You should have a choke or two for a hunting shotgun, but what about a home defense shotgun? Does the tactical set need to bother with Improved Modified or Turkey choke for their black plastic boomstick?
It’s actually not a bad idea. It isn’t 100 percent necessary, but there’s no downside to having one in your home defense shotgun.
The Hunting Analogy
You see, people who don’t know anything about shotguns think and say things indicating that spread is desirable at close range. It’s actually not. In point of fact, you only want a little bit of spread to your patterns with a hunting shotgun, let alone a home defense gun.
Okay, to explain something to the non-hunters among us: While some spread is good, too much is not. Birds are one of the few game animals that you’re better off shooting in the head. The classic shot on a turkey, for instance, is put your bead on the wattle rather than over the head or covering the chest cavity.
Why? Partly because the brain guarantees a quick, clean kill. Also, the breasts are most of the meat you get off a bird. Since those are the prime cuts, you don’t necessarily want to shoot the vital organs if you can help it.
Granted, drums and thighs are only disdained by people who don’t know what the heck they’re doing in a kitchen. Learn how to braise, people!
Anyhow, since a turkey’s head is only about the size of a fist, you want most of your shot in a rather tight pattern. That way, there’s a greater chance that a pellet will strike the brain or upper spine and a lesser chance you’ll lose a tooth to a No. 5 peppercorn in the breast meat.
This is why the extended turkey choke is a thing, which puts 75 percent of a shell’s pellets in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards.
Your Home Defense Shotgun
How does this relate to home defense?
Well, human vitals aren’t that big either. The chest is about the size of a watermelon, with some big bones covering the sensitive bits.
The heart, however, is the size of an apple. The lungs are bigger, of course, but only the top of the lungs are in the chest cavity; they extend into the abdomen. The tops of the lungs are about the size of two apples on either size of the heart.
The brain is about the size of a grapefruit, but the really sensitive parts — namely the midbrain, the pons, the medulla and basilar artery — are about the size of a banana.
To guarantee a hit on something that matters, you actually want your shot in a concentrated area. A little bit of spread is good, sure, but not too terribly much.
Long guns are better man-stoppers than handguns, this is true. Are they a guarantee of lethality or a one-shot stop? Hardly at all. Read, for instance, the accounts of the NYPD’s stakeout squad from the 1970s; there were observed instances of suspects absorbing multiple rounds of buckshot at close range (inside a room) and not going down.
As you might have guessed, this also means that a shotgun must be used accurately in order to be effective.
Do I Need a Choke?
Shot that is placed precisely is more likely to stop an attacker than used in a “spray and pray” fashion.
Granted, spread will be minimal with buckshot in the home. In that instance, a choke isn’t strictly speaking necessary. However, a Modified or Improved Modified choke (basically the best all arounders with a medium constriction) will hardly hurt. If you decide to hit the dove field or turkey woods, it’ll come in handy there too.
For those intending on having a scattergun in their trunk as a car gun, a choke is actually desirable as you want a tighter pattern for all the reasons mentioned above. Since the backup shotgun is going to be used to engage a hostile target at longer distances, a Full or Turkey choke would be recommended.
So, do you need a choke in your home defense shotgun? Not especially, no … but it’s not a bad idea if you do.