Carlson's Shotgun Choke Tubes
Over the years, I've tested literally drawers full of factory and after market choke tubes. Carlson's product, out of Atwood, Kansas, has proved over time to be as good as the best, and better than the rest. They use top quality materials, and have had universally excellent quality control. Not only have their factory replacement tubes done well, but their after market screw-choking and general machine work has been extremely good, featuring quality work with a very reasonable price and short turn-around times.
I won't begin to suggest that all factory choke tubes are deficient, as I've had very satisfactory patterning guns with standard Winchoke (Invector), Invector Plus, and Beretta tubes with quality shells. No reason to toss them away without a try.
However, there has been a huge variance in quality, and I have had some abysmally performing factory tubes as well. I also won't begin to suggest that Colonial, Briley, and the others do not produce quality tubes, since they certainly do. However, Scott Carlson produces his top-notch product efficiently, and they are a bargain compared to most after market tubes.
Carlson's has earned my highest recommendation, based on experience over time. I'm not truly a "collector," at this point, though I do have an affinity for some great shotguns no longer in production. I've seen some otherwise beautiful pieces that are over choked (solid choke), cut barrels, or resplendent with improperly installed Cutts, Lyman, or Polychokes.
Carlson's can turn a limited use or unusable shotgun into a bird-bagger for you. They did just that for us on a cut-barreled Browning "Twelvette," and turned my B-2000 20 gauge into a far more flexible upland gun. The barrel OD diameter determines the suitability for screw choking, not a problem I've ever seen in 20 gauge shotguns, but a potential issue with a few 12 gauges I've seen, such as Winchester 101s with bored chokes. A phone call to Carlson's or a visit to their WebSite (www.choketube.com) will clarify any potential issues before you send off a barrel.
A look at many factory screw-choked barrels shows mashed large OD muzzles, a cheap way to screw choke. This gives me exactly what I don't care for, a muzzle heavy, "dead barrel" feel when I want a lively swing in the field. Screw choking a solid choked gun may you the same balance, with more flexibility.
Longer barreled Over/Unders can be the worst, with a "balance like a pig on a snow shovel" feel. As a generalization, you can have a 28" or longer barrel set with the feel and swing of a 26" mashed-muzzle screw choked gun. That advantage of a longer barrel, particularly for sporting clays or longer range work, is a bit more "free" muzzle velocity, smoother swing, and a longer sighting plane for more precise pointing. Like most things, it is a matter of personal taste.
Certainly, there is a relationship, however tenuous, between constriction and performance. Chokes are designated in constriction as they are sold, but that "constriction" is theoretical. You cannot have a constriction unless you know what you are starting with, and most of us do not know. Though a "12 gauge" is stated to be .725 inch standard European bore, and .729 inch American bore, that is not always the case.
Let's say I'm looking for a 12 gauge .010 constriction choke for my needs. I have Beretta barrels that mic .718 inch. Using "standards," the supplied .010 in. constriction choke would be .715 inches. So, I'm more in skeet-land than I want to be. I bought a theoretical 10 thousands constriction tube, but installed in my gun only .003 inch of constriction exists. It is difficult to get the Quarter Choke or Light Modified patterns that I was seeking with such minimal constriction. It can pay big dividends to mic your bore (I use hole gauges), or have your gunsmith mic it for you, before you order replacement choke tubes.
I've had fabulous luck over the years with Carlson's choke tubes. In the future, I'll be offering some heads-up factory tube vs. Carlson's tube pattern documentation. You can also look forward to an interview with Scott Carlson, published right here on Guns and Shooting Online in the near future.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.