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Imminent Choke Disasters

I have explained some choke installation problems and one archive article is “article 3” at my website. Problems that occur from use and misuse are the subjects to be examined now. Long-term pounding against a material may create stress fractures, hard shot materials may cause impact bulging, and excess choke constriction can contribute to both of those conditions.


The Polychoke and other adjustable chokes have been around for generations and have served many shooters well. Polychoke and the aftermarket external chokes (CUTTS, Weaver, etc.) were the alternative to the few factory replaceable chokes that were externally attached, at least until Winchester installed VERSALITE chokes inside the WINLITE fiberglass barrels of the Model 59, the predecessor to the ever-copied WINCHOKE.


The Polychoke is rated as being steel-shot capable, and most factory screw-in chokes are supposed to be OK with steel being used through them. The exceptions are now normally marked, OK as “safe for steel” or “lead shot only”, if not recommended for steel shot use. Any choke not so marked needs to be verified as safe in the owner’s manual, by manufacturer contact, or gunsmith exam. Even with such pronouncements, I have seen chokes rated as “steel-safe” be pounded and damaged.


The chokes that are not usually rated as “steel-safe” are those that have the heavier amounts of constriction, such as conventional “full” or “X-full for Turkey”. The trouble with some tubes is that the chokes all look very similar when installed in the barrel as flush-mount chokes. The choke in picture 1 is exactly that: a turkey choke accidentally left in a barrel that was then taken out to waterfowl hunt. Steel shot had pounded a ring into the taper and the choke was nearly permanently stuck, and the ring bulge is prominently shown as the darker crescent through the center.


The next 2 pictures are of a stainless choke that was pounded by steel shot, also, but was then reworked in an attempt to make the choke less tight in the barrel threads. Grinding or filing was attempted around the exterior of the tube, and many scratches were made in the interior (frustration?). The ring bulge is less visible in this choke, but the abusive treatment is clear enough inside and out.



The next 3 pictures show the Polychoke interior that I had just given a cursory exam and saw some little detail that didn’t look right, so I brushed the interior to have a better look at a non-fouled surface. There was a tiny line present at the end of each slot used to separate the “fingers” that give the adjustment ability. Close exam with high magnification verified that the line is a crack in the metal radiating from the slot corners. That is why I included the zoomed area with the crack easier to spot. This Poly was to be removed and replaced with a turkey choke, so a close exam wasn’t likely, but I happened to see this situation. Perhaps that was due to the fact that just a few days ago a shooter brought his shotgun in for rework to hand down to a relative.



The initial exam prior to acceptance was what showed me another Poly with a problem, and that one was missing a complete collet finger. The outer adjustment collar had a large bulge present from the finger blowing downrange and may have had more subsequent firing that could have added more expansion to the bulge. The owner recovered from his initial shock enough to see the added problem that would have made rework of that particular shotgun a much more expensive proposition. If I hadn’t seen the one large problem, I might not now be showing you the start of a similar problem, and you might not have been made aware of this safety-related defect that you could spot for yourself.


I don’t believe too many shooters would have trouble noticing the defect present in the 2 choke tubes shown last, if next to one another, but the one missing the skirt past the threads might not be spotted as trouble without an experienced eye or another choke for comparison. A poor fit of a choke hole or a severe misalignment with the tube will make this a possibility for someone else. See the examples in article 3 of my website to examine a similar situation that was going to explode at the next shot. Do not neglect your safety education: see my article. You may be the one to notice someone else’s gun ready to rupture, and you DON’T want to be standing next to something like that when it goes POOF.