Choosing shotgun shells and choke tubes can be confusing to say the least. Just go to Academy and look at the variety, 1oz., 1 1/8oz., 7 shot, 7.5 shot, 2 3/4″, 3″, lead, tungsten etc, etc, etc. If you’re not careful you could spend a fortune on the wrong shells. Let’s examine what the numbers mean.
Let’s use, say 8 shot, 1 oz, 2 3/4 in lead heavy dove load for an example.
- #8 shot is size of the shot, the bigger the #, the smaller the shot. Remember though, the bigger the number the more BB’s there are in the shell. If you subtract the number of the shot from 17 that gives you the actual size of the BB, i.e 17-8=9, meaning 8 shot = 9/100 or .090″. Every BB is .090″ in 8 shot. Got it, good.
- 1 oz is how many ounces of BB’s there are. So it makes since now the smaller the BB’s, the more that fit into the shell. For instance, in 7.5 shot there are 350 BB’s, and in 8 shot there are 410 (in a 1oz load).
- 2 3/4″ is simply how long the shell is. Some shotguns shoot up to 3.5″, but were shooting dove, not 747’s (the airplanes).
- Lead is what the shot is made of. Lead is the best for inflicting the most damage for the money, steel is more environmentally friendly but sucks in the killing department, and tungsten is too damn expensive.
Okay, now that you have an idea what all the numbers mean, let’s drill down into the dove loads. You most likely will want 7.5 to 8 shot when dove hunting. 17 wsm ammo If you are new to shooting go with the eight shot / 1 1/8 oz and up load, 2 3/4″ shell(exactly the shell I shoot). This load will give you a very dense pattern (lots of BB’s) and increase the odds of shooting the dove. If you are a little further along you might go with a 7.5 because the larger shot inflicts more damage. Personally, I shoot an 8 shot still because it’s what I’m used to. The more ounces, the more money the shell costs. If you’ve got the budget you can shoot the heavier loads to add more firepower. Don’t spend too much time on this because it is much more important to have good fundamental shooting than to rely on a good bullet to make up for what you lack in.
You’ve made your selection on the shells you want to shoot on your dove hunting trip, now it’s time to decide which choke to use. Most modern shotguns have screw in, interchangeable choke tubes. The three most common are full choke, modified choke, and improved cylinder. Contrary to popular belief these have nothing to do with how far shotgun shoots. A Lot of dove hunters will put a full choke in thinking it will allow them to shoot farther, this is really not true. A full choke holds the pattern of shot in a tighter pattern (for a longer distance), for a more concentrated amount of shot entering the target. Great for geese, pheasant and other large birds, but you try to hit a dove coming across you from 25 yards out at MACH 2 with a full choke and you had better do everything right and still get a little bit lucky. Bottom line, unless you are an expert shot-gunner a full choke will cause you a lot of frustration (and misses, especially in the closer ranges).
Next is modified choke, this is a common choke used when dove hunting. It opens up better in the closer ranges than a full choke will, but holds a little tighter pattern than improved. Considering most shots on dove should be 35 yards and under my vote is improved cylinder. Improved gives you the widest pattern that is still deadly at 35 yards. I shot modified for years and was fairly successful, but when I made the switch to improved my accuracy improved dramatically. My philosophy is put a heavy 8 shot in the air with an improved cylinder and you’ll spend less time cussing and more time looking for dove and bragging about how great of a shot you are.