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What is the Best Choke for Duck Hunting? [Choke Tube Guide]

What is the Best Choke for Duck Hunting Choke Tube Guide

Waterfowl hunters know all about duck hunting. They know how to set up decoys, load the right ammo, and hit their ducks while on the hunt.

Constriction plays a huge part in getting a clean kill, especially when shooting wood ducks, smaller targets, or those at extended range.

This ensures you get MORE birds with fewer cripples.

Let’s look at how you can find the right shotgun constriction.

I’ll go over the best choke tubes I’ve used for duck hunting, how they affect target impact, and how to find the right choke for your needs.

What is the Best Choke for Duck Hunting?

Hunter pointing gun

For newer waterfowl hunters or those looking to nail ducks at close range, the best one for you will be the improved cylinder shotgun choke tube.

The improved cylinder has some constriction while spreading quickly, allowing you to hit longer ranges than the cylinder without destroying closer targets like a full choke.

In my case, the VERSATILITY allowed me to hunt waterfowl and other birds, especially when you are nearby.

However, a modified choke tube will also work if you plan on shooting ducks with steel shot.

How Do Choke Tubes Work?

Choke tube guide

Choke tubes are designed to change the constriction of a shotgun, affecting shot sizes and the impact of shots on the target.

Furthermore, they are made to screw onto the front of your barrel easily. They are primarily used with lead shot.

Shotgun chokes can narrow your shot’s pattern, creating smaller shot groups for long-distance shots or widening for short ranges.

It will depend on what choke you use.

Waterfowl hunters need to find the RIGHT LEVEL of constriction to ensure humane kills while still hitting targets at any range.

This means getting the right shot sizes by using a closed or more open choke.

To find the right choke tube for your needs, you must determine the target range and the ideal pattern for your shot.

This process took me some trial and error and pre-season experimentation, but you will get there eventually.

Most choke tubes produce EXCELLENT patterns!

You will thus need to consider factors like shot charge, the size of the birds, and even the construction of your gun to find the right one.

There are four main types of choke tubes:

  • Full choke
  • Cylinder
  • Improved cylinder
  • Modified

4 Types of Choke Tube Styles (and Their Shot Pattern)

Types of choke tubes

Many hunters struggle to choose between a more open choke or a more closed choke for their shotguns.

Each has its pros and cons and intended effects on your shotgun constriction.

Let’s go through each shotgun choke and see which helps most when shooting tight shots and hitting your ducks on the hunt.

Full Choke

Hunters who rely on full-chokes need a higher constriction, as tight funneling allows the load to turn into longer shots.

These chokes allow you to hit LONG-RANGE targets.

I mainly use these chokes for turkeys, which is what they’re primarily designed for. They are also useful for clay-pigeon shooting or hitting moving geese.

Full chokes keep your ball bearings closer for longer, ensuring that the balls only become more distant as the shots fly further away.

Your end pattern will be a moderately-wide spread.

I recommend using lead with a full choke. If you load a steel shot, this may lead to barrel warping.

Cylinder Choke

The cylinder tube is the least restrictive among the chokes, allowing me to use it with a heavy load.

This type creates WIDE shot sizes fairly quickly. Because of that, it makes it a good choice for me to hunt close-range fowl.

A shotgun with a cylinder is useful for shooting steel and lead shot because it allows the pellets to pass through in a way that doesn’t harm the barrel.

When using a lead shot, you will have a center impact that is more deadly the closer you are. As you move away from your prey, the spread will get worse.

This unconstricted barrel shoots best at less than 20 yards.

Modified Choke Tube

The light-modified choke tube has a higher shotgun constriction when compared to the improved cylinder but is more open than the full choke.

As a result, it is the most flexible of the tubes.

I can load any shell with this choke, which works with steel shot, lead, and other ammo types.

I’ve found that it works best up to 35 yards when the spread becomes too much to be accurate.

Shooting with a modified choke is best for medium-range shots, meaning hitting your fowl right as they fly away before getting too far.

Improved Cylinder Choke

This version of the cylinder is best for close-range, accurate shots.

I was most effective with this choke up to 30 yards, after which the spread becomes too much.

An improved choke allows you to load a lead shell or steel shot without worry. 

It offers enough breathing room for your ammo without the bearings spreading too quickly.

Thanks to this, I’ve been able to hit fowl on top of water and catch them as they spread their wings!

It lets you comfortably engage your prey, knowing you can strike the killing blow in one shot.

How Do I Know Which is the Best Choke Tube to Use?

Gun barrel

When looking for the best chokes to use on your duck hunt, you will need to consider how that tube fits in the front of your barrel.

You’ll need to look at how it affects your shot.

A choke tube should fit snugly inside your shotgun barrel. It should keep your spread as TIGHT or as loose as necessary.

It should produce the same pattern every time you fire your loads.

It would be best if you search for the choke that matches your hunting style and engagement distance.

