Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun – .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot

Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun - .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot
Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun – .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot

U.S.A.-( The .22 shotshell, made by CCI holds 1/15th of an ounce of #12 shot. Based on minimal testing 40 years ago, I considered it near worthless. In the last few years my brother and a friend reported experiences that caused me to reconsider the round. Varmints up to the size of red squirrels were killed more than 20 feet away. A dedicated smoothbore gun was reported to be useful up to 30 feet. Some Internet reports claimed effective results to 15 yards, or 45 feet.

An intriguing claim was that Marlin rifles with microgroove rifling produced noticeably better patterns than other .22 rifles.

Some testing seemed in order. I had recently acquired a Mossberg 702 .22. Its rifling appeared similar to Marlin’s microgoove. It was added to the mix. Contemplating the problem of dispersing patterns caused by rifled barrels, I devised an experimental choke system to see if it would make a difference.

I tested the CCI rounds in an old Marlin model 60, the Mossberg 702, a CZ 455, and the CZ 455 with the experimental choke tube.

Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun - .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot
Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun – .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot

The .22 shot shell is a specialty round that shines for the control of small varmints and medium sized snakes at relatively short ranges. It has developed a reputation of being ineffective beyond a few feet. The size of the shot, #12, results in it being harmless after 30 yards. If fired into the air, most people are unlikely to notice the impact when it comes to ground. Fired inside a building, it does little or no damage. It will not penetrate wallboard or a roof. It is unlikely to damage a window if fired from more then 20 feet away. It has a mild report. The longer the barrel, the lower the report.

The four test items were fired at 10 and 20 feet. The experimental choke tube was patterned at 30 feet as well.

Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun - .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot
Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun – .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot

At 20 feet, the CZ 455 and the Marlin Model 60 have marginal patterns. The Mossberg 702 is adequate; the CZ 455 with the experimental choke tube is excellent.

Interpolated from a ballistic calculator, #12 lead pellets have these velocities and energies:

  • Muzzle – 1,000 fps .44 foot-pounds
  • 10 feet – 900 fps .36 foot-pounds
  • 20 feet – 800 fps .28 foot-pounds
  • 30 feet – 720 fps .23 foot-pounds
  • 45 feet – 600 fps .16 foot-pounds
  • 90 feet – 330 fps .05 foot-pounds

The pellets have lost 2/3 of their energy at 45 feet (15 yards). At 90 feet (30 yards), they have lost 88% of their energy and pose almost no danger. There may be enough energy and velocity at 15 yards to be used on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. When using small pellets, pattern is the key to killing power. The cylinder choke in the experimental choke tube produces a pattern that looks to be adequate to 30 feet.

Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun - .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot
Choke on a Rifle and a Usable Garden Gun – .22 Shot Shells #12 Shot

As a rough test of penetration, a full can of Mountain Dew was fired at from 30 feet. The can was knocked off the post and landed about 18 inches behind it. The #12 pellets easily penetrated the aluminum skin and 2.6 inches of carbonated water, then dented the skin behind the water. Some tests suggest 1.6 inches of water to 1 inch of gelatin equivalence; this would indicate about 1.6 inches of gelatin penetration, allowing the aluminum skin to be a rough equivalent of skin, hair, and feathers. Testing on live pests is preferred, but none presented themselves. 1.6 inches of penetration would be effective on most birds up to pigeons; and on most small mammals such as the northern red squirrel, chipmunk, or medium-sized rat.

A choke designed as an extra full choke should be able to triple the pattern density. That might make a usable pattern to 45 feet. More experimental work is in order. A properly made choke tube would center the pattern to the point of aim of the sights. The CCI .22 shot shells were remarkably consistent. The pellet count was calculated to be 168. The number of pellets were counted for five shots. The numbers were: 166, 164, 162, 173, and 172. The average for the five shots was 167.4.

It appears most .22 rifles produce usable patterns to 10 feet. Some, depending on the rifling, may be adequate to 20 feet.

Rifling in Mossberg 702 after firing with .22 shot shells. It was easily cleaned.

The Henry Garden Gun, recently released, seems to have a cylinder bore. It should give usable patterns to 30 feet.

Chokes installed on .22 rifles should duplicate the performance of a cylinder bore, and may exceed it. They would be the inverse of the paradox gun system.   A choke tube would allow the use of the rifled barrel for bullets as well. The rifled bullet would never touch the choke. It should deliver about the same accuracy as without the choke. In a rifled garden gun .22, the Aguila Super Colibri might be used.  it is a rough equivalent of a medium powered air gun. The Super Colibri propels a 20 grain bullet at 375 fps. If those tend to stick in the barrel of your rifle, CB cartridges could be used. Stabilized bullets are dangerous for longer distances, of course.

The experimental choke tube is thin walled aluminum with about a .55 inch inside diameter. It slips on the barrel with a friction fit

It appears that devices of similar or greater complexity are being marketed at under $40. Searches did not find any chokes on the market for .22 rifles. If readers experiment with choke tubes for .22 shot shells, we would like to read of your results.

All safety measures must be observed. Ammoland and the author publish the information for academic interest, and cannot assume any responsibility for actions taken by readers.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Wild Bill

I have a loaded revolver in every room in my house. The first chamber, of each, is loaded with a shot shell. In case of burglars, it is an easier clean up and kinder to the woodwork.


Wild Bill, a loaded revolver in every room in house, me too! I always liked to have one handy! When taking morning walk in summertime first two chambers are loaded with shot shells for snakes.

Wild Bill

@ras, that Is a good idea. I think that I’m going to load another chamber with shot, too!


Wild Bill, I have not had a shot at a copperhead or rattler yet. I don`t kill non poisonous snakes. I bet Texas has plenty of rattlers! I would like to see how my homemade shot shells perform.

Brasstard 7.62

I have a MO-SKEET-O 16ga adapter for 22 shotshells. Its about a 8 or 10 inch barrel that is tighter than a normal 22 and slides in the shotgun barrel using the remaning barrel like your choke does. It gives great patterns. I made a video on youtube on Brasstard 7.62 channel about it and in testing a Ruger mark2 gave a way better pattern than a Marlin 80g rifle but the adapter beat them all including a Beretta 21a


I recently purchased a Saiga .410 and a four round magazine to test for function. The gun is a pleasure to shoot. There are much higher capacity mags available, including a thirty round drum. In answer to the obvious “why”, I’d posit an old barn full of rats, pigeons, squirrels, etc. Don’t forget snakes.


This is just about what my own testing of these rounds produced back in the 1970’s. I used them on lots of sparrows and such that were always flying into the various outbuildings around the ranch I grew up on. Leave the overhead doors open and in they fly. Then they crap all over and nest in the rafters. From 15-20 feet indoors they killed small birds easily. I tried them outside and sparrows would just laugh them off at 15 yards. But we didn’t have smoothbore rimfires and special chokes in those days. I put them through a bolt… Read more »