day's hunting at very sporting ranges.  Finally, if I may be so bold, don't over estimate your ability and stop blaming your missed birds on the steel.