When I was a young California teenager just starting to get real serious about wingshooting, my father brought home a new gun one evening. “It’s my new quail gun,” he said. He bought it from a gunshop in Southgate. “It’s a Weatherby,” he said, and I know now that it represented a good chunk of his wages back then. At the time, nearly 30 years ago, “Weatherby” didn’t mean much to me, but I do recall how impressed I was with the 12 gauge’s nice wood stock and rich blueing. The gun just shined.
It’s funny how if you come from a family that hunts whether you continue to hunt as an adult or not, something as simple as a gun can trigger old memories. Fond memories. I wish I had that old Weatherby now so I could compare it to the company’s latest version. This thought came to me as I was handling the new SA-08 Synthetic autoloader last April at the NRA Convention.
The SA-08 Synthetic is just what you’d think—a black plastic-stocked workhorse shotgun designed to perform under any hunting conditions. Following the introduction of the SA-08 Upland last year, the Synthetic is the second variant in the growing line and I suspect it will handle and perform as nicely as its predecessor.
The Upland model, more traditional and classy in appearance, features a walnut stock and satin finish on all metalwork except the bolt, which is chrome plated. The Synthetic, with its injection-molded polymer stock, features a matte-black finish on all metal surfaces. A “duck gun” or “turkey gun,” if you will. Internally, both guns are identical.
SA-08 receivers are made of aluminum keeping it light in weight. It also features a magazine cut-off lever so you can clear the chamber or change loads without the need to completely empty the magazine. This is a great safety feature and more and more shotgun manufacturers are starting to see it that way too. SA-08 Barrels are chrome-lined, and each shotgun comes with a complement of choke tubes—Full, Modified and Improved Cylinder.
The SA-08 is made in Turkey and features handy gas-regulation system that consists of two interchangeable valves designed to function with a specific range of loads. A “light loads” valve will handle loads up to 1 1/8 ounces of shot, and a “heavy loads” valve will function with the heaviest 3-inch load for the given gauge. The valves slide onto the magazine tube and fit up into the barrel guide where they regulate how much gas is allowed to be expelled ensuring proper functioning of the bolt and cycling of the new shell. They are also easy to remove and clean.
Twelve- and 20-gauge SA-08 versions are available, as are barrel lengths from 24 inches to 28 inches, depending on which model you choose. Youth Model versions feature a 12 ½-inch length of pull to accommodate shooters of smaller stature.
Weatherby literature provides that the SA-08 shotgun design easily cycled through 6,000 rounds without a hiccup during preproduction function testing. While I can’t claim to have witnessed that, I can tell you that I put several hundred rounds through a very nicely balanced 20-gauge Upland version shortly before they were officially introduced last year. The narrow stocked smoothbore proved quite lively in the hands on both push-button clay birds and pointer-flushed pheasants and partridge.
I even spent one dreary, drizzly day hunting—well, mostly chasing—wild chukars in some classic Idaho rimrock habitat. The birds certainly got the better of me, as chukars are wont to doing, but the 6 pounds of lightweight autoloader was much appreciated.
I now understand and appreciate much more about that gunshop that used to be located in Southgate, and how its proprietor, Roy Weatherby, influenced the firearms industry as we know it today. These things I could not have fully grasped as a young boy. Sadly, I don’t quite know what Dad thought of “Weatherby” back then either, but I know he liked that shotgun well enough to spend his hard-earned cash on it and to keep it as his prized quail gun for a number of years.The SA-08 autoloader is that kind of a gun. Something you can be proud to own and carry afield.