View Full Version : Why can't I hit anything with my shotguns? (old full choke)

05-29-2012, 4:26 AM
So, I own two shotguns, both of them pretty old. One is a Winchester model 1897 with a 32" barrel and full choke, which the serial number tells me is from 1902. The other is an old bolt-action 12 gauge shotgun with a 36" barrel, also full choke.

I am an owner of a ton of firearms, and I got rid of my Saiga 12 gauge before I got out of the army when I was in Texas. With a 12 round drum, even just shooting one clay at a time, I was still consistently hitting 15/25 without an issue, usually above 20/25 when I set my mind to it.

I'm pretty sure the Saiga came with no choke whatsoever, though.

With the full choke shotguns I have, I'm having trouble hitting 5-10 clays out of 25 thrown by hand. My record so far is 12 in a row with the Winchester 1897, and about 15/17 with the bolt action gun.

Two different friends were having the same problem. One of my friends, who is a crack shot with the AR-15 I helped him build, missed 25 in a row at one point. That's just frustrating.

Why can't I hit anything with my good old shotguns? Any tips? (Especially want to get good with the bolt shotgun, as I feel bad putting too many rounds through such an awesome old pump gun)

Captain Dick
05-29-2012, 5:33 AM
There could be various reasons for this and with out checking your gun fit and watching you shoot it is impossible to tell you exactly what the reason or reasons are. The three most likely areas are 1. gun does not fit you or your friends properly 2. choke is too tight for the distance you are shooting for consistant hits or, 3. incorrect shooting technique. The quickest and easiest solution is to take a lesson form a good instructor. In the long run it will save you time and money. Wish I could be of more help to you, but I'd have to see you shoot them to know for sure.

05-29-2012, 5:38 AM
Yeah, I was watching my friend pretty closely, and some of them seemed like he was going too low, some of them he was shooting left/right...

If I saw off the barrel on a 36" full choke shotgun to, say, 22" and mount another bead to it, will it loosen the choke at all?

big al
05-29-2012, 5:43 AM
If the clays are being thrown by hand, it could be too close for a full choke.

05-29-2012, 5:47 AM
If the clays are being thrown by hand, it could be too close for a full choke.

How can I get better at hitting them closer/further away? Most of the time clays were flying at leas 40-50 yards before dropping.

05-29-2012, 5:52 AM
First, realize that shotguns are shot fundamentally different than rifles. Make sure you are not cross-eyed dominant or taking steps to address it if you are.

A full choke will just means you have to shoot a little more precisely. If your shooting fundamentals are correct and the gun fit you pretty well, you should be breaking birds. Some professional instruction may be helpful.

05-29-2012, 8:20 AM
if you chopped off 12" or so inches like you are thinking all of the choke will be gone
the choke on a fixed choke barrel is near the end and that would all be gone
you would essentially have a cyl bore=WIDE OPEN

Mike A
05-29-2012, 9:03 AM
Bjkearns is right; if you cut off even the first 2-3 inches of the barrel of a full choked shotgun, you will have little, or more likely, no choke at all. And your patterns will be much more open and you will find it easier to hit skeet targets.


Cutting the barrel of your '97 would be a cultural crime IMO; if you like and really intend to keep it for clays, have a GOOD barrelsmith (I can recommend one offline) rechoke it to improved cylinder OR buy some "spreader" loads from RST or Gamebore or Fiocchi to open the patterns. You could have choke tubes fitted but re-choking is cheaper. Either modification is permanent, and negatively affects the value to a collector. Rechoking is cosmetically superior, IMO. Shooting spreaders alters the gun not at all. If you don't like the '97, just sell it and buy a more modern pump with a more open barrel or tubes. If you just HAVE to cut something, cut the bolt action, which has minimal collector value anyway and may have a barrel too long for most hunting anyway. Cylinder bore (that is, NO choke) actually works quite well for hunting upland game and small game at close ranges, and it works very well with slugs and buckshot, too.

You also need to have an experienced skeet shooter/coach look over your shoulder while you shoot clays. He will be able to tell what you are doing wrong and what to do to correct it. Often this involves only some gun mounting changes; sometimes it involves a shorter or longer pull on the stock or a higher comb. Longer stocks and higher combs can be made by strap-on or stick-on pads. A shorter pull needs cutting the stock shorter or removing an existing recoil pad. Not rocket science, but need some expert "diagnosis".

Good luck with this project; have fun!

05-29-2012, 9:14 AM
One thing i did not see get mentioned that is critical is have you patterned the shotgun to see exactly where it is hitting yet? I would do that first before I start cutting things off. These guns made back in that era worked for a reason as they are build. Unless some major modification had been done there should be no reason why it is shooting that far off now.

05-29-2012, 2:38 PM
Ok sp the saiga 12 pattern is probably like this:

( )

The full choke is probably like this


Find a piece of paper and shoot it with the gun at ~25 yards and see where the pattern is in relation to where you aimed. Do not cut anything please its not the guns fault. To give an example, my gun is fitted to me and my buddies cant always draw the bead right and hit clays as consistently. Now i also can not shoot one of their over unders qnd barely break 5/25 with it because i dont know where the pattern is. I shoot 23/25 average with my gun. Its the gun not the choke

05-29-2012, 4:16 PM
Agreed . . . no cutting. Shotgunners, as a group, way over think chokes and ignore the importance of proper fit and shooting fundamentals (including mental focus).

