For as long as I can remember, the fall season has been my favorite. The days start getting cooler, and the leaves start changing color. With these changes comes the hunting season. That’s probably why I look forward to fall.
I discovered waterfowl hunting “later in life” compared to the other small game hunting I had pursued. You’d think with all the gadgets involved in duck hunting I would have found it sooner. In hindsight, I was probably too occupied with the other “gadgetry” sports like muzzleloading and archery to notice.
My first shotgun was a Winchester Model 12 pump-action, in 16 gauge, handed down from my grandfather to my father and, finally, to me. My grandfather told me when I was given this shotgun that if I harvested a quarter of the game the gun had already taken to date, I would have killed a lot of game. My grandfather, who purchased the shotgun new in 1929, was a tool and die maker by trade and had learned how to do custom gunsmithing work. My dad had him begin customizing the Model 12 in anticipation of my eventual ownership.
He added a recoil pad, detachable sling swivel studs, a large-button safety, a ventilated Poly-Choke on the barrel, shortening it from 28 to 24 inches, and checkered the stock. Shotguns now all come either with or can easily have the sling swivel studs added to them. Sixty years ago, a sling on a shotgun was unusual. The 24-inch barrel length was also uncommon.
The thing that really made that shotgun versatile, though, was the Poly-Choke. For those who don’t know, the Poly-Choke was a permanently attached addition to the end of the barrel that, by twisting the ventilated collar, could adjust the choke setting of the barrel from no choke to X-full simply by tightening or loosening the collar, like adjusting a water hose nozzle. That was quite a change from the fixed choke settings common in shotguns of the times.
Shotgun evolution continued and almost all shotguns manufactured today come with a set of interchangeable choke tubes that screw into the end of the barrel. The most common set includes three tubes: an improved cylinder, a modified, and a full choke tube with the wrench to tighten the chokes in the barrel. These tubes provide more versatility than the old, fixed-choke system, but still take time to change in the field if shooting conditions suddenly change.
I eventually moved on to a 12-gauge Browning Auto-5 Mag for my waterfowl hunting and learned that an aftermarket choke tube, similar in function to the old Poly-Choke, but which screwed into the barrel, was available. The choke is made in the USA by TRUGLO and is known as the Titan Choke Tube. It is made of stainless steel and titanium and retailed for around $100.
I ordered one for my Browning Auto-5 shotgun and shot it in preparation for the waterfowl season. The variable choke is rated to work with any type of shot, including lead, steel, and all the other non-toxic shot available in today’s waterfowl hunting loads.
In my pre-season shooting sessions with that choke tube and steel shot, I hit more practice targets than I ever have before. I think the ability to “custom-twist” the choke setting to match the range of the clay birds was a big factor.
Because the actual choke adjustment section extends outside the shotgun barrel, the barrel is lengthened about two inches. My 28-inch barrel is now a functional 30-incher, which is not a bad thing in helping maintain my swing on pass-shooting ducks.
The Titan Choke Tube comes with two cautions. First, when the tube is screwed all the way open (no choke), a positive stop engages the sleeve. Don’t try to remove or force the sleeve open past this point or significant damage could occur. Second, when turning the choke sleeve from a tighter to a more open choke, the entire unit might partially unscrew inside the shotgun barrel. After changing choke settings, always check that the choke tube is securely tightened in the barrel using the supplied wrench.
I hunted with that shotgun for almost three decades before, once again, moving on to a different shotgun. I began using a Remington 11-87 12-gauge with internal choke tubes, but because I wanted to try some goose hunting, I bought a used Remington SP-10 10-gauge and used it the last time I went waterfowl hunting. No geese but I did shoot a couple of ducks!