Buckets of ink and ba-jillions of electrons have been spilled in the last year or so navel gazing over the subject of who owns guns here in these U-nited States. Listen to the bleatings of the Gun Control Industrial Complex (if you dare) and you’d be forgiven for concluding that there are really only 167 guys with bottomless gun safes (and wallets) who buy up just about all of the firearms GLOCK, S&W, Ruger, FNH, Springfield, Taurus et al. are busily cranking out. See? Guns aren’t popular any more. It’s just that those last few bitterly clingy, easily frightened old fat white guys keep buying ‘em. There’s just one problem with that bit of doctrinaire disinformation . . .
Just about every scrap of anecdotal and empirical evidence available to anyone who really wants to look for it contradicts the more-guns-fewer-gun-owners twaddle. Besides willful blindness all that eyewash they’re peddling fails to take into account one of the biggest growth factors in gun ownership; the effect video games have had on what’s come to be called Gun Culture 2.0. And gun makers and their marketing mavens haven’t missed it. Being the rational actors they are, some of them – Weatherby being one – have noticed the allure anything that goes boom has for gamers. Thus the new WBY-X line of snazzified rifles and shotguns.
All you have to do to grok the difference is bring up the WBY-X web site. It looks more like the bastard spawn of American Eagle Outfitters and Eddie Bauer than your typical firearms manufacturer portal. They even include a link to their latest totally dope Facebook post right there below the pics of the relatively fashionably dressed teens and twenty-somethings posing with their guns.
You don’t need Hawking-level analytical powers to see that in creating the WBY-X line extension, Weatherby’s aiming (metaphorically speaking, of course) at a younger, possibly even hipper demographic. People who may not have been brought up hunting by gramps and dear old dad, but instead learned what they know about ballistics from watching Zombieland and playing Medal of Honor Warfighter.
Keep that in mind and the skulls-in-the-mist paint scheme that adorns their Turkish-made PA-459 “Black Reaper” shotty will make a little more sense to you traditionalists who might look at the gun and utter a disapproving “harrumph” at that non-traditional paint job. This thing’s just what you’ll want to reach for when something goes bump in the night, especially if it looks like it just shambled off the set of The Walking Dead.
The WBY-X PA-459 is, ultimately, just a gussied-up version of their Weatherby PA-459 TR with some sprayed-on spookitude. They offer it in 12 and 20 gauges and we got the big boy to test run. For an MSRP of $549, in addition to all those scaaaary skullz, the scattergun features an aluminum receiver that’s chambered for 3-inch shells on top of which is mounted an adjustable rear ghost ring to compliment the blade-style front sight with a HiViz-ish fiber tube that glows like the last guy out of Chernobyl.
There’s that top-mounted rail that’s right for mounting another optic if that’s what you’re into. Weatherby also included sling swivels fore and aft. To complete the whole effect, the PA-459 (PA for pump action, 459 for the California penal code number for burglary – seriously) comes with a ported cylinder bore choke tube that adds about an inch and a half to the barrel length. It looks kinda bad-ass, but I’m not sure I’d try breaching any doors with it or anything.
While the 459 is very much a home defense gun, if you get bored fending off marauders and offing the un-dead, you can swap out that one supplied choke with any other WinChoke-threaded tube. That will let you use the Black Reaper for other pursuits like blowing the heads of Tommy Turkey or blasting holes in Bambi. You could even break some orange clay disks at your neighborhood trap and skeet range (though those sights are less than ideal for that), as long as that tactically-correct rubberized Feinstein grip doesn’t give the old-timers who haunt the place a case of the vapors.
To give the 459 a decent go, I ran it with a variety of loads including rifled slugs, 00 buck, Winchester’s devastating PDX1 12 Defenders, as well as some of my own home-brewed #8 trap loads.
How did it do? Come on. This is, after all, a pump gun so nothing I did made the PA-459 so much as flinch. The same can’t be said of the guy pulling the trigger after sending a few dozen slugs, showers of buckshot and those hybrid Defenders downrange. The 459 is pleasantly light to hold, weighing in at only about seven pounds. The equal and opposite reaction that touches off, however, means your shoulder won’t thank you for launching anything heavier than birdshot from such a svelte smoothbore.
In a vain effort to try to trip it up, I loaded her magazine with a mixture of shells. I combined lighter 2¾-inch target loads with 3-inch buckshot and slugs and cracked them off as fast as I could. No dice; the gun still cycled ‘em like a champ.
Once I regained consciousness, I tried it out at 25 and 50 yards with the aforementioned sluggos. Ouch. Still, other than shooting too low out of the box (don’t fret, that rear sight’s adjustable) those honkin’ hunks of plumbum hit where I aimed…and kept right on going. I didn’t put a scope on it and try it out at longer ranges because it hurt too much.
As for disassembly and cleaning, again, it’s a pump. You can shoot thousands of shells without doing much more than running a BoreSnake through it and not worry about a thing. If you get some free time one afternoon and want to do a thorough wash and set, though, it’s a simple job that should take you about twenty minutes.
Boiled down to its essence, the WBY-X PA-459 is still just your basic home defense-style shotgun, paint job or not. Either you’re into the death-from-the-depths decor or you’re not, but that’s really only cosmetics. Probably. If you’re ever forced to use the gun on anything more sentient than a zeke, a jury of your peers – after prompting by an ambitious prosecutor – may take a dimmer view. Underneath it all, though, the PA-459 is a practical, functional home defense shotgun that should serve you extremely well for a long time to come.
Weight: 7.0 lbs.
Length of Pull: 13.5”
Shells: 2 3/4 and 3 inch
Barrel Length: 18.5”, chromed (20 with the supplied ported choke tube)
MSRP: $549 (about $450 street)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * *
Its basic lines are those of a traditional tactically-inspired home defense gun. The appeal of the skulls will be in the eye of the beholder. It got some positive comments at the range, even from a few grey-hairs, believe it or not.
Ergonomics * * * *
I’m not a pistol grip kinda guy, but even with my small frame, the gun felt good, mounted easily and – for a pump – shot comfortably. If you’re built more like a linebacker, the 459 may feel a little on the small side. And it’s light. Great for carrying, not as much for shooting heavy loads for an extended amount of time.
Reliability * * * * *
One more time…it’s a pump. Nothing to report here. Move along.
Customize This: * * * *
It’s not like you’re going to want to replace the stock or the grooved forearm on this thing. The paintjob is why you buy it in the first place. If you don’t like it, buy the Weatherby plain-Jane version and save fifty bucks. The picatinny railage allows for optics and a light or laser that will satisfy just about any other purpose (or mall ninja fantasy).
Overall: * * * *
This is a love-it-or-hate-it gun. Plenty of people won’t be able to look past the paint scheme and will dismiss it out of hand, but that’s missing the point. If you’re one of those people, the PA-459 wasn’t meant for you anyway. Beneath the get-up, it’s still a highly reliable, light weight – for better and worse – home defense shotgun that will be just the ticket for plenty of (mostly younger) shooters. Get over it.