05-29-2012, 5:33 PM
For what it's worth one of my fellow instructors at the club was getting some practice in on Sunday for an upcoming shoot. He was shooting an extra full choke out of a 32 inch barreled BT99 at 16 yards from the house, the closest station on a trap field. 24 out of 25 on his best round and he was turning them to powder with pretty much every shot.

But regardless of what choke is on the gun, his set up and his fundamentals are exactly the same, shot after shot. Round after round. It's that repeatable approach that is where really great scores start.

I'd agree with the above sentiment that a lot of shotgunners over think it on chokes. I know I have a time or two. I find when I am dialed in I can hit them regardless of the choke.

Work on the fundamentals.... mount the gun correctly, focus on the bird and not the bead, make sure your footwork is right for the station and have a good time.

05-29-2012, 5:53 PM
I agree with the patterning concept. There is NO way of knowing where you guns are shooting without patterning first. As a matter of fact it will be a real eye-opener for most who 'think' they know where a shotgun shoots, but in reality, they have no idea.

This is especially true when you state that it appears that your buddy was shooting "high". He could very well be as the point of aim and point of impact are not completely known now.

Pattern and you will see a difference in your game.

05-29-2012, 6:18 PM
Most of the time clays were flying at leas 40-50 yards before dropping.

If you are trying to hit the bird at 45 yards, a full choke is fine. Most try to break clay at about 35 yards. A full choke is a bit tight some say, but others like shooting the full choke even in that close. I don't think the choke is your broblem.

Pattern your gun as suggested. If the point of impact (POI) is pretty much the same as the point of aim (POA) you have a flat shooting gun, which is typical of most hunters and even skeet guns. Trap targets rise rapidly. Just how your friend throws them with a hand thrower may make a difference.

Sinec a trap clay is rising rapidly, a trap gun is set up so that it shoots high. The POI is above the POA. This will cause the shot to hit up above where one aims, which is needed since the target is higher by the time the shot column arrives on target. The high POI allows the shooter to "float the bird"; to shoot when the bead is just under the target.

You can't do that with a flat shooting gun. With a flat shooter, you have to "cover the bird"; meaning you want to shoot as the muzzle swings up and over the target.

Like they said, begin by parrerning your gun. Draw a mark in the center of the patterning board. If 50% of the shot is above and 50% below that mark, your gun shoots 50/50 or "flat". I like to also draw a horizontal line through the center of my target to make it easier to count pellet marks/holes.

You may also want to draw a vertical line to see if you are shooting right or left.

Don't just rely on what one shot does but shoot three to get a good average.

That tells you where your gun shoot in relation to where it is pointed. Anoter kind of patterning is desighed to tell you where it shoots compared to where you look.

You could find that the one pattern tells you that your gun shoots right at where it is pointed but that when you shoot without aiming that you are off. If so, it may be that your gun does not fit you.

That or aiming may be your problem. If you try to aim at a clay you will likely stop your swing and miss the clay.

05-29-2012, 8:45 PM
I shoot with an extra full turkey choke for fun. It really makes you keep on target. Anyway chokes are helpful but really dont overthink it.

05-29-2012, 10:42 PM
next time your shooting in the desert or wherever.....put a clay or can on clear dirt ground about 35 yds away....a hill or berm uphill works well....mount gun and put front bead on target and fire....watch where shot pattern hits....how much over or under target....right or left of target...have a friend spot for you....do snap shots and dont aim like a rifle.....see where your at....get feel of gun and keep shooting snap shots until target is centered in pattern....flying clays will be easier...lead and FOLLOW THROUGH...dont stop at the trigger pull....most misses are behind the target....full choke is tough but youll get it...its only ammo....enjoy !!!!...cheers....

05-29-2012, 10:45 PM
KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN !!!!!!...LOL......cheers....

05-30-2012, 7:53 AM
I found that you have to open at least one eye... ;-)

05-30-2012, 7:03 PM
One thing i did not see get mentioned that is critical is have you patterned the shotgun to see exactly where it is hitting yet? I would do that first before I start cutting things off. These guns made back in that era worked for a reason as they are build. Unless some major modification had been done there should be no reason why it is shooting that far off now.

You have to know where your gun shoots when you mount it. Also your mount must be the same each time. Then you will be consistent. At that point you can either have the gun fit to you, or adjust your point to shoot the target.

Utha Schleigle
05-31-2012, 11:30 AM
as said above - bore may need cleaning.

also mentioned above - did not see exactly when your gun was manufactured - you may have shorter in length forcing cones - this would effect pattern especailly at front forcing cone for choke.

Because your may may be older it may like one load or manufacturer of ammo - not nessicariilyy your gon manufacturerer.

front forcing cone length is more crytical - and also gets more bore build up.

from above thread -