What I meant by fluke was not the picture of your laser spot test - or that your choke (iris/aperture) was not doing anything, but that what you had achieved was a fluke, ie, you got lucky, even though it was presumably still a lot of work...
As I said, although flares do follow a pattern, there is considerable variation; some people don't have the "carrot" opposite the "rabbit ears" for instance - so perhaps the particular qualities of your laser flare worked with your design and manual positioning.
I think it's relatively easy to trim the spot with an aperture to remove the flare, but the difficulty is in not removing power from the actual spot at the same time - since all the light is passing through the same small window close the laser.
I also think it's next to impossible to judge "split hairs" simply by eye-balling the resulting spot shining on the wall, I can only think you got lucky - both with your laser flare profile, and in fitting your choke. I cant see it being a repeatable procedure.
Also - how much print testing did you do?