What Are Chokes and Why Do You Need Them?
Back in November I wrote a detailed blog post about shotgun shells and what all the specification numbers mean. Since then I’ve had several people ask if I would write another blog post about shotgun chokes. If you thought that all the information about shotgun shells was complicated – just wait until you try to sort out choke tubes.
Before getting into the details about choke tubes, let me answer the two questions that most people initially have:
1) What do chokes do?
2) Why would I want to use a choke?
Fundamentally chokes are added to shotguns to focus the shotgun pellets so that they stay in a tighter pattern as they leave the gun’s barrel. In short the choke controls the spread of the shot – making it narrower or wider depending on the choke in use. The addition of a choke makes it so that a single shotgun can be used in a wide variety of situations. Although shotgun chokes were first patented back in the mid 1800’s, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that chokes really began to be used by a large number of shooters.
Since I use 12 gauge shotguns made by Benelli (and Franchi which is owned by Benelli these days) let me cover their chokes, which are similar to the standard industry chokes – but tailored to Benelli shotguns. Standard Benelli Crio® chokes sit flush with the muzzle and come in the following five (5) constrictions:
The Benelli Crio® chokes are cryogenically treated to relieve the stresses caused by hammer forging, creating a smoother and more uniform surface. This allows them to pattern better and they stay cleaner longer.
Each Benelli choke has notches cut into the top of the choke tube to indicate the choke tube constriction. A lower notch count means more constriction (tighter). A higher notch count means less constriction (broader).
1 notch = Full (F)
2 notches = Improved Modified (IM)
3 notches = Modified (M)
4 notches = Improved Cylinder (IC)
5 notches = Cylinder (C)
The standard bore diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun ranges from .725 to .730 inches (18.4 to 18.5 mm). Benelli’s are .725 inches. The tube exit dimensions on standard Benelli Crio® chokes are as follows:
Full .695 inches
Improved Modified .700 inches
Modified .705 inches
Improved Cylinder .715 inches
Cylinder .725 inches
Note: Chokes for other shotguns and from other manufacturers (e.g. Briley, Carlson’s, Trulock, Muller, Patternmaster, Hevi-Shot, etc.,) will be constructed differently and may have different dimensions. Here’s a good link to a page on Carlson’s website with lots of information on the sizes of available chokes by shotgun manufacturer:
A gun with no choke is called a cylinder bore and delivers the widest spread. There are also a number of specialty chokes that provide narrower or wider spreads—these are typically used for skeet shooting and turkey hunting.
The Modified (M), Improved Cylinder (IC) and Cylinder (C) chokes are recommended for steel shot.
Most people find that the Modified choke (M) works best for pass shooting while the Improved Cylinder (IC) and Cylinder (C) chokes work well on decoying birds
A Cylinder choke (C) is recommended for shooting rifled slugs in a smooth-bore barrel. Sabot slugs should only be shot through Benelli’s fully-rifled slug barrels. It is not safe to shoot slugs through chokes tighter than IC or C.
The constriction on Full (F) and Improved Modified (IM) chokes is very tight. Because steel does not compress, it can damage the barrel and choke as the shot charge passes through them.
When you put together the type of shotgun shell and the choke tube you can get a wide variety of shooting configurations – good for any situation. Here’s a great chart showing what the best configurations for different situation are:
A great source of information on this, and many other related topics is the "Official Hunter Safety Courses for Today’s Hunter" website. They’ve worked with International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA), more than 45 state agencies responsible for hunter education, and various industry partners to develop comprehensive online hunter’s safety courses that teach students important laws and regulations, game identification, and safe, responsible firearm handling. You can find their website at:
An example of the Course Outline for one of their Study Guides can be found at:
An example of the level of information that they detail in their Study Guides can be found at:
Bought New Buck 110 Auto
Many times in the outback we find that we need to cut something - but have our hands full because they are holding other items – normally the items that we are trying to cut. In situations like this you need a knife that has the ability to flip open or open automatically. Because of this, although we have several other knives in our gear, we recently purchased a Buck 110 Auto.
You can find the details about the Buck 110 Auto on the Camping/Tools page.
A Mother’s Day Hike Instead of Brunch
Most people go out to brunch on Mother's day. Since we love the outdoors we did something a little different; we took a hike at a few locations on the Massachusetts North Shore (Ship Rock, Devereaux Beach, Marblehead and Castle Rock.). It was a great way to spend the day!
