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The Best Weatherby Shotguns

Michael Crites

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Shotguns are some of the most versatile guns anywhere, varying in barrel length, gauge, action, shot variety, and shooting feel such that you can find a shotgun that fits the bill for almost any scenario; from knocking down clays to home defense and even single-shot heirloom wall pieces. 

Weatherby is a brand that has been cranking out quality ammo, rifles, and shotguns since the 40s, and we wanted to shed some light on some top-quality Weatherby shotguns. 

We’re going to focus on shotguns primarily intended for hunting as that’s the most common purpose for purchasing a Weatherby scattergun given their product selection is hunting-focused. You won’t find any birdshead grips on Weatherby shotguns. 

First, I’ll go over four things I think you should look for in a quality shotgun. From there, we’ll cover nine of the best ones made by Weatherby before giving you some history on the company itself.

What to look for in a Quality Weatherby Shotgun

1. Gauge

Gauge, a measurement of shell size a shotgun can chamber and fire, makes a big difference in the applicable uses and target audience for a shotgun. 12-gauge is far and away the most common, particularly when it comes to deer, but 20 gauge, which is smaller, is perfect for bird hunting — not to mention a lot less punishing in terms of recoil, which is a major consideration when introducing youth to shotgunning.

There are many types of shotgun ammo, from slugs to rat shot, and even some exotic loadings like sabots in various shapes, but generally, you should be able to find what you need in 20 or 12 gauge. 

2. Action

18i Synthetic Semi-Auto
18i Synthetic Semi-Auto action

Shotguns have been around for centuries, reaching as far back in firearm history as the 12th century with rudimentary muzzle loading “handgonnes”, which were virtually small hand cannons crammed with nasty projectiles intended to pattern at close range for self-protection. Of course, they’ve evolved from those early beasts —  with a variety of reasonable and reliable action types available — from semi-auto to pump and over/under orientations. 

Each has its limitations and best uses — some impact how much ammunition you load or how ammunition is handled once it’s in the gun. We’ll consider three types here. 

Over-under shotguns

Over-under shotguns have two barrels, one directly over the other, so they align. This means you’ll only get two shots max before you have to break the action open to reload, but owing to the stacked barrels, the over/under shotgun is one of the more accurate options — and very popular with bird hunters, who often require a quick follow-up shot. Over/unders also accept different choke tubes or shotshells in each barrel, so you have a lot of room for customization and the ability to outfit a single shotgun optimally for multiple scenarios or hunts.

Pump Action

Pump actions have a single barrel, fed by loading shells into the tubular magazine: these are the most popular shotguns today for general purpose use and are great for both hunting and home defense alike. 

You load the chamber by pumping the action manually, which shifts a shell up from the tube magazine through the receiver via a shell carrier and into the chamber. You get more total rounds than an over/under, and pump actions are known for eating any ammunition you can throw at them, giving you unparalleled reliability. They can also be fired relatively quickly (with some practice) though the speed kings are typically semi-autos.

Semi-Autos

Semi-auto shotguns are what you need if the rate of fire is a primary consideration. These also typically have tubular magazines but self-reload after each shot; either being gas, inertia, recoil-driven. They tend to command a higher price than pump or over/under options but are known for incredible speed as they will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. 

Semi-autos have historically had a reputation for being selective about shot loads as the actions tend to require minimum amounts of energy for reliable and trouble-free operation, though recent advancements in semi-auto actions have largely rendered these issues a thing of the past.

Additionally, the recoil systems generally lessen the recoil a fair bit, making them very popular with competition shooters.

3. Length 

Especially when hunting, the gun has to fit the shooter; a super long rifle with a long and heavy barrel will tire out youth and new shooters quickly. The size & experience of the person who will be using a shotgun should be a primary consideration before buying a shotgun. 

Generally speaking, bigger, stronger people do better with larger guns, but even a burly mountain man likely won’t mind a smaller, easier-to-carry gun. 

So, when in doubt, err on the side of a weapon that will save weight. The good news here is most Weatherbys are designed to minimize how much gun you’ll end up having to carry around.

4. Capacity

Table stakes for most hunting shotguns are generally considered two to three shells, as most hunting requirements within the U.S. limit legal onboard shells to three. These can be housed in a plugged tubular magazine or within a receiver’s box magazine designed to limit capacity to three total rounds.

While some hunting shotguns often use a similar action to a company’s home defense or LE products, and in some cases an aftermarket kit can be used to modify the shotgun’s magazine tube, the cost and effort can be prohibitive — so you’re often better off purchasing a shotgun designed for your capacity needs from the get-go. 

