Weatherby SA-08 Synthetic Waterfowler 3.0 Autoloader

By Randy Wakeman

Weatherby SA-08 Waterfowler 3.0 Autoloader
Illustration courtesy of Weatherby.

The camouflage Weatherby Waterfowler 12 gauge 26 inch barrel has a MSRP of $749, with an attractive discount retail price of about $600. Although it is listed with a length of pull of 14 inches on the Weatherby website, my example is a bit over 14-1/8 inches. The SA-08 Deluxe 12 gauge, previously tested, has about a 14-5/8 length of pull. Weatherby is in the process of updating their website and catalogs.

By now, the Weatherby line of autoloading shotguns has a substantial track record, as it was introduced in 1998. The manufacturer, ATA, is not a newcomer to shotguns by any means. Celal Yollu of Turkey started his workshop in 1959, made his first Side-By-Side shotgun in 1967, followed by his first O/U in 1973. Mr. Yollu expanded, moving to Istanbul in 1990. Founding Vursan, he made his first autoloader in 1992. Pistol production began in 1998, and Beretta took an interest in Vursan in 2000, Beretta buying Vursan completely in 2002.

ATA Arms was founded in 1997; the CY series of gas autoloaders is an original ATA design. They have been making pumps since 2000 and inertia guns since 2004, O/U shotguns since 2005. The CY series is essentially the Weatherby SA-08, their inertia gun is the Neos, and their new “shoots everything” gas autoloader is called the Venza. Apparently, ATA exports about 90% of its 60,000 unit per year production and has averaged 24% growth annually.

Consumers have very good reasons to be suspicious of the “importer of the week,” or the importer of the month. The list of import failures grows every year. Have a Charles Daly? A Marlin “L.C. Smith”? A Spartan Gunworks / Baikal / Remington? A “Traditions” Fausti? A Savage Milano or Stevens O/U? A Lanber? Perhaps an "heirloom quality" S & W Elite? It is the same old Western Auto or Coast to Coast spec gun treatment. Order a boatload of guns, when they don't sell, close up shop and when parts aren't available, your heirloom might prove to be a far less practical investment than “Fruit of the Loom.”

Many Turkish guns have come and gone, their importers in the United States even more so, but the Weatherby – ATA combination has proved to be a very good one, already continuing for sixteen years. I think it is wise to consider the viability of the importer and the brand, as well as their commitment to shotguns, before you pull the trigger on your wallet.

Currently, the Weatherby Waterfowler is specified as 6-1/2 lbs., 46 inches overall length, 1-1/2 inch drop at the comb, 2-1/4 inch drop at the heel. The actual tested article is a bit heavier, at 6-3/4 lbs. The SA-08 trigger breaks right at 5 pounds, not spectacular, but better than most autoloader triggers out of the box. The screw-choked barrels accept the Browning standard Invector / Winchoke style. The camo pattern is called “Mothwing® Marsh Mimicry®” and is well-applied.

The action of the SA-08 Waterfowler is the same as the rest of the Weatherby SA-08 12 gauge line-up. Its price point places it between the SA-08 synthetic and the SA-08 Deluxe walnut / blued. The reason to opt for the Waterfowler over the plain synthetic is external corrosion resistance to the barrel, no oil required, while retaining the sling studs, having a generally more attractive gun that offers appeal both to the duck and turkey blind, while still saving a few pesos vs. the walnut / blued SA-08 Deluxe.

The Weatherby SA-08 Waterfowler was tested with loads ranging from 1 oz. 1200 fps up to 1-3/4 oz. 1200 fps loads. It had no troubles across the spectrum, printing patterns to point of aim at 40 yards. At 6-3/4 pounds, it is a light 12 gauge, lighter than most 12 gauge gas and inertia guns. It is a clean 1/4 pound lighter than the lightweight Benelli Vinci, Franchi Affinity, and the Browning Maxus, for example. It is a good 1-1/4 pounds lighter than the Mossberg 930 previously tested, lighter than the Beretta A300 Outlander, and far lighter than the Remington 11-87. It comes with three choke tubes that are Browning standard Invector / Winchoke style, and an assortment of shims to adjust cast and drop, if desired.

What this “Waterfowler 3.0” nets you over the basic black synthetic SA-08 is essentially the “Mothwing® Marsh Mimicry®” camo finish the leaves the external portion of the shotgun maintenance free. It is a good-looking pattern, to my eyes, and makes the SA-08 more appealing to my eyes than the basic black.

Calling this a “Waterfowler” is a bit of a misnomer, for this is more of an all-around shotgun. Use the supplied “light” gas piston for clays, dove, or anytime you want to shoot 1 ounce or 1-1/8 oz. loads. For 1-1/4 oz. pheasant loads or heavier, use the “heavy” gas piston as you would with 3 inch 1400 fps 1-1/4 oz. steel loads or 1-3/4 oz. turkey loads. The dual piston system, original with ATA, is a very good gas system. It is lot more practical than the old “change the barrel” approach and the gas piston itself has no springs to break and its simple design means it is also simple to clean.

As a waterfowl or cold weather gun, Weatherby might want to think about a larger safety button. The supplied recoil pad is the familiar vented OEM type and that's an area that could be improved upon as well. There is nothing wrong with the pad, but I do think the more generous pad supplied on the SA-08 Deluxe walnut model does a better job. The SA-08 trigger, breaking at 5 lbs. as measured by Lyman digital scale, is better than the majority of hunting autoloader triggers I've tested.

All-around though, it is just a very good all-around gun that is soft-shooting for its weight class due to its gas operation. Comfortable enough for clays, yet light enough to carry, and comfortable on your wallet as well at right at $600 street price. In 2014, this is a lot of autoloader for the money by any standard I can apply. If you are feeling a bit unflush, you can shave off a few more pesos by going with the SA-08 black synthetic at about $525, but I think the camo Waterfowler is a sharper looking firearm.

There are scant few $600 12 gauge autoloaders out there worth considering and if you want one that is light enough to be fun to carry, the Weatherby SA-08 is the only game in town. That's a very good place to be and in that sense, the Weatherby SA-08 is in a class of its own.

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Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.