Weatherby SA-08 Review
September 29, 2014
Weatherby has become well-known of late for its diverse and ever-changing line of shotguns. Gone are the over/under models like the Regency, Orion and the opulent Athena. In their stead are practical pumps and semi-autos in a myriad of configurations for upland, waterfowl, turkey hunting, sporting clays and even some tactical versions.
These pumps and semi-autos are made to the company's specifications by ATA Arms, a huge and highly respected firm headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey. But hunting is the main focus of Weatherby shotguns, so it is only appropriate that we examine one of the newest and — if I might so opine — best of the bunch.
The SA-08 semi-autos are practical field guns available in 12, 20 and now 28 gauges. Models with wood stocks wear satin or high-lustre finishes; synthetic stocks are black or camouflage, and metalwork is available in matte or high-gloss blue. All operate with Weatherby's unique "Dual-Valve System," designed to optimize the recoil impulse, depending on the load.
Weatherby includes two gas valves or "pistons" with every SA-08, clearly marked "Light Loads" or "Heavy Loads." The loads that function with each are clearly delineated in the owner's manual. Besides reliability, another benefit of these valves is that they help manage recoil. This saves wear and tear on both the gun and the shooter.
I had already hunted with SA-08s in 12 and 20 gauges, and was impressed, so when I learned that a new 28-gauge model had been added to the line, I had to try one.
The new SA-08 28-gauge is a handsome piece, fleet in the hands, and well balanced. The stock and forend are of hand-selected Turkish walnut that have a surprising amount of figure and a spiffy high-gloss finish.
Nicely-cut 18 lpi point-pattern checkering dresses up the wood and gives good purchase for the hands. The pistol-grip stock has a gently curved recoil pad that is ¾-inch thick at the toe and heel. It's but ½-inch thick in the middle, and its smooth surface doesn't impede a quick gun mount and is soft enough to soak up what little recoil the 28-gauge produces.
The ventilated rib barrel of my gun is 26 inches long, but a 28-inch is also offered. The SA-08s have Weatherby's "Integral Multi-Choke" (IMC) System, and each comes with improved cylinder, modified, and full tubes, and a choke-tube wrench. All but the full tube are rated for steel shot.
The balance point is exactly at the barrel-receiver junction, and overall, it shot like a dream. I did not have a single malfunction of any kind in either testing on a day hunt for quail.
The barrel has a very uniform and attractive bright blue finish, and the black on the aluminum-alloy receiver looks about a foot deep. The bolt and carrier are chrome-plated.
The trigger is one of the best I've ever seen on a shotgun, breaking at a crisp 5 pounds, 10 ounces, and a cross-bolt safety is located at the back of the trigger-guard behind the trigger. The entire trigger unit is easily removed for cleaning by drifting out a single pin. The bolt release button lies in the familiar location beneath the ejection port on the right side of the receiver, just where you'd expect it to be.
The SA-08 gobbled up all the factory and handloads I fed it, with the proper gas valve in place. The 28's usual load of ¾-ounce of shot was perfect with the "light" valve, but wouldn't cycle with the heavy valve — just like it's not supposed to. Even my 13/16-ounce loads wouldn't work the action with the "heavy" piston. It took Federal's 7/8-ounce factory ammo to budge the "heavy" piston, and of course, Winchester's 1-ounce "magnum" loads at a leisurely 1,145 fps cycled the heavy piston with ease.
To field test the SA-08, I took it to the Claythorne Lodge Shooting Preserve near Columbus, Kan. Claythorne features pheasants and quail, and has over 600 acres of diverse cover, from grassy fields, timber, to briar-covered slopes.
Chief dog handler Jake Neeley had a kennel trailer full of anxious puppies that were ready to hunt.
Released birds still have to be hunted, and as the dogs scampered all over the fields, they would lock up in solid points every few minutes, and we'd walk 'em up. Several times the shifty little rascals waited until we'd walked by them, then flushed — usually right over my partner Jake, so we couldn't shoot, and quite a few lived to fight another day. And yes, I must confess, we did miss a few!
Nevertheless, in the course of a few hours, we saw some great dog work, shot 36 quail (we were allowed 40), had a great time, and went home tired with plenty of meat for the freezer.
If you love the 28-gauge (and who doesn't?), you really ought to take a look at this addition to Weatherby's SA-08 line. The lissome little auto-loader is aesthetically pleasing, functionally reliable, modestly priced, and is just the ticket for a fine day afield with your favorite bird dog.
Manufacturer: ATA Arms; imported by Weatherby
Action: Gas-operated semi-automatic, Dual-Valve
Barrel length: 26 or 28 inches, chrome-lined, vent rib
Magazine capacity: 5 (2¾-inch shells, plug included)
Chokes: Integral Multi-Choke (IMC) System, IC, M, and F
Overall length: 46 or 48 inches
Weight: 5 pounds, 10 ounces
Trigger Pull: 6 pounds, 14½ ounces
Safety: Cross-bolt, behind trigger
Stock: Select European walnut
Length of Pull: 14 inches
Drop and comb: 1½ inches
Drop at Heel: 2¼ inches
Finish: Metal High-lustre blue