First Look: Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe Autoloading Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe Shotgun
SA-08 Deluxe. Illustration courtesy of Weatherby.

Weatherby, Inc. of Paso Robles, CA has been taking a long hard look at the point where quality and value meet for today's shotgunner. To achieve this in their SA-08 autoloading shot series, they have taken the basic platform of what was the Beretta A301 shotgun and made it more reliable with a broader spectrum of loads. With new tooling, a new manufacturing facility in Turkey and a commitment to testing the SA-08 line both at the manufacturing plant level and at Weatherby Headquarters, the SA-08 is the result.

The basic Beretta 300 series, known in times past as the A301, A302, Browning B-80, A303 and A304 series of shotguns have long been among my favorite autoloaders. There's little secret about that, considering all the shooting with them I'm done and all the articles I've written about them. I still shoot and hunt with B-80 and A303 autoloaders on a regular basis. What has been the evolution of the 302 has an improvement in some ways (load versatility), but an advance to the rear in weight, complexity, and cost. My “lucky drill bit” has opened the gas ports of over a dozen A303 and B-80 barrels by now.

The lack of load versatility has been one area of consternation with the A302 platform, as there is no way for the gas system to compensate well for shell changes. One of the best examples of this is the barrel array that was offered for the Browning B-80 12 gauge. There was the 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch, and finally the Plus Barrel for 2-3/4 and 3 inch shells. Ideally, you'd just change barrels with the three inch chambered barrels having smaller gas ports to keep the bolt speed at a realistic level to keep the gun from battering itself to pieces with high pressure past the gas port loads. That was the system for the Browning B2000 and several other models as. It is an issue that Remington 1100 users have long facedl; non-compensating gas systems narrow the spectrum of loads that can be used. Target models often came with 2-3/4 inch chambers, field guns with 3 inch chambers. Often, field guns are used for skeet, trap and sporting clays, with the result of failures to eject when using target propellants with quick pressure trace decay rates. A sluggish 3 inch chambered A303 or B-80 barrel is easily modified to give reliability with target loads, but once you do that, as I have done, it is a 2-3/4 inch shell gun for good.

The A302 / B-80 action has no way to adjust for pressure past the ports. The faster the bolt moves, the more wear and tear to the gun and the more shock and vibration to the shooter. The Weatherby solution is a simple, sensible one. All the SA-08 models have three inch chambers. You have a stainless steel piston marked “Light” and one marked “Heavy.” Even I can follow this one. Brad Ruddell, V-P of Weatherby, give a commendable overview video of the SA-08 on the Weatherby.com website that lasts just under four minutes. It all sounds like a pretty good deal to Brad, which is not unexpected.

With 2010 MSRP's from the $449 plastic stocked version to $739 for the SA-08 Deluxe, it sounds like a pretty good deal to me, as well. There hasn't been a thorough, review of the SA-08 yet, but that's about to change. The specs for the SA-08 Deluxe are:

    Gauge

    Chamber

    Weight

    LOA

    Stock

    Barrel

    Chokes

    LOP

    Drop at
    Comb

    Drop at
    Heel

    12

    3"

    6 3/4 lbs.

    46"

    Wood

    26"

    IC,M,F

    14"

    1 1/2"

    2 1/4"

    12

    3"

    6 3/4 lbs.

    48"

    Wood

    28"

    IC,M,F

    14"

    1 1/2"

    2 1/4"

    20

    3"

    6 lbs.

    46"

    Wood

    26"

    IC,M,F

    14"

    1 1/2"

    2 1/4"

    20

    3

    6 lbs.

    48"

    Wood

    28"

    IC,M,F

    14"

    1 1/2"

    2 1/4"

Expect a thorough work-out and complete review of the SA-08 Deluxe 26 in. 20 gauge. I'm looking forward to it.




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Copyright 2010, 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.


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