CHOKE TUBE CONFUSION
"I was sea duck hunting with a guide this past fall and using steel shot. I was told early on that it’s not wise to shoot steel through a full choke because it doesn’t conform to the barrel like lead does.
I was also told that steel throws a tighter pattern than lead. I’ve read that to use steel you must open your choke. For example, I use a modified barrel when I shoot steel. I thought this was so I would achieve a full choke pattern with steel.
My guide told me the opposite: that if I use a modified choke, steel will shoot a skeet pattern or a more open pattern. Can you please clarify this issue for me?"
- Truman Curtis, Norwalk, CT
Speaking in general terms, steel tends to pattern more tightly from the same choke than equivalent lead loads until you reach the improved modified constriction and tighter. The primary reason for not using full choke for steel or other non-toxics that are harder than lead is to help avoid damage to the barrel.
Forcing these very hard projectiles (especially large pellet sizes) through a tight choke constriction will indeed cause “blown” patterns, but the potential consequence to the barrel is far more severe.
Your question seems to present a misrepresentation of the order of choke constrictions. From most open to tightest they are: cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, full, extra-full and super-full. Again this is speaking in general terms because different gun and choke manufacturers have different constriction specifications matched to those names.
For your situation, I’d set up three patterning targets at two ranges – say 25 and 40 yards. At the firing line have a box of your preferred loads and three different choke tubes for your gun – skeet, improved cylinder and modified. Fire one shot with each choke into the center of a pattern target at those ranges. Shoot like you will in the field, not from a rest. Visually compare the patterns, looking for the most pellets inside the 30-inch circle and even distribution of the pellets across the quadrants of the circle. Before the season, stock up on that load by the case, put the “best” choke in the barrel and then forget about it – other than checking the tube for tightness each time you take the gun from the case. – Bill Miller
DOUBLE DUTY CARTRIDGE
"Im considering buying a new Thompson/Center Pro Hunter. I plan to outfit it with a .50 caliber blackpowder and 12 gauge shotgun barrel. I run into a problem, however, with choosing a rifle cartridge. I’ll be hunting deer in Nebraska and elk in Colorado. What’s your recommendations for a one-shot cartridge?" – Joe Paulsen, Lincoln, NE
Joe, you’ve made an excellent decision for a multi-purpose hunting rig. The Pro Hunter is an amazing rifle/shotgun/muzzleloader – not often do you get one system that does so well in each configuration. The Pro Hunter excels in the muzzleloader mode – there’s nothing on the market that approaches its simplicity and reliability. You’ll particularly appreciate the new recoil absorbing stock – it just plain works.
As for the deer/elk rifle barrel – when you say the work “elk” I immediately think of .30 caliber and up for cartridge selection. Although some of the hot 7mm magnums are used successfully on elk, I prefer heavier, well-constructed bullets for these tough animals. My first choice would be a .300 Win. Mag. Barrel. I’d shoot bonded 150- or 165-grain bullets for deer and then a bonded or partitioned 180- to 200-grain for elk.
Alternates would be the .30-06 with 200- or 220-grain bullets for elk, 165-grain for deer if you prefer less recoil If you want a bit more power consider the .338 Win. Mag. With 210- or 225-grain bullets for elk and 180-grain bullets for deer.
– Ian McMurchy
BRAKING MUZZLE BLAST
"I’ve fallen in love with a certain rifle that’s fun to shoot and deadly accurate – but the noise is terrible! With a muzzle brake, this gun is so loud I can’t shoot it in a hunting situation without hurting my ears. I’ve hunted for roughly 4 years without the muzzle break, but the accuracy is much better with it on.
I would like to find a brake that would direct the blast and noise away from me. On the factory brake, it looks as though some of the brake holes angle back to the shooter. I can tolerate the noise without the muzzle brake on the barrel, but as mentioned before, it improves accuracy. I realize any muzzle brake will be loud, but this noise is unbearable." – Denny Rogers, via e-mail
Ouch! I feel your pain, man. Like too many shooters, I’ve lost a significant percentage of my hearing due to muzzle blasts. Muzzle brake or not, most firearms are loud enough to cause permanent nerve damage. You should always shoot with ear protection.
I realized this is a challenge while hunting – you need to listen for game. This can be solved with any of several hearing protection/enhancement devises from Walker’s Game Ear, Sport Ear, etc.
As for making your rifle shoot with another style of brake, consult various gunsmiths and custom gun builders. Many offer what they consider the “best, quietest, most effective brake on the market.” None will necessarily make your rifle shoot as well or better than it currently does. It’s the weight distribution of barrel/brake together that influence harmonic vibrations that largely determine accuracy. LimbSaver sells a rubber collar that does the same thing when you slide it over your barrel. I’ve cut bullet groups in half with one of those. If you don’t mind the recoil of your rifle, skip the brake and play with the harmonics until it shoots well. But even then, I strongly recommend using hearing protection at all times. – Ron Spoomer