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Ask The Instructor: Chokes For Beginners

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Question: I am a beginner at sporting clays and love the sport. I’m hooked — but I am so incredibly confused about chokes! What should I use and when?

Answer: For a newcomer to sporting clays, considerations of bore micrometer measurements, 5/1000ths increments and bead counts within a 30-inch circle at 40 yards can cause the eyes to roll back into the head. I understand that you must get a lot of advice and opinions from your squadmates about the latest technical choke data. So, let me try to untangle the Gordian knot.

As a beginner, you should be enjoying the destruction of soft to moderately difficult targets inside of 35 yards. Concentrate on the fundamentals of shotgunning at these distances. If you concentrate on the fundamentals, your skill will translate nicely to harder and longer-range targets. That said, put skeet and improved cylinder chokes in your over/under shotgun or skeet in your semi-automatic and have fun breaking lots of targets.

At this point in your progression, if you miss a target, the cause will most likely be a lack of focus, incorrect form or improper technique. It is unlikely that the width or length of your pattern will be the reason for your miss. As you progress in your shooting, you will likely seek the longer reach and improved feedback of a tighter choke like light modified or even a modified choke.

When should you change chokes? As your game advances a bit, my recommendation is to use a good middle-of-the-road choke like IC or light modified for the majority of the course, changing chokes only on the “extremes.” Open up to skeet or even cylinder for a target inside of 20 yards, and tighten up to modified for targets 40 yards or beyond.

These are very general guidelines. If you have an analytical personality, you will likely turn to ballistics tables, but simplifying your choke choices will keep the variables in your game to a minimum. As a newcomer to the sport, focus more on the fundamentals and put ballistics considerations aside.

Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at

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