By Holt Bodinson, GUNS Magazine
Since 1967, Weatherby has been fielding a smorgasbord of fine shotguns and reasonably priced, too, considering the quality being offered. The first model offered was the Regency O/U, made by Angelo Zoli of Italy followed by the Olympian, Athena and Orion models made by Nikko and SKB in Japan. Over the years, there have been series of Weatherby SxSs, pumps and autoloaders as well. When Tim Frampton, Weatherby’s Marketing Coordinator, said they had just added a scaled-down 28 gauge to their SA-08 autoloader line, I had to have it. Twenty-eight-gauge guns are simply seductive.
Some call the 28 a magic gauge; a perfect ballistic marriage between bore size and a 3/4-ounce payload that produces patterns all out of proportion to its diminutive size. This great little gauge is making inroads in arenas other than the skeet fields, and it’s nipping at the heels of the light 20 in many upland venues.
I’m not the first to observe the charge weight-to-bore size of the 28-gauge seems to produce unusually well distributed patterns. I’ve run tests comparing the patterns produced by Winchester’s AA Sporting Clays 3/4- and 7/8-ounce loads and their high brass 1-ounce game loads in both 28- and 20-gauge guns, and I really could not find any consistent difference between the performance of the 28 and the 20. In fact, often patterns produced by 28-gauge guns were less patchy.
Not only do most 28s pattern exceedingly well, but also most people can shoot them well. They’re fast on target, easy on the shoulder and so light that you can spend the whole day in the field with them without feeling like a gun bearer. If you think you’ve seen more 28-gauge shells on store shelves lately, you have, and thankfully, the price of the little tubes is coming down with each passing year.
The SA-08 line of Weatherby autoloaders in 12- and 20-gauges has been around for several years, and they’ve earned a respectable following. For decades, Weatherby’s autoloader lines were made by either KTG or Nikko in Japan, not so with the SA-08 models. They are being produced in Turkey, which has become the breadbasket for autoloading shotguns of every grade.
The new SA-08 28 gauge is being offered with either a 26- or 28-inch barrel. I’ve shot enough 28s to know their light weight combined with an aggressive hand/arm movement by the shooter can throw off leads because of the 28’s speed to and through the target. I figured that the 28-inch barrel would provide just a bit more weight forward that could prove to be an advantage in a 5-1/2-pound gun. Indeed, it worked out that way. With its alloy receiver, the Weatherby is just ever so slightly muzzle-weighted, and it was designed to be that way.
Opening up the shipping box, I was delighted to see the petite frame of the new SA-08 and the Weatherby level of quality evidenced by the fit and finish of the gun. The alloy receiver sports a high gloss, black finish accented by Weatherby’s distinctive signature logo in gold and a chrome-plated bolt. The bore as well is chrome lined, making the gun weather resistant and easier to clean. The barrel sports a 6mm ventilated top rib with a single brass bead at the muzzle. Supplied also are Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full choke tubes and a wrench.
The action is conventional with a cross-bolt safety at the rear of the triggerguard, a button bolt release on the right side of the receiver and drop-down trigger and fire control group held in place by a single push pin. I was curious about the trigger weight-of-pull. It checked out on a Lyman electronic scale at a crisp 5 pounds.
Holt’s Hasenpfeffer is much closer to the table thanks to the quick shooting Weatherby 28.
The new 5-1/2-pound Weatherby (above) is perfectly scaled to the 28 gauge. The Weatherby is supplied with a light load and a heavy load gas valve (below, left) to moderate recoil. The light alloy receiver (below, right) is responsible for giving the SA-08 a weight-forward balance.
The components of the gas operating system are scaled to the gauge, lightweight, without adding unnecessary mass. All the SA-08 Weatherby guns are supplied with two, quick change, alloy gas valves—one marked for “Light Loads” and the other for “Heavy Loads.” Their function is to moderate and manage recoil which is necessary in 3-inch chambered 20- and 12-gauges but less so in a 2-3/4-inch chambered 28-gauge firing 5/8 ounces of steel or 3/4 to 1 ounce of lead.
The gun is stocked in walnut with 22 LPI checkering and a high gloss finish. Stock dimensions are pretty standard with a length-of-pull of 14-3/8 inches, drop at the comb of 11/2 inches and drop at the heel of 2-1/4 inches. Supplied in the parts kit are four stock shims—three for adjusting drop and one for adjusting cast. Owners largely ignore stock shims, but I strongly urge you to use them if the factory stock is not properly set up for your body. The Weatherby buttstock is nicely finished off with a rigid rubber recoil pad incorporating a smooth plastic heel plate, which prevents the butt from snagging on your clothing as you mount the gun.
Weatherby lists the weight of the new 28-gauge with either barrel length as 5-1/2 pounds. On my Sunbeam scale, the SA-08 weighed in at 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Close enough!
Next, we shoot this gun