January 05, 2016
Watch the product video from Weatherby on their Orion shotgun.
Weatherby will always be associated with high-powered rifles, in large part because company founder Roy Weatherby helped initiate the American "magnum craze" of the mid-20th century.
But what many forget is Weatherby has been selling shotguns for 50 years, and the company's classy Orion and Athena stackbarrels, which were made by SKB in Japan, are some of the most highly sought after of all historic Weatherby firearms.
Today, shotguns represent a sizable and growing chunk of the Weatherby product line. Over the past decade the Turkish-made SA-08 semi-auto and the pump-action PA-08 have been perennial best-sellers for the company, and hunters appreciate the durability and classic styling of these affordable repeaters.
In 2015 Weatherby did add a double to their product line, a new iteration of the Orion shotgun. Pride of ownership has always been a hallmark of the brand, so the new Orion shotgun had to be a gun shooters were proud to own.
"Our new Orion shotgun is a rock-solid, beautiful over/under shotgun that offers exceptional balance and effortless swing through," said Adam Weatherby, executive vice president/chief operating officer.
"We subjected it to rigorous testing to ensure smooth, reliable performance. We also gave it the Weatherby touch to meet the expectations and inspire the dreams of hunters and shooters everywhere."
At the heart of the new Orion shotgun is the trim boxlock action, which is much thinner and narrower than the previous Japanese-made action.
That gives the Orion a narrow look, and the action is so shallow that it gives the slightly rounded forearm a somewhat paunchy profile.
The added girth on the forearm is a necessity, though — if the forearm was as narrow as the boxlock action, shooting the Orion would feel like breaking clays with a pool stick.
Action lockup is solid and the ejectors and other interior parts have a classy jeweled finish. The forged steel receiver has clean lines inside and out, and the action is smooth and tight.
Functionally, the new Orion shotgun is a classic field over/under, with a tang-mounted safety located just behind the top lever. The safety has an integrated barrel selector with the same shift pattern as most other over/unders — shoving the safety forward readies the gun to fire.
The new Orion shotgun is equipped with selective ejectors that send spent shells arcing out of the chamber.
I fired roughly a case through the new Orion and had no issues with any of the mechanicals whatsoever. The barrels ride on a massive hinge pin and the fit and finish is excellent. It's a solid gun throughout, tight and well-balanced.
The weight rests properly between the hands, and the Prince-of-Wales grip is a nice touch, giving the gun a classy look. Unlike many other over/unders, including the last Weatherby shotguns, the new Orion comes with a push-rod forearm release with the rod position just below the bottom barrel on the front of the forearm.
No frilly high-vis sights on the Orion shotgun, just a simple bead — perfectly functional for upland or waterfowl (you shouldn't be relying on your sight anyway on these hunts).
Three choke tubes are provided, but more are available if needed. For most field situations, the IC/M/F trio that comes in the box should suffice. The new Weatherby's barrels are chrome-lined, a feature designed to improve barrel life and pattern consistency.
I pattern upland guns to determine elevation and uniformity, and I use an NRA 30-inch pheasant silhouette as my standard.
By my estimation the Orion shoots dead flat, which is pretty typical for a field gun, and the patterns produced at 15 and 25 yards with an IC choke tube and #8 AA target loads were very consistent.
The Orion shotgun has a rather straight comb profile, which is pretty standard for field guns, and it comes to the shoulder nicely.
The Orion is a simple but classy gun, with a high-polished receiver and A grade walnut stock that look good and stand up to abuse. The receiver itself is very austere, bearing only the Weatherby name, but it looks good, and I don't think that there's much question that, as with the previous Weatherby shotguns, you're going to see higher grade guns appear over time.
The original Japanese Orion Grade I shotguns were similar to this gun, but higher-end guns with more elaborate engraving and fancier wood followed, topping out with the stunning Athena V.
Weatherby has set us up for a repeat performance, debuting the Orion as the basic black field gun at a working-man's price with plans to add indulgences as grades increase.
I shot multiple rounds of trap, skeet and sporting clays with the Orion over the course of several weeks. It was a fine companion — supremely accurate.
A soft black recoil pad helps dampen the rearward push, and has a rounded hard rubber insert on the heel that prevents the pad from hanging in your vest or coat as you come up to shoot.
The Weatherby's balance and stock ergonomics make it point naturally and swing smoothly. The slightly nose-heavy feel helped smooth follow-throughs, and the Prince-of-Wales grip and straight comb make this a great gun for flushing pheasants, grouse and Huns because it seems to jump to the shoulder and allows for quick, consistent shots.
Barrel Length: 26", 28"
Stock: A-grade walnut
Chokes: 3 (IC/M/F)
Weight: 7 pounds
Length: 43 3/4" to 45 3/4"