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What Is the Best Choke for Duck Hunting? [3 Different Types]

What is the Best Choke for Duck Hunting

If you want to find the best choke for duck hunting, you need to understand the concepts behind how these chokes and interchangeable choke tubes work in the first place.

However, there’s no reason to fret because we’re here with the different types of chokes you can use for your hunting sessions.

By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert at duck hunting!

Shotgun Choke Constriction

When we’re talking full chokes for duck hunting, there’s something called constriction. 

Now constriction is when your shot leaves the barrel and muzzle, the swarm of the shot could be wider or narrower with the shotgun choke.

Keep in mind that your choice of full chokes (improved cylinder, modified choke, or light modified) and interchangeable choke tubes could be the difference between more effective kills in duck hunting, dove hunting, and turkey hunting!

Level of Restriction: Literal Chokes?

Level of Restriction

One factor that affects the chokes’ constriction is the restriction of the full chokes in your shotguns!

When you’re shooting from a distance, the pellet travels a longer length from your barrel. It will hit ducks at a much longer pace.

Happening all at a simultaneous moment, your barrel pellets could also spread out to be WIDER. In turn, the lethality of your precious shots DECREASES.

Of course, poor control of constriction of chokes also means that you can’t make a quick shot pattern with your pellets.

Goals of the Waterfowlers

When you’re part of the group of waterfowl hunters, your responsibility with that stainless steel shot in duck hunting multiplies.

Distance Formula: How Far is the Duck?

First of all, you need to have a good gauge of how far the duck is in the first place.

After all, you’ve been duck hunting for a while, and we won’t have to explain further.

What we all know is that this isn’t easy because you’re going to see the bird differently depending on your location.

Sometimes in duck hunting, our eyes don’t cooperate.

Choke Tube Choosing Ceremony

Your other goal at waterfowl hunting is selecting a choke that gives you the best optimal performance at a distance.

We’ve all been there during our duck hunting adventures.

Sometimes, we aren’t ready, and the birds arrive at our position without allowing us to take a shot.

Shotgun Chokes Too Tight?

Remember when you were out during early hunting season with modified chokes and shooting wood ducks along your favorite creek?

That is a primary example of what happens when the choke tube is too tight. In the hunting world, this pattern is what it’s like to be overchoked.

If the constriction of the shot is too tight, the shot pattern decreases, thus giving you the following results: 

  • Too many missed birds and ducks
  • Too many shots consumed

We understand the frustration from your shot. The meat of your ducks isn’t even right anymore.

At this point, you may even question why you’re even hunting due to the poor discussion between you and your constriction.

Shotgun Chokes Out in the Open

On the other hand, do you remember shooting at ducks flying over the pass over?

We know you’ve done it, and you’ve experienced your targets being out the lethal range of your shotgun.

With OPEN CHOKES like that, you won’t have the clean kill results.

We hope you now understand why we need the best choke for hunting.  Getting the right shotgunning choke isn’t just spinning the wheel to get the best.

But isn’t the combination of these challenges as many hunters and the waterfowl just so fun and entertaining?

Battle of the Range and Chokes

Battle of the Range and Chokes

There is this rule between waterfowl hunters which states that you need a gauge of 60 percent or more for a clean kill.

It’s a skill that every hunter knows takes a lot of pre-hunting season practice.

Target Practice

It’s pretty common knowledge to many hunters that the average wingspan of a large American duck is around 30 inches.

On paper, that shouldn’t sound like too much of a hard shell.

However, we all know how much versatility in practicing targets this requires!

Why is This So?

For instance, we know that AT LEAST ONCE in your shooting experience, you’ve drawn a 30-inch circle to mimic the size of the bird.

You’ve tested your shotgun at varying ranges with these factors in mind:

  • available chokes (improved cylinder, modified, and light) available to you
  • used load in the real shooting game

Perhaps you’ve seen the look of success, or you’ve just gotten yourself a wad of broken fake birds.

