Weatherby Element Waterfowl 12 Gauge Inertia Autoloader

By Randy Wakeman

Weatherby Element 12 gauge Autoloader
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

Starting with the walnut deluxe versions (see Weatherby Element Deluxe 20 Gauge Autoloading Shotgun), Weatherby has expanded their Element inertia gun line into lower price point models. This is the 26 inch Waterfowl Camo model, with a synthetic stock, that hits the streets in 2016 for approximately $680. The walnut Elements sell for around $920.

The Element is a version of the ATA Neo inertia gun, which is essentially the Bruno Civolani inertia gun most often associated with the Benelli brand. A black synthetic Benelli Montefeltro sells for about $1000, while the black synthetic version of the Weatherby Element sells for about $580. At 40% less for the Element, it is dramatically less expensive than the Montefeltro and even less costly than the black plastic $720 Franchi Affinity.

The Element is made in Turkey by ATA Arms, as are the 12 and 20 gauge Weatherby SA-08 gas operated shotguns. It comes with three flush mount, standard Invector style chokes, plus a Long Range Steel Waterfowl extended choke. Stock shims are included. This 26 inch Element Waterfowl Max 5 Camo autoloader weighs 7-1/4 pounds.

The Weatherby Element Waterfowl Camo is not completely free of areas to quibble about. Like all camo-dipped guns, it is ugly, despite fundamentally satisfactory lines. It comes with an excessively heavy 6-1/4 pound trigger pull. The trigger guard safety, at the back of the plastic trigger guard, is triangle shaped and truly dinky, which is probably not anyone's first choice for a duck gun.

The Element also suffers a bit from "Wacky Stock Syndrome," as does the Franchi Affinity and numerous other shotguns that have goofy buttstocks for no good reason. Like many contemporary repeaters, the pistol grip is excessively hooked. The end of the Weatherby Element buttstock is concave, or dished in. The butt pad is just a piece of solid rubber and matches the shape of the concave butt. This means that replacing the factory pad is problematic, or at least a royal pain. The popular Limbsaver, Kick-EEZ and Pachmayr replacement recoil pads have little hope of fitting. Some ATA Neo models come with 5mm spacers to adjust the length of pull, but the Weatherby Element does not.

On the plus side, just like some of the Weatherby Vanguard rifles, the synthetic plastic Griptonite stock has rubber pistol grip and forend inserts, which I like. These are a better looking, comfortable and easy to hang on to solution to overly-slippery plastic stocks. The sling studs are metal, not the cheap molded-in type.

The Weatherby Element loads as smoothly as any inertia gun I have tested and better than most. As autoloaders go, the Element is well-balanced and smooth-swinging.

Unlike some recently tested autoloaders, this Weatherby Element, right out of the box with no cleaning and no break-in, functioned flawlessly with 1180 fps one ounce loads, 1145 fps 1-1/8 ounce loads and 1230 fps 1-1/8 ounce loads.

The recently tested Breda Xanthos Damasco ($2999) jammed repeatedly and consistently with all three of these loads. The Browning A5 "Kinematic Action" camo three inch 12 gauge retails for $1629.95, yet this Weatherby Element at $680 street price is, overall, a better shotgun.

According to my shoulder, synthetic stocked inertia guns are a bit softer shooting than their walnut stocked counterparts. The 12 gauge Weatherby Element, in this specific configuration, rates as the best in class, the best for the dollar and one of the best three inch inertia hunting guns on the market.

If Weatherby keeps this up, they are going to put Benelli and Franchi out of business. The Weatherby Element 12 gauge is one of those rare offerings that combines excellent function, good machining and assembly and a very appealingly price tag.

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Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.