5. Purpose 

Again, the gun should fit its intended purposes. With shotguns, various configurations, accessories, and formats will make some shotguns better, worse, or inappropriate for specific tasks. We’ll go over the best use case purpose for each of our selections to help you sort out what kind of shotgun might work best for your needs.

The Best Weatherby Shotguns

1. 18I Deluxe

Length: 49 1/4″
Barrel: 28″
Capacity: 4+1
18i Deluxe Receiver
18i Deluxe Receiver

Moving into semi-automatic shotguns, this 18i Deluxe fires 12 gauge out of a 28” barrel, with five rounds at the ready. One thing I loved is the five included choke tubes — these give you a choke option for everything from an Improved Cylinder to Modified on up to Full Choke, which is a fantastic touch. Also, the red ring safety is a smart feature that makes the 18I a secure firearm to take into the field.

18i Deluxe Stock
18i Deluxe Stock

To me, the combination of the wood stock and the nickel finish make this a gorgeous gun. The inclusion of a front bead sight and the semi-automatic action make it a flexible gun for all kinds of game. I would not hesitate to make it my primary hunting shotgun: it’d be a great turkey gun, as well for both larger and smaller game that fly or walk.

18i Deluxe Choke Set
18i Deluxe Choke Set

2. SA-459

Length: 42″
Barrel: 22″
Capacity: 5

Another turkey gun, this time a semi-automatic SA-459 with a 22-inch barrel in a black polymer finish, we’d consider this one for a variety of roles. 

The ribbed barrel makes it a decent bird gun right out of the box, whereas the pistol grip, optics rail, and 56 round capacity would also make this a more than capable home defense shotgun as well. We’d consider picking this one up for an all-purpose shotgun, and accessorizing it with a red dot scope and a sling would make it great either in the field or in cases of home defense.

3. PA-08 Synthetic Combo

Length: 48″
Barrel: 24″ & 28″
Capacity: 4+1

The PA-08 is a highly versatile Weatherby. This pump-action shotgun comes in a lovely black finish and two barrels: one intended for birdshot, the other for anything else your heart desires. 

Changing out a shotgun barrel is just a matter of unscrewing the magazine tube and opening the action, so it can be done at home in about a minute. If you think you want to hunt various game types and are looking for an option that supports mounting an optic on one of the barrels, this package is a one-stop-shop to get you in the shotgun game.

4. SA-08 Deluxe

Length: 48″
Barrel: 28″
Capacity: 4+1

Earlier I said that most of the time, you’ll be dealing with shotguns in either 20 or 12 gauge, which was true. But shotguns in smaller gauges, such as this SA-08 in 28 gauge, certainly have their place.

This blued model has a rib on top of the barrel, which makes this small-bored shotgun about perfect for training youth to shoot at clay pigeons. The softer-shooting 28-gauge will help them develop good shooting habits and avoid a recoil flinch. 

I would be a little reluctant to hunt with 28 gauge from the lack of power, but this model would be ideal as a specialized training gun without compromising the classic Weatherby touches like a walnut stock.

5. PA-08 Upland Combo

Length: 48″
Barrel: 24″ & 28″
Capacity: 4+1

This is another PA-08 pump action, but this one is a little different from the first. You’ll notice that this one has a gorgeous wood stock: some people worry about wood taking damage or warping over time, but I think it’s a classic look for a shotgun. 

Additionally, this combination has an optic that comes with it: this tells me that they probably think you’d be hunting deer or hogs with slugs out of that shorter barrel. If it were my choice, I’d go with this one over the other if I did not already have an optic I could put on the gun. The wood look and addition of an optic make this a flexible package at a remarkable value. 

6. SA-08 Deluxe

Length: 46″
Barrel: 26″
Capacity: 5+1

If the nickel finish isn’t your thing, but semi-automatic shotguns are, this SA-08 model, with a shorter 26-inch barrel length paired with a high-gloss walnut stock and black finish on the receiver and barrel could be the right Weatherby for you. 

One thing I tend to like about semi-auto shotguns is that the gas or recoil systems use the recoil energy to cycle the gun. This means that there’s less energy that can beat your shoulder up. On the range, this keeps you shooting better, for longer. In the field, this means that the gun doesn’t fight you off target so much, which makes these semi-autos excellent hunting guns.

7. SA-459 Turkey

Length: 42″
Barrel: 22″
Capacity: 5+1

This 20 gauge SA-459 Turkey shotgun looks a little different than the rest we’ve seen so far in terms of form factor, with a shorter barrel, pistol grip, and Picatinny mount on top, let alone the camo finish. 

Additionally, this comes with an extra full choke so that you can keep more of the pellets on target at an extended range. If this were mine, I’d put a red dot sight on it and use it, as the name implies, for a dedicated turkey gun.

