What Are The Best Chokes For Sporting Clays?
Choosing the best chokes for sporting clays is a multivariate equation that can be extremely hard to solve for. Peruse a shotgun chat forum and you can find thousands of pages discussing the impact that barrel length, bore diameter, choke constriction, shot size, shot type, and powder charge can have on your pattern. Compounding the confusion, many views on these variables can be contradictory to each other, and a lot of truth is obscured by various choke manufacturer’s “marketing speak.” For example, you may have an idea of the differences between a modified and an improved cylinder choke, but how does one company’s improved cylinder compare to another’s “midrange choke,” or “clay choke?”
Sorting through all the literature available on the topic can be enough to make your head spin, and patterning multiple chokes through your shotgun to account for all of these variables can be an expensive proposition that will leave you hundreds of dollars poorer and with a mighty sore shoulder. Is there an easier way to find the best chokes for sporting clays?
To find out, we spoke with Jimmy Muller, who is a NSCA Master Class Shooter, an avid waterfowler and the inventor/founder of Muller Chokes.
Chokes For Sporting Clays
Muller’s journey to build the perfect choke started at the ripe age of five years old. His dad and older brother were avid shooters and hunters, and he grew to love days in the duck blind or at the clay range. As he grew up, his dedication to wing-shooting grew as well.
In his own words, “I started duck hunting in 1975, and come 1990 I wanted to become a better wing shooter. So, I decided to get into sporting clays. Fast forward to 1992, I really dove into sporting clays and became a much better shooter. But I realized that the chokes on the market were flawed. They didn’t shoot the way they were marked. They rusted. They build up with plastic and carbon fouling. They came loose between stations. It was just the same sort of thing across the board. To make a very long story short, at the time I was an aerospace defense manufacturer, so I basically went into the shop, made my own chokes, and never looked back.”
Muller initially made his chokes for his own personal use as a serious target shooter, but eventually realized their commercial potential after years of testing and shooting his early models.
“I knew 100% that I had invented the most even patterning choke in the world, the cleanest choke in the world, the lightest choke in the world. So, I was like, you know, let me patent this, bring it out of the closet, and see if it’ll help pay the bills. And I did so and it basically revolutionized clay target sports in two years’ time,” Muller pointed out.
Shotgun Choke Patterns
Muller chokes stand out in a crowded market in many ways. Perhaps the biggest difference is how evenly they pattern, and how true to their declared constriction range they are. Anybody who has ever patterned a shotgun knows how time-consuming and meticulous the work is, but Muller said he did most of the work for his customers himself so that they don’t have to.
“What I did with my chokes is I created gun-specific pattern geometry. I took every gun on the market with every different bore diameter, with every barrel length, with every ammo on the market, and I basically kept changing the choke geometry,” Muller explained. “I started with one gun, and I changed every geometry you could imagine until I got a picture-perfect pattern out of that gun, and when I had achieved that for that gun, I drew the blueprint for that choke, and I moved on to the next gun to start all over.”
Due to the very consistent and even pattern Muller chokes produce, Muller claims that you don’t need as many chokes in your choke case in order to cover all the shooting situations you may encounter on the clay course. You may even be able to get by with just one!
Best Choke For Sporting Clays
When we talked to Muller about the best chokes for sporting clays, he was confident and concise in his advice. “You don’t want a tight choke,” he said. “On most ranges, 90% of your shots are gonna be inside of 35 yards. You want a large, forgiving pattern.”
For shooters who like the simplicity of a single choke in their gun, Muller recommended his Ü1 constriction. This constriction does the work of both a traditional skeet and improved cylinder choke in a single tube and offers well-rounded performance across stations.
For shooters who prefer to have multiple chokes on-hand to optimize performance at particular stations, Muller recommend adding their Ü0 and Ü2 to your lineup. The Ü0 functions as a cylinder and skeet choke and is ideal for close, fast-moving stations such as rabbits. The Ü2 serves as a light-modified and modified constriction and is perfect for longer shots.
What if you’re shooting an over-under? Should you use a different choke for each barrel? Muller’s answer may surprise you.
“If you’re shooting an over-under, I’d recommend a Ü1 in each barrel,” Muller said. “Keep it simple. You don’t want to have to think and remember which choke is in which barrel and decide which to use when the clay is flying.”
While a consistently even and accurate pattern is perhaps the most important criteria to meet when selecting the best sporting clays choke for you, that alone doesn’t make a perfect choke. Shotgun chokes constrict fast-moving pellets as they exit the barrel, and this puts incredible stress on them as the shooter fires round after round. In addition to pressure, choke tubes are subject to extreme heat, caustic gasses and powder contaminants, and abrasive forces. A cheaply made choke’s performance can suffer as a result of these stressors, which can impact your score.
Best Shotgun Choke Design
With a background in aerospace engineering, Muller is familiar with these problems. In order to make sure that his chokes stand up to the rigors of high-volume shooting he uses a high strength Aerospace Aluminum that is infused with a Military Ceramic. This combination makes for a choke that is lightweight, hard-wearing, and extremely resistant to fouling.
This is good news for clay shooters. Lighter chokes dissipate heat quickly, which results in less thermal expansion that can lead to both stuck chokes and loose chokes that must be tightened between shots. The more resistant to fouling a choke is, the more rounds you can shoot before you must clean it. So, a well-designed and well-built choke in your gun translates to less time “messing around” with your gear and more time busting clays.
Even patterns, quality construction…what else should you look for in the best chokes for sporting clays? I asked Muller if he had further advice for folks selecting a new sporting clays choke. Or, to look at it from another point of view, what should buyers watch out for when shopping for chokes?
Muller pointed out the thing to be leery of is a ported choke design. Ported chokes are easy to spot on a store shelf. Instead of being a solid tube, the section that protrudes past the barrel has holes machined into it, somewhat reminiscent of Swiss cheese.
“Some choke manufacturers will tell people that porting does two things: it reduces felt recoil and it reduces muzzle jump. But that’s not true,” Muller explained. “Recoil happens before it gets to the choke. So how can porting at the end of the choke reduce felt recoil? It can’t. Okay, that’s number one. Number two: in order to force the muzzle downward with porting, you’d have to force the discharge gasses upward. But how can something ported 360 degrees direct gasses upward and force the barrel down? It can’t.”
“The other thing that people don’t realize when they buy a ported choke is that number one, it becomes filthy with plastic and carbon buildup, which affects your pattern consistency from when it’s cleaned to when it’s dirty; and number two…you’re eventually gonna muzzle blast your buddy standing next to you!,” he said.
Final Thoughts On Shotgun Chokes
I ended our conversation with a final question. I asked Muller what would be the one choke he recommended if a shooter wanted one, a general-purpose choke that would serve not just on the clay range, but in the field? If he could only shoot one of his chokes, what would he shoot? After all, sporting clays was originally conceived as preparation for the shots a hunter could encounter in pursuit of game.
“I’d say my pick for that would be our H20 series in the ‘decoy’ constriction,” he said. “It’s basically a Ü1.5, I’d say. I shoot it all the time on the range, at upland birds, and obviously ducks. It’s a good all-round performer.”