When I was offered the chance to field-test the Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge semiautomatic shotgun, I agreed to do it, mostly because I agree to test any firearm. I wasn’t expecting to like it. I tend to like big guns, pumped up with sexy magnum loads of shoulder-ripping proportions. I want to make that clear, so you know where I’m coming from when I say this: I loved this gun. I want it for myself.
First, let’s back up the truck here a bit. My first experiences hunting with a 28 gauge involved a pheasant hunt put on by “another manufacturer” who had just come out with a sweet, top-of-the-line 28 gauge semiauto that retailed for close to two grand and shot like a dream. I usually tend to fall into the “more gun is better gun” crowd, and usually reach for a 12 gauge when it comes time to hit the field. Sometimes I grab a 20 gauge, but not often. So when they handed me that 28 gauge, I wasn’t expecting much. I was wrong.
But jump ahead to 2013 and I’m back in my home state of Michigan, free from pheasant temptations and firmly entrenched in waterfowl warfare, shouldering thundering 3-1/2-inch magnum 12 gauge scatter blasters. What was I going to do with the lowly Weatherby?
For starters, I hit the range and threw up some clays. The first three shots resulted in three dusted clays. I also noticed that my shoulder wasn’t resenting me. The lightweight gun, coming in at a nice 5-1/2 pounds, swings as easy as a politician, and its ergonomics ensure it fits very well. It also points nicely. I was soon handing it around to my father-in-law Brian and a few friends. We all found the gun a real kick to shoot, and Brian is not a shotgun guy. When the clays ran out before the shells, we switched to tomatoes and other assorted vegetables from the garden. Living in the backwoods has it advantages.
The SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge comes furnished with glossy walnut stocks and 22 LPI checkering in the grip and forend (what you’d expect from a gun with a name like Weatherby attached to it). The receiver is made from machined aluminum to keep weight down, and is a half pound lighter than its 20 gauge counterpart.
The chrome-lined barrel comes in either 26- or 28-inch lengths and has the standard fully-vented rib with a single brass front bead. The gun also comes with three interchangeable choke tubes to dial it in for different hunting conditions. My 28-inch-barreled test gun came with Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full chokes. With a Full choke, I was dusting clays at good ranges using the Winchester 2-3/4-inch, No. 8 AA Target loads. As expected, the ammunition preformed flawlessly.
The bolt is chrome-plated and the action never jammed once during the 200-shell test I put it through in pretty short order. I did get one of the Winchester loads to stick, but it was my fault. I have bigger hands and it can be a bit tricky to load the gun. It took me a second to realize that I wasn’t jamming in my usual 12 gauge shells. I got one a little crooked, what can I say?
Now for the real kicker—Weatherby brought the Turkish-made SA-08 28 gauge onto the market at an MSRP of $849! The other 28 gauge I had experience with costs about twice that. Yeah, I don’t know about you, but throwing an extra thousand dollars around is a pretty big deal to me.
The trigger pull is the only real downfall to the Weatherby SA-08. It’s a little chunky at just under six pounds, and I felt like it should be a bit lighter. It was still crisp, just a touch heavy. A gun’s trigger pull should not clock in heavier than its weight! It was actually a bit deceiving at first, because I was shooting some of my 12 gauges before switching to the SA-08. It took me a couple of shots to realize something was noticeably different. The gun shot so well, however, that I just didn’t care. Pull the trigger 200-plus times, though, and you start to care.
Let the scheming begin
After a day of shooting the SA-08, I started thinking of different things I want to do with it. I have some ruffed grouse hunts planned for the subgauge SA. I used to chase the northwoods drummers all over in my youth before the waterfowl demon took over. The fun I had shooting the Weatherby has reignited that fire.
I am drawn to trying the 28 gauge for ducks, too. There are a few steel and non-toxic loads available and I can’t help but think the easy-swinging “little gun” would be just the ticket for those deep woods beaver ponds I hike to in search of wood ducks and the occasional mallard.
While the gun is sized for an adult with a 14-3/8-inch length of pull, it can fit a lot of people. The 28 gauge SA-08’s combination of low recoil and accuracy make it a great gun for the young hunter in the house, or anyone who prefers a gun with lighter recoil—like my wife. At least that is the angle I’m trying to play with her. I am really hoping to persuade her to let me hold on to the Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge shotgun simply because it’s just fun to shoot. I may even drop the fact that the other brand costs over a grand more. If my wife can use that line of reasoning for shoes and stuff, why can’t I use it for guns?
Usually I like my imported shotguns to come from Italy, so I was a bit apprehensive about a Turkish-made scattergun. Let’s face it—the quality of guns from there has been hit-or-miss. But Weatherby did their homework and this is a truly fine gun worthy of any collector, hunter, or shooter. It’s a deep, solid notch in the “hit” column.