A reader once wrote my column asking:
I know traditionally the double gun’s best practical feature has been the availability of two chokes. I find, however, that in the case of my 28-gauge o/u I use skeet/skeet when I return to Michigan every couple of years for a woodcock-grouse hunt, and here in Missouri when I choose it for doves, it works best for me Modified/Modified. Maybe as I age getting off a good second shot is harder to come by, I’m not sure. More likely to have a second flush on the report with doodles/pats. One could argue repeaters would serve better here, but the ability to adapt to a two-choke configuration if need arises can be a comforting versatility to have. Do you ever configure your doubles this way? Do you still feel two different chokes serve a man best?
In general, I believe three shots beats two chokes, and if game-killing efficiency is your sole criteria for a shotgun, then you’ll bag a few more birds a year with a repeater than with a double gun. That would especially be true in the two cases you mention here.
When you can’t even see 40 yards, as is the norm in much of grouse and woodcock cover, almost any choke is too much. Skeet/Skeet makes a good combination. With doves, which you will shoot at unpredictable distances and directions, Modified/Modified in a 28 seems like as good a compromise as any.
In either case, you’d be better served by a gun that shot three times and didn’t have to be broken open to reload, as that is precisely the time another grouse flushes at your feet, or a dove floats by.
There are plenty of advantages to a break action gun that have nothing to do with choke. They are more compact than pumps and semiautos; they are more reliable; and they are easier guns to handle safely because with a flick of the lever you can open them up to cross obstacles, check the bore for obstructions, or to show someone they are unloaded. For those reasons, especially the last, I almost always hunt upland birds with break-action guns.
To your question, do I ever configure my guns with one choke, yes. My first O/U was a 20-gauge Ruger Red Label with fixed Skeet and Skeet chokes, and I shot a lot of birds with it. If I wanted a tighter second pattern, I could always load a buffered, 3-inch magnum in the top barrel. These days, though, I’ll usually go with IC/IM in choke-tubed guns, giving me complete confidence if I have to take a long follow-up shot.