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 specifics

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 SA-08 28 Gauge had no problems running through 200 shells of Winchester 2-3/4-inch No. 8 AA Target loads.
The SA-08 28 Gauge had no problems running through 200 shells of Winchester 2-3/4-inch No. 8 AA Target. Image by Matt Korovesis.

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.

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