Added Photos of Some of our Adventures in Japan and South Korea
In April we took a 16-day trip to Japan and South Korea - and I’ve finally had time to catch up, review, edit and post some of the 2,500+ photos that I took during the trip. It was a great trip that allowed us to see a lot of spectacular sights and hike all over the countries (both in the woods and in the urban areas). Here’s a short list of the places that we went and the sights we saw:
You can see all the photos of our Adventures on the Adventures/Asia page.
If You Love Hiking Waterfall Trails – Then You Need to Bookmark This Website
One of our favorite hiking activities is to hike to see waterfalls. Luckily there is an online database that lists the known waterfalls by Country, State, name and map location - the "World Waterfall Database".
"The World Waterfall Database was established to provide a complete, accurate record of the waterfalls throughout the world, largely because such a record had not ever been established."
The website has lots of great detailed information on the waterfalls. They’ve even a glossary of waterfall related terms (https://www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com/glossary) and lists of waterfalls by category:
Here are the maps for the waterfalls in New England::
Here’s what all the map icons mean.
Details about the site’s icons and how to use the site can be found at:
So if you are looking for waterfalls on your hikes – you should really check out the "World Waterfall Database".
Who Would Have Imagined That There Were Hundreds of Kit Kat Flavors
As you might have noticed my last blog post was back on 10 April; since then – nothing.
Well there’s a good reason for my lapse in posting – on 11 April we left for a 16-day trip to Japan and Korea. Since we returned on the 27th we’ve unpacked and started to get everything back on track. I’ve even had a chance to take an initial pass through the 2,500+ photos that I took on the trip. I plan on posting some of them over the weekend. In the meantime I thought that I would post about one of the fun things we searched for in Japan – Kit Kat candy bars.
In Japan Kit Kat candy bars are a big thing. In the US Hershey’s controls the brand – but in Japan Nestlé has control. To increase their sales Nestlé has played into the niche game. So where the US only has Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate Kit Kats, in Japan there have been over 300 flavors of Kit Kats – with approximately 30 flavors normally for sale at one time.
They even have regional specialties that you can only purchase in certain parts of Japan and “high end” flavors that come from teaming with the “Chocolatory” specialty candy stores.
We didn’t buy every flavor that we saw (for example “Wasabi”) – but we did find 11 flavors that we thought would be worth trying:
2) Raspberry Biscuit
3) Japanese Strawberry
4) Sweet Sake
5) Cranberry and Almond
6) Green Tea, Cranberry, Raspberry and Almond
7) Sweet Potato and Adzuki Bean Dumplings
8) Iyokan Mandarin Orange
9) Hokkaido Spicy Cantaloupe and Mascarpone Cheese
10) Hiroshima Maple Buns
11) White Chocolate and Milk Chocolate
I’ll let you know how the side-by-side taste test goes.
Bought New Best Glide ASE Adventurer Survival Gill Net
Any of you that have watched the TV Series “Alone” know how handy a gill net can be. For our normal fishing adventures in the outback we carry Uncle Flint’s Survival Fishing Kit II and 220 yards of 30 lb Berkley Trilene clear fishing line. But line fishing, with either a pole or by hand, takes time since you have to be present at all times to be effective. In a real survival situation this is not practical. So “just in case” we recently bought a gill net to keep with our other “deep” survival gear since it can be set up and left unattended while your time is devoted to building survival shelter, providing medical attention, signaling or other survival activities. Please note that gill nets should only be used for survival applications since they are outlawed in most states for sport fishing.
You can find the details about the Best Glide Gill Net on the Camping/Tools page.
Bought New ZODI Outback Gear Battery Powered Shower
If you are camping in the outback sometimes it’s nice to wash more than just your hands. If there’s a pond or deep stream nearby, and you don’t mind the brace of cold water, then you can just jump in. However, since you probably don’t want to use soap when you do this (even biodegradable soap like Campsuds), a better solution is to take a shower – especially a warm shower. To solve this problem we just bought a Zodi Outback Gear Battery Powered Shower.
You can find the details about the Zodi Shower on the Camping/Tools page.
