Mark Stone Gets to grips with the new SA-08 Synthetic from Weatherby, one of the greatest names in American semi-auto shotguns.
It’s safe to say that the observant amongst you will recognise this Turkish built semi–auto as one I’ve looked at before, the only discernable difference being the name down the side.
And quite right to, although I’ll leave you guessing as to what that alternative name was since in its previous guise the gun failed due solely to importer problems. No such difficulties now though, the legendary name Weatherby firmly emblazoned along either side of the black action along with the cast iron support and distribution of the Sportsman Gun Centre as its UK agent. The other interesting aspect is that besides the name change this lively little gasser has got better,the interim period injecting some additional performance into the finished item. Inkeeping in many ways with their way of doing things, Weatherby over the years have either manufactured or added their name to a whole cross-section of guns. Their main problem is that irrespective of their diversity, shooters nearly always associate the Weatherby name with rifles not shotguns, their various Magnums and Vanguards nearly always taking centre stage. But with the ntroduction of the new SA 08 things with luck will change, this Turkish built semi-auto typifying the Weatherby ethos of affordability, durability and sheer, no nonsense, no frills workaday firearms that appeal to the shotgunner looking for function over form.
Up and running
Unpack the SA 08 and you’ll be up and running within minutes. A basic simple kit, the box contains nothing more than the SA 08 Synthetic along with a small plastic case housing the two spare chokes (marked ¼ and Full), a choke key along with another box marked ‘Parts’ which rather euphemistically refers to the alternative heavy load gas valve of which more later, and a Weatherby branded padlock. The SA 08 itself in this instance is the Synthetic version which means the black anodised receiver is complimented by a black moulded stock complete with a deep, honeycombed recoil pad and a long, nicely rounded forend. Both these items are complete with neat, patterned panels of fine chequering around the gently radiused ambidextrous grip and forend, this part of the furniture also featuring two extended finger grooves that incorporate a pair of excess gas vents along each side. If there is a comment to be passed it’s the fit of the stock head to the receiver, a slight oversight that could well be unique to this actual gun. The fit itself is fine so no actual problems apart from the fact that this part of the stock is fractionally oversized. This means the test gun had a slight lip around the upper edge where it butted up against the metal. Nothing at all detrimental in itself, just a small aesthetic anomaly.
Don't be shy
As if to ensure the name is displayed loud and proud, the only thing to break this SA 08’s entirely black countenance is the word Weatherby, bright white stylised lettering unashamedly emblazoned along either side of this Italianesque action design. That said it’s a strong, time proven pattern that will stand up to anything you or I could throw at it, which in turn means years of trouble free shooting. The controls are in the usual place, the bolt release just below the ejection port with the cross-bolt safety and bolt lock situated at either end of the black plastic trigger-guard. The gently curved matte black trigger blade compliments the black one piece bolt that incorporates a single claw that extracts against a noticeably deep notch in the barrel extension, so ensuring a noticeably efficient ejection system. The barrel itself is 28” and finished in the same surface coating as the receiver. A 7mm vented stippled rib with wide stanchions rounds off the chrome lined, steel proofed tube as does a small brass bead. One part of the barrel that does add interest if only because of the American law that states all products must bear the name of the country of origin, to the left just above the 3” chamber are the words ‘Made in Turkey’ whilst on the right ‘Weatherby – Paso Robles, California’, the address the company has occupied since around 2006. Apart from that, if it’s a jet black semi-auto you’re looking for, then Weatherby’s SA 08 doesn’t come much blacker.
The interchangeable valve system is simplicity itself. Inside the barrel ring are the usual twin ports that allow the gas into the system that’s needed to propel the action of ejecting and chambering the next round. Inside the ring sits the valve in this case marked with either light load or heavy load. By pushing the valve that’s inside the ring out the alternative valve can hen be fitted with nothing more technically demanding than your fingers. Likewise, you’re not hampered by an action spring around the mag tube, instead a slider with a long extension sitting around in this instance a two-hot crimped tube that when driven rearwards connects with the spring that’s situated within the receiver. All in all an easy system to alter when needed, and an even easier mechanism to maintain and keep clean in the field, with no need for any form of tool.
