Shotgun Barrels by Shane Hurkmans
From the dawn of firearms, people have tried to make gun barrels a standard bore of one type or another. Guns were smooth bores until the time rifling was born in the early 1500s. For use in the military, guns had to be the same bore for the ammunition that the army was using for the guns. Shotgun gauges are determined by the number of lead balls of a given diameter required to make one pound of that size ball. Thus 10 balls of 10-gauge diameter are required to make one pound of such balls, or 20 balls of 20 gauge diameters are required to make one pound, and so forth. This is the traditional, and very old, system. The actual, nominal, bore diameters of the various gauges are as follows: 10 gauge = .775 inch, 12 gauges = .729 inch, 16 gauges = .662 inch, 20 gauges = .615 inch, 28 gauges = .550 inch. The .410 is named for its nominal bore size, and is not a gauge at all. It is the diameter of the bore and not the gauge.
This gives you a taste of how shotgun gauges are determined. With this in mind I going to let you in on a few things that make up a shot gun barrel. When you pick up a shotgun now days, you have things to look at before buying a shotgun. First of all you need to look for a shotgun that will suit the needs of the hunt. Most guys lean towards a 12 gauge. So this is what I will use for this article.
When you and look at shotguns the first thing most guys look at is length of the chamber. Chambers come in different lengths, 2-¾ inch 3 inch and 3-½ inch. In front of the chamber is the forcing cone. This cone gives the chamber a place to stop and helps with stopping you from over loading the shotgun with shells that are not made for the gun. The cone compress’s the wad and shot at the point of firing, giving the pressure to get the load out of the barrel. In some guns, like computation shotguns the forcing cone is cut longer to help in pattering of the shot. When a forcing cone is tight it will distort the shot in the wad. This is not important when shooting at game, but when it comes to shooting trap or skeet you need a pattern that is consistent.
Now with that taken care of, we can move on to the most imported part of gun barrel and that is the choke. The choke is the part of the barrel that gives you the pattern needed for shooting game or clays. Chokes, now days, can be changed for different purposes of shooting. Back before interchangeable chokes, barrels were restricted to one or two types of shooting. Now we can use the same gun to shoot, what would have taken three or four guns to do a few years back. Chokes are determined by the inside diameter. The smaller the hole the tighter the pattern. Pattern is the distance separating the shot at a given distance. The pattern continually spreads out the further the distance. For an example, a full choke will have tighter pattern then an open choke, The pattern of the shot will hold a smaller distance apart at a further range than an open choke. The bigger the choke the looser the pattern is going to be.
For those that are going to be shooting this summer keep in mind that your choice of a choke can help you in hitting more birds. For trap at the 16-yard line, a modified to a full choke will work great for you. When shooting handy capped, from the 20-yard line or farther, I would recommend a full choke. For those of you that like to shoot skeet, I would recommend a modified to an open cylinder. You have to remember the closer you are the more open you want your pattern and a tighter pattern for longer shots.
Always remember to keep it fun and keep it safe.