8. Element Waterfowler

Length: 48 3/4″
Barrel: 28″
Capacity: 4+1

Another camouflage number, this 20 gauge Element is set up to be the ideal waterfowl gun. This one is semi-automatic in 20 gauge, which is fairly rare outside of bird hunting and makes this gun likely to recoil very softly. 

That makes a big difference in something like duck hunting, where follow-up shots are almost always necessary, and having a total of 5 rounds of 20 gauge on tap with light recoil likely makes this gun a fantastic waterfowl gun. We also very much appreciate the inclusion of both sling swivel studs and a slightly exaggerated pistol grip, to help you keep the gun where you want it either on your back or in your hand.

9. Orion

Length: 47 3/4″
Barrel: 30″
Capacity: 2
Orion Sporting Action Break
Orion Sporting Action Break

Some guns are beautiful enough to remind us why we got into the sport of shooting. That’s where I’m at with this Orion. A 12 gauge, over-under with a 30” black barrel, bedded into a gorgeous walnut set of furniture is something to behold, and it’s also an excellent bird gun for most people.

Not sacrificing function for form, Weatherby has also made the stock height-adjustable. This is vital for good bird hunting, where a fast and repeatable cheek weld is the difference between hits and misses on flying targets.

Orion Sporting Safety
Orion Sporting Safety

History of Weatherby Shotguns

Weatherby's 1951 Firestone Boulevard Storefront
Weatherby's 1951 Firestone Boulevard Storefront

Weatherby didn’t always make shotguns. In fact, they didn’t mass produce guns at all originally. Their founder, Roy Weatherby, was a handloader and wildcatter whose first love was ammunition — creating high-power magnum ammo for the burgeoning high-velocity hunting cartridge market.

An assortment of Roy Weatherby's first passion -- ammo
An assortment of Roy Weatherby's first passion -- ammo

His .270 Weatherby Magnum was his first cartridge made commercially available, and his .257 Weatherby Magnum was one of his personal favorites — delivering 3,870 fps and a seriously flat trajectory. Amazingly, Weatherby’s magnums set the standard for velocity and flat trajectory in the 1940s, and only marginal gains have materialized since that time. Quite the legacy!

He favored FN Mauser, Brevex, and Mathieu actions but would craft a custom rifle to a customer’s specifications with any action they desired – provided the action could stand up to the cartridge’s chamber pressures. 

Weatherby Mark V Rifle
Weatherby Mark V Rifles were very popular when deued in the late 50's-- and remain so to this day.

Weatherby’s business continued to expand through the 1950s, which culminated in the 1958 release of the Mark V bolt-action rifle. The Mark V proved incredibly popular — popular enough to require Weatherby to move production out of their South Gate, California location to West Germany J. P. Sauer, then to Japan, with Howa in the early 1970s. Somewhere between shifting the Mark V production from Germany to Japan Weatherby launched their first shotguns — first over/unders, the pumps, and semi-autos shortly thereafter.

Weatherby's shotguns started with over/unders, then moved on to pump and semi-autos.
Weatherby's shotguns started with over/unders, then moved on to pump and semi-autos.

In 2018, the company moved to Wyoming, making use of the room in the state to make its facilities even larger as a manufacturer of firearms and optics. Looking ahead, the company is dedicated to being at the forefront of making arms, ammo, and accessories to keep American sporting people out in the field doing what they love.

Weatherby's new Wyoming HQ
Weatherby's new Wyoming HQ

Shortcomings

Shotguns, like all firearms, have their limitations, and Weatherby shotguns aren’t immune. Generally speaking, long-range shooting is not their forte, neither is ammo capacity. Weatherby scatterguns are very hunting-focused, so you probably won’t find much in the way of a home defense shotgun in their offerings. While they do offer semi-autos, they follow a tried-and-true design (stock, receiver, barrel, tube) which Weatherby doesn’t stray from. If you’re looking for a mag-fed AR-style shotgun you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Also, one thing to look out for on some guns: if there is the option for a rifled barrel, I would avoid shooting anything but slugs out of it, lest you damage the barrel. Some people have no issues, other people have lots of issues, but in cases like this one, I’d rather buy a second barrel upfront than ruin a perfectly good one that I already have.

Parting shots

Weatherby Inc. has made a name for itself as one of the premier manufacturers of shotguns in the US, and that reputation was well-earned. Here, we’ve made the case that provided your shotgun needs are for hunting, Weatherby has a gun for you. 

With a little planning and forethought, many of the guns on this list, especially those coming with multiple barrels, can be flexible options for those who want a package that can handle many kinds of game and shooting situations. 

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