This means looking at different choke sizes for stationary and moving birds.

You will also need to search for the chokes that can handle your loads. It should be able to handle steel balls or lead, depending on your preference.

The right choke tube is the one that allows you to pepper your bird enough to kill it in ONE shot without tearing the carcass to shreds.

It should help send your balls downrange and minimize damage to the surroundings.

Recommendations for Best Chokes for Duck Hunting

The choice of the right shotgun choke will depend on the individual hunter.

Here are some of the highest-quality chokes on the market and what makes them so special.

1. Browning Goose Invector

Browning Goose Invector

I can never go wrong when you shoot with America’s most influential gun brand.

This choke tube is made with tight, stainless steel construction and offered in every constriction.

I can thread it perfectly inside my barrel, thus achieving the shot pattern that will allow them to hit their duck dead center.

I’ve used it with both break-action and pump shotguns.

2. Carlsons Cremator

Carlsons Cremator

I’ve been able to bring the fight to whatever I was hunting and WIN, thanks to the Cremator.

Once you fix it to your barrel, you’re sure to get the pattern that will send your bird spiraling down.

This choke excels because it’s quick-removal technology and works well with steel shot, regardless of which constriction level you choose.

It’s devastating to your local duck population.

3. Muller H20 Choke Tubes

Muller H20 Choke Tubes

Shooting ducks is a sport for shooters who aren’t afraid to get wet.

You often need to be in the water to hunt waterfowl, so ensuring that your barrel can fire even when wet makes all the difference.

Muller’s water-friendly chokes ensure you get the right-pattern spread in any terrain.

Whether hitting stationary or moving ducks, your shot will land with the Muller H2Os.

Tips for Using Chokes for Duck and Goose Hunting

When I was a new hunter, I had no idea what chokes were or how to use them effectively.

Let’s look at some of the best ways to ensure that your choke puts in the work.

Getting the Right Pattern/Spread

Each choke’s pattern varies depending on your distance from the birds, whether you use steel or lead balls, and construction of your choke tube.

To ensure that you have the right pattern, you must MATCH steel shotgun projectiles to a less constrictive choke.

Doing so prevents long-term damage and utilizes steel’s natural ability to stay closer together.

When you shoot your shotgun, you must ensure that your constriction MATCHES your intended range.

PRO TIP: The more restrictive the tube, the farther the shot goes. The more open choke will mean a closer shot.

It’s also important to ensure a tight fit between your barrel and chokes.

You can use this by firmly fitting the choke tool and ensuring everything fits snuggly.

Chokes are also important because they can reduce muzzle jump and help improve your overall marksmanship.

Pre-Season Practice

It’s important to head down to a firing range and get a feel of your shotgun, your ammo, and even firing around decoys if possible.

By creating a 30 to 40-inch diameter on your paper or cardboard target, you can estimate your engagement distances and calibrate using the different-sized chokes.

I practice making these 20-40 yard shots with steel or lead ammo in this controlled environment before I factor in the flight path of the birds.

If taken seriously, you’ll find the right choke for your waterfowl and be able to take them with accuracy and precision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Duck flying

Choke tubes are an underrated part of the duck hunting and pass shooting hobby.

This leaves many users unanswered questions that may keep them from using chokes.

Let’s put them at ease by answering these choke-related questions below.

Do Chokes Work Different With Different Species of Ducks?

The common large duck species like the black duck and mallard have the same wingspan, making the target diameter roughly the same.

If you find the right pattern density for one of these duck species, you can use the same choke tube on different duck species.

It should work the same regardless of waterfowl.

Is a Full Choke Good for Duck Hunting?

A full choke restricts the shot pellets, allowing you to hit more accurately at longer ranges (about 40 yards).

It is thus possible to shoot fowl flying past you with this choke.

While you can use a full choke for duck hunting, a modified choke works better because you could tear the birds to shreds at close range using a full choke.

Can You Shoot a Steel Shot Through a Full Choke Tube?

Steel shot is tough for shotguns, especially those with choke tubes not designed for it.

I found that out the hard way, ruining older shotguns with a fixed barrel.

To ensure the shot column doesn’t bulge the barrel, you may need to avoid using steel shot with full choke tubes.

However, this is becoming less of a concern, thanks to aftermarket full chokes.

What Choke Size Do I Need?

On average, you will need a shot pattern with a 40-inch spread to hit the majority of duck species.

You can do this with any of the four choke tube types mentioned above.

However, distances may vary, leading to a target’s escape or destruction with the same shot sizes.

You will need to use the improved cylinder tube because it is the most versatile.


Person with rifle

By choosing the right choke tube, you can hit ducks humanely and cleanly, ensuring consistent patterns in your effective range and more fun outdoors.

The best waterfowl hunters ensure their shotgun choke has the right level of constriction, allowing them to get a clean kill on any ducks and geese within range!

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