a shotgun with a split barrel

Can You Fire A Slug Through A Full Choke?

Shotguns have many uses. From sporting clays to home defense has varied purposes. Chokes are used by those wanting either tighter or more spread patterns to their shot.

As shotguns are also used for firing singular projectiles, a natural question arises. Whether a single projectile can be passed through a choke designed for tightening birdshot patterns. So, can you fire a slug through a full choke?

Yes, you can fire a slug through a full choke, and it’s relatively safe (ALWAYS read the ammunition advice). However, since a full choke is narrower, it may wear out quickly or fracture with repeated use. Some rifled slugs will tell you they can be fired through any choke but mention that improved cylinder chokes get the best performance usage. Rifled slugs can be designed to deform through the narrower choke, but will lose both power and accuracy relative to a cylinder or improved cylinder choke.

As you fire slugs through the more full chokes, with repeated use you will open the choke too much and change the nature of the choke. If you can help it, there’s no specific need to fire a slug through a choked shotgun.

explanation of choke patterns diagram

(Credit: Bass Pro Shops)

Please keep reading to find out how a full choke works and which is the best choke for slugs.

What Is A Shotgun Slug?

A shotgun slug is a large piece of lead, copper, or other metal that’s shaped like a bullet. It’s commonly used in hunting big game due to its tremendous stopping power, especially for short-range shots. 

But it’s also extensively used in law enforcement as well as self-defense.

The original shotgun slugs were small balls (small enough to slide through the barrel). However, shotgun rifles didn’t have rifling back then. Therefore, they didn’t spin the bullets, leading to inaccurate shots. Slugs have evolved over time and below are some of the most common types;

Full-bore

These slugs are heavier on the front part to ensure the front tip is always pointed forward during flight. This is also known as the shuttlecock mechanism. Below are the most common full-bore slugs. They are also designed for smooth-bore shotguns.

Brenneke’s Slug (European Slug)

Wilhelm Brenneke’s invention in 1898 inspired the slugs in use today. He designed a slug with most of its weight on the front part and with “ribs” all around it. The ribs reduced friction as the bullet travelled through the barrel.

He also added a wad (made of fiber or plastic) that blocks the barrel preventing gases and pressure from escaping. This feature ensures the slugs have a higher muzzle velocity. It doesn’t deform much upon impact, making it penetrate deep into the target. 

It’s best suited for short-range shots.

Foster Slug (American Slug)

In 1931, Karl M. Foster designed the Foster slug. Just like the Brenneke’s slug, the weight of the bullet is at the front tip. But he did this by creating a hollow section in the rear.

This hollow section helps stabilize the bullet when in flight. It also has some ribs that make the bullet rotate, maintaining a straight flight path. The ribs also make both the Foster slug and Brenneke Slug safe to fire through a choke.

Saboted Slugs

Saboted slugs are designed for rifled shotguns. As a result, they are more accurate since the barrel grooves impact a gyroscopic effect.

The sabot is often made of plastic, and it functions like the wad by blocking gases and pressure, and it falls once the bullet leaves the barrel.

What Is Meant By Full Choke On A Shotgun?

Chokes are tube-like tools used to control how fast a shot spreads after it leaves the barrel. 

They do this by minimizing the size of the barrel in the last few inches. 

Shotguns can come with a fixed choke or a screw-in choke depending upon the make and model.

choke type diagram

Constrictions define chokes. So the full choke has the tightest constriction and sends out a denser pattern when dealing with shots. The pattern radius is considered tighter, so the shooter has to be more accurate but the target will receive more shot.

The only choke with more constrictions than a full choke is the super-full/extra-full. 

These types of chokes are very narrow and suitable for turkey hunting. Their narrow nature ensures they send dense shots and make headshots. 

You should not use any other type of slug with super-full-chokes.

Other types of chokes include;

  • Cylinder choke This type has no constrictions. It’s suitable for Foster slugs and Brenneke slugs. All slugs should go through this choke.
  • Improved Cylinder This type has the least constrictions. You’ll find it recommended in most Foster Slug ammo boxes. However, it may wear out quickly when used with a Brenneke Slug. So make sure you check the ammo instructions before using it with this choke.
  • Modified – This choke has relatively more constrictions than the improved cylinder but less than in the full choke. You’ll also find it recommended for some ammo, but it can lead to wildly inaccurate shots relative to other chokes.

Shooting Slugs Through A Full Choke

If you are into any form of clay pigeon shooting then chokes may be familiar to you, but many  shotgun users prefer slugs since they are more powerful and they don’t scatter pellets as buckshot does. 

Depends upon use obviously.

You can fire the slugs through a full choke, but you should be aware of the possible outcomes. The choke could fracture, hurling pieces at the shooter and those around him/her. 

In most cases, you’ll just wear out the choke until it becomes an improved cylinder or a modified choke. Worst case scenario, the barrel could burst (in low-quality barrels) when the slug fails to go through the choke.

Since lead is a soft material, the rifled slugs (Foster and Brenneke) will still manage to go through the full choke. 

Shots will be less accurate though, with lower power. The saboted slugs may not cause more damage since the plastic sabot “shrinks” as the slug goes through the choke.

Final Thoughts

There’s no good reason to shoot slugs through a full choke. 

Accidents may not always occur, especially when using Foster slugs. However, there are a lot of other better options since the full choke minimizes accuracy.

If you have to use a choke, don’t choose anything tighter than a modified choke. 

The improved cylinder works for most types of slugs. Also, make sure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate choke to use for the slug.

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