There has been steady improvement in steel-shot loads over the past several years. Lead shot is softer than steel and will conform as it goes out the barrel and squeezes through the choke. Steel shot is hard and does not conform to the choke; this requires hunters to change the shotguns and chokes they had previously used for lead shot. Full chokes can be used for lighter steel loads; modified and improved cylinder chokes are recommended by firearms manufacturers.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Adjustment chart for steel and lead shot
Purchase steel shot that is two sizes larger than comparable lead shot. The common lead shot for duck hunting is No. 4. The steel version is No. 1 or No. 2.
Use a full choke only for steel shot that is No. 4 or under. Shooting larger-size steel shot through a full choke can cause damage.
Use a shotgun with a modified or improved cylinder choke for all steel shot that is No. 1 or larger. These chokes will give a full-shot pattern without damaging the choke. A full choke will release steel shot in an erratic pattern.
Install an adjustable choke to the shotgun barrel; it can now fire lead or steel shot of any size.
Bore out a full choke to a modified choke if the shotgun is to be used exclusively for shooting steel shot.
Tips and warnings
- Study a shot conversion chart comparing lead to steel shot.
- Steel shot is made from steel, bismuth, or tungsten. Try each type to see how it patterns.
- Do not attempt to put an adjustable choke or bore out the barrel on a shotgun yourself. Take it to a gunsmith for this work.
- Some older model shotguns cannot tolerate steep short as the barrel is not strong enough to handle harder loads. Have the gun examined by a gunsmith to determine if it can handle steel shot.
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