From the off
My usual habit of trying all shotguns with the Arrow Laser Shot confirmed that the SA 08 mounted correctly for me, the muzzle looking in the exact same direction as I was. The only thing left was to take it out and try it around some sporting clays and test the valve variations. Size wise the SA – 08 is more or less exactly what you’d expect, the weight of 6lbs 10oz placing it in the lighter weight category although in this instance the balance point is a fraction forward of the chamber. Drop at comb and heel of 1 9/16th and 2 7/16th show a more considered approach especially for a synthetic stock whilst the 14 3/8th length of pull allows for the wearing of thicker winter clothing without dramatically altering stock length. Add into this a 5lbs 4oz average trigger weight which isn’t at all bad for this type of shotgun and you arrive at a sensibly proportioned semi-auto that should suit the vast majority of users straight out of the box. Fitting the ¼ choke, the light load valve, and loading up with a mixture of 28 gram Express World Cup fibres and plaswad Supremes all loaded with 6’s, the SA 08 performed from the off. The initial sensation of the gun feeling slightly dead between the hands when fi rst picked up soon showed itself to be an integral, positive dynamic that added to the SA 08’s ability to be both fast handling yet promote a controlled, measured swing irrespective of target speed or opposing angles. Fast forward to a late afternoon on crows and it was only when load size exceeded 40 grams that I elected to fit the heavier load valve. Until then recoil was more than acceptable as was the gun’s ability to flawlessly cycle each and every round. Unless you’re setting out to use nothing but heavy loads such as the big 3” non-toxic cartridges most commonly used on duck, you might as well leave the light load valve in situ. This in itself indicates the SA 08’s remarkable ability to cope with bigger ammo whilst dialling out the greater part of the recoil. In other words, when to change valve is down to you, if the load size causing the SA 08 to bump you change over, if not leave things as they are. With the ½ choke fitted, the patterning was still well defi ned and able to lift some long distance corvids out of the sky with little or no effort. All in all, this is a nice rewarding gun to shoot, performing every shooting task asked of it without the slightest hint of any failure, not even the merest suggestion of a stovepipe or the requirement to add a little oil to smooth out the travel of a new semi’s bolt travel. It shoots well, handles well and in my own opinion, more than lives up to the Weatherby name in every aspect. If I was looking for just one shotgun to do everything for me, the SA 08 would be a serious contender.
Where the Sportsman Gun Centre has been able to capitalise is in their ability to offer customers the entire SA 08 range from the off. This means the buyer has the option of both 12 and 20 bores, the alternative 26” barrel along with two other styles. Waterfowler Camo model costs £633 whilst the wood stocked Upland retails out at £650, neither of which are likely to break the bank even in today’s cash strapped climate. And whilst I hope in a year or so not to have to keep referring to the dire financial state we’re all in, if there’s one aspect of this global monitory meltdown that’s to the shotgunner’s advantage it’s the introduction of smoothbores such as Weatherby’s SA 08 and its association with the Sportsman Gun Centre. Always an outlet that offers some of the best value for money shooting kit, the SA 08 personifi es the company’s ability to offer a competitive deal on a shotgun that in my opinion is everything a Weatherby should be. The gun is relatively well made, handles well, is comfortable to shoot even with large loads, places a well defined pattern where you’re looking, breaks its targets or downs its bird and does it all with no hint of fuss or drama. Basically what more do you want from a shotgun that’ll set you back no more than £517?
Specifications of the SA 08 featured in the Article
- Model: Weatherby SA 08 Synthetic
- Calibre: 12 Bore
- Capacity: 3 Cartridges
- Barrels: 28"
- Action: Gas Operated Semi Automatic
- Stock: Synthetic Sporter
- Weight: 6lbs 10oz
- Chokes: 3 x Flush Fit Multi Chokes
- Price: £517 (at the time the article went to press)
Thanks to Mark Stone and Gunmart for the article. Click here to view hundreds more gun reviews online at www.gunmart.net