Great to Have All That Camping Equipment
Things have been interesting here in New England the last week since I just finished shoveling us out from the second major Winter Storm in 6 days. Winter Storm “Skylar” dropped 18 inches of new snow on us. And that was on top of the 13 inches from last week's Winter Storm “Quinn”. Luckily we only lost power for 1 hour this time. During Quinn we lost power for 48 hours and had a huge trunk one of our Red maple trees (3 feet in diameter at the base and 30 feet tall) of break from the weight of the snow at 3:30 AM one night and land within 8 feet of the house.
Now that the power is back on, and enough of the snow has been shoveled that things are returning to normal, I thought that I would post a few photos of the snow and comment on how having all that camping equipment paid off.
As you all know, the biggest immediate issue that you have to deal with during a winter power outage is heat. Although our normal heating system would not work without electricity, luckily for us we have a self-enclosed natural gas fireplace that has a capacitor that stores a charge when there is no power so we could ignite it after the power failed. It wasn’t enough heat to keep the entire house warm but it did keep the main room at ~66 degrees and the rest of the house in the 50’s so we didn’t have to worry about frozen pipes.
With the heat situation under control the next problem was light. Luckily we have a wide variety of Black Diamond lanterns and headlamps to include: two Apollo Lanterns, two Orbit Lantern/Flashlights, three ReVolt Headlamps and two NiteCore Upgraded MH1A Multitask Hybrid Rechargeable Flashlights. Using this combination we were able to get area lighting from the lanterns and task lighting from the headlamps and flashlights. With the sun going down at ~5:30 having these was essential to being able to do anything during the evening.
Of course, using the lanterns (and our cell phones since the WiFi and telephone land-lines went down) takes power. Since we need power to recharge our devices in the outback we have two Anker 2nd Gen Astro2 9600mAh 2-Port 3A External Battery Power Banks. They are great for recharging anything that has a USB adapter. We also keep a supply of AA and AAA batteries in the house which we used as necessary on devices that can’t be recharged.
With heat and light taken care of the next issue was food and water. Although we didn’t have to break out the camp stove, the freeze dried food or the water filtration system because our power outage was only 2 days, we keep them in the house since there have been power and water outages that have lasted 1 to 4 weeks here in New England in the past. If needed we have a Snow Peak GigaPower Auto Stove, ample freeze-dried food in the Mountain House Classic bucket and the Breakfast bucket, a Platypus 2L GravityWorks Filter and a Reliance Fold-A-Carrier Collapsible Water Container (in addition to water stored in the garage). Our biggest food issue during this power outage was keeping the items in the freezer and refrigerator cold enough. Luckily we had lots of snow on the ground so we just packed some of it into containers and put them in the refrigerator/freezer.
Although it was not a normal week, due to the 31” of snow and the prolonged power outages, we survived nicely since we were prepared with all our camping gear. In fact, the biggest problem for my daughter was the fact that the WiFi was down and the Cellular network was spotty for the days we were without power - so she had to find other things (like reading and playing cards) to keep her occupied.
You can see more detail about the specific gear that we relied on during the winter power outages on the following pages of our website:
Lanterns – http://www.hikingcampingandshooting.com/light.html
Power - http://www.hikingcampingandshooting.com/electronics.html
Food - http://www.hikingcampingandshooting.com/cooking.html
Water - http://www.hikingcampingandshooting.com/hydration.html
Great Sources of Outback Skills Knowledge
Like most people that spend time in the outdoors we have accumulated a few good books filled with great information over the years. If you ask you friends, or search the internet, for recommendations about which Hiking, Camping or Survival books you should have in your home library I’m sure that you’ll come up with a vast array of references. Actually - probably too many. So how do you separate the good ones from the bad?
Although there can be overlap between the types, in our opinion, the knowledge that you need for the outback is contained in three categories of books:
1) Visual and skill reference books
2) Mindset and attitude books
3) Pure reference books
We have a couple of each type. Based on our experience the “go to” books that we keep with our gear so that we can easily find and reference them are:
1) The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure by DK Publishing and Colin Towell
2) Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive by Les Stroud
3) SAS Survival Guide 2E (Collins Gem): For any climate, for any situation by John "Lofty" Wiseman
4) Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury
5) Pocket Ref 4th Edition – by Thomas Glover
You can read a little about each book and why we like it on the Camping/Maps and Books page.
So that’s our short list of great outdoor reference books. What books do you find critical to your activities? What books do you love? What books disappointed you? Let us know.
What's On This Page?
Here's where we post reviews, questions, answers, thoughts and other information that's of general interest to our followers in a blog format.