Gun Review: Weatherby PA-08 Upland Shotgun



I recently got the itch to pick up a shotgun dedicated to sport shooting. I soon realized that a great many offerings in the sporting-shotgun category will make your eyes bug out of your head (both in style AND price). I wanted entry-level, average-Joe, “I work for a living” shootability—with a touch of class (of course). I wasn’t looking for a clay buster, home defense and slug hunting all rolled into one. Versatility was besides the point. I was looking for a field gun that would happily live its life blowing the crap out of little orange eggshells in the sky. . .

First impressions:

The box-fresh Weatherby PA-08 Upland was a minor surprise. When I read “walnut stock” in the description, I was expecting a heavy, hefty “uwf uwf uwf” set of wooden furniture. Expecting the Weatherby to come in around the 7.5  – 8lbs. mark, I almost threw it through the ceiling the first time I picked it up.

Fully assembled, the PA-08 weighs in at 6.5 easy-to-carry pounds. That’s more than a half-pound less than same-gauge offerings by other major brand pump-action sporting guns. The Weatherby’s CNC machined aircraft-grade alloy receiver significantly reduces the shotgun’s weight. A pound or so might not seem like much, but after a day of swinging through clays or trudging after doves, a pound saved is a pound appreciated.

The PA-08 comes with the three “standard” screw-in sporting chokes; IC/M/F. These three will satisfy almost any shooter’s needs. In the event a shooter happens to be hunting geriatric former political-appointees, the Weatherby also accepts standard Remington screw-in chokes.

Fit and Finish:

The shotgun arrives in three pieces; the stock/furniture, barrel and bolt. Field assembly / dis-assembly requires no tools. The twist-off magazine nut holding the barrel in place includes a break-washer—which prevents over tightening and creates a uniform tightness throughout the gun every time it’s broken down. An extended bolt shroud on the Weatherby’s barrel extends fully to the rear of the receiver, completely covering the left side of the bolt when the shotgun is fully assembled.

Weatherby PA-8 action inaction

I have an untreated not to say unnatural attraction to long guns with heavy-duty wooden stocks. The Weatherby PA-o8 stock put a spring in my step. I agree with American Rifleman Field Editor Phil Bourjaily: the PA-08 sports the most beautiful wood you can buy on a $400 shotgun. It’s Bentley accents on a Corvette ZR1. The $20 up-charge is a no-brainer.

The Weatherby website promises that all their stocks are “hand-selected, shaped and finished… [providing] superior wood-to-metal fit.” They aren’t kidding; everything about this Turkish delight is tight. But not too tight; and there are no seams, gaps, or finishing defects.

The PA-08’s barrel and bolt are both chromed. I was skeptical about this combination. Cycling the shotgun is like listening to a Lowell George slide guitar solo, with Richie Hayward providing punctuation. Less poetically, both the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 fall well short of the Weatherby’s PA-08’s cyclic-smoothness.

The PA-08’s trigger is a little on the heavy side. I don’t have the tools needed to measure the pull, but in comparison to the other shotgun platforms I’ve owned, the Weatherby is heavier than John Coltrane on a rainy Tuesday night.

Take-down for cleaning is a breeze. After unscrewing the magazine nut, the Weatherby breaks into its three main parts. Weatherby incorporates a drop-out trigger system (giving you a fourth part); it’s easy to clean this weapon to a Marine-pleasing shine.

Assembly is a tad tricky until you get the hang of it. The PA-o8’s barrel fits back into the receiver best when the shotgun is at “half-shuck”—a fact that the owner’s manual forgot to mention. Once familiar with the process, you can assemble the shotgun from full-takedown to field-ready in under a minute.

Accuracy

After a brief wipe down, the Weatherby came right out to the range. With a simple vent-rib / brass bead sight, there’s almost nothing to getting this scatter-gun on target. Benched, it shot straight and true right out of the box.

In its first trip to the clay range, my Dad put the shotgun through its paces. The Weatherby’s point-and-shoot ergonomics had him scoring 19 of 20 through four rounds of five clay sets. I won’t mention my results, but I will say that my Dad hasn’t fired a shotgun in nearly 20 years. Make of that what you will.

Performance

I bought two of these shotguns; one for me, and a second as a present to my Mom. The same weekend I delivered the second Weatherby to her in Pennsylvania, a local sportsmen’s club held a flying-board shoot. The game was pretty standard; four rounds of shooting with meat (yes meat) as the prize, and one “money shoot.” They set the buy-in at $1.50/board for the first four rounds, and $2.00/board for the money round.

What better place to test a brand-new, completely unfamiliar firearm than a contest where’s there’s money on the line? Shotzberger PA-08 number two was taken directly out of the factory box, assembled, and carted off to the shoot.

NB: Pennsylvania sportsmen take their shooting seriously. There were around 30 shooters at this event—and only one stock shotgun. (No points for guessing that one.) I mean there were some FINE looking and shooting firearms in the rack; I spied custom work by Ziggy and Bud Burgy.

I decided to shoot two boards across (two in each of the five rounds). The Weatherby performed extremely well against much more expensive guns, much longer barrels and easily beat a majority of better shooters. When it counted (the money round), the Weatherby came through with a pattern good enough to tie for third/fourth. I avoided hospitalizing any marauding Texas attorneys, made back the money I’d used to buy-in to the shoot. I went home safe in the knowledge that I’d found an excellent sporting shotgun.

Conclusion

Inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound, shot-for-shot, the Weatherby PA-08 is a cut above its competitors. It’s earned its place in the “not for sale” section of my gun cabinet.

SPECIFICATIONS: Weatherby PA-08 Upland
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Action: Pump
Capacity: 2+1 (magazine limit insert can be removed)
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 28” (also available in 26”)
Overall Length: 48” (46” OAL w/ 26” barrel)
Chokes Included: IC/M/F
Length of Pull: 14”
Drop at Comb: 1 ½ “
Drop at Heel: 2 ¼ “
Weight: 6.5 – 7 lbs (dependent on density of stock)
Country of Origin: Turkey
Stock / Finish: Walnut / Gloss Black
Price: MSRP $409 (now readily found around the $300 – $350 mark)

RATINGS (out of five)

Style * * * * *
Compared to other shotguns in its class, the Weatherby is a runway model. The walnut grain is a xylophiles delight. Even the checkering oozes quality (22LPI).

Ergonomics * * * *
This shotgun handles extremely well. The vent-rib aligns with the eye for ease of swing-through. I knocked half-a-star off for the cheek-mold; it’s just a little low. I would have liked to have seen an adjustable trigger here, but I like seeing a sub $400 price-tag more, so I’ll just shut up a little. The heavy trigger pull removed the other half star.

Reliability * * * * *
No issues. It fed, shot and ejected anything and everything I stuffed into it.

Customizable * * *
There aren’t as many “specific” accessories for this shotgun as there are for the Mossberg or Remington, but there are plenty of aftermarket “universal” accessories available. The only accessories I would ever even consider for this shotgun are fiber optic clamp on sights, a .660 choke, a cheek-pad, and maybe an EZ-pull trigger.

Overall Rating * * * * 1/2
With a few minor tweaks in design (or to the shape of my face) this shotgun easily hangs tough with its better known Remington, Winchester and Mossberg competitors.