Home Blog  
Education / Training Does a choked barrel improve air rifle accuracy?

Does a choked barrel improve air rifle accuracy?

By B.B. Pelletier

Some airgun chat forums are currently buzzing with discussions about choked rifle barrels and what they can or cannot do. As usual, there are a few knowledgeable people and a much larger crowd of kibitzers with nothing to say – and saying it very loudly.

What is a choke?
A choked barrel refers to a reduction in the bore dimensions at the muzzle of the gun. The purpose for this reduction, according to pellet makers at Handler & Naterman (H&N), is to size all pellets just before they leave the gun. It ensures uniformity.

Chokes are more than a century old
Let’s examine history to see if chokes really work. First we learn that Harry Pope, the acknowledged Stadivarius of rifle barrel makers, almost always choked his barrels. Most of the guns he made (and ALL of the most accurate ones) were muzzleloaders, and you might wonder how a choked muzzle can benefit a bullet that is rammed through it during the loading process. Wouldn’t that squeeze it too small?

Well, when the powder charge ignites, burning gasses smack the base of the bullet hard, smashing it out fatter until it hugs every crevice of the bore. When it gets to the muzzle, the choke sizes it down once more just before it leaves the gun. Pope’s barrels set every world record in their day; a century later, they’re still regarded as some of the finest barrels ever made.

Lothar Walther chokes their barrels, too
A second endorsement comes from Lothar Walther, the German company that is well-known for making fine airgun barrels. They can supply their barrels with or without a choke, but their choked barrels out-shoot their unchoked barrels by a significant margin. They tell that to anyone who does business with them.

Now, a word from the school of hard knocks…
There are the incidents of hundreds of airgun tinkerers who have cut off the ends of their barrels for one reason or another. They nearly always suffer an accuracy loss that they can never recover. They will tell you the reason the shorter barrels don’t shoot as accurately is because of the new crown (the shape and uniformity of the muzzle), but the truth is that no amount of re-crowning will ever get those barrels to shoot again. The one instance where cutting off the end of a barrel improves accuracy is when the muzzle has been ruined by improper cleaning that has worn away the rifling.

How to tell if you have a choke
Use a cleaning rod to push a pellet through your barrel from the breech to the muzzle. You’ll feel resistance at about 1.5″ to 2″ from the muzzle on a deliberately choked barrel.

Pope lapped in his chokes during the polishing process. Modern barrel makers squeeze the bore down mechanically – a process known as swaging. On many springers, the act of swaging in the front sight dovetails on the outside of the barrel also reduces the bore at the muzzle. It isn’t a formal choke, per se, but it works just the same.

The choke discussion is a topic that has fueled conversations for more than a century, and it isn’t going to end here. An interesting book on the topic of accurate barrels is The Story of Pope’s Barrels by Ray M. Smith.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

10 thoughts on “Does a choked barrel improve air rifle accuracy?”

  1. B.B.,

    The diablo pellet has a distinct head and skirt. It seems that you wouldn’t want the head making contact all the way down the bore since that would increase friction. It just seems with the head smaller, then the pellet could have a slight angle (yaw?) going down the bore.

    Near the end of the barrel, the lands/groves have been “worn” into the skirt. So at bit more of a constriction wouldn’t slow pellet terribly.

    QUESTION: Since the head is narrower in diameter than the skirt, is the purpose of the choke to cause the head to line up (center) axially with the bore?


  2. Herb,

    There's not supposed to be any yawing of the pellet in the bore. Although the head is smaller, it's still supposed to be centered & engraved in the rifling. What the choke does is ensure that all pellets emerge from the gun with a uniform diameter because some of them are so small that the choke's the only thing that they contact. It squeezes them all down to the same size.


  3. Jan,

    Theoretically, yes. But nobody has ever proven the theory.

    The finest firearm barrels made for lead bullets were always choked, as well. Even those that were loaded from the muzzle– which many supposed would cancel the choke effect. Yet they worked just as well as a breechloaded choked barrel.



  4. Here’s what Hans-H. Weihrauch of Weihrauch & Weihrauch Sport GmbH & Co.KG has to say on the matter:

    ‘Probably there is an ongoing debate. We have already confirmed several times, that our barrels are chocked. But some how the people are discussing it again and again.’

Leave a Comment

Buy With Confidence

  • Free Shipping

    TEST Get FREE shipping on qualifying orders! Any order $150+ with a shipping address in the contiguous US will receive the option for free ground shipping on items sold & shipped by Pyramyd AIR during checkout. Certain restrictions apply.

    Free shipping may not be combined with a coupon unless stated otherwise.

    View Shipping Info

  • Shipping Time Frame

    We work hard to get all orders placed by 12 pm EST out the door within 24 hours on weekdays because we know how excited you are to receive your order. Weekends and holiday shipping times will vary.

    During busy holidays, we step our efforts to ship all orders as fast as possible, but you may experience an additional 1-2 day delay before your order ships. This may also happen if you change your order during processing.

    View Shipping Times

  • Shipping Restrictions

    It's important to know that due to state and local laws, there are certain restrictions for various products. It's up to you to research and comply with the laws in your state, county, and city. If you live in a state or city where air guns are treated as firearms you may be able to take advantage of our FFL special program.

    U.S. federal law requires that all airsoft guns are sold with a 1/4-inch blaze orange muzzle or an orange flash hider to avoid the guns being mistaken for firearms.

    View Shipping Restrictions

  • Expert Service and Repair

    We have a team of expert technicians and a complete repair shop that are able to service a large variety of brands/models of airguns. Additionally, we are a factory-authorized repair/warranty station for popular brands such as Air Arms, Air Venturi, Crosman, Diana, Seneca, and Weihrauch airguns.

    Our experts also offer exclusive 10-for-$10 Test and 20-for-$20 Service, which evaluates your air gun prior to leaving our warehouse. You'll be able to add these services as you place your order.

    View Service Info

  • Warranty Info

    Shop and purchase with confidence knowing that all of our air guns (except airsoft) are protected by a minimum 1-year manufacturer's warranty from the date of purchase unless otherwise noted on the product page.

    A warranty is provided by each manufacturer to ensure that your product is free of defect in both materials and workmanship.

    View Warranty Details

  • Exchanges / Refunds

    Didn't get what you wanted or have a problem? We understand that sometimes things aren't right and our team is serious about resolving these issues quickly. We can often help you fix small to medium issues over the phone or email.

    If you need to return an item please read our return policy.

    Learn About Returns

TEST Get FREE shipping on qualifying orders! Any order $150+ with a shipping address in the contiguous US will receive the option for free ground shipping on items sold & shipped by Pyramyd AIR during checkout. Certain restrictions apply.

Free shipping may not be combined with a coupon unless stated otherwise.

View Shipping Info

Text JOIN to 91256 and get $10 OFF Your Next $50+ Order!

* By providing your number above, you agree to receive recurring autodialed marketing text msgs (e.g. cart reminders) to the mobile number used at opt-in from Pyramyd AIR on 91256. Reply with birthday MM/DD/YYYY to verify legal age of 18+ in order to receive texts. Consent is not a condition of purchase. Msg frequency may vary. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel. See Terms and Conditions & Privacy Policy.