It takes time and A LOT of practice, but this is essentially how you get the most effective range of your shotgun with whatever guns, ranges, or same load combo pattern you’ve chosen.

In the end, doesn’t it all just sound rewarding?

The Numbers: Steel Shot Column

The Numbers

If your shotgun is firing a 1-1/8 ounce load of number 4 steel shots, then you know that there are going to be around 216 pellets per load!

Given your 30 inch circle, it would require up to about 130 pellets to be LETHAL and at that one range.

Some Examples:

You test that load from your steel gun at 25 yards with a modified choke or an improved cylinder choke and find yourself getting over 130 pellets (perhaps even 140!) in the circle.

This means that the load will be at a good shot charge of lethality on waterfowl at that range with both a modified choke and an improved cylinder choke.

On the other hand, if you’ve tested the same loads at 30 yards instead of 25, and you find yourself with 90 pellets in the circle, then you are beyond your lethal range.

This means that on these specific high-velocity loads, sticking to 25 yards with the same chokes and load combo SHOULD be in your best interest.

Hunting: Safety First

Safety First

Of course, no matter how accustomed you believe yourself to be with a shotgun, that really is STILL a firearm at the end of the day.

DON’T FORGET to wear hearing and eye protection, and don’t load your gun until it has safely been intact and secured!

Keep in mind these pointers

  • Know your target.
  • Be familiar with what isn’t.
  • Know what’s beyond that improved cylinder choke target.
  • DON’T FIRE until it’s all good and safe!

Hunting is supposed to be fun and safe, not fun and reckless with the chokes of the gun.

How Chokes React with a Steel Shot

Did you ever listen to your chemistry class? Especially the metallurgy lectures?

Well, we certainly hope you did because the results of that class are finally all loud and clear here!

There are different choke types and loads, and all for different purposes, and that’s where chemistry comes in!

We promise you could find a better success rate at finding the best choke for duck hunting if you paid attention to one type and others in terms of guns and ducks.

The Best Types of Chokes for Duck Hunting

Each Type

A choke made out of metallurgical characteristics of steel results in better and tighter groups as opposed to a lead shot.

You could check the standard constriction of your choke tube. It’s usually measured with a lead shot.

Below are the types of chokes you can include in your checklist for duck hunting day:

1. Standard and Light Modified Lead Choke

Your standard modified lead choke for shotgunning will provide you with a TIGHTER full pattern with steel if that happens to be what you’re looking for!

Light modified chokes are especially great when you want a constriction for some and most types of dense patterns.

Play on your lead shot and light modified choke with decoys, trap shooting, dense patterns, and mid-range ducks!

2. Improved Cylinder Choke (IC)

On the other hand, if your tube is labeled to be an improved cylinder choke (IC), it’ll perform almost exactly like a modified choke with some steel shot patterns.

3. Lead Chokes

A good rule to keep note of is to AVOID using lead chokes because the constrictions of these interchangeable choke tubes are TOO TIGHT.

Instead, use an improved cylinder (IC) or a skeet constriction choke for targets such as ducks and geese closer to you.

On the other hand, you may use a modified choke tube (IM) for birds that are farther away!

Here are the keys to getting to the best choke for duck hunting with a steel shot.

  • Understand proper choke constrictions.
  • Knowing the differences between the improved cylinder IC and IM.
  • Determine the relationship between guns, range, and chokes.



We hope we’ve given you enough knowledge on some chokes, pellets, and ranges!

This way, whether you find yourself using an improved cylinder choke, a full choke, a steel shot, or a light modified choke tube, your results are going to be great!

Now we’re going to leave you on the stud ring and have you do skeet and target shooting!

Don’t forget that the most important part of getting the best choke for duck hunting is how to utilize them to their best abilities.

Get your hunting gear ready and have a great duck hunting trip! The time to hunt ducks is now!



May 13, 2022 - Made minor updates to content
September 9, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links

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