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Weatherby SA-08 Review

Weatherby SA-08 Review

weatherby_sa-08_1Weatherby 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

Gauge:                     28

Chamber:               2¾-inch

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

MSRP:                   $799

Browning Maxus Hunter

The Maxus Hunter is a perfect companion for the upland hunter or clay shooter who still values the feel of a well-built, classically-styled field gun. It was designed for hard work and has the same heavy-duty guts as any of the other Maxus variants.The Maxus handles very well, partly because it is slightly nose-heavy, making the gun point naturally and swing smoothly on passing shots. The forearm is relatively narrow for a gas gun, and I much prefer the Maxus' rather flat-sided forearm to bulkier, fatter competitors. Read the full review

Caesar Guerini Ellipse EVO

It is interesting that the balance point or center of gravity of the EVO is slightly farther forward than the normal balance on the hinge pin. Some of this is due to the longer stock and the nicely figured walnut; not exhibition-grade, but pleasing to the eye. Many might dismiss this as being butt heavy, but until I checked the balance point, 5 …› inches in front of the trigger, I was unaware of any misbalancing of this gun. In fact when calculating the moment of inertia of the EVO, the measure of how much effort it takes to swing the gun on a bird, it measured very close to the 'ideal ' British side-by-side game gun. Read the full review

Franchi Affinity

The narrow fore-end, aluminum alloy receiver and simple Inertia Driven system also make the Affinity a very lightweight semi-auto; the 12-gauge version weighs only about 6.4 pounds while the 20-gauge weighs just 5.6 pounds. Despite the light weight, I shot most of a box of Black Cloud 3-inch ammo through the Franchi without excessive discomfort. Read the full review

Perazzi MX28B

The 'heart ' of any Perazzi is the locking system. I've never seen a Boss over-and-under, but evidently the Perazzi lock-up is similar if not the same. Barrels pivot on trunnions, as almost all of today's over/unders do. Two bolts extend forward from about the midpoint on each side of the receiver to lock into lugs built on both sides of the monobloc, just under the ejector areas. Read the full review

VersaMax Shotgun

The VersaMax is easily field-stripped without tools for cleaning. After the magazine cap and forearm are removed, the barrel is free to be pulled from the receiver. A twist of the wrist removes the bolt handle, allowing the bolt to be pulled forward and out of the receiver. Pushing on the firing pin with a finger while turning the bolt on its side and giving it a light tap frees the retention pin of the firing pin for removal. Read the full review

Weatherby SA-08

The Weatherby SA-08 is a modern gas-operated semi-automatic made in Turkey by the well-respected firm of ATA in Istanbul. The Waterfowler is a 12-gauge, 3-inch magnum, especially outfitted for ducks and geese, although it would be perfect for turkeys, too. It is striking in appearance, as it's decked out in Mothwing Marsh Mimicry camo pattern that is not only darn good to look at, but also blends well in a duck blind. This tough finish is applied by a special 'dipping ' process that adheres it to all metal and stock surfaces. Read the full review

CZ Super Scroll Combo

The Super Scroll over/under is built on a box-lock 20-gauge frame, and comes with an extra set of 28-gauge barrels and forend, all in a fitted aluminum hard case from Americase. Both barrel sets have automatic ejectors, (thanks to the 20-gauge frame), and five flush-fitting choke tubes are provided with each gauge. Read the full review

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